With the undead running roughshod over Riverdale, Archie Comics is about to get very witchy.
The zombie-laden Afterlife With Archie series has been such a boon for the publisher that it’s continuing to embrace the horror with Sabrina, an ongoing series launching in October that’s written by Afterlife writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and stars Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
The female character has been an Archie staple since 1962, but as with Afterlife, Sabrina will be a more terrifying version than the usual kid-friendly adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. (For those who want to catch up, the first collection of Afterlife issues has just been released.)
“Sabrina takes characters we know and love and pushes them in a new, ghastly direction,” says series artist Robert Hack (Doctor Who).
“The horror in Sabrina carries so much weight because we’ve cared for these characters for, quite literally, generations. And Roberto’s scripts alternate between tugging at heartstrings and ripping them out.”
He’s also a master of spooky, adds Afterlife artist Francesco Francavilla. “This new venture in horror territory couldn’t be in better hands.”
Sabrina has appeared in Afterlife, but her own series is different. It’s a period book with a retro vibe set in the 1960s that acts as a retelling of her origin.
The character, who’s been portrayed in comics, cartoons and a 1996-2003 TV series starring Melissa Joan Hart, goes to public high school in Greendale, but she’s no ordinary student. The daughter of a warlock father and mortal woman, Sabrina comes from a dynasty of witches that goes back aeons.
“One day, Sabrina’s going to be the most powerful sorceress who’s ever lived – Archie’s equivalent of Doctor Strange – but right now, she’s a 16-year-old girl who’s figuring out who she wants to be and if she’s going to prom or not,” says Aguirre-Sacasa.
Sabrina straddles the real world and an ancient pagan place while mastering her powers, but she also maintains a secret identity, unlike the Sabrina in the current non-horror Archie comics.
No one knows she’s a witch, not even her mortal boyfriend Harvey Kinkle, says Aguirre-Sacasa. “And the cost of anyone finding out her secret – which happens at the end of the first issue – comes with dire, deadly consequences.”
Sabrina’s longtime supporting cast will be in the series, from her aunts Hilda and Zelda to Salem Saberhagen, a witch who’s been turned into a talking cat. Plus, there will be a certain redheaded teen from Riverdale, “though not as you might expect,” Aguirre-Sacasa says.
Afterlife is the writer’s conscious love letter to both the “wholesome” Archie characters and the “forbidden” horror movies of his childhood, such as The Evil Dead, Night Of The Living Dead and Pet Sematary. For Sabrina, Aguirre-Sacasa is revisiting different horror touchstones – Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane and Suspiria.
The new series is much darker than Afterlife, and the “scary stuff” is more spiritual and psychological, Aguirre-Sacasa promises. “... the ‘monsters’ are going to be more diabolical.”
The horror renaissance that Afterlife kicked off led directly to Sabrina and gave the creative team permission to try new things and veer in darker directions with Archie’s iconic players, says the writer.
For him, it’s not about pushing the envelope further as much as it is “telling a compelling, surprising, emotional story that’s perhaps scarier and more grownup than what we’ve seen before with these characters. It’s never been about the easy shock, it’s about going deeper and peeling back layers. Sabrina will hopefully continue that.” – USA Today/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services