Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Rectifying Reggie: Archie's Arrogant Arch-Rival

("Mantle the Magnificent" on the prowl)

He's the "Rogue of Riverdale High School", that ribald, rich-kid rat with the recurrently randy smile. He plays guitar better than Greg Brady, and his band, The Archies, which had the longest-running #1 pop record, Sugar Sugar, in 1969, is more famous than Josie and the Pussycats. Having been 17 since 1942 he's America's oldest and most famous high school junior, and though sometimes raunchy and repugnant it's time to redeem the reputation of Reginald Mantle III.

Texas-born, raven-haired Reggie, the thorn in the side of all-American redheaded boy-next-door Archie Andrews, first stormed pop culture's spotlight when he appeared in Jackpot Comics #5 in 1942. Reggie's arrival in Riverdale (the fictional representation of Meredith, New Hampshire, home of Archie illustrator Bob Montana) was oddly ambiguous. A character named Scotty, clearly Reggie's ringer, wants to induct Archie into Riverdale High's Philomathian Club but the gesture of friendship turns out to be a front for the appearance of Scotty's twin/doppelganger, the mighty Mantle. Reggie's endless scheme to steal the affection of Archie's girlfriend, Veronica Lodge, is evidenced by his cameo appearance in the same issue as he chauffeurs the brunette beauty about town.

Archie, who had first appeared December 22, 1941, in issue #22 of MLJ Magazine's Pep Comics as a cartoon counterpart to filmdom's Andy Hardy character, is an affable, somewhat bumbling kid who could charm the cookies off the plate of any grandmother in smalltown America. His dating status personnifies the wet dream of every red-blooded teen male with his juggling of affection between vampish Veronica Lodge, a sophisticated snob, and pert, athletic, blonde Elisabeth "Betty" Cooper. Archie needs the intrusive envy of Reggie to steer him from the complacency and boredom of his effortless popularity.

Born under the sign of Aries, Reggie is the consummate competitor. Egotistical, narcissistic, self-smitten, Reggie constantly admires his wolfishly debonair good looks in a pocket mirror. An accomplished athlete and impeccable dresser, with never a hair out of place, triumph and perfection are not enough for this would-be future fraternity president. No one can trust him. Reggie is the classic trickster archetype, placing the perverse pleasure of petty practical jokes ahead of social status. Perhaps this is because of the ego-syntonic structure of Reggie's homelife where father Ricky Mantle is a wealthy publishing magnate while mother is depicted as anonymous, unemployed, and without a distinct persona.

Despite his caustic, sassy, wisecracking air, Reggie is not an elitist. Given his family's community standing and bank account he could choose to treat Archie and the gang as penniless plebians. He gravitates toward their unaffected modalities, drawn to the earthiness of middle-class suburbia. Unlike Veronica, who holds her debutante breeding over the heads of her poorer peers, Reggie, albeit annoyingly, tries to assimilate. His stint as lead guitarist in The Archies seems motivated by fun rather than fame (he already has the fortune).

("Hey Ronnie, wanna come over after school and see all my beautiful self-portraits?")

Ever the derisive devil, Reggie is also a daredevil when it comes to dating. Periodically he puts the moves on Midge Klump, the cutesy gal pal of dimwitted Moose Mason, a likeable and very large lummox who could make mincemeat of Mantle with the tap of his pinky. Generally though he's content with vying for the affections of Veronica and Betty, and usually just to irk the amiable Archie. Reggie's number one love is Reggie, and he never lets anyone forget it.

Reggie's cocky contribution to the entire Archie world helped turn the comic book into a daily newspaper strip in 1947, with artist Montana still at the illustrating helm, along with series creator John L. Goldwater. Eventually "Mantle the Magnificent" (his chosen moniker) acquired his own self-titled monthly comic book.

According to archivist Don Markstein at Toonopedia, "starting in the 1960s, the Life with Archie series experimented with adventure-story motifs. "The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E." placed him and his friends in the world of Bond-style high-living secret agents, and in "Pureheart the Powerful", they were cast as superheroes. The latter series, which included Jughead as Captain Hero, Betty as Superteen and Reggie as Evilheart, was awarded its own title in 1966. Archie As Pureheart the Powerful lasted six issues, and its second-order spin-off, Jughead as Captain Hero, ran seven. All of them, as well as the original Life with Archie appearances, are now considered high-grade collector's items."

Prolific pop recording artist Ron Dante owes a huge chunk of his career to Reggie and the crew. Dante, along with singer Andy Kim, fronted for Archie Andrews, Reggie Mantle, and Jughead Jones, while songwriter Toni Wine covered the Betty and Veronica duites. A series of 45RPM Archies records followed on the Calendar and Kirshner record labels, including the wildly successful bubble gum classic Sugar Sugar, which was the top Billboard pop tune of 1969.

Reggie has also been recognized and revered in the realm of computer technology, with a protocol search engine, designed to troubleshhot Internet bugs, named after him. The system, which also incorporates Reggie's pals Archie and Veronica as separate search engines, was designed and implemented in 1990 by McGill University students in Montreal.


Blogger Ostrich said...

very informative and interesting. Do you research outside of the internet? you seem very thorough. Keep 'em coming. I've actually got one of those Pureheart books stashed away somewhere in my grand mother's house. Must look and re-evaluate it!

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