Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Knew a Reggie

Lately, I have been thinking about the Archie series of comic books. Some people think about their jobs, their families, global affairs, etc. I think about things like Archie comics.

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, Archie comics star Archie Andrews, a typical American teen living in the "Anywhere Small Town" of Riverdale, U.S.A. The series follows the wacky adventures of Archie and his assorted friends (Archie's best pal, the apparently tapeworm-afflicted Jughead, love struck  Betty, snooty rich girl Veronica, et al) parents and teachers. The series has been around forever (well, at least since the 1940's or so). It was turned into a super-popular TV cartoon in the Seventies, and the "musical group", "The Archies", even had a top-ten song, "Sugar, Sugar". This comic book series has been delighting readers for generations.  The series is so successful, I probably didn't even need to write the description above.

I loved the Archie comics as a kid (I liked the cartoon show too, but I was bothered that the characters on the show never sounded the way they did in my head. Veronica with a Southern accent? Come on!).* As a pre-teen, I thought that Archie and his friends' experiences were what I had to look forward to as a teenager. What fun that would be, I thought! Two pretty girls fighting over me! A cool vintage car of my own! Hanging in the Choc'lit Shop and watching my friend try to trick the owner out of hamburgers! My biggest problem would be staying out of detention in school and deciding which hot chick to take to the "big dance".

Of course once I became an actual teen, the reality was little different. Actually, it was quite a bit different. Archie had mislead me, but I didn't hold it against him. If the story lines had depicted the teenage experience in a realistic manner, it would have been one of the most depressing series ever. Imagine a story where an overweight Archie suffers from chronic acne, while two jocks call him names that question his sexual orientation.  While a plot like this would have prepared me for some of what teenagerdom had in store, I doubt I would have been a fan of those kind of tales. I am glad the writers of Archie kept me ignorant for as long as they could, and I have always enjoyed the series.

One character in the Archie comics , though, was completely realistic: Archie's "friend" Reggie Mantle. Actually calling Reggie a "friend" isn't really accurate. He was an egotistical, mean spirited, prank-playing, backstabbing, self-centered weasel. To sum up, he was an a••shole. He was also Archie's chief rival for the hand of Veronica. (I know, why didn't Archie just choose to be with the all-around sweeter and just-as-pretty Betty is a question we will never have the answer to. Only Archie knows for sure.) Reggie was constantly causing problems and distress for poor Archie, but Arch still hung out with the jerk. Why?

I don't know. I do know that I am in no position to question Archie's choices. I hung around with plenty of "Reggies" growing up. Jerks whom I called "friends" who would desert me at the first sigh of trouble, lord their good fortune over me and usually make me feel insecure and miserable. Why did I hang out with people like that? Generally, I think it has to do with geography. As a youngster, you're pretty much stuck where you are, and you are stuck choosing your friends from among what's available. Most of the time, the only thing you have in common with a childhood "friend" is that you are both the same age.  Later, when you grow up and move on, you happily put most of these "childhood  pals" in the rear view mirror. If Archie had been a real person, I doubt he would have any contact with Reggie now.

Perhaps one thing that made the comics enjoyable for me, was that, unlike real life, usually Reggie always got his just desserts. Many a tale ended with him being chased by an angry girl/adult/mob, or sitting in a pile of mud in his new suit. I think this kind of fantasy helped me endure the "Reggies" in my life.

I wonder if any of them are sitting in a pile of mud right now?  

* I must mention one of the reasons I loved the comics so much was the fantastic artwork  they had. Cartoonists Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey and, my favorite, Samm Shwartz were all cartoon giants. Those of you unfamiliar with their work should do a Google search for them right now! Sadly, except for DeCarlo,  not much of their work is readily available. A disgrace.

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Blogger P.L. Frederick said...

I also enjoyed Archie comics. Even today I peek at issues in the grocery store check-out line. As a kid it was one of the few comic books I could understand and follow the panels on. That and Casper the Friendly Ghost. And Little Lulu.

"I am glad the writers of Archie kept me ignorant for as long as they could..." Hee hee! I like that.

For fans with iPhones, you can get info about Archie for iPhone on this page. I got the free sample version. On a handheld device, the coloring is amazing. Not to give away the plot but Jughead's moving. Wah!

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

February 24, 2010 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger David said...

I'm an Archie fan too! When I get dragged to that store, which will go unnamed (you know, the monstrous one with crowds of smelly, unkempt people, jostling each other to get to the 1000 pack of batteries and toilet paper) by my wife, the only joy I get is being able to buy a copy of Archie's Double Digest that they have up at the registers.

February 24, 2010 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Sharon G. said...

The sweet, shy girl never gets noticed--I can speak personally from my high school experience as well. Look at Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island or Velma from Scooby Doo. There's always the smart, plain jane, sweet girl who gets overlooked. I guess there's a comic book character we can all identify with.

February 26, 2010 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Bill White said...

Betty was no Plain Jane, she was a babe! So was Mary Ann. So were/are you!

Velma? Ehh...

February 26, 2010 at 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

samm schwartz is also my favorite archie artist.

eet eed

March 12, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I still have two boxes of my Betty and Veronica Comics, not to forget Josie and the Pussy Cats mixed in there as well...They were a great source of info for many caricatures I've drawn.

March 14, 2010 at 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get why so many bloggers likes Betty. It's as if casual readers forget all the times Betty comes up with wacky schemes (either with Reggie's help or on her own), the times she insults Veronica, the times she gets mad at Archie for standing her up and dumps soda on his head.

Betty is the kind of super perfect annoying Mary Sue (good at every sport, good at every subject, can fix a car, can bake a pie, can sew a perfect dress in 1 hour with less than $20 worth of material, children love her, animals adore her, blah blah) whose flaws (jealous, clingy, mopey, predictable) are all glossed over.

Who wants a girl who keeps hoping for years that her crush who obviously doesn't care THAT much will magically return her feelings just cause she's loved him for so long. BARF.

Veronica had style, she had personality and when Ronnie did something wrong she got called out on it, she didn't get a free pass like Ms. Bubbly Blonde Boo-Boo always did. Betty/Archie is such a toxic shipping, I can't stand it.

Oh, and Reggie had decent moments and Archie had his shares of comics where he was a thoughtless jerk but it seems the rabid Archie fanboys forget about that, too.

Sometimes it seemed like the only reason Archie got away with his lies and schemes was because his name was in the title, he was the star.

Reggie was the rival so he could get beaten up by Moose. Constantly. Didn't matter if he actually flirted with Midge or if Archie lied and said Reggie was putting the moves on her, Reg got pummeled far often.

August 2, 2014 at 11:14 PM  
Anonymous may flour said...

O.K. Betty did some bad things, but not hardly as many as Veronica. That's why she's a Mary Sue, like you said, Anonymous. Because she almost never does anything bad and everyone likes her better than Veronica. [Sharon G. is wrong about Betty being plain]. So you are right, Veronica is a better character. Archie is a touch Gary Stuish, but not as much as Betty. He has faults and most of the time he gets his but kicked when he acts like a jerk. He is also a much nicer guy than Reggie, even though you're so right about Moose, and Reggie having a good side.

To return to BW's question about why Archie hung with Reggie, I think he answered it himself: to see Reggie end up sitting in the mud!

September 30, 2014 at 11:19 PM  

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