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Antonio Prohias
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Artist
    (January 17, 1921-February 24, 1998)
    Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba
    Worked for the Cuban newspaper El Mundo in the 40s and 50s
    Created the Cuban comic strip ‘El Hombre Siniestro’ (1956)
    Created the Mad Magazine comic strip ‘Spy vs. Spy’ (1961)
    His work was collected in ‘Spy vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook’ (2001)
    Spy vs. Spy’ came to overshadow his other work.
    His best known strip uses the same scenario over and over (two opposing spies try to kill each other).
    He said ‘El Hombre Siniestro’ was based on the ‘national psychosis of the Cuban people.’
    His 14-year-old daughter had to act as his translator when he first visited the offices of Mad Magazine.
    Younger fans may not realize that ‘Spy vs. Spy’ satirizes the Cold War.
    Fidel Castro accused him of working for the CIA.
    He never learned to speak English fluently.
    He added a female spy to his strip but dropped her as he felt compelled ‘out of courtesy to women’ to always let her win.
    His grade school teacher had him give drawing lessons to the rest of the class.
    He was the first Cuban cartoonist to draw attention to Castro’s totalitarian tendencies.
    After he denounced communism, thousands of Castro supporters called for his execution (1959).
    His anti-Castro cartoons eventually forced him to flee Cuba for New York (1960).
    In New York he worked in a sweatshop by day and did his cartooning at night.
    ‘Spy vs. Spy’ was immediately accepted by Mad and has appeared in almost every issue since (ghosted since the late 80s).
    His Cuban nationality made it hard for him to get visas to many countries.
    His colleagues and neighbors remember him as a kind and courageous man.
    The expression ‘Spy vs. Spy’ is sometimes used to describe any two obsessed foes.

Credit: Georgina


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