Pureheart The Powerful



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!




22 comments on “Pureheart The Powerful”

  1. Dennis

    Wow, that’s weird. That stuff with Dilton and the virtual reality experiment is EXACTLY what was used in the 4-part Archie: Cyber Adventures (actual title: “Adventures in the Wonder Realm”) in the first 4 issues of ARCHIE & FRIENDS DOUBLE DIGEST (and later collected as a trade paperback), but that story was written by Stephen Oswalt (with artwork by Joe Staton and Bob Smith).

    Dilton creates a VR/MMO/RPG (which is a mod to existing Zbox game technology) in which Archie and the gang have colorful costumes (and what amounts to superpowers) in the virtual gamespace. Something goes wrong and they get trapped in the game world, but Archie manages to squeak out and escape through a fluke, but then Dilton has to design some power-ups for Archie, and send him back into the game world to help his friends, and monitor him with a special helmet while he helps his friends defeat various game bosses, because somehow they all need to be together to get out of the gameworld again. It was slightly less than the traditional superhero type comic, as there were a lot of homages to classic video game concepts (Burger Chef, Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, etc.) driving the plot that the game boss villains were based on. The ending had a weird guest-appearance (unnamed) by January McAndrews!

  2. fernando

    That Dilton story sounds pretty interesting, Dennis. I don’t remember it, but I know Steve Oswald. He’s the production manager at Archie. He’s a good guy and pretty creative. A fan of newspaper comic strips, he was probably the biggest advocate the Archie newspaper strip had. It’s a shame he didn’t get to write more.

  3. Dennis

    Please understand that I’m not accusing Steve of ripping off Mike Uslan’s script, Fernando. What I had more in mind was that that particular story might resulted from an editorial meeting where a story line with certain key specific plot elements was suggested by the editor to the writer, because the editor was very keen on certain story angles — the editor may possibly have suggested the same to Mike, as well, or maybe the editor just liked those ideas that Mike came up with so much that he filed them in his memory bank for future use

  4. fernando

    Oh I didn’t think you were, Dennis. Knowing the way the writing works at Archie, I’d guess the VR idea hit both guys independently. VR was big at the time and heavy in the “creative ether.” Dilton of course is a natural vessel to introduce it into an Archie story. I don’t know for certain and your guess about the possibility of an editorial directive. We did get those from time to time. (“We need a story about skateboarding. GO!”) I’d however bet more on the chance that both writers just happened to come up with similar virtual reality ideas. It wouldn’t be the first time there’s a little overlap or repetition at Archie. Next time I see Steve… which will probably be at New York Comic Con this year… I’ll ask him.

  5. Dennis

    I’m curious about the genesis of the story elements of a VR world where Archie and the gang have costumed, powered-up alter-egos, which seem to be the main points of commonality between Michael Uslan’s script for a Pureheart reboot and Stephen Oswald’s script for “Archie Cyber-Adventures”.

    You mentioned that you weren’t keen on this idea of Pureheart, Superteen, etc. having updated costumes and being virtual avatars, and although I don’t know Michael Uslan personally, that’s just an idea that strikes me as one that he wouldn’t naturally come up with by himself, for whatever reason. I know he’s a huge fan of “classic” Pureheart & Co. (from reading his Introduction to IDW’s Pureheart the Powerful TP collection), so it did strike me as the kind of thing that an editor might have interjected into the mix as his “contribution”. I’m sure you must have pitched projects where your original ideas had to become subservient to some concept that an editor really seemed fixed on. The timing here seems about right, too, as ARCHIE & FRIENDS DOUBLE DIGEST #1 was on sale around the beginning of December 2010, so allowing a few months lead time for Steve Oswald as a writer, it seems to coincide with about the same time that the Pureheart reboot had recently become a “failure to launch”. It also strikes me that Steve, as a writer without much of a track record at the time, might have been relatively in a weaker position to insist on his own ideas over the editor’s particular fancies. You undoubtedly must have *some* ideas about the way Victor Gorelick thinks, so you tell me.

