8 Ways Sabrina’s Archie Comics History Spells Mischief for Riverdale

8 Ways Sabrina’s Archie Comics History Spells Mischief for Riverdale
Sabrina as she appears in Archie's Madhouse #22. (Image: Dan DeCarlo Orlando Busino Bob White Vincent DeCarlo/Archie Comics)

In Riverdale’s upcoming sixth season, the long-running CW Archie adaptation is finally living up to its crossover potential by calling Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina Spellman in for a little assistance. If you want to know more before the premiere, there’s a lot of her comic history that could come into play and certainly spell trouble — or perhaps even a bit of chaos — for Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the rest of the gang.

While the promise of more than one adaptation of Archie Comics IP on television at the same time was the potential for seeing various characters interacting with one another across different programs and networks, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was quite self-contained right up until its final season that debuted on the last day of 2020. Sabrina now popping up in Riverdale after never really bothering to wander over from the neighbouring town before feels rather sudden, seeing as how Chilling Adventures didn’t appear to be building to a big crossover event before its series finale (to be fair, its creators didn’t know it was the end). But when you actually look back at how Sabrina was first introduced and went on to feature as a (guest) star across various Archie Comics books, the way her latest live-action counterpart’s about to swoop in is quite on-brand and suggests that she’s there to stir the proverbial pot. Take a look at some iconic moments from her comic exploits.

“Super Duper Party Pooper” — Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #1

Image: Dick Malmgren, Jon D’Agostino, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie COmics Image: Dick Malmgren, Jon D’Agostino, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie COmics

After Sabrina’s first appearance in Archie’s Madhouse #22 — a short story explaining how the teen witch was tasked with causing trouble for other young mortals — she began showing up in other Archie Comics projects like Archie’s TV Laugh-Out, a comedy series starring characters like Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. In her earliest appearances, Sabrina wasn’t yet being depicted as a full-on servant of the devil, but rather one of many young witches tasked with conjuring up small-scale mischief for mortals while hiding the nature of her magical abilities.

These early comics established Sabrina’s relationship with her Aunt Zelda and Cousin Ambrose, but they also brought Sabrina herself into the orbits of the Riverdale teens with whom she made fast friends. Though Sabrina’s solo adventures involving the people from her own life often focused on the idea of witches wanting to stay separate from mortals, her antics with Archie and the gang all highlighted how, despite her upbringing and Zelda’s distaste for humans, Sabrina couldn’t deny wanting to socialise and be friendly with her fellow youths.

“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” — Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #3

Image: Dick Malmgren, Jon D’Agostino, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics Image: Dick Malmgren, Jon D’Agostino, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics

In addition to not being able to cry and being immune to the love-inducing powers of other creatures (like Cupid), Sabrina’s early appearances also emphasised how, because Sabrina wasn’t really meant to be mingling with mortal teens, she often got her kicks by vicariously living through them (while also making life more complicated for them). In most of Sabrina’s guest spots where she interacts with the Riverdale teens, she’s usually there attempting to help them find romance with one another, though her schemes tend to backfire in one way or another.

“Sabrina, the Matchmaker” — Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #6

Image: Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics Image: Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick, Barry Grossman, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics

Sabrina would usually make her way to Riverdale when she was still mostly a featured player in their stories, but characters like Betty and Veronica would sometimes show up in her neck of the woods to inflict upon the witch some of the stress she typically brought into their lives. While both Netflix and the CW’s versions of these characters are all a bit too old to be engaging in the kinds of hormone-fuelled antics their counterparts get up to, it’s more than likely that romantic entanglements will be part of the upcoming crossover.

