Infobox Comics creator
name = Antonio Prohías
birthdate = birth date|1921|01|17
deathdate = death date and age|1998|02|24|1921|01|17
area = Cartoonist
notable works = Cartoons for "MAD" magazine
Antonio Prohías (
January 17, 1921– February 24, 1998), born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, was a cartoonistmost famous for creating the comic strip" Spy vs. Spy" for " MAD Magazine".
In the late 1940s, Prohías began working at "
El Mundo", the most important newspaperin Cuba. By 1960, he had become an internationally recognized and awarded political cartoonist. At this time, Fidel Castro's government took over the paper, and Prohías left Cuba for New York, where he found himself attracted to "Mad".
The "Mad" staff occasionally took group vacations, traveling en masse to other countries. Prohías took part in these vacations when possible, but as a Cuban exile, he had trouble gaining admission into some countries, and in Italy was actually turned away.
Although he is most famous for "Spy vs. Spy", the majority of his comic strips, such as "El Hombre Siniestro, La Mujer Siniestra," and "Tovarich," were published mostly or only in Cuba. Altogether, only about 20 of his roughly 270 contributions to "Mad" were of anything other than the spy series. As a result, most of the available information on this other work comes from the "Spy Vs Spy Complete Casebook" (Watson-Guptill, 2001).
He is buried in Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum (now
Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North Park Cemetery and Mausoleum) in Miami, Florida.
Characters other than "Spy vs. Spy"
Spy vs. Spy" for descriptions of Prohías's most famous creations.
*El Hombre Siniestro: (The Sinister Man) wore a wide-brimmed hat and overcoat and had a long pointed nose, becoming the prototype for the Spies. His description from the "Spy Vs Spy Complete Casebook" says it best: "A dark and dastardly character, El Hombre Siniestro thought nothing of chopping the tails off of dogs, or even the legs off of little girls. . . [he] was born out of the national psychosis of the Cuban people." At the time right after Castro rose to power, there was a pronounced feeling of fatality and sinisterness in Cuba, and Prohías depicted this through his twisted "El Hombre Siniestro" strip tease. He and La Mujer Siniestra can be easily compared to the Spies—although, instead of fighting against a set rival, they simply do horrible things to anyone they can find. "El Hombre Siniestro" debuted in "Bohemia" in 1956, although in later years Prohías created new strips for "Zig-Zag Libre" after he moved to Miami.
*La Mujer Siniestra: (The Sinister Woman) Like her counterpart, "La Mujer Siniestra" is about the titular character causing misery for everyone else. However, unlike El Hombre Siniestro's mostly unrelated crimes, many of her strips involve either her attempt to find love (like, for example, cuckolding someone else's lover) or to ruin other women.
*Tovarich: Tovarich is Russian for "comrade," and so Tovarich was meant to be both a representation of the Communist Soviet government and of Fidel Castro. He is a corrupt Soviet dictator meant to parody Fidel. However, since Castro had not yet announced he was a Communist, nobody could complain about the comic. Since the setting was Russia and not Cuba, it could not be explicitly found as criticism. Tovarich's appearance changed through the years; originally he wore a military cap with a star and had longer hair, but in the "funeral for Agapito" picture in the Complete Casebook, he wears a typical Russian "
ushanka" (round rabbit fur hat) with a hammer and sickle on it. "Tovarich" first appeared in "Prensa Libre" in 1959, with a sampling of strips shown in the "Nyets to You Department" in "MAD" #68 of January 1962. Like the Sinister Man and Woman, he was usually up to nasty tricks and getting away with them: in one strip, drawn at the height of the Cold War, he offers the hand of friendship to Uncle Sam; Uncle Sam is delighted and takes it, unaware that he is shaking the hand of a dummy while the real Tovarich is literally about to stab him in the back.
*The Diplomat: An extremely minor character, but noteworthy for the fact that he had his own small feature of comic strips in "MAD's Big Book of Spy vs Spy Capers and Other Surprises" (Warner Books, 1982) and featured the aforementioned cameo in the Defection cartoon. He also appeared in the Fall 1970 Special, in a group of strips that might be said to bear a slight resemblance to
Otto Soglow's more benign " The Little King". He wears a waistcoat, black jacket with coattails, a medal and a top hat, and also sports a long, pointed nose somewhat similar to that of the Spies.
*Erizo: A character who appears in the "funeral" picture in the Complete Casebook, although nothing about him or his comic is explained. He debuted in the magazine "Carteles" in 1948.
