Espionage is the art of harvesting lucrative secrets from hostile parties. Sadly, by that definition, author Dan Brown is the most successful spy ever.

It's not really stealing if you intend to buy them at MAD's fire sale next month.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find clipart of Nick Fury?

Just The Facts

  1. Spies spy better when they've had a few. Don't you judge them! Don't you goddamn dare judge them, allaya bassardzzz--*
  2. Espionage is a great way to break off an affair. Murmur sincerely, "I can't get too close. I'm a spy."
  3. It's also a great way to begin one. If you tell a woman you are a spy, she must opt to either sleep with you or find someone who will.
  4. If you tell a woman you are a spy, you're not a very good spy and she probably won't believe you.
  5. But I am, seriously, a spy.

How to spy

  • Sneak around in a nonchalant way. If someone asks what you're doing, murder them.
  • Make phone calls in objects that don't look like phones

Sports Illustrated Football Two-Way Communication Device. Don't let the Russians get their hands on it.
Flawless. Thank you, Q.

  • Take pictures of things with microfiche. No, put that cellphone camera away! Why do you even have a cellphone? It's more fun if it looks like something else. You ruin everything.
  • Wear a Rolex that does something Rolexes don't do, such as not make you look like a rich prick who'd drop the price of a new car simply to flaunt a timepiece.
  • Find a guy with shrapnel in his brain who doesn't feel pain, and fistfight him. No, other than Grandpa.
  • Sleep with your enemy's disenchanted wife. Then find out his secrets, such as who was better, bigger and lasted longer. If it's him, someone may have to be silenced.
  • Did you just laugh at violence against women? Get counseling, James. You treat women like mere objects to be mistreated and discarded. MI-6 doesn't tolerate that kind of behavior from its lying, cheating, stealing, murderous sociopaths-for-hire.

Finally, remember that no spy has ever been caught who XXXXXX. Above all, XXXXXXXX your XXXXXX at all times, so that XXXXXXXXXX doesn't XXXXXX you to death with a XXXX and leave you strung up by your own guts like XXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX. He tried to reveal the secrets of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX that the One World Government suppresses. If the world knew, peace would settle over the globe like a warm blanket, brussel sprouts would turn into chocolate, and everyone would get super-powers. Thanks to Cracked, the truth will out here at last!

Famous Spies

So this one's tricky. If you're famous for being a spy, you're automatically a failure. The entire point of your occupation is to go unnoticed. A famous spy? That's like being an ugly stripper or a law-abiding cop.

The point is everyone wants to be James Bond, but no one wants a real spy's desk work, paranoia, and gangland-style murder. The names below read like an executioner's to-do list, and that's without listing the ones who fed their co-workers to the wolves.


The first spy stole the secret of fire from Olympus and delivered it into humanity's hands, which were then badly burned. Zeus imprisoned him on a mountain to forever have his liver torn out. It's not the pain, because spies can take a pounding that would kill you or I (mostly you), it's that without his liver, he can't drink, and that's half of spying. The other half is seducing the jaded elite, so hopefully he found a prison pen pal to write him letters in between LOOK OUT HERE COMES THAT FUCKING EAGLE AGAIN!

Prometheus was also the first spy rumored to have escaped to Argentina, gotten plastic surgery, and found a quiet, new existence. In his case: Oguatzlcuci, the Incan god of clouds shaped like things that are not clouds.

That's the most Mayan version of Incan Prometheus I've ever seen, hands down.
"No no no! You've made me look Mayan, you butcher!"

"Thogg" was merely a codename given to a member of the Benevolent-Zebra Tribe who 400,000 years ago stole the secrets of pointed rocks from Lion-Who-Smells-Funny Clan. Historians have narrowed down his identity to 3 of the 12 people in the tribe back then: Thugg, Thagg or Madonna. Any details of Thogg's brave mission are a mystery to us, as the NSA considers it a security risk to disclose them within our lifetime.

Nathan Hale
On Nathan's first mission, the British immediately saw through his persona. Let's grant him leeway, though. It was the 18th century, so his clever disguise was probably a beard made of dried mud, and not wearing a wig. To put it another way, here's Val Kilmer in 1997's THE SAINT, a film that took $70 million to make and several hours to apply professional makeup.

Oh, Goose, how could you?
We'd go into hiding after BATMAN FOREVER, too.

And Kilmer would still get snatched up faster than Hale. Here's what we can't excuse: a Queen's Ranger quickly tricked him into revealing his true colors at the pub. Isn't "Not telling strangers your allegiance" the second rule of spying? The first is drinking, so he got that right, but still, how did that shake out, exactly?

Mind if I sit here? It's alright, I'm totally a Patriot.

Good sir, I'm not a gentleman for politics. I would much like it if you did leave me in my solitude to quaff this beer or grog, whatever it is we drink.

Sure, sure, no problem, and I'll leave you to that, and by the way, King George should die of pox.

Uh-huh. Have ye a fine evening.

Ye too, and isn't Gen. Washington a dreamboat?

