Comic strip shown in MAD Magazine where a black spy and a white spy tried to outwit each other by setting the most devious trap for their opponent possible. Often the traps backfired on their creators, creating slapstick hilarity.

Also a computer game from the late 80's based on the comic strip Spy Vs Spy. Spy Vs Spy graced almost every console and computer available at the time. The game featured a split-screen, with one player controlling a black-clad spy and the other player controlling a white-clad (you guessed it) spy. Each player raced to collect a number of items that would, together, allow the spy they controlled to escape the building they both occupied, which was doomed to explode within a set time limit. So the play consisted of running around, searching every bookcase, plant, and container, while setting traps on every door or object they could find in an attempt to fool the opponent into setting off one of these traps and being removed from play for a certain penalty time, also forcing the slain opponent to drop everything they were holding. Two sequels were made, one set on a jungle island and one set in antarctica, but neither performed as well as the original game.
-... -.--  .--. .-. --- .... .. .- ... 

The original creator of "Spy Vs. Spy" is (according to the book Completely Mad and the comics' morse code) the late Cuban political cartoonist Antonio Prohias ("By Prohias"). His life in America and "Spy Vs. Spy" is connected in the line of getting away from Communism, and a healthy bit of picking on the kind of military/intelligence mindset that is associated in the 1950s to the end of the 1980s with the United States of America and Communist Russia.

The current incarnation of Spy Vs. Spy is done by New York Daily News' op-ed cartoonist Peter Kuper, using something not unlike stencils and spray paint instead of being drawn out in ink.

1989 Elektra Musician imprint release.

Fast, Loud, Faster

Spy vs. Spy is the title of this freeish hardcore jazz outing by saxaphonists John Zorn and Tim Berne. Their goal, apparently, was to play Ornette Coleman standards extremely fast and hard. The chaos was possibly inspired by the antagonism of the classic paranoia comic described above.

The melodic players are joined by Mark Dresser on bass, and Joey Baron plus Michael Vatcher whackin' the drums. Let's crank it up.

Using an old seventies-style stereo trick, there is one sax player in each ear and the drumsets are slightly separated from the center. In the frenetic pace of these covers, this trick leads to the sense of being inside the jam session. Inside your head.

My only beef with this album is that it seems to fly by in no time due to the superlative speed.

Even when the pace slows a tad on Feet Music and Broadway Blues -- and the themes actually take enough time walking across the stage to be recognized -- it's still speedy. Fer example, they state the main Zig Zag theme entirely twice in twenty seconds.

I'm not sure how they manage to mess with tempo as much as they do with two drummers. It's insanity, basically. Pure and delicious insanity.


  1. WRU from Ornette! 1961
  2. Chronology from The Shape of Jazz to Come 1959
  3. Word for Bird from In All Languages 1967
  4. Good Old Days from The Empty Fox Hole 1966
  5. The Disguise from Something Else! 1958
  6. Enfant from Ornette on Tenor 1961
  7. Rejoicing from Tomorrow is the Question! 1959
  8. Blues Connotation from This Is Our Music 1960
  9. C&D from Ornette! 1961
  10. Chippie from Something Else! 1958
  11. Peace Warriors from In All Languages 1987
  12. Ecars from Ornette on Tenor 1961
  13. Feet Music from In All Languages 1987
  14. Broadway Blues from New York is Now! 1967
  15. Space Church from In All Languages 1987
  16. Zig Zag from The Empty Fox Hole 1966
  17. Mob Job from Song X 1986

edited 10/02/2001

Since 1961 this black and white wordless comic strip has been one of MAD Magazine's biggest success. Created by Antonio Prohías, an internationally respected and talented Cuban cartoonist, Spy vs. Spy was meant to ridicule the Cold War, its ideologies, arms race and resort to espionage.

The Plot

Spy vs. Spy's main characters are Black Spy and White Spy (translated into X and Y, or Spion & Spion outside the US). Both look exactly alike, dressed in trenchcoat and hat, except for the color of their uniform. Their sole purpose in life is to destroy one another, by whichever means possible, preferably in the most bizarre and sophisticated ways conceivable. In many cases, the spies use crazy contraptions to counter the other spy's trap.

Now in the first comics, the victory of one spy over the other was not always a given, since sometimes both spies would come up with the same evil plan to kill their enemy, which resulted in infinite warring without any clear outcome. Usually though, one spy would outsmart the other and make a V sign with his hand. Prohías would then expose the pointlessness of it all by reviving his characters over and over again. He also added a new feature by creating "Lady in Grey", a character which both Black and White are deeply infatuated with. She appeared in the comic strip between 1962 and 1965, changing the title to "Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy" and always won by inciting the two agents to rescue her.

At times, secret missions are given out by the White or Black Embassy to their respective spy employee. When miscarried, the spies are sometimes fired or killed out of spite by their own superiors, drawn out as enormous, highly decorated military leaders or diplomats. These high-ranking men are shown in very few strips, and have never resurfaced after the comic was passed on to other cartoonists.

The Artists:

Antonio Prohías initiated and drew the strip from 1961 to 1987, at which point he chose to retire due to illness. He left behind him unfinished sketches that were later finished or "ghosted" by friends Don "Duck" Ewing and Bob Clark. Ewing and Clark did a large number of Spy vs. Spy works as well as two Spy vs. Spy paperback books (The Updated Files #7 and #8 ). In 1995, David Manak started contributing and was given unpublished sketches from Antonio Prohías. Finally, in 1997, American artist Peter Kuper took over the series and worked them in spray paint, his preferred style. To this day, he is still in charge of the strip.

The Legacy:

MAD's Spy vs. Spy comic has led to the creation of series of animated shorts, video-games, advertisements and board games based on the two famous Cold War comic icons.

 

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