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Comic Book / Sabrina the Teenage Witch

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"We modern witches believe life should be a ball! Besides, soft, gracious living doesn't reduce our powers one iota!"
Sabrina, Archie's Mad House #22

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a long-running character published by Archie Comics, who first appeared in Archie's Mad House #22 (October, 1962). The comic focuses on the adventures of Sabrina Spellman, a teenaged witch who lives with her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda, who (being witches themselves) tutor Sabrina on the use of her powers. Sabrina's traditional adventures usually involved Sabrina getting into some magic-oriented hijinks either caused by or resolved by the use of her powers. Also appearing in the Sabrina comics were Sabrina's boyfriend, Harvey, and her pet cat, Salem.

After the debut of the live-action sitcom of the same name and the subsequent animated series adaptation, the comic was Re Tooled to match the sitcom and animated series' interpretations of the characters. Sabrina's hometown was finally named "Greendale" (as it was named in the animated series; the earlier stories either didn't name her hometown or featured her living in Riverdale alongside Archie and the others, though Greendale is a neighboring town), while Hilda and Zelda were given makeovers to look more like typical modern women (before, they were drawn as traditional Halloween-style witches). Finally, Salem, until then a non-talking ordinary feline, was given the same backstory and personality as the character from the TV series (a warlock turned into a cat as punishment by the Witches' Council).

All of these elements were retained when the comic was Retooled again by writer-artist Tania Del Rio, who shifted Sabrina to a more manga-ish art style and introduced a long-running dramatic storyline over the course of three and a half years. The comic was canceled in early 2009 after its hundredth issue, though Sabrina continues to make occasional cameos in other comics (including Jughead #200).

Most recently, the characters were darkened up significantly in the new title, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francisco Francavilla, the same creators behind Afterlife with Archie. Similar in several aspects, the book's tone now hews much closer to 1970's / early-80's horror, with direct shout-outs to works like Rosemary's Baby, Creepshow, the output of Hammer Studios, and the Cthulhu Mythos.

In 2016, Sabrina began appearing in the Archie Comics (2015) universe, first guest starring in a few Jughead comics, then starting to appear in the Archie title starting with isue #700, and finally getting her own title in 2019.

A Netflix original series originally spun-off from the CW series Riverdale titled Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was released in October 2018. However, it became a Divorced Installment with no ties to Riverdale due to being co-produced by Netflix.


Sabrina the Teenage Witch provides examples of:

