Spy vs. Spy

Spy vs. Spy

Infobox comic strip
title=Spy vs. Spy

author=Antonio Prohias
status=Concluded, in reruns
preceded by=
followed by=

"Spy vs. Spy" is a wordless black and white comic strip that has been published in "Mad" magazine since 1961. It was created by Antonio Prohias, a Cuban national who fled to the United States in 1960 days before Fidel Castro took over the Cuban free press.

The "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon was symbolic of the Cold War, and was Prohías's comment on the futility of armed escalation and détente. Under the Spy vs. Spy title panel, the words "BY PROHIAS" are spelled out in Morse code (-••• -•-- •--• •-• --- •••• •• •- •••).


The comic features two spies, Black and White, who are constantly warring against each other, and coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways of doing away with the other.

They are made to look virtually identical: trilby hats, overcoats and long pointed noses. The only difference between them are the color of their clothes: one dresses in white, the other in black. They were similar to "El Hombre Siniestro" (the Sinister Man), a wordless cartoon which Prohias had drawn while still living in Cuba and who would also play nasty tricks on people.

A typical plot would be one spy setting up a booby-trap for the other to fall into and be "killed." Sometimes the trap works, but sometimes the other spy comes up with a brilliant counter plan of his own and will be the final winner. In other cases, the losing spy will use a plan B to counter the other spy's counter. Frequently, the winning spy celebrates his victory with a V sign gesture toward the loser.

Some of the early cartoons (including their very first), published in 1961, had both spies coming up with the same plan to trap the other, the result being a draw. But these were the exception rather than the rule and most of the time one antagonist would beat the other.

In the early years, the title panel of the comic would feature a one-panel gag presenting one spy besting the other; the main comic then used the rest of the panels to tell a different short story with the other spy winning.

During 1962-65 the comic was sometimes called "Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy" ("X & Y & Z" in some countries) and featured a female spy, Lady in Grey, with whom both White and Black Spy were in love. She took advantage of this to set traps for which both male spies would fall for and "perish." Because the Lady in Grey would always end up winning, Prohías felt that she was too limited and dropped her from the strip. She later returned under other artists and writers.


After Prohías's retirement, several artists worked on the strip. George Woodbridge drew one "Spy vs. Spy" which featured no byline. By 1988, Bob Clarke took over as the strip's artist, and continued through the early 1990s until being replaced by David Manak. Duck Edwing wrote the majority of the gags that Clarke and Manak illustrated; Manak and Edwing also created a short-lived, syndicated "Spy vs. Spy" comic strip. In April 1997, Peter Kuper took over as writer and artist for the strip, although occasionally the gags are written by other writers, such as Michael Gallagher or Dave Croatto.


* The Black and White Spies: Employed by the embassies of two nations and identical except for the color of their uniforms, the Spies battle against each other with a variety of complicated (sometimes ridiculously so) weapons, machines and Rube Goldberg-style props. The victor alternates roughly every other comic, and neither spy is portrayed as good or evil since both of them are equally ruthless towards each other.

* The Grey Spy: Also known as the Lady in Grey (a variant on the stereotypical "lady in black"), a female spy who appeared in "MAD" 21 times from 1962-65. When she appeared, the strips were retitled Spy vs Spy vs Spy, and instead of either of the Black or White Spy winning, Grey won and they both lost. The Spies were completely enamored with her, often attempting to rescue her as she pretended to be in distress. Because she always won, Prohías decided to stop using her. Later writers and artists, including Peter Kuper, brought her back for occasional appearances.

* The Black and White Leaders: The Black and White Leaders are the highest ranking officers of the embassies that the Spies belong to. Much like the Grey Spy, they often appear in the early strips, especially in the paperbacks. They are huge, barrel-chested decorated officers and give the Spies their missions to carry out. On more than one occasion, the Leaders get fed up with their employees, and in one particular episode, "Defection" (which was later turned into an animated cartoon for "Mad TV"), the Black Leader and the Diplomat fire the Black Spy from his job at the embassy. They have made no appearances in any strips drawn by subsequent artists.

* Other Spies: The 'Spy vs Spy' game for game consoles such as Xbox, and Playstation introduced two different colored spies, blue and red. These spies can only appear in multiplayer mode. There is also a Robotic spy.

Other media

*"Spy vs. Spy" animated short cartoons on "MADtv" have also been made.

*In 2004, Pepsi used the characters in a series of four Mountain Dew animated television commercials, taking the basic format of the strip, but with all of the action centered around Mountain Dew soft drinks. The animation was live action and had two women in white and black spy outfits both women were members of the cirque de soleil.
*Spy vs. Spy Jr., a version for kids is shown in MAD Kids Magazine, that depicts the spy's antics as children.

*Six original "Spy vs. Spy" strips by Prohías are collected in the Archives of American Art.

*"Spy vs. Spy" has now entered the public lexicon to mean anything where two opponents are constantly trying to one-up each other.Fact|date=June 2007

*Milton Bradley released a "Spy vs. Spy" board game involving digging tunnels and retrieving bombs [http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1686] . A German game, "Spion & Spion", was also released with different game mechanics [http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/32180] .

