September 24, 2016


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 Mad House in 1962. Originally intended as a one-off, fan response prompted the pair to continue producing new stories with her for Mad House. Sabrina eventually became a feature in Archie’s TV Laugh-Out, which featured 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 (usually independently, but some story lines saw her attending a witch school). She 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 (although she would sometimes inadvertently cause mischief when her good deeds backfired). This often annoyed her overseer for the Witch’s Council, Della (debuting with Sabrina, albeit with only one “L” in her name), 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 Mad House #19 (1962). She was an ugly witch in both her own stories and occasionally as host for the book before becoming Sabrina’s aunt. She gained less-witchy features and red hair but maintained 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 softened 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 Mad House #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 (originally Plotsworth, first appearing in Mad House #22), a warlock cursed to be a cat as punishment by the Witch’s Council for one of three reasons: plotting world domination; standing up Queen Witch Enchantra (replacing Della, now her assistant), who first appeared in Sabrina vol. 3 #15 (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 cat before gaining some limited magical abilities. With the success of the 1990s live-action sitcom, Salem was altered in the comics to be able to talk.

Ambrose bringing the family drama.

            Additionally, various other relatives would pop in and out. Most frequently was Cousin Ambrose (Laugh-Out #1). Ambrose presented an adult figure not in a position of authority that Sabrina could turn to at times. Depending on the story, he could be a bit mischievous and, in later years, something of a womanizer, as well as alternating from a heavyset older gentleman to a younger warlock.

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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