  6. Dennis

    I mean, sure I can accept Dilton creating a VR world for Archie and the gang to play around in as mere coincidence between both writers. It’s this idea that in the Oswald’s game world, their avatars are basically superheroes, and costumed as such. The idea is actually pretty cosmetic in Steve’s Cyber-Adventures story — the main point of the whole thing is to homage some classic old video games. The “superheroes” aspect is purely for show (they could simply have gotten special virtual weapons, rather than costumes and powers).

  7. fernando

    You’re raising some interesting points, Dennis.

    Regarding the origins of the VR angle, I really can’t say. I was given a very early draft of the script for the first issue. I couldn’t say how much of it originated with Mike Uslan and how much was “inspired” by editorial direction. I agree that Mike was always a real”classic” guy so it did surprise me a little when his script suggested the new costume designs. Keep in mind again that this was an early draft of the first part of the story so maybe the costumes would’ve reverted to their more classic looks later on in the story or maybe in a later draft the redesigns would’ve been abandoned all together. We’ll never know I guess.

    The homage to classic video games is interesting. Steve Oswald is a big fan of pinball machines and in general, all things retro, so I could see him coming up with the video game idea himself. That sounds like him, but once again, given the way comics are often written by committee, all things are possible. Its not completely unlikely that once the SuperTeen revival was abandoned, the basic idea was recycled into this Dilton story. Once again, I couldn’t say for sure.

  8. Dennis

    One last interesting tidbit that you might not be aware of. Your MAN FROM R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. story, when reprinted in trade paperback, is labeled on the indicia page as “Archie Adventure Series, Vol. 1”. When Steve’s CYBER ADVENTURES was reprinted in trade paperback, it’s labeled on the indicia page as Archie Adventure Series, Vol. 2 (most of the other ACP trade collections in the 6″ x 9″ trim size are part of the “Archie & Friends All-Stars” series). There were no further volumes in the Archie Adventure series of TPBs, so that makes you and Steve (and Joe Staton) part of an exclusive club.

    • fernando

      That’s interesting, Dennis. You’re right. I wasn’t aware of that “Archie Adventure” labeling.

      Archie experimented a bit with their TPB format during those years. I don’t think they were satisfied with the sales of their trades during that period. The only trades I know they were really happy with were the Betty and Veronica fairy tale parodies which is why they did so many of them. I remember liking the All-Star format, but I’m glad MAN FROM R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. got its own packaging. As I said above, it’s one of my favorite collections of my own work. It might come in a very tight third only slightly behind ARCHIE VS PREDATOR and of course DIE KITTY DIE which is definitely in first place. (I hope you got your copy!) The great Joe Morciglio was the editor and designer on Archie’s trades during the All-Star and I guess this “Archie Adventure” period. He really went the extra mile on MFR and very recently on Facebook, he commented that it was one of his own favorites too.

      Another little inside tidbit… Joe suggested… and really championed… a MAN FROM R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. cover idea that was a parody on the OUR MAN FLINT movie poster. I was really happy with that one myself and I was really looking forward to drawing it. Unfortunately it was rejected but I think Joe tried to include the sketch along with the extras in the back of TMFR trade. Sadly, it didn’t get in there either. I’m going to have to dig up that sketch and post it here. Maybe I’ll make a print out of it.

  9. Dennis

    PS — You should read Steve’s story (in TPB or in A&FDD #1-4) if you get the chance, and see what you think. Last I looked, the first two issues of A&FDD were freebies on Archie Digital, but that was before they made the changeover last November from iVerse Media to Madefire as their digital partner, so now I don’t know. My takeaway from this is that the concept of Archie and the gang participating in a VR homage to classic video games was Steve’s original concept, and the “window dressing” where their avatars in the game world are suited up in superhero style is his editorial concession. After Archie escapes from the game world, then goes back in to help the rest of the gang, the other four have been shuffled off to their individual game kingdoms (Betty becomes “Zelda” a Legend of Zelda homage, Jughead gets to be the king of a Burger Time homage, etc.) so that other than Archie, their “superhero” avatars are quickly transformed to suit their individual game worlds. That leaves Archie as the remaining costumed superhero (after getting some special augments from Dilton) who attempts to help each of his friends conquer the game bosses of their individual worlds. Interestingly, it’s also mentioned in the story that Dilton collaborated with Chuck as the graphic designer for the VR world — I can’t recall if the costumes were specifically attributed to Chuck’s idea.

