A longtime fan of the super hero genre, one of my favorite incarnations of Archie was Archie as the super hero parody Pureheart The Powerful. Sadly, in my twenty-two years with Archie Comics, I only had a few handful of opportunities to draw Pureheart, Captain Hero, and the rest. I’ll go into those opportunities later.
Yesterday I posted a few sketches intended for a 75th Anniversary Archie hardcover book that ended up being cancelled. You can see those sketches and read all about that cancelled project here:
In digging up those sketches, I came across the ones above that were supposed to be a part of yet another project that just never happened.
I’m a little foggy on the time period, but I’m guessing this was around 2010. At the time, ultra-successful movie producer and comic book writer Michael Uslan was very involved in Archie Comics. He wrote the best-selling Archie Gets Married issues of Archie and kicked off the Life With Archie magazine half of which I would ultimately pencil regularly.
Up to this point, I had become known as the guy who could draw some adventure and super hero stuff at Archie. I’d been the regular penciller on Archie’s Weird Mysteries and a lot of off-beat stories involving Archie in outer space or being chased by monsters were thrown my way. I’d drawn Pureheart and the other SuperTeens only ONCE in one issue of Archie’s Weird Mysteries. (#14… I think…) Y’know… when I read the Pureheart stories as a kid, “Superteen” was Betty and the team was called the “United Three.” I don’t know why it was changed. I guess maybe to include Reggie as Evilheart and Veronica as Miss Vanity, the super identity created for her in the 90’s when the Superteens were appearing in a number of giant sized specials. I never liked the Miss Vanity identity or costume. If Veronica has to be a superteen I much prefer the “Power Teen” identity created for her later by my pal, Dan Parent. (At least, I think it was him. I’ll have to ask him.)
At any rate, at one point sometime around 2010, Victor Gorelick calls me into his office and tells me of a big plan to bring back Pureheart and the Superteens. As he explained it, Michael Usulan was going to write SIX giant-sized one-shots that would be a big six-part story that would serve as a new origin and would re-introduce Pureheart and the other Superteens. Interestingly enough, these six one-shots would each be titled after old anthology adventure and super-hero titles from Archie Comics’ days as MLJ. There was going to be a Pep one-shot, a Zip, a Blue-Ribbon, Top Notch, Jackpot, and Mighty Comics. The idea to honor these old titles would be resurrected for the last issue of Archie’s regular book, Archie #666. Six variant covers were done for that issue (Archie can’t get enough variants!) and each one was given one of those old classic titles.
Victor asked me if I was interested in pencilling the six one-shots. Of course, I jumped at it. This was one of those projects I’d always dreamed of. It was going to be fun and with Mike Uslan on board it was no doubt going to be a very high-profile gig. Now right from the get-go there were a couple of warning bells. First, there was the idea of six one-shots. Archie had not done one-shots in a number of years so that struck me as highly unusual. Secondly, each one-shot was going to be double-sized. I forget if that meant forty pages or more, but double-sized issues were also something Archie had not done in a while and I knew paper, by Archie standards, was costly! Still, Michael Uslan was the ace in this deck. If anyone could get Archie to move on something like this, it was him. I was in!
I was given an early draft of Michael’s script for the first part and Victor told me that the first thing I needed to work on were cover ideas. Of course I went home, read the script and got started. From what I remember, that script was an origin story for Pureheart and the Superteens. If I remember correctly, Dilton figured into the origin pretty heavily and the Superteen identities were avatars in a virtual reality experiment he had invented. The Superteens were going to get new costumes that were armored in nature. I don’t know if this was going to be permanent. I sure wanted to push for the classic costumes and that’s what I drew on my cover sketches. There was also a team of super-villains that I would have to design.
I drew a bunch of cover sketches, a few of which are above, and I brought them into the office the next time I went in which in those days was the very next week. I handed the sketches into Victor who seemed to really like them.
After that, I never heard about this project again.
A couple of years later, at New York Comic Con, I was doing a signing along with Michael Uslan at the Archie booth. I asked him whatever became of this project and he told me he didn’t know. Archie just stopped talking about it. I would’ve asked Victor what happened but I was starting to learn a significant lesson about how things worked at Archie… If you have to ask about a project, that project probably ain’t happening. It hasn’t as of this writing.
A couple of years later, I’d get the last of my few chances to draw the Superteens. Archie Comics started reprinting the old stories in the digests and they asked me to do new covers for them. I went back and dusted off a few of these designs so if they seem somewhat familiar, there’s a reason!
Enjoy these sketches. Let me know what you think! Comment! Share!