Friday, April 9, 2010

"Spy vs. Spy: The Joke and Dagger Files" by David Shayne

If you read the previous post, you know about my quest to get hubby something to read. This was the second of the "Spy vs. Spy" books that my library system acquired, this being a collection of some of the artists who took over the strip after Antonio Prohias retired. There are various artists represented here, including Bob Clarke and David Manak, with Duck Edwing providing the ideas for the gags they illustrated. And, of course, there are a multitude of the strips that were done by Peter Kuper, including the ones that came out in color (all the previous strips had been in black and white).

There's a foreword by Hollywood movie producer and director J.J. Abrams, plus some extras by Kuper himself. Not really much new as far as info goes.

The strips themselves are still typical "Spy vs. Spy" fare, with the Black Spy and the White Spy trying to kill each other at every turn. What I found interesting was the difference in each take on the spies; the strips by Clarke and Edwing have a bit more humor to them than the originals by Prohias, including most ending with the "victorious" spy giving the V-for-Victory finger wave. And for some reason, that V sign at the end of the strips made me think of Nixon - or maybe it was a comedian doing Nixon - mumbling out "I am not a crook". Go figure - the mind makes weird connections.

Then you get to the Kuper strips, and there's a very noticeable difference in style. There's the shift from black-and-white to color. There's also a bit more sinister tone to the plots. And when a spy is killed, it's much more grisly than anything seen before, with bits of brain and heart and teeth flying out to the corners of the panel. A bit shocking in b&w, even more so when he started doing the color. And I can't say I enjoyed them as much, either. Plus there's the "Grey Spy" - a rather buxom woman that I honestly don't remember seeing before.

The book concludes with the kids' version of "Spy vs. Spy", which is much tamer, of course. Rather than try to kill each other, the spies are sending each other to the Principal's office. I wasn't impressed, but if I was a kid, I might enjoy them. The Grey Spy makes appearances in these strips, too. And finally, there are panels from the commercials that were shot for Mountain Dew starring the Spies, which I sort of (but barely) remember. Overall, not a bad collection of work, but I have to say this - a little "Spy vs. Spy" goes a long way. And this book is on the long side.

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