September 24, 2016

HISTORY OF SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH

Sabrina and Salem's introductory panel.

            Sabrina Spellman is just your average teenage girl with average teenage problems. Boys. Homework. Oh, and she’s a witch.

Head Witch Della pops in.

            Created by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, Sabrina first appeared in the 22nd issue of the humor anthology Archie’s Madhouse in 1962. Originally intended as a one-off, fan response prompted the pair to continue producing new stories for Madhouse. Sabrina eventually became a feature in Archie’s TV Laugh-Out, which published stories based on Archie Comics characters currently appearing on TV at the time, before gaining several self-titled series of her own beginning with Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in 1971.

Sabrina with aunts Hilda and Zelda.

            Sabrina, whom Gladir incorrectly named after a former junior high classmate (the girl’s name was actually Sabra) feeling it had a nice New England ring to it, was a half-witch on her father’s side. Sabrina attended mortal school but was also actively studying the use of her witchcraft. Sabrina frequently dated mortal Harvey Kinkle (Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #1, 1969), a kind and loyal boy prone to moments of klutziness. Sabrina often used her magic in secret to try and help others despite the witch’s code of causing mischief. This often annoyed her overseer for the Witch’s Council, Della (Sabrina vol. 1 #12, 1972), who had a short temper and often intervened in order to get Sabrina to act more like a real witch. Sabrina resided with her two aunts in Greendale: Hilda and Zelda, both responsible for her continued training.

Hilda, Zelda and Salem's first modern make-over.

            Hilda actually appeared before Sabrina in Madhouse #19 (1962). She was an ugly witch with green skin in both her own stories and occasionally host for the book. Greta the Fairy Witch Mother appeared in Sabrina’s stories in Madhouse #28 (1963) and was eventually combined with Hilda to become Aunt Hilda in Madhouse #37 (1964), gaining regular skin and red hair but maintaining a witch’s appearance right down to her long, black dress and pointed hat. Hilda was short-tempered and shown to enjoy casting evil spells, particularly against mortals whom she despised (namely Harvey). When Sabrina gained a live-action sitcom in the 1990s, Hilda’s personality was soften and her look updated into a slender, attractive red-headed woman with contemporary clothing.

Zelda and Hilda's second modern makeover.

            Zelda first appeared in Madhouse #65 (1968) and was the complete opposite of Hilda. She was short and stout with green hair and glasses, and had a relatively good-natured personality while also wearing traditional witch’s garb. Around the time of the 1990s sitcom, she became taller and slender with short green hair and an updated wardrobe.

Salem gets his own prequel spotlight.

            The Spellman’s also resided with Salem Saberhagen (Madhouse #22), a warlock cursed into being a cat as punishment by the Witch’s Council for plotting world domination (or for standing up, Enchantra, the Head Witch who first appeared in Sabrina vol. 2 #20, 1998, at the altar, or for using magic to entice a mortal to kiss him, depending on the continuity). Named for the Salem Witch Trials, Salem originally appeared as an ordinary orange cat. With the success of the 1990s live-action sitcom, Salem was altered in the comics to be a black and white cat who could talk and use limited magic.

Sabrina and the Archie crew animated.

            As her fellow Archie creations from Riverdale were doing well on Saturday mornings, it wasn’t long until Sabrina joined them.

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