Spy vs. Spy

Spy vs. Spy is a wordless comic strip published in Mad magazine. It features two agents involved in stereotypical and comical espionage activities. One is dressed in white, and the other in black, but they are otherwise identical, and are particularly known for their long, beaklike heads and their white pupils and black sclera. The pair are always at war 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. A parody of the political ideologies of the Cold War, the strip was created by Cuban expatriate cartoonist Antonio Prohías, and debuted in Mad #60, dated January 1961.[1] Spy vs. Spy is currently written and drawn by Peter Kuper.

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

Spy vs. Spy
Spy vs. Spy Logotipe
Current status/scheduleOngoing
Launch dateMad magazine #60 (Jan. 1961)
Publisher(s)DC Entertainment
Genre(s)Political satire, humor

Publication history

Prohías was a prolific cartoonist in Cuba known for political satire. He fled to the United States on May 1, 1960, three days before Fidel Castro's government nationalized the last of the Cuban free press.[2] 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.[3]

Prohías cryptically signed each strip on its first panel with a sequence of Morse code characters that spell "BY PROHIAS". In a 1983 interview with the Miami Herald, Prohías reflected on the success of Spy vs. Spy, stating, "The sweetest revenge has been to turn Fidel's accusation of me as a spy into a moneymaking venture."[3] 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 to remove scenes where the spies drink and smoke (Gaines had a strong anti-smoking stance).[3] Prohías completed a total of 241 Spy vs. Spy strips for Mad magazine, the last one appearing in #269 (March 1987).[3] After that he drew gag strips for the titles (such as one involving radioactive waste in #287) and wrote several stories for Clarke or Manak to draw, with his last such contribution in #337 (July 1995).[4]

The strips continued, with writer Duck Edwing and artist Bob Clarke creating the majority. Their strips are identifiable by Clarke's drawing style, but signed " 'C/e", or " 'C/p" in the Prohias-written cases.

Some were largely uncredited, simply being signed "M&S" (MAD 335) or "M&e" (MAD 352).

Peter Kuper took over as writer and artist for the strip with Mad magazine #356 (April 1997). It was later drawn in full color when the magazine changed from a black and white to full color format.


Comikaze Expo 2011 - Spy vs Spy (6325381362)
Cosplay, Comikaze Expo 2011

Black Spy and White Spy (or "Man in Black" and "Man in White") — Wearing wide-brimmed hats and dressed in overcoats, both Spies have long pointed faces. They are identical except for one being entirely in white and one entirely in black. The Spies were modeled after El Hombre Siniestro ("The Sinister Man"), a character Prohías created in the Cuban magazine Bohemia in 1956. Like the Spies, he wore a wide-brimmed hat and overcoat and had a long pointed nose. Prohías described the character as someone who "thought nothing of chopping the tails off of dogs, or even the legs off of little girls" and stated he was "born out of the national psychosis of the Cuban people."[3] 'El Hombre Siniestro bears strong resemblance to the Spies—although, instead of fighting against a set rival, he simply does horrible things to anyone he can find.

The cover copy of 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:

You are about to meet Black Spy and White Spy – the two MADdest 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.[3]

Grey Spy (or "Woman in Grey") — She debuted in Mad magazine #73 (Sept. 1962) (the strip was temporarily renamed Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy). Grey Spy's appearances were sporadic, but she always triumphed by using the infatuations of Black Spy and White Spy to her advantage. Prohías explained, "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."[3] Grey Spy's last appearance under Prohías was Mad Magazine #99 (Dec. 1965); she did not appear again until Bob Clarke and Duck Edwing took over the strip.

Leaders — They are the barrel-chested, medal-decorated bosses of Black Spy and White Spy, who give them tasks and punish them for their failures. The Leaders were phased out when Peter Kuper took over writing and illustrating the strip.


  • A Sunday strip series (39 in total) was released weekly from April 7 to Dec 29, 2002;[5] 2014 in the MAD news, syndicated by Tribune Media Services and featuring Duck Edwing and Dave Manak returning as writer and artist respectively.
  • 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 appeared in every Mad Kids issue.

