In Mad #60, they tried poisoning each other with tea. In Mad #276, they tried to burn each other with reflectors while on the beach. In Mad #348, they tried to blow each other up with missiles. Attacks happened on the mountain, under the water, and in the air. Nowhere is safe, and nothing is to be trusted. What looks like an elephant is really a modified cannon. The X-ray machine at the airport is used for electrocution purposes, and one disguised cow on the farm is meant to explode when milked. The White Spy and the Black Spy are indestructible! Originally created by Antonio Prohias, these sharp-nosed lookalikes have been trying to annihilate each other since 1961. After Prohias’s death in 1998, several talented writers and illustrators continued the Spy vs. Spy series. Peter Kuper, Don “Duck” Edwing, Dave Manak, and Bob Clarke were some of the artists behind strip’s popular continuation. With their help, the spies’ target practice continues.
The only reading involved in Spy vs. Spy is the noises and the odd sign. KLANK, BOOM, WHAM, KTHUNK- their homemade and individualized inventions are rarely quiet. A silent moving car turns into a hammer that goes WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!, and with a KLIK! KLAK! KLAK! a golf bag transforms into a rocket launcher that goes BOOM, BAM, BOOM! Signs reveal locations or the contents of a box. One building has a sign that reads Black Spy HQ; inside, he’s using a liquid labeled Growth Serum. The artists all provide enough details in the illustrations to ensure the strips are understandable and entertaining.
The Joke and Dagger Files is the sequel to 2001’s Spy vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook. All of the over 200 strips in this second volume are labeled with a MAD issue number and publication date. Many of the strips are in colour including all 39 Sunday strips that appeared in newspapers in 2002, and four Spy vs. Spy Jr. strips that appeared in MAD Kids in 2005-2006.
Readers learn some interesting Spy vs. Spy history in this book. In the foreword by J.J. Abrams, there is a picture of the first Spy vs. Spy strip and an explanation about the Morse code found on each strip. In the section entitled “Spy vs. Kuper,” Peter Kuper writes about becoming the next Spy vs. Spy creator – all the while teasing the reader about the identity of his favorite spy. Before he shows the steps involved in creating a strip, he does reveal his answer. (Look for it on page 10.)
A five-page illustrated section entitled “Feel Like Reading a Spy Story” summarizes the timeline of Spy vs. Spy. Starting with Antonio Prohias’s beginning in Cuba writing cartoons for the newspaper El Dia and ending with talk about Spy vs. Spy Jr. and the Spies’ sponsorships, the Spy vs. Spy background and future takes shape. Following this narrative are 92 pages of Spy vs. Spy strips created by various MAD writers and illustrators, including Bob Clarke, Dave Manak, Duck Edwing, and John Schneider.
Before Peter Kuper’s 178 pages of strips, there is an interview with Kuper by the author of this book, David Shayne. In it, Kuper reveals his “audition to take over Spy vs. Spy”, his influences, and the outcome of his “Richie Bush” legal battle. My favorite part of this interview was seeing three rejected Spy vs. Spy concept sketches.
A Spy Style chapter and a description of the Spy vs. Spy Mountain Dew television commercials end the book. With one to three strips on almost every page of these 320 pages, fans will get their fill of Spy vs. Spy trickery and humor. Immortal on paper, these spies have also proved imperishable with time. I think these rivals for life will have fans for life.
To win a copy, be the twelfth person to email [email protected] a comic strip you like. You can add it as an attachment.