Monday, May 23, 2005

Q Who?

It's remarkable how, despite inextricably interlocked global economies and the ever-expanding communications network, some fairly prominent examples of pop media never quite jump the border between East and West. Take Lao Fu Zi or "Old Master Q" for example. Master Q is the most popular and enduring comic character in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan; the subject of six movies in Mandarin and Cantonese, a high-profile CGI/live action feature in 2001, various live action and animated TV series, plays, and countless strip collections, but it remains almost completely unknown outside the Chinese community here in the US... and this despite the fact that OMQ is primarily pantomime.

Created by cartoonist Wang Jia Xi in 1964, Master Q is both a well-defined personality and a utility character designed to be dropped into countless gag situations. Master Q, unmistakable in his caricatured traditional Chinese garb, is a scrappy and somewhat childlike middle-aged man; mercurial but often kindly and possessing an innocent sense of curiosity. Most of Wang Jia Xi's gags are highly original, insightful, and occasionally surreal. At times he depends upon tried and true gag motifs such as the venerable "stranded on a desert island", "magic carpet", and "jailbreak", but his gags usually have an engagingly random, daydream-like quality, and even timeworn formula are used as springboards for original ideas. Wang Jia Xi is as facile a draftsman as he is a gag writer. His meticulous artwork and staging reflects the inescapable influence of Herge while also maintaining aspects of traditional Chinese brushwork. Having dipped into a couple hundred of these very accessible strips on the official English-language homepage, it's not hard to understand Old Master Q's popularity in Asia. What's hard to understand is why OMQ isn't better known here.


Anonymous Reynaldo Whang said...

Wishing you all the best!

6:03 AM  

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