Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 017: Spy vs Spy: Casebook of Craziness”

Mad Magazine was a staple of my childhood. I didn’t read it regularly, but devoured every issue that I did get my hands on. I loved the fake adverts, the parodies of popular films, the back cover that you could fold over to reveal a NEW picture that you couldn’t really see even though it was right before your eyes, and the great comics by Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, and (my favorite of all) Antonio Prohias.

Antonio Prohias – Spy vs Spy: Casebook of Craziness (2014)

If you’ve never read Mad Magazine, or played any of the Spy vs Spy video games, or happened across the animated shows, or seen the board game or blah blah blah, (seems unlikely, but you never know) here’s what the story is all about: deception. Prohias (who was born in Cuba) chronicles the escapades of a pair of spies who look exactly alike, except that one is always dressed in black, one always in white, who are constantly trying to find new and inventive ways to do each other in. By the end of every strip, one or the other of them is usually shot, stabbed, poisoned, mauled, or blown up, but neither spy is ever the clear “winner” of the war.

Imagine Wile E. Coyote mixed with Rube Goldberg, in a series of black and white, pantomimed, Cold War espionage films. The comics are violent, but not gory---sadistic and ironic for certain---and often stretch believability to the breaking point, but they are also downright fun, and oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any clear GOAL to the attacks beyond outwitting and destroying the other guy. (And, like Kenny from South Park, they always come back to life ready to be killed again in the next adventure.)

This collection has very few words in it (other than some sound effects and the occasional label on a button or package), and can be flipped through fairly quickly. Some of the gags are a bit corny, and anybody bothered by violence probably wouldn’t like it, but for fans The Three Stooges, Rube Goldberg, or of Mad Magazine, it’s not a bad little compilation of Prohias’s late-70s / early-80s material. Just make sure you check the book for ticking noises or strange, protruding wires before you open it!

---Richard F. Yates

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