Other media

Mountain Dew Spies
White Spy as seen in a 2004 Mountain Dew television commercial.
  • Video games based on the strip have been released for the ZX Spectrum[6], Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, and Apple II.[7]
  • A "Spy vs. Spy" board game was released by Milton Bradley in 1986.[8]
  • Animated segments of Spy vs. Spy appeared in the unaired 1974 Mad Magazine Television Special, and in MADtv seasons 1 to about 3 (1995 until 1997) with Rough Draft Korea.
  • In 2004, the characters were featured in television commercials for the soft drink Mountain Dew, also serving as they are previously used on MADtv.[9]
  • "Spy vs. Spy" was a skit in every episode of Cartoon Network's animated series Mad. It ran from September 6, 2010 – December 2, 2013 (there was one skit per episode; in total, there were 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 were drawn in three dimensions instead of the classic comic book style. It served as their two previous decade cartoons. Both spies claimed victory 51 times, and one of their feuds resulted in a draw.


  • The All New Mad Secret File on Spy vs. Spy (Signet, 1965) — reprinted by Warner Books in 1971, and Watson-Guptill in 2009
  • Spy vs. Spy Follow Up File (Signet, 1968) — reprinted by Warner Books in 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)
  • Spy vs. Spy: An Explosive Celebration (Liberty Street, 2015)
  • Spy Vs. Spy: The Big Blast (Time Inc. Books, 2016)


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

See also


  1. ^ Carabas, Teodora (2007). "'Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD': The Debunking of Spies, Superheroes, and Cold War Rhetoric in Mad Magazine's 'SPY vs SPY'". The Journal of Popular Culture. 40 (1): 4–24. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00351.x.
  2. ^ "Spy vs. Spy Headquarters".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Spy vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook", Prohías, A. (Watson-Guptill, 2001).
  4. ^ http://www.madcoversite.com/ugoi-antonio_prohias.html Mad Magazine Contributors-Antonio Prohias
  5. ^ Holtz, Allan (2012). American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. p. 364. ISBN 9780472117567.
  6. ^ "Spy vs Spy". World of Spectrum.
  7. ^ "In the Studio". Next Generation. No. 30. Imagine Media. June 1997. p. 19.
  8. ^ "Spy vs. Spy," BoardGameGeek.com. Accessed July 1, 2015.
  9. ^ "Spy vs Spy Mountain Dew Commercials," YBCW.com. Accessed July 1, 2015.

External links

Media related to Spy vs. Spy at Wikimedia Commons

A.O. Mod. TV. Vers.

A.O. Mod. TV. Vers. is the second studio album by Australian rock band Spy vs Spy, produced by Leszek Karski (Boys Next Door, Midnight Oil, Nauts) and released through WEA on 8 December 1986.

The title is an abbreviation of 'Adults Only Modified Television Version' which used to appear at the bottom of late night movies in Australia at the time. The album peaked at No. 12 on the Kent Music Report and went gold. For this album Spy vs Spy recorded as v. Spy v. Spy, and the line-up was the original trio Craig Bloxom on bass guitar/lead vocals, Cliff Grigg on drums/percussion and Mike Weiley on lead guitar/vocals.The album provided three singles – "Don't Tear it Down" inspired by the Department of Main Roads seeking to demolish the band's Darling Street squat, "Sallie-Anne'" about murdered prostitute/whistleblower Sallie-Anne Huckstepp and "Credit Cards" a commentary on spiralling debt and consumerism. "Don't Tear It Down" was the band's most successful single, peaking at No. 31 on the Kent Music Report of the Australian singles charts in February 1987, it stayed in the charts for 20 weeks and went platinum.

A New England

"A New England" is a song written and recorded by Billy Bragg, included on his album Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy, released in 1983. It became a hit single when covered by Kirsty MacColl the next year, and remains a signature song from the early years of Bragg's recording career.

Antonio Prohías

Antonio Prohías (January 17, 1921 – February 24, 1998), born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, was a cartoonist most famous as the creator of the satirical comic strip Spy vs. Spy for Mad magazine.

Back to Basics (Billy Bragg album)

Back to Basics is a 1987 collection of Billy Bragg's first three releases: The albums Life's A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy and Brewing Up with Billy Bragg and the EP Between The Wars. This collection did not contain any new material, but did document Billy Bragg's early "one man and his guitar" approach. The songs collected on this release demonstrate major recurrent themes in Bragg's work: highly critical commentary on Thatcherite Britain, laced with poetic love songs. The collection was re-released in November 1993 on the Cooking Vinyl label.