  • '60s Hair: In her debut, Sabrina wore a bouffant with short bangs topped with a headband.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: When the '90s Retool changed Salem from an ordinary cat to an enchanted warlock the way he was in the TV series, it didn't carry over the TV version's backstory of his having been changed into a cat as punishment for trying to Take Over the World. Instead, the comics' Salem became the former fiancé of Enchantra the Head Witch, whom she changed into a cat after he left her for another woman.
  • Animesque: Tania Del Rio's Retool in the early 2000s, when anime was gaining popularity in America. Fans hated the artwork; however, the actual writing was praised.
  • Artificial Human: It was originally explained in the comics that Sabrina was created by her "aunts" with a magic potion gone wrong (or right). Later issues retconned this to be like the TV series, where Sabrina was the daughter of her aunts' warlock brother and a mortal mother.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Salem, after the upgrade to Talking Animal. Originally, he was just Sabrina's non-talking (save for the occasional bit of Inner Monologue) pet cat who only rarely got A Day in the Limelight. Post-Retool, he's a major character and an active participant in the stories.
    • To some extent, Zelda as well. In the original comics she was often left out of stories altogether, to the point where it would sometimes appear that Hilda was Sabrina's only aunt. Later comics gave Zelda more attention and more to do.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: The early Sabrina comics had witches operating on that principle and performing mean tricks on mortals. Sabrina's the exception and often gets in trouble for doing good deeds. She's also considered homely due to an "ugly curse" thanks to the witches' backwards thinking.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A comic book cover shows Sabrina surrounded by bubbles and dressed as a valkyrie.
    Sabrina: This isn't what I meant in wanting to be in a soap opera.
    • In Issue #41, during a bitter fight with her family, Sabrina wishes that she wasn't a Spellman. Unbeknownst to the family, Enchantra, the Head Witch, was watching them and granted Sabrina's wish, sending her outside of the house. When the teenager went to confront her family again, she was shocked that her wish came true when everyone tells her that they don't know her. A heartbroken Sabrina cries at the park at how she lost her family because of her selfishness. Sandy, a fellow witch turned squirrel, overhears the teenage girl's sorrows and comforts her about her situation. Sabrina, with Sandy's help, convinces Enchantra to undo her wish. After she reconciles with her family, she then wishes to turn Sandy back into a witch as gratitude for helping her.
  • Bizarre and Improbable Golf Game: A story has Sabrina caddying for the Head Witch Enchantra. And this game is really bizarre, taking place in the Other Realm, with both players using magic. Sabrina helps by zapping up a set of spell-resistant modern golf wear for Enchantra.
  • Breakout Character: Originally introduced as a one-off character in the 1960s, Sabrina became one of Archie's major secondary characters over the years, often having her own comic book, several animated series and, most famously, her own sitcom in the late 90s/early 2000s.
  • Burn the Witch!: In a story, Sabrina thinks that her aunts had a great life in the "good old days" and as a result is given a magic mirror that can let her go back in time to colonial Salem. This trope is pretty much averted while there. Sabrina first comes across a witch stuck in the stocks and releases her. Sabrina is then put in the stocks herself for not stopping the witch's escape and is released by a perverted dude who demands a kiss for saving her. She's caught turning him into a toad and has to escape an angry mob that calls for her to be hanged.
  • Cat Stereotype: Salem was traditionally a completely orange cat; however due to the 90s sitcom show he is always black nowadays, usually with some sort of white markings. He's a sarcastic, somewhat mischievous cat who is actually a warlock cursed to live as a cat due to the crimes he did. He's also Sabrina's Familiar.
  • Cats Are Mean: Salem is loyal and devoted to Sabrina, but he also has a bit of a mean streak.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Salem, especially after he got upgraded to Talking Animal. Even before that he did have a few Silent Snarker moments, or would make the occasional sarcasm via Inner Monologue.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Della the Head Witch. This is due to Retcon as the manga-based comics and later cartoons introduce Queen Seles and Enchantra as the leaders of the witches, respectively.
    • Ambrose, Sabrina's cousin that doesn't appear in any of the later media spinoffs; his role in the comics since the 1990s has largely been replaced by Salem.
    • The earliest comics feature a very different supporting cast. Salem was there from the first story, and Hilda showed up fairly early too (though she wasn't referred to as Sabrina's aunt at first), but characters like the Fairy Witchmother, Sabrina's rival Rosalind, and her two pseudo-love-interests Tommy and Donald, all vanished quickly from the comic, in favor of more lasting characters like Harvey and Cousin Ambrose.
  • Clownification: One story has Sabrina catch a cold from a clown that sneezed on her at the carnival. Due to a combination of "clown germs" and Sabrina's magic, anyone close to her would turn into a clown whenever she sneezed.
