Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Spy vs Spy 2
The Joke and Dagger Files

by David Shayne
Foreword by J.J. Abrams

      A few years ago, I reviewed Mad Magazine Cover to Cover for MyShelf. It was edited by Mad Magazine's editors, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was published by Watson-Guptill and so, when Spy vs Spy 2: The Joke and Dagger Files became available this year, what could I do but offer to review it? Watson-Guptill can always be counted on for quality, and here was a book with a similar subject matter but different viewpoint.

Spy Vs Spy 2 is written by David Shayne with a foreword by J.J. Abrams. It, of course, covers the story of the "Spy vs. Spy" feature, originally published in Mad. Every Mad fan knows "Spy vs. Spy" for both its storyline and artwork. The book follows Spy Vs Spy: The Complete Casebook (which I didn't read but must!). It did not disappoint.

The wry humor. The great graphics. Actually, anyone interested in art should study the graphics. One can follow them from chiaroscuro to color, from early to late, from broad geometrics from the magazine to more detailed comic strips.

It is also political - for those of you who aren't already familiar with this American icon. The originator was Antonio Prohias. He escaped from Communist Cuba, where his lampoons of the local government were not particularly welcome. Mad was the perfect host for his concept: a spy garbed in black and his identical twin clothed in white, both bent on mutual and pointless destruction. It was fraught with possibilities for scarring wit.

Since Prohias' death, his concept has been kept alive with a cadre of artists, and the world - unfortunately - keeps them fed with political absurdity enough to keep fans well-nourished. One of the neatest things is that Author Shayne uncovers the real intrigue behind the development of this cartoon.

This book is a testament to the fact that if one takes an idea that is rooted in reality, treats it artistically and with a little humor, it may never die.

The Book

Watson-Guptill Publications
October 2007
More at

The Reviewer

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the award-winning author of This is the Place, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, and a chapbook of poetry titled Tracings, winner of the Military Writers Society of America's Award of Excellence and named Top Ten Best Reads by the Compulsive Reader. She is also the author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books including The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success and The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't, the 2004 winner of USA Book News' Best Professional Book of the Year and Irwin awards.
© 2008