Duck Edwing

Don "Duck" Edwing (1934 – December 26, 2016) was an American gag cartoonist whose work has appeared for years in Mad. His signature "Duck Edwing" is usually accompanied by a small picture of a duck, and duck calls are heard on his answering machine. Mad editor John Ficarra said, "He's exactly how people picture a Mad magazine writer." In 2007, Edwing told an interviewer, "I always believed that when you choose your field, you should specialize. You never deviate. I chose 'sick puppy'."

First Star Software

First Star Software, Inc. is a Chappaqua, New York based video game development, publishing and licensing company, founded by Richard Spitalny (who remains the company's president), Billy Blake, Peter Jablon, and Fernando Herrera in 1982. It is best known for the series' Boulder Dash, which began on the Atari 8-bit family, and Spy vs. Spy, which first appeared on the Commodore 64. Games were ported to or written for home computers, consoles, and later for Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and portable devices. Millions of units have been sold in both the Boulder Dash and Spy vs. Spy series of games.

As of January 1, 2018 the First Star Software name and website are owned by BBG Entertainment GmbH which also purchased all intellectual property rights pertaining to Astro Chase, BOiNG!, Boulder Dash, Bristles, Flip & Flop, Millennium Warriors, Omnicron Conspiracy, Panic Button, Rent Wars and Security Alert.

Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy

Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy is Billy Bragg's first album, released in 1983. All songs on the original album consisted of Bragg singing to his electric guitar accompaniment.

The original album played at 45 rpm rather than the more usual 33.3 rpm, contained only seven songs and lasted for only 15 minutes and 57 seconds. However, rather than being classified as an EP, it qualified for the UK albums chart and reached number 30 in January 1984.The album contains both politically charged songs, such as the attack on the school system and unemployment, "To Have and To Have Not," and love songs such as "The Milkman of Human Kindness" and "A New England" (which was later a hit for singer Kirsty MacColl.)

It was ranked at number 3 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1983 by NME; thirty years later, the magazine ranked it at number 440 in its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

List of Mad episodes

This is a list of the episodes of Mad, an animated sketch comedy television series inspired by Mad Magazine that aired on Cartoon Network.

Mad TV (season 1)

The first season of Mad TV, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on the Fox Network between October 14, 1995, and June 22, 1996.

Richard Spitalny

Richard Spitalny is an American film producer and the founder of First Star Software.

He co-produced Rhinestone, starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone, for 20th Century Fox as well as other films, prior to 1982.

As the president of First Star Software, he was responsible for the sale of part of the company to Warner Software (a Warner Communications Company) in 1983. Although Warner no longer maintains ownership equity, the companies continue to work together in the exploitation of the three Spy vs. Spy computer games created by First Star based on Mad‘s Spy vs. Spy characters. Spitalny was also responsible for the acquisition of Boulder Dash and continues to oversee all production, distribution, marketing and/or licensing of games based on this intellectual property throughout the world.

Spy vs. Spy (1984 video game)

Spy vs. Spy is a game written by Michael Riedel for the Commodore 64 and published by First Star Software in 1984. A port for the for the Atari 8-bit family was released simultaneously. It is a two-player, split-screen game, based on Mad magazine's long running cartoon strip, Spy vs. Spy, about the slapstick antics of two spies trying to kill each other with improbably elaborate traps and weapons.

It was ported to the Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 16, MSX, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Master System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Nintendo Entertainment System, which was emulated on the Game Boy Advance.

Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game)

Spy vs. Spy is a video game developed by Vicious Cycle Software, published by Global Star Software and based on the MAD magazine's titular comic strip. The game features the two spies ("Black" and "White") in a unique story mode, plus two other game modes ("Modern" and "Classic"), and a multiplayer mode for up to 4 players. A GameCube version was planned, but it was cancelled.

Spy vs. Spy (disambiguation)

Spy vs. Spy is a wordless black and white comic strip published in Mad magazine since 1961.

Spy vs. Spy may also refer to:

Spy vs. Spy (1984 video game), the first computer game based on the comic strip.

