LOOKING BACK: Spy vs. Spy.

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On Monday, Master of all that is Forbidden Planet, Jeff Ayers and I went out for a drink post Eli Roth signing. Jeff had the three volumes of some original Antonio Prohias works from his 26-year run on “Spy vs Spy,” the strip featured in Mad Magazine.  We began reminiscing about the strip.

Looking back, I don’t remember what it was that I liked about the magazine, but I do remember that I was quite mad for this strip. The strips were always silent, and I remember filling in little captions, thought bubbles and sound effects.  I remember my mother criticizing my hand writing in a Chinese restaurant in North Bergen, saying something about how if I was going to write in comics bubbles my hand writing should be much neater. I figure I was probably around ten when I was really into the strips. So, I endeavored to do just that. Somewhere, in some bin in my parent’s garage, is a crop of Mad Magazines with written in Spy vs Spy dialogue.

Now this is probably dating me, but I think Jeff and I are the only ones who remember the original Nintendo video game.  I remember it being extremely difficult.  I remember huddling in front of a small Panasonic where I played against my little brother and planted traps against each other.  Then again most of those original Nintendo video games are ten times harder than any game put out today.

Most of all, what I enjoyed about this volume was the background  given on the birth of what must be one of my favorite childhood memories. From John Ficarra’s introduction to my volume:

It was July 12, 1960 when a political cartoonist from Cuba named Antonio Prohias arrived at the offices of MAD magazine. He had come to America two months earlier after death threats were directed at him and his family by the new Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.  Accompanying Prohias on that fateful day was his daughter, Marta, who acted as interpreter (Though her English at the time was only marginally better than her father’s–which was nonexistent!) Also with Prohias were his drawings of two pointy-nosed characters he had created especially for MAD–one black, one white, both silent. Forever locked in a see-saw battle of destruction and mayhem, the conflict between the two was a metaphor for the futility of the Cold War.

You see, I never looked into the genesis of this strip. Being that kind of person who loves thinking about where creator’s lives intersect with their work I was quite happy to read this.  Upon reading this introduction, I figure that I never read any of Prohias’ work during my younger days. I probably began reading it when Peter Kuper was beginning his tenure–so now, especially, I get to read the classic stuff.  The classic stuff that ended when Prohias retired somewhere around 1986, I figure, and before my time.

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