Word Balloons: 'Sabrina' coming to Netflix in dark interpretation
This Sabrina isn't Melissa Joan Hart.
Fans got a first look at the Netflix series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” with two official photos this week.
According to Netflix, the series imagines the origin and adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft.
The series will debut Oct. 26 and is described as “tonally in the vein of 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Exorcist.' ”
“I'm really looking forward to the new series,” said Moore author Mel Odom, who has written several novels based on previous “Sabrina” incarnations. “This one is gonna be more horror than teen drama, and I can't wait to see how Sabrina deals with it.”
Kiernan Shipka stars as Sabrina, who was created in 1962 in the pages of “Archie's Madhouse.”
In her original adventures, Sabrina was a teenage witch using her powers to deal with romance and high school problems. “Sabrina” debuted about two years before the similar hit TV program "Bewitched."
Sabrina was created by writer George Gladir and designed by artist Dan DeCarlo, neither of whom realized at the time Sabrina would become a long-running hit character, gaining her own series.
“The original comics were played for laughs, building on the ‘Bewitched' popularity, and had the popular theme of ‘teenager learning the ropes, but trying things too early' to much amusement/chaos where hilarity would ensue,” said comics retailer Calum Johnston, of Strange Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The complete original “Sabrina” comics from 1962-1971 were reprinted by Archie in 2017.
In the early 1970s, Sabrina spun off from the animated “Archies” cartoon to have her own animated series where she solved problems and stopped baddies with her magic abilities.
But also the 1970s, in comics, “Sabrina was starring in the extremely gory and graphic 'Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told by Sabrina,' a series that showcased the depths of comic-book horror in an EC Comics style,” writes Hope Nicholson in "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History."
Werewolves, vampires and some other “literary” monsters were approved by the Comics Code Authority in 1971, after largely banning them in the anti-comics scare of the 1950s, and “Chilling Adventures” followed shortly, debuting in 1972. The complete run of “Chilling Adventures” was reprinted by Archie Comics in January.
But Sabrina didn't always stay quite so scary.
In 1996, Melissa Joan Hart starred as the teenage witch in a made-for TV movie. Future “Deadpool” Ryan Reynolds co-starred. That success led to seven seasons of a “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” comedy on ABC and later the WB. An animated series featuring a younger “Sabrina” started in 1999 with “Savage” Steve Holland as the showrunner.
Odom crafted several novels set in the TV show continuity.
“When 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' made its debut on television, I had children in the house. We all loved Salem the talking cat. And the ridiculousness of the various plots,” Odom said. “It was teen drama plus meddling adults and magic. I wrote six novels, one novelization and two short stories for the series and had a blast with them.”
After the cartoon wound down in 2004, Sabrina appeared in a manga-style series, and another animated series aired in 2011.
In 2013, Archie experimented with a darker tone with its “Afterlife with Archie” series. It became a hit. In the series, Jughead asks Sabrina to reanimate his dog, Hot Dog, after the dog is accidentally killed. The spell goes awry and begins a zombie epidemic.
"We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror," artist Francesco Francavilla told The Associated Press in 2013.
After the success of “Afterlife,” in 2014 Archie launched “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” recalling the “Chilling Adventures” title of the 1970s. This series was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and looks to be the inspiration for the Netflix series, with much darker themes than the previous television program.
“I've read ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,' as well, and this definitely isn't the same series,” Odom said. “It's scarier, bloodier, and there are more bad guys than good. There's still a talking cat, but even he's shifty and can't be trusted.”
The success of the darker “Riverdale” program with the Archie characters further opened the door for a more mature take on Sabrina.
“It looks like the producers are following the Riverdale TV angle, adding in some darker elements — a ‘TwinPeaks-ification' if you will,” Johnston said. “The ‘Chilling Adventures' run … would be the thing to check out for the tone of the TV show.”
Aguirre-Sacasa, who adapted "Riverdale," and wrote the "Afterlife" and "Chilling Tales of Sabrina" comics, is the writer and showrunner.