Spy vs. Spy II: The Island Caper

Spy vs. Spy III: Arctic Antics

Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game)

Spy vs Spy (album), the 1989 recording of Ornette Coleman compositions by American multi-instrumentalist, John Zorn

Spy vs Spy (Australian band), rock band

Spy vs Spy (Australian band)

v.Spy v.Spy, also known as Spy v Spy, The Drug Grannies and The Spies, were an Australian ska/pub rock band from Sydney formed in 1981. They became known for tackling political issues through their music, including racism, homelessness and contemporary drug culture. They were named after a comic strip, "Spy vs. Spy" in the US Mad magazine.The band's initial line-up was the trio of Craig Bloxom on bass guitar/lead vocals, Cliff Grigg on drums/percussion and Michael Weiley on lead guitar/vocals. Spy vs Spy's early music was ska-influenced indie rock, exemplified by their debut single "Do What You Say" on the independent Green label in April 1982. They released an EP Four Fresh Lemons in August. Their music became more straightforward hard rock for their pub audiences. The band broke up in early 1983 only to reform mid-year, by which time they were using the name v.Spy v.Spy to avoid legal problems with Mad magazine. They were eventually signed to Midnight Oil's label Powderworks and managed by Oils manager, Gary Morris. Their first full-length album Harry's Reasons was released in March 1986 and produced by Leszek Karski. They switched labels to WEA and had their highest charting success in February 1987 with their single "Don't Tear It Down" on the Australian singles chart and the associated album A.O. Mod. TV. Vers. peaked at No. 12 on the Australian albums chart.v.Spy v.Spy's follow-up album, Xenophobia (Why?) was released in March 1988 and peaked at No. 15 in Australia. It was produced by Karski and Guy Gray and released by WEA in 14 countries. Their 1989 album Trash the Planet peaked at No. 22 on the ARIA Charts. None of their subsequent releases reached the Australian Top 40. The band split and reformed a number of times but still developed a strong following in Brazil.

Spy vs Spy (album)

Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman is a 1989 album by American composer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist John Zorn, featuring the compositions of Ornette Coleman performed in the brief intense style of Zorn's hardcore miniatures.

The liner notes thank Ornette and Denardo Coleman, Mick Harris of Napalm Death, Ted Epstein of Blind Idiot God, Pil of Lip Cream (a Japanese thrashcore group), The Accused, Craig Flanagan, DRI, CBGB, and "the New York-London-Tokyo Hardcore Triangle". The cover artwork was created by indie comics personality Mark Beyer (of Amy and Jordan fame). The album itself approaches free jazz from the perspective of hardcore punk, particularly taking note of the contemporary innovations of thrashcore and grindcore. Zorn would later pursue these preoccupations in the thrash jazz group Naked City.

Like some classic free jazz albums (Free Jazz, Ascension, Archie Shepp's Mama Too Tight), different saxophonists improvise simultaneously in stereo. Tim Berne appears on the left channel, while John Zorn is recorded on the right channel.

Tom and Jerry in House Trap

Tom and Jerry in House Trap is an action video game released in 2000 for the PlayStation. The game was developed by Warthog Games and was published by NewKidCo in North America. In Europe, the game was published by Ubi Soft and NewKidCo. Success published a Japanese version of the game in 2002.

The game is an example of the trap-em-up genre, which also includes games like Heiankyo Alien, Space Panic, and Lode Runner. The gameplay is largely similar to the classic multi-platform Spy vs. Spy video game, adopting the split-screen aesthetics.

Trash the Planet

Trash the Planet is the fourth studio album by Australian rock band Spy vs Spy, produced by Craig Leon (The Ramones, Blondie) and released through WEA in November, 1989.

Volume 1 (Billy Bragg album)

Volume 1 is a box set by alternative folk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, released in 2006. The box set includes 7 CDs and 2 DVDs with a booklet containing song lyrics and an introduction by Wiggy, producer of several of Bragg's albums.

Xenophobia (Why?)

Xenophobia (Why?) is the third studio album by Australian rock band Spy vs Spy, it was produced by Les Karski (Boys Next Door, Midnight Oil, Nauts) and Guy Gray, and released through WEA on 21 March 1988. For this album Spy vs Spy were known as v. Spy v. Spy, and the line-up was the original trio Craig Bloxom on bass guitar/lead vocals, Cliff Grigg on drums/percussion and Mike Weiley on lead guitar/vocals.After having toured for A.O. Mod. TV. Vers., WEA demanded another album immediately, so Xenophobia (Why?) was written and recorded in just six weeks, the title was inspired by race issues surfacing in the lead-up to Australia's Bicentennial year. The album peaked at No. 15 on the Kent Music Report for the Australian albums chart, and released in 14 countries. It provided three singles, "(Forget about the) Working Week", "Clarity of Mind" and "Waiting". None of the singles peaked in the Top 40 of the Kent Music Report for the Australian singles charts.



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