Spy vs. Spy

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For other uses, see Spy vs. Spy (disambiguation).
Spy vs. Spy
Spy vs. Spy Logotipe.png
Current status / schedule Ongoing
Launch date Mad magazine No. 60 (Jan. 1961)
Publisher(s) EC Comics; Time Warner
Genre(s) Political satire, Black comedy, Humor, Comedy

Spy vs. Spy is a wordless comic strip that debuted in Mad magazine No. 60, dated January 1961, and was originally published by EC Comics. It was originally published in black-and-white. The strip was created by Antonio Prohías.

The Spy vs. Spy characters have featured in media such as animated television series, merchandise such as action figures and trading cards, and video games.

Publication history[edit]

Prohías was a prolific cartoonist in Cuba and known for political satire. Prohías fled to the United States on May 1, 1960, 3 days before the Castro government nationalized the last of the Cuban free press.[1] Prohías sought work in his profession and travelled to the offices of Mad magazine in New York City on July 12, 1960. After a successful showing of his work and a prototype cartoon for Spy vs. Spy, Prohías was hired.[2]

Prohías completed a total of 241 strips for Mad magazine, the last appearing in Issue #269 (March 1987). He cryptically 'signed' each strip on its first panel with a sequence of Morse code characters that spell "BY PROHIAS". During an interview with the Miami Herald in 1983, Prohías reflected on his career, stating "The sweetest revenge has been to turn Fidel's accusation of me as a spy into a moneymaking venture."[2] Prohías, however, was censored by Mad magazine publisher William Gaines on at least one occasion: the strip that eventually appeared in Mad magazine #84 (Jan. 1964) was altered as the Spies were depicted as drinking and smoking (Gaines had a strong anti-smoking stance).[2]

Prohías eventually retired due to ill health, and died aged 77 on February 24, 1998.[2] The strips continued, with writer Duck Edwing and artist Bob Clarke creating the majority. As of Mad magazine #356 (April 1997), Peter Kuper took over as writer and artist for the strip. It has since been drawn in full-color.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman noted that "Getting published is very important to a young cartoonist, and I somehow have Antonio Prohias to thank for helping kick off my career."[2]


The cover copy of the The All New Mad Secret File on Spy vs. Spy provides early insight to the characters and Prohías' views on the Castro regime and the CIA (who were constantly attempting to oust Castro):

The comic strip always features two spies, who are completely identical save for the fact that one is dressed in white and the other black. The pair are constantly warring with each other, using a variety of booby-traps to inflict harm on the other. The spies usually alternate between victory and defeat with each new strip.

In Mad magazine No. 73 (Sept. 1962), the strip was renamed Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy, as it was the debut of a third spy, Grey Spy (or the "Woman in Grey"). Grey Spy only appeared sporadically, but always triumphed, using the infatuation of Black Spy and White Spy to her advantage. Prohías stated "The lady Spy represented neutrality. She would decide for White Spy or Black Spy, and she also added some balance and variety to the basic 'Spy vs. Spy' formula."[2] Grey Spy's last appearance in the magazine comics under Prohías was Mad magazine #99 (Dec. 1965); she did not appear again until Bob Clarke and Duck Edwing took over the strip. Later strips featured occasional appearances by the barrel-chested, medal-decorated leaders of Black Spy and White Spy. The leaders have not been used since Peter Kuper took over strip.


White Spy as seen in a 2004 Mountain Dew television commercial.
  • Four video games based on the strip have also been released (including one for the Nintendo Entertainment System).
  • A "Spy vs. Spy" board game was released by Milton Bradley in 1986.[3]
  • Animated segments of Spy vs. Spy appeared in the unaired 1974 Mad Magazine Television Special, in seasons 1-3 of MADtv from 1995-1999.
  • A Sunday strip series (39 in total) was released every Sunday in 2002; 2014 in the MAD news, syndicated by Tribune Media Services and featuring Duck Edwing and Dave Manak returning as writer and artist respectively.
  • In 2004, the characters were featured in television commercials for the soft drink Mountain Dew also to serve as an animation reboot.[4]
  • A series of thirteen strips, titled Spy vs. Spy Jr. was published in Mad Kids magazine from 2006–2009. It depicted the three Spies as children, playing harmless practical jokes on each other. It appears on every Mad Kids issues.
  • "Spy vs. Spy" was a skit (usually one of the last ones) in every episode of Cartoon Network's animated Mad, based on the magazine of the same name. It ran from September 6, 2010 – December 2, 2013 run (103 short skits in 103 episodes), including themed skits depending on the time the episode first aired (i.e. a Christmas or Halloween theme). In the series' final episodes, the two characters and background of the skit was drawn in three dimensions instead of its classic comic book style. It serves to be a second reboot of Spy vs. Spy animation.[5]


  • The All New Mad Secret File on Spy vs. Spy, Signet 1965. Reprinted Warner Books, 1971, and Watson-Guptill in 2009.
  • Spy vs. Spy Follow Up File, Signet 1968. Reprinted Warner Books, 1971, and Watson-Guptill in 2009.
  • The Third Mad Dossier of Spy vs. Spy, Warner Books, 1972.
  • The Fourth Mad Declassified Papers on Spy vs. Spy, Warner Books 1974. Reprinted by Watson-Guptill, 2009.
  • The Fifth Mad Report on Spy vs. Spy, Warner Books, 1978.
  • Mad's Big Book of Spy vs. Spy Capers and Other Surprises, Warner Books, 1982.
  • The Sixth Mad Case Book on Spy vs. Spy, Warner Books, 1988.
  • Prohías' Spy vs. Spy: The Updated Files, Warner Books, 1989.
  • Spy vs. Spy: The Updated Files #8, Warner Books, 1993.
  • Spy vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook, Watson-Guptill, 2001. Reprinted by DC Comics, 2011.
  • Spy vs. Spy: The Joke and Dagger Files, Watson-Guptill, 2007.


  • Amazingly Stupid MAD, MAD Cartoon Network, 2013
  • Spy vs. Spy: Casebook of Craziness, MAD Cartoon Network, 2014


External links[edit]