  • Comic-Book Time: As the other Archie series, Sabrina has been a teenage witch for almost sixty years.
  • Crossover: Many Sabrina stories from the early '70s had her interacting with Archie and the gang. She still occasionally shows up in Archie stories. In Jughead #200 (2010), Sabrina reveals to Jughead that she's a witch, which is made use of in a follow-up story.
  • Cute Witch: Sabrina sometimes appeared in the elementary school-set Little Archie stories, where she'd be billed as "Little Sabrina: That Cute Little Witch." Of course, she's cute as her usual teenaged self, too.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • From 1972 to 1974, Archie published Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told By Sabrina. It had the odd combination of straight-up horror stories with art in the familiar Archie house style. Sabrina plays the role of Horror Host. One story in particular stands out, featuring a boy who teases a stutterer at school. The kindly teacher happens to be a witch, and gives him an enchanted book that melts his face off, and possibly kills him! The story probably violated several rules under The Comics Code, but somehow gained the CCA seal of approval (perhaps because Archie pretty much ran the CCA?)
    • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Afterlife with Archie writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a horror twist on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
    • The 2019 ongoing series is notably Lighter and Softer than Chilling Adventures, but it still has a very obvious dark and sinister undertone.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Cousin Ambrose seems to have fallen prey to this, in favor of the increased use of Salem as a supporting character.
    • Sabrina herself is this in a meta-way. Since The '90s she's been on-and-off compared to the main Archie's crew. Most of her last few appearances have only been crossover cameos.
  • Depending on the Artist:
    • Sabrina is consistently blond, but what shade has constantly changed over the past few decades. Likewise, her hairstyle has changed multiple times, though her classic bob haircut is the norm.
    • Whether Zelda has green hair or not.
    • Salem has been depicted as a black cat for over twenty years now, but the specifics aren't concrete. Is he completely black or does he have white patches? If so, how do they look?
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first Sabrina comic emphasizes Sabrina's witchy qualities, such as finding joy in magically tormenting her classmates, demonstrating inabilities to cry or drown, and dodging romance out of fear for losing her powers. Each of these elements would soon become either underplayed or eliminated, to help make Sabrina a more relatable character.
    • The early Sabrina comics also played fast and loose with whether her magic was supposed to be a secret or not. Sometimes she works in secret, sometimes she's openly flinging spells left and right in front of (or at) her normal human friends, even giving them magical advice at times.
  • Gender Bender: In the Archie story "The Great Switcheroo", Salem casts a spell that changes the sex of everybody in Riverdale. The story plays a bit like a Gender Flip in execution, as none of the transformed characters know what their "true" sex is supposed to be, but it "really" happened, and Sabrina's eventual reversal spell isn't actually a Reset Button. There's even video evidence suggesting that the gang spent a day as the opposite sex, even if none of them remember it. Sabrina and Salem are the only ones who keep their original genders in the story.note 
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Sabrina originally had white hair, but it seems they were going for "platinum blonde."
  • The Hecate Sisters: In the earlier comics, Hilda is portrayed dressed as and behaving in a more stereotypical witch manner, including being cranky, disliking mortals (particularly Sabrina's boyfriend Harvey), and prone to using her powers for revenge or resolving petty disputes. In the earlier comics, Zelda (like Hilda) also was dressed in stereotypical witch's clothes, but unlike Hilda, was the more compassionate and kindly of the two. In the original comics, Zelda was short and stout with green hair. Sabrina is a well-meaning girl, but she struggles with constant pressure to be "bad" from all the other witches around her, especially her aunts, as well as learning to master her powers.
  • Horror Host: Sabrina, in Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told By Sabrina.
  • Humans Are Ugly: Witches occasionally refer to Sabrina as being ugly, which is really weird considering Della... This is explained early on as being the result of an "ugly curse" being place on her by a mean warlock. Of course, in the witch world this results in her being beautiful as they operate on an Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad mentality.
    • To be fair, this is sometimes played off as the witches being egotistical. One famous story has Hilda try to improve Sabrina's appearance with a "beautifying spell," which explicitly copies another person's attractive features onto another. The spell makes Hilda look like Sabrina, who isn't changed at all.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: With, of all things, Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), in a story that spanned across an issue of the Sabrina comic and a Sonic Super Special comic.
