In tonight's season premiere of Riverdale, titled "Chapter Fourteen: A Kiss Before Dying," Jughead (Cole Sprouse) refers to the heroic Archie (KJ Apa) as "Pureheart The Powerful," and if that name sounds familiar, there's a reason for that.
While Archie Comics (then known as "MLJ") was known for superheroes from the start, those heroes were quickly eclipsed by the company's output featuring Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang. In the mid-1960's, however, the company, surely in response to the successes of Marvel and DC superhero offerings, decided to merge the genres by giving the "Archies" their own powers.
For most of its run, the original Life With Archie series was known for some more experimental stories, and it was in issue #42 of that series dates October 1965, Archie was wearing what looked like an inversion of Superman's costume colors with a heart on his chest, making his debut as Pureheart The Powerful.
Pureheart battled villains including The Looker and Tar-Man the Terrible and eventually graduated from Life With Archie into his own series, Archie as Pureheart the Powerful.
At some point the costume's heart featured a "P" in the middle (for Pureheart, of course!) and the Archie as Pureheart the Powerful series changed its name to Archie as Captain Pureheart. Pureheart was also joined by some of his pals and gals in superhero roles of their own: Betty was Super-Teen; Jughead became the hamburger-emblemed Captain Hero; and Archie's rival Reggie was known as Evilheart. These characters were revived as Archie's Super-Teens for a brief run in the 1990's.
IDW Publishing collected the original Pureheart comic book stories in 2010, Archie Comics themselves did a Pep Digital reprint spotlighting the Super-Teens in 2012, and Pureheart and company were seen in fantasy form in Chip Zdarsky's recent "New Riverdale" Jughead run. While we don't see Archie suiting up just yet on the TV series -- though he'd fit in well with The Flash, Green Arrow, Supergirl and the rest of The CW's mighty crusaders -- the "Pureheart" reference, like so many others on the Riverdale series, is a nod and an ode to Archie Comics' long history of over 75 years.
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.