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Commentaries on this Media!

Re-Born, Born-Again Digital Comics

by Ethan Tussey

by Laurie N. Taylor for IN MEDIA RES

MAD Magazine originally published Antonio Prohías’ “Spy vs. Spy” comics in print. Since the initial printings, MAD Magazine and its contents including “Spy vs. Spy” have been re-born and born-again in many digital forms. For instance, MAD Magazine released various compilations of issues on DVD (Absolutely MAD Magazine - 50+ Years) and CD (Totally MAD: Every Issue of MAD Magazine 1952-1998), as well as the MAD television show on Cartoon Network.

The born-again or re-born digital versions are interesting in terms of how comics change across different creation and distribution media, and how those changes are informed by prior versions. “Spy vs. Spy” by Prohías is perhaps particularly productive to consider with regard to these changes.

While best known for creating “Spy vs. Spy” for MAD Magazine, before this, Prohías was an established political cartoonist publishing in newspapers. Some of his original cartoons are in the 1960-1961issues of El Avance Criollo, published in Cuba until seizure of the paper in 1960 and then subsequently published in exile in Miami, Florida ( Prohías’ cartoons work in El Avance Criollo spoke directly to Cuba’s political situation (e.g.;, displaying some elements and themes later found in “Spy vs. Spy”.

Recent versions of “Spy vs. Spy” include animation that follows the original comics, some versions of which follow the original comics more closely than others. Many of the versions cite Prohías as the original creator.  Additionally, fan comments on the videos sometimes include additional information on Prohías. It is interesting to note that Prohías is cited, given how many comic strips, books, and characters are rewritten in different media formats without mention of their original creators. The citation or lack of citation for creators is also interesting in relation to how different aspects of existing works can be born-again and re-born into digital versions and how those aspects can influence whether or not attribution is maintained.

In thinking about what re-born and born again digital comics will bring, attribution figures prominently. How does attribution and the propagation of citation impact digital comics and does it do so differently for those that are born digital, re-born digital, and born again digital?


Spy vs. Spy-The Question Mark

Motion version of Spy vs. Spy comic

from Spy vs. Spy-The Question Mark (2008)
Creator: Sneaking Suit
Posted by Ethan Tussey