“A Sweet Tooth” — Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #8

Image: Gus LeMoine, Jon D’Agostino, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics Image: Gus LeMoine, Jon D’Agostino, Bill Yoshida/Archie Comics

Something that became less a part of Sabrina’s comics identity over time was how much of a brutal, scathing wit she was when it came to taking others down without her powers. It’s a skill that played into Archie Comics often framing her as a sort of mysterious “new” girl whose presence threatened the likes of Veronica Lodge. Sabrina’s tendency to sneak in unsubtle digs at her peers is something about the comic’s character that feels like it would lend itself to one of Riverdale’s upcoming plots, which involves Cheryl Blossom invoking one of her ancestor’s spells in order to exact revenge on the descendants of the town’s founders.

“Something Ventured, Something Gained” Jughead #200

Image: Rex Lindsey, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli, Tito Peña/Archie Comics Image: Rex Lindsey, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli, Tito Peña/Archie Comics

The degree to which Sabrina interacted with the Riverdale gang shifted over the years as Archie Comics’ popularity waxed and waned, but she would still turn up occasionally in rather significant moments — like in Jughead #200 where she offhandedly revealed to Forsythe Jones that she was a witch. Interestingly, Sabrina’s dynamic with Jughead, in particular, has been a consistent throughline for both characters that spans decades and has continued to serve as a useful bit of connective tissue between their respective worlds.

“The Great Switcheroo” Archie #636

Image: Gisele , Rich Koslowski, Jack Morelli, Digikore Studios/Archie Comics Image: Gisele , Rich Koslowski, Jack Morelli, Digikore Studios/Archie Comics

The plot of Archie #636, in which Salem the cat magically changes the gender presentations of everyone living in Riverdale, has all the elements for a story that might have worked well for a very special episode of Sabrina, but would be considerably trickier to pull off on Riverdale, which has always been weird, but not strictly supernatural. Unlikely as magic that dramatic is to appear in Riverdale, bringing Sabrina into the picture specifically to do something strange to an entire town the way Archie #636 does appears to be more or less the same thing Riverdale plans to do.

“Hex Messages” Jughead #10

Image: Derek Charm, Jack Morelli/Archie Comics Image: Derek Charm, Jack Morelli/Archie Comics

One of the small, but standout moments in Chip Zdarksy’s Jughead run was the titular character’s coming out as asexual — a revelation that drastically recontextualized his long history of being chased around in the comics by people like Big Ethel who wanted to date him. Jughead #10 plays around a bit with his history as it reintroduces a new version of Sabrina who has her eyes set on the crowned boy for herself this time around. While this particular arc worked as a sendup to the multiple times Sabrina used her powers in attempts to make Jughead love other people, it was also an inspired way to help flesh out his truth on the page, and pay an homage to Sabrina’s classic scheming.

“Archie and Sabrina” Archie #705

Photo: Sandy Jarrell, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli/Archie Comics Photo: Sandy Jarrell, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli/Archie Comics

One of the biggest mysteries looming over Riverdale’s sixth season is whether Sabrina might stick around after she brings a bit of magic to Riverdale, and teaches Cheryl a thing or two about reading out old spells you don’t understand. Because the show’s aged its characters up and taken them to points in their lives that Archie Comics hasn’t spent too much time exploring, there’s no one set arc that Riverdale might directly borrow from. That being said, there have been some interesting runs in the last few years that might serve as a solid basis for whatever Riverdale’s cooking up. Nick Spencer’s time on Archie established Archie and Sabrina as a new couple dating in secret, much to the annoyance of Betty and Veronica, who spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out who the new blonde girl in town is.

Where most Archie comics have treated Sabrina as a featured player who’s always waiting in the wings for a guest spot, the recent Archie comics have turned her more into one of Riverdale’s regulars, and a witch moving to town honestly wouldn’t be the oddest thing to happen in Riverdale history. What’s more likely, though, is that whatever happens in Riverdale’s sixth season will in some way factor into The Occult World of Sabrina, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Audrey Mok’s upcoming comic book continuation of the Netflix series.

Like We Said, Riverdale Has Always Been Weird

Riverdale’s sixth season premieres on November 17.