    • fernando

      You know, I should reach out to Steve Oswald on Facebook and send him a link to this conversation. Maybe he’d like to participate and offer his inside info. The inclusion of Chuck is interesting since at the time, we were being pushed to use Chuck as often as possible. It does add further credibility to the editorial edict scenario.

      • Dennis

        I have to admit there’s a bit in Steve’s ending to the story which I didn’t quite get. It may be that it was planted at the end of the story as a hook to garner some interest from readers in possible further adventures “the Wonder Realm”. Towards the end of the story, Dilton and Chuck are baffled when they come to realize that while they’ve designed a vast and richly complex VR game world, there are “things” that are suddenly appearing in their VR space that the two of them never designed or programmed into the simulation. At the very end a mystery red-haired girl appears — never actually named in the story, but Reggie (who’d met her earlier) refers to her when speaking to Archie as “your friend” — it’s January McAndrews, and she’s the one responsible for creating all the things that Dilton and Chuck never put into the game simulation. On that same page, Jughead doesn’t react to her at all or bat an eye. But at this point the story ends, and we’re never given any further explanation of the mysterious redhead or her motives. Maybe Steve can elucidate on that point if you link him into this conversation.

        • fernando

          I let Steve know about our conversation. Hopefully he’ll join the fun and enlighten us both.

          January McAndrews is well remembered by some of us Archie veterans. A few of us looked for ways to revisit Jughead’s time police or to inject January into new stories. It looks like Steve did it long before any of us. All I was able to do was to inject January into some of my crowd scenes especially during my run on Life With Archie. If you look at my crowd shots and you see a freckled redhead with a mullet, that’s January! I also regularly populated my crowds with my personal favorites and my own creations like Wendy Weatherbee and Raj Patel. In the case of Wendy, I figured it would be the only chance I’d ever get to use the character again. Boy! Was I right about that!

    • fernando

      Thanks, Dennis. Of all the characters I created for the Archie mythology, Wendy Weatherbee is my favorite. Very few people remember her since she had only a handful of appearances, but the few that do really like her. I tried often to include her in my crowd shots particularly in the Life With Archie series where I usually tried to sneak in my other creations like Chunk and Raj Patel. Wendy will be the one I’m most sorry to leave behind.

  10. Dennis

    Chunk (or does he prefer Charles?) was another good one. With his round-eyed stare, he almost seems like he’s based on a real person I might have seen somewhere, and I liked that he had a more interesting personality than his appearance would seem to imply. I always felt like Chuck Clayton got left out, like he didn’t have a best bud like Archie/Jughead or Moose/Dilton, and it seemed to me like Chunk had potential as a good buddy for Chuck – plus there’s just some kind of hilarity that they have the same first name and similar nicknames, but are so physically dissimilar that they’d make an interesting pair. It also seemed like they might have some intersecting interests, apart from sports (I guess Chuck could always talk sports with Vic). Alas, all of the New Kids (quite a few of whom I took a shine to) appeared at the worst possible time, as ACP began to implode, and the panel count began dropping like a stone. Guess we’ll never know (obviously I don’t count the “New Riverdale” books; to me those are completely different characters).

    But yeah, I will miss Wendy Weatherbee the most. Was there ever another story featuring her in a main part, after the one Archie Double Digest where he tried dating her? I think that’s the only one I’m missing — I have all her appearances in the Jughead & Friends and Tales From Riverdale digests. Apart from those all-star jam issues where like a dozen or more characters all show up, that is (when Bill Galvan drew her in that B&V “Battle of the BFFs” story, I couldn’t even recognize her — no offense to Bill, who might not have been provided with any reference).

    • fernando

      Chunk was one of my creations for the New Kids story. Archie Comics had asked a few of their freelancers to come up with new characters that could be compiled into their New Kids cast. They particularly pushed us to be as ethically diverse as possible. Chunk was one of my contributions. Simon Silverstein and Sayid were among the others. I created Chunk to really be a sort of recurring one-note joke who is always standing around the backgrounds never speaking and, no matter what is going on, he’d just be staring at different people in a creepy way. I remember giving him the name Albert Johnson as his real name. I can’t remember if they stuck with it or if they changed it. If you look at my backgrounds in Life With Archie, you’ll see Chuck still staring at people in a creepy way.

