Antonio Prohias, artist as brand, cartoon, Cuba, illustration, illustrators journal, levinland, Mad Magazine, sketching, Spy vs Spy, technology, this week in digital media on blogtalk radio, xanate media
For all us enthusiasts of Mad Magazine, this is a hallowed day. This day brought forth a man, an artist that was unique, satirical and damn funny. The linework, the characters everything about Spy vs Spy was groundbreaking and so much a part of Mad magazine that you could say that Antonio was one of the pillars that supports the Magazine and it’s legend.
Antonio Prohías (January 17, 1921 – February 24, 1998), born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, was a cartoonist most famous for creating the comic strip Spy vs. Spy for MAD Magazine.
In 1946, Prohías was given the Juan Gualberto Gómez award, recognizing him as the foremost cartoonist in Cuba. By the late 1940s, Prohías had begun working at El Mundo, the most important newspaper in Cuba. In January 1959, Prohías was the president of the Cuban Cartoonists Association; after Fidel Castro seized power, he personally honored the cartoonist for his anti-Batista political cartoons. But Prohías soon soured on Castro’s policies. When he drew cartoons to this effect, he was dismissed by his newspapers, which had been taken over by Fidel Castro’s government. With his professional career in limbo, Prohías left Cuba for New York on May 1, 1960. Ten weeks later, he had sold his first work 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 at the airport before a vacation to Italy, an airport official said, “You can leave if you want, but you can never come back.” After the group returned, he presented a drawing to MAD publisher William M. Gaines, which was of him, with the Spies at his feet, letting his heart fly over the angry airport officials to the rest of the MAD gang, with a note at the bottom which, when translated, reads: “Mr. Gaines, my heart will always travel with you.”
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 died of cancer at age of 77 and is buried in Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum (now Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North Park Cemetery and Mausoleum) in Miami, Florida.