*Oveja Negra: Also known as Black Sheep. A young boy wearing a propeller beanie, T-shirt and shorts. He appears in some of the artwork for the "Complete Casebook", including the "funeral" picture. (It's worth noting that, in the aforementioned funeral picture, Oveja Negra is the only one who appears to be mourning.) He debuted in "Informacion" in 1949.
Other items published in "Mad"
* "One-Shot Dept.: Vengeance" (#66, October 1961, p. 13):A caveman kills another caveman with an arrow to the head. The dead body with the arrow in it grows into a tree. In the modern day, a motorist who resembles the first caveman crashes into the tree.
*"Follow Through Dept.: More Than Meets the Eye!" (also #66, pp. 33-34):Four comic strips, each three panels, are printed so that the middle panel, which explains the outcome, can be seen only by holding the page up to the light.
*Issue #101 (March 1966, front cover):Prohías came up with the gag for the cover painting by
Norman Mingoof Alfred E. Neumanreading Shakespeare in class, hidden behind a copy of this issue of MAD (rather than vice versa).
*"Flowery Language Dept.: A Portfolio of MAD Blooming Idiosyncrasies" (#115, December 1967, pp. 28-30):Various human conditions and emotions personified by flowers.
*"The Artist" (#138, October 1970, back cover; reprinted in Fall '85 Special):An artist sets up a picture frame around a beautiful landscape, runs a knife along the edge of the frame, and then walks away with a framed picture of the landscape, leaving a gaping hole in the spot where the land used to be.
*"Split Personalities Dept.: The Irony of Fate" (Spring '71 Special, pp. 11-13):Ten two-panel tales of star-crossed lovers; for example, two babies who love each other, being carried by storks, are dropped off separately in West and East Berlin.
*"The Tourist" (#150, April 1972, inside front cover):A man is persuaded by a window display to sign up for a cruise, and then finds that the "cruise" is just another fake cardboard setup like the window display.
*"Finders, Weepers Dept.: The Treasure Map" (#159, June 1973. p. 19):A collector discovers a
treasure maphidden in the dug-out pages of an old book, travels to the jungle to find the treasure, and then finds that the treasure is simply the pages dug out of the book.
*"Fortune Kookie Dept.: The Old Ball Game" (#161, September 1973, p. 42):A man visits a fortune teller, whose crystal ball predicts that he soon will be behind bars; but he is a police officer who puts her in jail for fraud. Later, she sees him on the other side of the bars in the same way it was shown in the crystal ball.
*"Broom Shtick Dept.: A Witch's Tale" (#163, December 1973, p. 33):A witch gets a new broom for her birthday and throws away her old broom. The old broomstick is used to make toothpicks, and restaurant customers who use the toothpicks have their teeth fly away.
*"Scotched on the Rocks Dept.: The Photo Contest" (Winter '73 Special, p. 9):A man fakes a photo of the Loch Ness Monster to enter in a contest, and then finds that the winning photo shows the real monster behind him as he is taking his fake photo.
*"Grin and Bearer Dept.: On a Safari" (#167, June 1974, pp. 29-30):An explorer in Africa captures a giraffe, his guides standing on each other's shoulders to transport it in a cage.
*"MAD Artists' Response to an Article: Draw This Figure" (#178, October 1975, pp. 2-3):In place of the usual letters page, and in a parody of the typical art school advertisement, 12 MAD artists contribute their renditions of a horse, Prohias drawing it as a pair of white and black chess knights glaring at each other.
*"Shell-Shock Dept.: The Pearl" (Fall '75 Special, pp. 11-12):Various pirates capture a seashell from each other, the last finally opening it and finding an advertisement for a pearl diving school.
*"Don Martin Dept.: One Special Day in the Dungeon" (#277, March 1988, p. 45):Prohías came up with the gag for the very last strip
Don Martindrew for MAD.
*"Quick Draw Guffaw Dept.: Play Pictionary with the MAD Artists" (#284, January 1989, pp. 14-15):Given the theme "Gluttony," Prohías contributes a quickly-drawn panel of the two spies dining on a pig with a bomb in its mouth.
*"National Business Machines" (Super Special March 1996, p. 25):In a never-before-published older strip, a man enters a showroom, sees demonstrations of various models of a product, and makes a purchase; but rather than buying the product, he buys one of the robots that demonstrated the product.
* [http://www.lambiek.net/artists/p/prohias_antonio.htm Comic creator: Antonio Prohías]
*"Completely Mad" by Maria Reidelbach, Little, Brown and Company, 1991.
*"Totally Mad" CD-ROM collection, Broderbund, 1999.
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