      Regarding Wendy, I’m not sure I remember all of the stories featuring her prominently. I think there were TWO in Tales From Riverdale and maybe ONE in Jughead & Friends. If there were more, I can’t remember.

  11. Dennis

    Here’s what I have on Double-W (didn’t include the bit parts, like “The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.”, “Civil Chore”, “Battle of the BFFs”):

    JUN 2006/TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGEST #10 – “Double W Vision” – As the new girl at RHS, Wendy “Double W” sets the boys’ heads turning – until they discover what her initials stand for.
    SEP 2006/JUGHEAD AND FRIENDS DIGEST #12 – “Double W Trouble” – At the beach with her Uncle Waldo, Wendy finds herself attracted to Jughead.
    JAN 2007/TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGEST #16 – “Instant Chemistry” – Wendy and Dilton find they have common interests. Uncle Waldo chaperones the two to a Chuck-E-Cheese type restaurant and a kiddie matinee movie, much to WW’s chagrin. She and Dilton only wanted to be lab partners.
    JUN 2007/JUGHEAD AND FRIENDS DIGEST #19 – “The Mismatch-Maker” – Jughead tries to help Wendy by setting her up on a date with a boy who ISN’T a student at Riverdale High… his cousin, Bingo Wilkin.
    APR 2008/TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGEST #27 – “Hair Apparent” – The story of Wendy’s Dad, Tony Weatherbee, Waldo Weatherbee’s twin brother, is told.
    AUG 2009/ARCHIE DIGEST #255 – “Double W Date” – (Story credited to George Gladir) When Mr. Weatherbee’s away, the boys will play – and their game of choice is ‘who will ask Wendy Weatherbee out first?!’ (This is the one story I’m missing, I think.)

    I’m pretty sure they changed Chunk’s actual given name to Charles (probably to avoid any “Fat Albert” jokes?). I’ll have to see if I can find it, but it turns out that in reality he’s nothing like the first impression you might get from looking at him. He also got a whole profile page in the “Clash of the New Kids” trade paperback.

    • fernando

      That’s pretty thorough, Dennis. I trust your info. I’d forgotten about some of those stories until I read your summary and then they rang a bell. There are actually a couple of more Wendy stories than I thought. I’d put her at three stories at the most! Still, even at six, we’re a long way from the dream of a Wendy digest!

      I had thought that somewhere along the line, Chunk’s name was changed. I need to dig up my original sketches for him because his original name… which I swear was Albert Johnson… is scribbled on there. I wouldn’t have chosen “Charles” since that one could create confusion with Chuck!

  12. Dennis

    Oh yeah, I just remembered one more WW story. It’s kind of a minor appearance (one page + one panel), but she *does* save the day, in JUGHEAD AND FRIENDS DIGEST #25, when Jughead has lost his beloved hat, and begins frantically searching for another type of distinctive headgear to replace it (he has a coonskin cap on the cover). Wendy comes to his rescue with a new crown beanie, then takes the final page of the story to explain how she made it by the traditional method. (In her previous co-starring appearance with Jughead in J&FD #12, she took a page to explain how to make frozen-Juice-cubes-on-a-toothpick). She’s even more of a DIY girl than Betty… she makes her own swimsuit, anime/manga screensavers, business cards, etc. Girl’s got skillz.

    • fernando

      You’re reminding me of something I wanted to do occasionally in Wendy stories where Wendy would teach the reader some clever thing that they could do on their own at home. I got the idea from a Curious George book I’d read as a kid. I learned how to fold a newspaper into a paper boat from Curious George! Sadly, Wendy never got the chance to show nobody nothin’!

  13. Dennis

    The old “Archie Giant Series” issues of SABRINA always had pages with Sabrina demonstrating how to do simple step-by-step magic tricks. They probably could have made a whole book out of those, with a few 1/2-page and 1-page gag strips to break them up, similar to the “Archie’s Fun ‘n’ Games Activity Book”.

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