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Spy Versus Spy

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If you are looking for the comic strip, see Spy vs. Spy

Perhaps inspired by the use of SPECTRE as the villain in the James Bond movies rather than the communist villains of the books, a popular trope in spy films is to have two opposing organizations of agents who have a tenuous connection to a government if any. Typically, this is played for humor, and oddly, while some of the evil organizations are supposed to have quite horrible ideologies, their membership is generally depicted as being of a Punch-Clock Villain nature.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hellsing has a serious example of various Church Militant groups opposed to one another.
  • Darker than Black has constant infighting between intelligence agencies of all kinds, mostly to find out more about contractors and the Gate. However, the whole situation was actually set up to keep the contractors too busy fighting each other to realize that PANDORA was planning to obliterate them.

    Comic Books 
  • The Trope Namer is the famous MAD comic Spy vs. Spy which featured black and white trenchcoat-clad agents always trying to kill one another for no apparent reason. Occasionally a third spy, Lady Grey, would make an appearance and foil the both of them.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. vs HYDRA. And AIM. And RAID. Sheesh.
  • W.A.S.T.E. vs E.M.P.I.R.E. vs M.O.T.T vs X.S.M. all to to be found in the pages of Matt Fraction's Casanova.
  • SpyBoy has S.H.I.R.T.S. (Secret Headquarters International Reconnaissance, Tactics, and Spies) versus S.K.I.N.S. (Supreme Killing Institute).


  • Good Omens:
    • In a very strange way, this is how angels and demons tend to operate, as personified by Friendly Enemies Crowley and Aziraphale. Their situation is explicitly compared to two spies in the middle of nowhere who've been essentially forgotten by their respective governments.
    • Actual spy-vs-spy antics include two members of MI6 trying to get a foreign agent to defect... except he too is an MI6 agent.
  • Happens in some Tom Clancy novels, most notably The Cardinal of the Kremlin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One of the most influential versions was that in Get Smart where the good guys CONTROL faced off against KAOS.
  • Like the comic book counterpart, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. runs on this especially during the last one third of the first season. This S.H.I.E.L.D. VS Hydra kicked in to high gear when Season 2 came.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. had U.N.C.L.E. vs. THRUSH.
  • Alias had several, all non-humorous. First was CIA versus SD-6, then CIA versus Covenant, then CIA versus whatever Irina Derevko's network was. Plus there were other spy groups, like K Directorate, that worked against the CIA and SD-6.
  • Chuck has a lot of this as well: CIA vs Fulcrum, CIA vs The Ring, CIA vs Volkoff Industries...
  • The Game (2014) has 'Daddy' and his MI-5 team vs the Soviet spy 'Odin' and his henchmen.
  • M.I. High had M.I.9 versus S.K.U.L. (originally) and K.O.R.P.S. (in the later seasons).
  • Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp has A.P.E. (Agency to Prevent Evil) versus C.H.U.M.P. (Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan).
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look had a James Bond parody facing off against a Le Chiffre parody, both being fed lines and info by agents... who turned out to be the exact same guys in a van. And instead of a high-stakes game, they play fairground games like guessing a pig's weight.


    Video Games 
  • Team Fortress 2 uses this basic framing device (with the heroically-evil RED and evilly-heroic BLU) to provide the deliberately flimsy rationale for the game.
    • Additionally, as Spies are one of the selectable classes, it literally becomes Spy vs. Spy in some cases.
    • Two Spies can become an extreme game of I Know You Know I Know, as when a Spy disguises as an opposing Spy, the Spy disguise is also wearing a paper mask of another class, indicating to the enemy team that this is a friendly Spy disguised as the class on their mask. Two Spies disguised as enemy Spies would both see a friendly Spy disguised as an enemy of another class, which is randomly determined and not shown to the Spy actually WEARING the disguise.
  • The ACME Detective Agency and V.I.L.E. in the Carmen Sandiego games. ACME is basically a Brand X version of Interpol and V.I.L.E. pretty much just exists to be evil. Or to feed Carmen's ego, Depending on the Writer. They aren't exactly spy organizations, but the series borrows tropes from the spy genre enough that it really doesn't matter.
  • Ace Attorney Investigations is basically built around Interpol (represented by Lang and Franziska vs. the smuggling ring, although Edgeworth seems to be the only one who does any actual detectiving. With the exception of Lance (whose father is tied to the group and was Lang's real target all along), every single culprit in the game is a member of the smuggling ring.

  • Girl Genius while the Smoke Knights are connected to the Knights of Jove conspiracy the conspiracy itself is incredibly fractured so they end up on opposing sides and fighting each other with alarming frequency. There's also the group of rogue Smoke Knights that are loyal to the Other, all other Smoke Knights will drop their current missions and join forces together to take them out if they happen to run into one. This is handy when Violetta realizes there's one in the Corbettite crypts when her lady Agatha's group is being followed by two other Smoke Knights as it allows all three of them to team up when previously they were all on opposing sides.

    Western Animation 
  • S.H.U.S.H. vs F.O.W.L. in Darkwing Duck.
  • G.I. Joe and Cobra had elements of this, although the spy aspect of the series often took a backseat to the action.
  • Archer has private(?) spy organizations I.S.I.S. and O.D.I.N. competing for lucrative espionage contracts.
  • One episode of Totally Spies! had the girls fighting three other spies working for the villain of that episode, Edison. The episode was literally called Spies vs Spies, which was a reference to, oh, take a guess!