When RememberSingapore blogged about “100 Things We Love About the 80s” (part 1 and 2), many Gen-Xers like me started to reminisce all the good old days. (This is when we realise that we have become the same old fogies that we used to laugh at.)
The part about the Hong Kong comic book 老夫子 – or Old Master Q in English – brought back possibly the earliest of childhood memories for many. We would hide under the blanket at night, usually way past bedtime, to fervently devour the comics that were shone with a torchlight to avoid being discovered by our parents.
The comic strips were usually in a 4-panel or 6-panel format. The dialogue was kept simple at either one-liners or none at all. It also incorporated many 4-character Chinese idiomatic expressions (成语), so I guess you could call the comics “educational” – a term seldom associated with comic books. Even Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew “confessed to reading Old Master Q as a springboard to learning Chinese”. (Really?!)
The main characters in the comic were a trio of good friends: 老夫子，秦先生 and 大番薯. They constantly bantered and battled with their nemesis 老赵, who saw himself as more superior than them. 老夫子 also had a on-off love interest in a pretty lady called 陈小姐.
Most of the comic strips centered around the day-to-day living of typical Hong Kong dwellers, and reflected societal and cultural trends during those times. Occasionally they were offbeat and whimsical. Some strips made references of the year “1997”, and as a child, I was not able to understand why the characters seemed to have so much fear about it. It was only much later that I learnt 1997 was the year when Hong Kong would be returned to China after more than 150 years of British control. These strips highlighted the uncertainties and pessimism faced by the Hong Kong people, with many fleeing from the country for fear of an iron-hand rule after the 1997 handover.
The comic was very popular in Asia since its publication in the 60’s through the 90’s. There were special editions that featured long-form comic in settings like ancient pugilistic era and outer space. Many of the stories were made into cartoon animation, and a later production even incorporated live actors with CGI graphics.
However, the popularity of the comic series waned in the late 90’s when people started to turn to the more sophistically-drawn Japanese manga. Nevertheless, there is a long-tail demand with the comics still widely available in bookshops and news kiosks. The comic strips are also available in the official website.
Did you grow up with 老夫子 too?