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Spy vs. Spy is a wordless black and white comic strip that has been published in Mad magazine since January, 1961. It was created by Antonio Prohías, a Cuban national who fled to the United States on May 1, 1960; 3 days before Fidel Castro took over the last of the Cuban free press.
The "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon was symbolic of the Cold War, and was Prohías's comment on the futility of armed escalation and détente. Under the Spy vs. Spy title panel, the words "BY PROHIAS" are spelled out in Morse code (-... -.-- .--. .-. --- .... .. .- ...).
The comic features two spies, Black and White, who are constantly warring against each other and coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways of doing away with the other.
A typical plot would be one spy setting up a booby-trap for the other to fall into and be "killed". Sometimes the trap works, but sometimes the other spy comes up with a brilliant counter plan of his own (often by watching the spy set up the trap, or just somehow knowing about it) and will be the final winner. However, sometimes the other spy expected this and set up a similar trap for him. In other cases, the losing spy will use a plan B to counter the other spy's counter. Usually, the winning spy celebrates his victory with a V sign gesture toward the loser.
Sometimes the spies' traps are not to kill or injure the other, but to simply trick them. Some of the early cartoons (including their very first), published in 1961, had both spies coming up with the same plan to trap the other, the result being a draw. In the early years, the title panel of the comic would feature a one-panel gag presenting one spy besting the other; the main comic then used the rest of the panels to tell a different short story with the other spy winning.
During 1962–65, the comic was sometimes called Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy and featured a female spy, Lady in Grey (or the Grey Spy), with whom both White and Black Spy were in love. She took advantage of this to set traps for which both male spies would fall for and "perish". Because the Lady in Grey would always end up winning, Prohías felt that she was too limited and dropped her from the strip. She later returned under other artists and writers.
After Prohías's retirement, several artists worked on the strip. George Woodbridge drew two Spy vs. Spy which featured no byline. By 1988, Bob Clarke took over as the strip's artist, and continued through 1993 until being replaced by David Manak. Duck Edwing wrote the majority of the gags that Clarke and Manak illustrated; Manak and Edwing also created a short-lived, syndicated Spy vs. Spy comic strip in 2002. In April 1997, Peter Kuper took over as writer and artist for the strip, although occasionally the gags are written by other writers, such as Michael Gallagher or Dave Croatto.