Aug 10, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 19 - The Fourth MAD Declassified Papers On...Spy vs Spy, November 1974
Like many, I think my knowledge of MAD Magazine, and of the "Spy vs Spy" strip is a vague memory of childhood, of finding these comics that were larger than comics and reading them because there was nothing else to read. I'm not saying this is everyone's experience of MAD, and there are definitely those for whom the magazine was their gateway to sequential art, and for whom it holds a warm and nostalgic place in their hearts. I'm not one of those people. I never really got MAD. It just seemed like it wanted to make fun of things, and, most importantly, of things that I really loved. Their movie and comic book parodies, at the time, made me angry. I took my superheroes very seriously back then. I take them seriously now, too, of course, but with a little bit of ironic detachment.
This book is pretty neat. The artwork gets downright trippy at times, which explains the popularity of the magazine with the hippies of the late 60s and early 70s. I can see the underground comix movement growing quite obviously from these sarcasm-dripping strips. It's even better when you find out that artist Prohias was accused of being a spy for the CIA in Castro's Cuba. The foolishness of political oneupsmanship has never been quite so blatantly stated as these comics.
One thing I do find curious about this collection is the re-formatting that must have taken place to turn the comic strip into a paperback book. I've a few comic collections like this, and I have to start thinking about how the re-organization of the original comics affects the telling of the story. These strip seem to follow a relatively sequential process, so putting a single panel on a single page is no big deal. But were the panels and the contents of the panels to start interacting with one another in a less sequential manner, I'm curious as to how the strips would be adapted. Or if they would. Perhaps there are strips of "Spy vs Spy" from this era that do play with the form, but just couldn't be translated into the paperback medium.
I've about 15 old MAD paperbacks, so expect more of these in the future. Onward!