  • Intimate Lotion Application: Subverted in issue #6. Sabrina's Love Interest Harvey offers to rub lotion on her back, only to be puzzled and disappointed to discover she has already done so on her own. Since she's a witch, she did it via magic but has to lie to him by claiming she's double-jointed.
  • Magical Gesture: The action Sabrina performs to cast a spell varies Depending on the Writer. Sometimes she tugs her earlobe, sometimes she points her index finger, sometimes she snaps her fingers.
  • Magical Girl: Obviously. Complete with talking animal companion.
  • The Masquerade: Prior to her 1990s retooling, downplayed almost to the point of The Unmasqued World, in that Sabrina’s being a witch is at least an open secret among her friends, though she looks, dresses and acts (mostly) like a normal teenage girl, while her aunts actively try to hide their natures despite looking, dressing and often as not acting like stereotypical Halloween witches. The adults in the comic never quite penetrate the masquerade.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Della the Head Witch, whose outfit from the early '70s on consisted solely of a swimsuit, boots and a cape.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: Zelda and Hilda Spellman, who are sisters, raise their teenage niece Sabrina in the absence of her parents.
  • Progressively Prettier: Sabrina's aunts, who originally were depicted as conventional looking witches, were given makeovers in the late 90s, presumably either to update their look or to match their more normal looking portrayals in the TV series. Hilda lost her haggard, skinny appearance and long nose, and Zelda went from being heavy-set to slim, with both losing their traditional witches' clothes/hats in favor of modern women's fashions a la Sabrina. The most recent cartoon subverts this trope by returning the pair to their fat and skinny figures, only inverted, but keeps them looking vaguely like Sabrina and in clothing fitting modern witches.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Especially apparent during the 1960s and '70s, when Sabrina constantly defied the status quo of witches causing evil and mayhem by trying to magically help people instead.
  • Retool: Several over the series' run:
    • A new "Sabrina" comic series was introduced shortly after the debut of the 1996 live-action sitcom. This series ran for 32 issues, between 1997 and December 1999. The new series incorporated elements from the live-action sitcom, including modernized fashions and appearances for the aunts, and Salem's personality and backstory.
    • Starting in January 2000, Archie rebooted the series from #1, this time based upon the 2000 animated series (the final issue of the 1997-1999 series had acted as a transition between the two adaptations). This new title was simply titled Sabrina and lasted for 37 issues; issue #38 acted as a transition issue, as the series was retitled Sabrina The Teenage Witch and resumed the conventional high school setting. However, elements of the live-action sitcom (Salem's backstory, the modernized appearances of Hilda and Zelda) were retained, along with the name of Sabrina's hometown (Greendale) from the animated series being incorporated into the comics.
    • Again in the 2004, with issue #58, the comics were taken over by Tania del Rio with her manga-inspired art and design style. Concurrent with this, the comic ceased to be connected to either the live-action or animated series. The comics were then released featuring new characters and a slightly more serious, continuity-heavy plot. The manga Sabrina story wrapped up at issue #100 in 2009, albeit with a few unresolved subplots.
  • Secret Relationship: In Archie #700, she and Archie Andrews began dating in private over the summer, attracting suspicion from Betty and Veronica when Archie starts avoiding them upon returning to school.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: In a comic cover that showed her in a pastiche of stuff from different holidays.
  • Smart Animal, Average Human: The snarky and wise cat Salem and the average witch girl Sabrina, who is perky and well-meaning.
  • Spell My Name With An S: When the comic came out, it was "Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch". Over time, the spelling of "teenage" changed and with it the series' title.
  • Talking Animal: Salem, in modern comics; earlier comics (made before the TV show) showed Salem as a non-talking ordinary cat, akin to Jughead's pet Hot Dog.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: If Sabrina is in a Darker and Edgier Alternate Universe story, you can bet she will be killed or in some other way incapacitated so as not to have a simple Deus ex Machina ready to wave her hands.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: In one one-shot, Aunt Hilda gets cheated by a vending machine and kicks it in frustration. The machine retaliates by punching her, and Sabrina remarks that they're making vending machines that can fight back.
  • Wicked Witch: Hilda Spellman with her pointy hat, long nose, warts, crooked teeth, flying broomstick and propensity to put hexes and curses on anyone she sees fit to. Her sister, Zelda, however, is far more the fairy godmother type. This was naturally before the late 1990s; with the success of the sitcom, Archie averted this by adapting some of the sitcom's elements into the comics. Thus, they gave Hilda and Zelda makeovers that made them look and act more like typical modern women.
  • Writer on Board: The Sabrina stories written and drawn by Al Hartley are full of Anvilicious religious messages, including a story where Sabrina learns that a "lack of faith" has ruined Christmas for Santa Claus. How this squares with Sabrina's witchcraft is never explained.