Spy vs. Spy

Simple yet meaningful is one way to describe the wordless black and white comic strip that makes up Spy vs. Spy. The cartoon created in 1960 by Antonio Prohías, depicts the antics of two distinctly different yet similar spies who try to get the best of each other with clever yet strange schemes of espionage and deception.   

 
 

 

 
 


Published in Mad magazine since 1961, Prohías began working on Spy vs. Spy in Cuban, but fled to the United States in 1960 just days before Fidel Castro took over the last Cuban free press.  When Prohías came to the United States he knew almost no English, but Mad magazine readers and editors quick accepted him and loved his work.
Before he got the job at Mad, he worked in Queens at a clothing factory by day and drew by night in his cramped apartment.  His earlier works “Erizo,” “Oveja Negra,” “El Hombre Siniestro,” and “Tovarich” would not work in his new country where the idea of communism was not as prevalent or well taken by pleasure readers. In Cuba if you were not a supporter of Castro you were considered a spy, and this is where he got the idea.  Prohías considered himself a spy and thus the idea was born.

 

 
  Prohías submitted his rough pencil concept and design sketches to MAD’s editors on normal 8.5 x 11 paper and would latter redraw the entire carton twice the size for reproduction  in the magazine.  He would go through the comic strip with pain staking detail and make sure all edges and lines were detailed in his dark bold pen and would almost never ink over his pencil drawings. (by almost we mean only in the picture on the left)  
 
Spy vs. Spy is now a national icon, symbolic of the Cold War representing good and evil and the struggle for equilibrium.  Prohías would stealthily sign each of his Spy vs. Spy cartoons under the title panel, in Morse code, which spelled out the words "by prohias."  This is one of the most overlooked details in his work. -••• -•-- •--• •-• --- •••• •• •- •••
 
 

 

 
  Antonio Prohías passed away February 24, 1998.  His masterpiece concept of the two spies battling it out lives on in the continuing work done by his successor Peter Kuper.  
             
             
             
Spy vs. Spy © E.C. Publications

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