ZOMG, I (HEART) him!!

Nathan, if you weren't drunk, you really botched that one. The being a spy at a bar part, that is, not the subterfuge.

He continued the Promethean spy's tradition of taking it like a mensch when they led him to the gallows and all he had to say was "I regret nothing, and I'd do this a thousand more times, you Tory bastards," but with a lot more class than that, because he was a Yalie.

Nathan Hale deserves better than our mockery
But seriously: a great human being
and patriot, who died as nobly as one can,
considering hanging voids your bowels for you.

The Rosenbergs
They gave Stalin the nuclear bomb. How much vodka did that take to seem like good idea? Although the Rosenbergs did pass on secrets, it came to light after their execution that they supposedly had weak information. Russia got what it needed from other atomic spies who were never found out.

Hold up -- OTHER atomic spies? Quick question: how many nuclear physicists do you know? Divide your answer in half, since America's population was only 150 milllion at the time. Now subtract 1, because it was a fledging industry. Do you have an imaginary number yet? Good, because that's exactly how many Russian spies there ought to be in our nuclear program. And yet, somewhere out there is a more intelligent, more successful version of the Rosenbergs laughing, probably from the cancer ward.

Klaus Fuchs
There's one now! This treacherous cad thrived wherever the Cold War was at its chilliest. German-born, British-resided, American-utilized and Soviet-compromised, Klaus gave Ivan some fairly sensitive nuclear documents like, oh, bomb design and how to produce uranium. He got off with a mere fourteen years in prison, which is no fun-- especially with a last name like "Fuchs" --but it beats getting the electrical chair three or four times till your corpse dies of old age* right, Ethel Rosenberg?


Klaus Fuchs, if he were less of a dick
There's that Fuch-er now.

Valerie Plame
Oops! Sorry, Valerie.

Richard Sorge

Sorge was a great spy in every respect, except one. Let's say you're given a note warning you that your life is in danger and you're being watched. After looking all around for an A/V crew and confirming you are not, in fact, in a Hitchcock film, you of course pocket the note, head home and pack everything you need to make your escape, right?

Not Sorge. He decided the best thing to do would be go get laid, and while that's hard logic to contradict, the only reason anyone caught him was he threw the note on the ground. Life handed Sorge a movie moment, and he decided to infuriate the audience by doing something so idiotic it collapsed his life from "You Only Live Twice" into "The Saint."

Seriously, "The Saint" is an extinction-level unfortunate movie.

A policeman found the note, wondered why Sorge was being watched, and lo! Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mata Hari
The dancer who's more famous for sleeping around? Really?

Yep. And so was Julia Child
Oh yeah, the '80s TV personality. Wow.

And Roald Dahl
Wait a minute, he wrote children's books.

And probably Madonna
Yeah, seems likely at this point.

Fictional spies


007, you devious quantum leaper!
James Bond
Booze, birds, unfeeling psychopaths hellbent on world domination...they've all tried to kill James Bond. It can't be done. You know why? Cause as time and tide wear out his body, the clever bastard keeps jumping into another one.

James Bond...s.
One of these men is James Bond, and when we figure out who,

that capitalist swine has a hot date with a laser.

Looking for a maniac Scotsman? Too bad that grandfatherly Englishman just strolled past you with a bemused expression. Quick! Find him! Too late, now he's George Lazenby, and nobody remembers what he looks like.

Someone, somewhere, is doing an Austin Powers impression right now.

Austin Powers
This comedic blackbelt detonated two massive bombs on an unsuspecting populace. He was killed on opening night by Mike Meyers' obstinate Scottish accent, used in every movie he makes.

Jason Bourne is a bad spy, but a great fighter.

Jason Bourne
Never actually does any spying, does he? Screw that guy.

He is also known to shoot.
Please don't tell him I said that


The Black X is completely inconspicuous
The Black X/Black Ace
Possibly comics' first spy, though many suspect Buster Brown was actually Gustav Schultz, a Bavarian fifth-columnist. This he-man has two names, and both demand so much respect they can only be whispered as softly as a knife sliding out of your back. Either one is a dead giveaway on a hotel register, though, and even in the '30s an American with a monocle must have been conspicuous, unless he was clutching Treasury bills.

Buster Brown has a lousy poker face. And terrifying eyes.
That Brown twerp is up to no good, you can tell.

The Black X died in World War II, when he accidentally rigged a beautiful Austrian woman to derail, then slept with a train.

007, you devious quantum leaper!
Charlie Brown
You thought he was just a wishy-washy kid? Perfect.

007, you devious quantum leaper!
Nick Fury
Here's the first and last lesson in espionage: Nick Fury is the only man you can trust, and he's not real.

Bonus paranoia!

Buster Brown's declaration of world domination. You know how you can tell he's a spy? He never blinks.

Buster Brown, you ARE a Bond villain.
Gyeah! Buster Brown, you ARE a Bond villain.

Brendan McGinley writes about conspiracies, thieves, and warfare. All told, that's almost 1/3 of a spy.