Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Favorite Spies

My favorite spy is... well, a little unconventional.  Mainly because she's a self-proclaimed spy as opposed to an actual spy.  Or, a spy in training you might say.

Harriet the Spy by  Louise Fitzhugh was a book I read over and over again as a kid.  In fact, the cover was missing from my copy and, when we moved, my mother threw it out without my knowledge ("The cover was missing!  I thought we could get rid of it!") and I was very upset.

Nonetheless, I still remember the book with fondness.  Harriet is a kid who spies on people, basically.  People she knows, people that she doesn't, and she writes down everything she sees in her notebook.    She doesn't do it to be malicious; she does it because she wants to write.  She writes down her thoughts, too, which inevitably is what gets her into trouble. 

But she is forced to work things out, to figure things out on her own and, inevitably, her spying comes in handy later on.  As per usual, I love kids books where the kids are PEOPLE.  They're full fledge, thinking beings and not delicate flowers.  And I like that the book breaks some tropes that even good children's books follow.  Her parents, while not the most attentative, care about her (and they're both present.)  Does she have a nanny?  Yes, who plays a significant role all on her own, but Harriet's parents take an active interest in her.  And you know what?  Sometimes they make mistakes.  They're not portrayed as perfect beings.

It's just a book I love and loved reading and think is great for kids.  Plus... she's a spy.  How cool is that?  Who didn't want to be Harriet when they were ten?

My choice is also a bit unconventional. I don't read spy fiction. (I did read Harriet the Spy, but Cassy already told you all about that.) It's just not something I really get into. But I do like wordless comics...

"Spy vs. Spy" is a wordless comic strip that debuted in a 1961 issue of Mad magazine. The strips were, for many years, written by a man named Antonio Prohias. He was a well-known political satire cartoonist in Cuba until Fidel Castro took over and he began to fear for his job and his life. He came to America in 1960, and one month after arriving, presented "Spy vs. Spy" to Mad executives, and it was a hit. If you've seen a "Spy vs. Spy" strip from 1961-1987 and you can't find the signature, it's because it's "BY PROHIAS" in Morse code.

After Prohias retired due to poor health, five other cartoonists have stood in his place to keep the strip running.

The content of the cartoon is similar to that of "Itchy and Scratchy" from The Simpsons, except instead of a mouse and cat, they're two identical (save for one being in all black and the other in all white) spies.

The Spies got animated for MadTV and you may remember this set of Mountain Dew commercials from 2004.

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