Spy vs. Spy
|Spy vs. Spy|
The White Spy and the Black Spy, from Antonio Prohias' Mad Magazine comic strip.
|Current status / schedule||Ongoing|
|Launch date||Mad magazine #60 (Jan. 1961)|
|Publisher(s)||EC Comics; Time Warner|
|Genre(s)||Political satire, Black comedy, Humor|
Spy vs. Spy is a wordless comic strip that debuted in Mad magazine #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.
Prohías was a prolific cartoonist in Cuba and known for political satire. Prohías' parodies of newly-installed Cuban dictator Fidel Castro attracted criticism, and faced with the loss of work, possible arrest and threats of execution, he fled to the United States on May 1, 1960 – 3 days before Castro took over the last of the Cuban free press . 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.
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." 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).
Prohías eventually retired due to ill health, and died aged 77 on February 24, 1998. 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.
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):
|“||You are about to meet the black Spy and the white Spy — the two MADest spies in the whole world. Their antics are almost as funny as the CIA's...When it comes to intrigue, these guys make it way outtrigue. They are the only two spies we know who haven't the sense to come in out of the cold. But they have a ball – mainly trying to outwit each other.||”|
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 #73 (Sept. 1962), the strip was renamed Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy, as it was the debut of a third spy, the Grey Spy (or the "Woman in Grey"). The Grey Spy only appeared sporadically, but always triumphed, using the infatuation of the Black and White spies to her advantage. Prohías stated "The lady Spy represented neutrality. She would decide for the white or black Spy, and she also added some balance and variety to the basic 'Spy vs. Spy' formula." The 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. Other characters have appeared over the years, including the leaders of of Black and White Spies' respective nations, barrel-chested, medal-decorated dictators who would punish their spies for their failures; and various bit players. (The 2005 video game also included Red and Blue Spies for multiplayer mode, as well as a robotic Spy.)
In other media
- The Spy vs. Spy characters appeared in animated cartoons on MADtv and are in every episode of the animated adaptation of Mad.
- A Sunday strip series (39 in total) was released in 2002, 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.
- 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.
- A "Spy vs. Spy" board game was released by Milton Bradley.
- Three video games based on the strip have also been released (one for Nintendo 8-bits).
- 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.