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.

Alice A. Bailey: Of Heaven, Hell, and The Hierarchy

Orthodox Christianity is not the usual breeding ground for ribald occultism. But when matters of the soul intervene, the linear human mind can be confronted with greater dualities than those posed by the traditional religious concepts of heaven and hell. No mortal being of the 20th Century knew this better than Alice A. Bailey, an evangelist who reluctantly became a swami's scribe.

Alice A, Bailey, born Alice Ann La Trobe-Bateman, on June 16, 1880, in Manchester, England, was birthed into a wealthy, conservative Christian family. Her initial spiritual tenure, religiously dogmatic and fixed, clashed with her acquistive, probing intuion. The home environment, cloistered and strictly supervised through her father, an engineer, was one of adherence to authority and compliance to the prescribed social etiquette of a proper, aristocratic young lady. A pensive, moody child who grew to question the tenants of her Christian upbringing, Alice attempted suicide several times prior to the age of fifteen.

On June 30, 1895, while her family attended church, Alice was confronted in her home by a mysterious turban-bedecked gentleman. Though shocked at the stranger's sudden appearance, she listened as he spoke. In her book The Unfinished Autobiography, Alice described the incident as follows: "He told me there was some work that it was planned that I could do in the world but that it would entail changing my disposition considerably; I would have to give up being such an unpleasant little girl and must try to get some measure of self-control. My future usefulness to Him and to the world was dependent on how I handled myself and the changes I could manage to make. He said that if I could achieve real self-control I could then be trusted and that I would travel all over the world and visit many countries, "doing your Master's work all the time"... He added that He would be in touch with me at intervals of seven years apart." When the man vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, Alice concluded that he was a manifestation of Jesus Christ, thus inspiring her to seek a life of evangelical service.

Alice's duties as a missionary for the British Army took her to India where she met her first husband, serviceman Walter Evans whom she married in 1907. Emigrating to Hollywood, California, the Evans family expanded as Alice gave birth to three daughters. Walter Evans became an Episcopalian minister while Alice grew active in the Theosophical Society, an esoteric spiritual order founded by occultist Helena P. "Madame" Blavatsky. Blavatsky's teachings involved the concept of spirituality as a hierarchical network of enlightened masters.

Alice felt that she had a personal calling to Theosophy after recognizing a painting of Kut Humi (a spiritual adept oft-cited by Blavatsky) as the man who had appeared to her in her home in 1895. What was even more remarkable than pin-pointing the identity of Alice's enigmatic visitor was the fact that she discovered he had died before she was ever born. As if this were not enough to boggle the mundane mind of a former evangelical Christian, Alice found herself the subject of telepathic solicitation by a living Tibetan master named Djwhal Khul who first contacted her in 1919 to "employ" her as his psychic secretary.

Following the dissolution of her marriage to Evans, who left to preach Christian gospel in Montana, Alice met and married Foster Bailey, a lawyer and fellow Theosophist who had no issue believing in Alice's link to Kut Humi and Djwhal Khul or grasping the enormity of her life work. Together they founded the Arcane School in 1923, just one year after Alice started the Lucis Trust Publishing Company. In an article entitled The Arcane School - Its Esoteric Origins and Purposes, Foster Bailey wrote "This visit of the Master was for the purpose of implanting in her physical brain consciousness the essentials of the pattern of her life as it was to unfold. She was strong enough to have knowledge of the program of service to which on the inner plane she was already pledged and consecrated and the essentials of which were the chosen program of her own soul. She was at this time a senior disciple in the ashram of the Master K.H. (An ashram may be thought of as a center of living spiritual energy in the group life of the Hierarchy.) As the years have slipped by and I have learned to profit by the teaching I have personally received from her, I have come to understand better what a senior position in an ashram necessarily involves. This position is the key to all the work that she did. There are many factors involved, some of which we can speak of now. Through the teachings of the Tibetan many have learned much about these things and others share with me the knowledge of certain essentials that constitute our esoteric background as a group."

The work referred to by Foster Bailey entailed the telepathic transmission (from Djwhal Khul or D.K., his more familiar and veiled reference, to the mind of Alice A. Bailey) of nineteen esoteric books bearing such titles as A Treatise On Cosmic Fire, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, The Reappearance of the Christ, Glamour: A World Problem, and The Consicousness of the Atom. Many of the Bailey books came into prominence after the Flower Child era of the late 1960s when occult bookshops became en vogue. Each edition, published by Bailey's own Lucis Trust Company, is presented with a plain blue cover upon which the title of the volume appears along with the triangular insignia for the Arcane School. Bailey also composed four books entirely of her own creation, including The Unfinished Autobiography, which she was writing at the time of her death on December 15, 1949.

Controversy notwithstanding, fundamentalist Christians, and enraged Jews have decried Bailey's works as Satanic and anti-semitic. The root of the word "Lucis" in Lucis Trust's name is derived from that of Lucifer, which means "The one who brings light." Originally called Lucifer Trust, the name was ammended because of its misrepresented association with the Biblical Lucifer, or Devil incarnate. Bailey's Hebrew hot water results from excerpts published in Esoteric Healing in which it is written "Their religious history has been built around a materialistic Jehovah, possessive, greedy, and endorsing and encouraging aggression..." and "Today [1949] the law of racial karma is working and the Jews are paying the price [for evil done in past lives], factually and symbolically ..."

Nonetheless, Bailey's collaborative volumes are prime fodder in the field of New Age literature, with numerous Alice Bailey study and discussion groups in existence throughout the world. The basic premise of hierarchical spiritual evolution combined with the assertion that non-tangible souls as well as creation itself can be drived from gradated rays of light, each governing a period in human evolution, has proven compelling for many students of ancient wisdom.

Even the basic structure of astrology is revamped in the Bailey writings:

Perhaps the best summarization of Alice A. Bailey, the corporeal human entity, was expressed in her own words as she wrote of her astrological birth sign of Gemini in The Unfinished Autobiography: "Gemini people are also supposed to be chameleon-like in nature and changeable in quality and often double-faced. I am none of these, at least, in spite of many faults and it is possible that my rising sign saves me. Leading astrologers, to my amusement, to assign different signs as my rising sign - Virgo, because I love children and cooking, and "mothering" an organization; Leo, because I am very individual (by which they mean difficult and dominant) and also very self-conscious; and Pisces, because that sign is the sign of the mediator or the intermediary. I am inclined myself to Pisces, because I have a Pisces husband, because my very dear eldest daughter was also born in that sign and we always understood each other so well that we frequently used to quarrel. Also, I have definitely acted as an intermediary in the sense that certain teaching which the Hierarchy of Masters wanted to get out to the world during this century is contained in the books for which I have been responsible. Anyway, no matter what my rising sign, I am a true Gemini subject and that sign has apparently conditioned my life and circumstances."