We've loved the Spy vs. Spy comics in Mad Magazine forever — but for the last 17+ years, they've been the work of comics superstar Peter Kuper. And Kuper's take on the two dueling spies is anarchic, and wonderful to behold.
Top image via School Library Journal
In an interview with Time Out, Kuper was asked how he came to take over doing Spy Vs. Spy, and he replied:
I just completed a book called The System that was entirely wordless. I also was doing a weekly strip called Eye of the Beholder that was also entirely wordless. For some reason Mad magazine thought this qualified me to take on Spy vs Spy – go figure.
When they called I almost said no immediately. I was doing my own things and this seemed like an odd direction. But I thought what the hell, I can at least do a sample. I did it in stencils and spray paint and assumed they would reject it. When they told me I had the job I figured I would do if for one or two years. It has been 16 years. Clearly I have no idea about anything and I'm still waiting for my big chance to say no!
Actually, when I did my first sample I discovered what an impact the strip had on me growing up. It felt like it was in my DNA and was certainly one of the reasons I did so many wordless comics of my own.
And Kuper explains how he comes up with ideas for new ways for the Spies to kill each other, after 50 years:
To an insider it seems inconceivable that we humans are still fighting the same stupid pointless wars for well over 50 years. All I need to do for inspiration is read a newspaper. A sense of humour is a prerequisite for surviving in this world and it doesn't hurt for coming up with new Spy ideas either. The cruellest part of the job is when the editors reject my ideas. For that a healthy ego is a prerequisite.
Some of Kuper's comics have been posted online for promotional purposes, by auction sites or as part of interviews with him, and a small selection is below.