*A film version of the strip has been talked about for several years, attracting the interest of such parties as "Austin Powers" director Jay Roach and actors Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans. It has yet to materialize [http://www.comics2film.com/SpyVsSpyArch.shtml] .

*A Sunday strip was released in 2002 but it was very short-lived. It was written by Don Edwing and drawn by Dave Manak [http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=1059] . Comics also appeared in Mad and still appear in Mad Classics done by Dave and Don called the "The Lost Sunday Comic Strips" which was an obvious reference to the "short-lived" Sunday comics.

*Many video games have been released using the characters. The first was released in 1984 by First Star Software on several consoles and home computers like the 8-bit Commodore 64 [http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/games/details.php%3FID%3D2438] . Featuring the "trapulator", an array of booby traps with which players could carry around and trap, blow up, maim, or otherwise injure each other, the game spawned two sequels, "Spy vs.Spy: The Island Caper" and "Spy vs.Spy: Arctic Antics". A new "Spy vs. Spy" game was released for the Xbox in 2005. It was going to be released for the PS2, but was then cancelled for the US, only to come out on the PS2 in Europe and Australia. Probably the most popular video game spinoff of the strip was produced for the NES, and was simply named "Spy vs. Spy".

*Toyota produced several short films inspired by Spy vs. Spy for their Yaris line, called Yaris vs. Yaris, and used to sponsor some of the web broadcasts of ABC primetime television shows Alias, Commander in Chief, Desperate Housewives, and Lost.

*"Spy vs. Spy" continues to run in MAD, now drawn by Peter Kuper. Prohías's name still appears in Morse Code at the top of the feature.

*In 1998 the new-music composer John Zorn released a CD with the name "Spy vs Spy". Another artist Billy Bragg used it in the title of his CD "Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy".

*On The Daily Show, talk show host Jon Stewart compared Jack Abramoff to the Black Spy, citing a picture of Abramoff leaving the United States Capitol after Congress was adjourned during the hearings regarding his lobbying dressed in a black fedora, jacket, pants, and trench coat, remarking "... Abramoff, seen here shortly before having a safe dropped on his head by another spy dressed all in white..."

*In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, an issue featured a parody of Spy vs Spy with Sonic the Hedgehog & Knuckles the Echidna in place of the spies. Sonic even used an Alfred E. Neuman disguise to trick Knuckles into thinking he was a newsstand clerk. The comic ended with both characters being killed by Shadow the Hedgehog, also a spy, who used a Dr. Eggman robot as a decoy. Coincidentally, it is drawn by Dave Manak, who had once drawn Spy vs Spy itself.

*The first numbers of the Mexican edition of Mad Magazine featured besides Spy vs. Spy a strip named Juda vs. Juda, starring two judicial policemen clad in white and black. Their ways to finish one another often involved illegal methods, for example, using cocaine to make the bloodhound of the other Juda go crazy and attack his owner.

*In the "Rayman" video game series, the small characters called "Teensies" have heads that are strikingly resemblant of the spies's heads.

*The comic was parodied in an episode of Robot Chicken.

*As of late 2007 and early 2008, cable TV channel "Universal Channel" [http://www.universalchannel.tv/] which is distributed by cable companies throughout Latin America is showing on commercial breaks a series of computer animated shorts of different "Spy vs Spy" situations, telling viewers to visit the Flash-based Spygames.tv [http://www.spygames.tv/objects/media/spy.swf] web site which offers visitors the ability to play short games or download wallpapers of the Spy vs Spy theme. The difference between the strip and the Universal shorts is that the Universal Spies are Red and Black instead of the usual Black & White.

*Boston-based sneaker boutique, Bodega, released an officially licensed Spy vs. Spy rendition of the Puma Sky II High, dubbed the Spy II High. The shoe featured Spy images, morse code, Spy vs. Spy lettering, dynamite hang tags, and a hidden compartment. New Balance is also scheduled to release an unofficially inspired version of the MT580 sneaker featuring a bomb or stick of dynamite on the heel.


*In his DVD audio commentary for the Hong Kong movie "The Killer", critic and writer Bey Logan claims that the Mexican stand-off, a typical feature of a John Woo film, was inspired by "Spy vs Spy".

*The BBC cartoon series, "The Likeaballs", features a villainous group called T.H.R.A.A.P.F. (The Humourless Race Against Aliens Playing Football). These characters dress in trilby hats and overcoats and have long pointed noses.

*In the episode "Moscow Side Story", an episode of the "Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries" series, the gremlins from the Kremlin were dressed up just like the two spies from Spy Vs. Spy.

*While creating the comic book character Anarky, Alan Grant requested that artist Norm Breyfogle design the character as a cross between V of "V for Vendetta" and the Black Spy.

*In the animated music video for the song "Cichosza" by polish singer Grzegorz Turnau a character appears that resembles the Black Spy. He wanders through an empty city, corresponding with the lyrics of the song.

External links

* [http://www.spyvsspyhq.com Unofficial Spy vs Spy Fan Site]
* [http://www.leedberg.com/mad/spies/spies.html Spy vs Spy Gallery]
* [http://www.methodstudios.com/project/653.html The Mountain Dew Commercials]
* [http://www.toonopedia.com/spyvsspy.htm Toonopedia article]
* [http://www.rhod.fr/spyvsspy.html Rhod's Spy Vs Spy Collection]

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