Across nearly 80 years of publication, Archie Comics has remained a microcosm of Americana through the adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the rest. But none of them ever fit the mold quite as well in quite the same way as Sabrina Spellman. She was the daughter of a mortal man and a witch mother who lived with her aunts in the neighboring town of Greendale, had a talking cat named Salem, and spent her teenage years learning to grapple with her powers and the crushing high school hierarchy. Much like her Riverdale counterparts, Sabrina's stories were lighthearted and draped in the style of the 50s and 60s; lots of varsity jackets and polka dotted furniture in every color of the rainbow. It's easy to see how Sabrina's style more than likely influenced that of the show Bewitched, which premiered in 1964, two years after Sabrina's comic debut.
Being a witch, Sabrina has been subjected to quite a few spooky revisions over the course of the last few decades. An easy place to start would be the 2014's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series, the basis for Netflix's new series of the same name. It's commonly seen as the most gruesome reinvention of Sabrina's mythos, a gory and macabre retelling of her 60s stories. But that's why I'm not starting with Chilling Adventures. I'd like to take you back just a little further to 2013 when Sabrina, Archie, and the gang got to watch the entire world end in Afterlife with Archie.
Penned by author and future Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Afterlife is a horror-oriented spin on the more adventurous Life With Archie comics. Think about Archie's gee-whiz attitude mixed with the first Evil Dead and just a dash of Fallout and you might have a good idea of what to expect from this series, which imagines that a zombie apocalypse is set into motion in Riverdale and Greendale that forces the gang to travel the country looking for solace from all the zombies.
Everyone except Sabrina and Jughead, that is. Juggie shows up at Sabrina's door one rainy night holding the dead body of his dog Hot Dog. Crushed by this, Sabrina decides to help her friend by using the Necronomicon, the infamous book of the dead. Not only does the resurrected Hot Dog come back zombified and bite Jughead -- turning him into Riverdale's Patient Zero in the process -- Sabrina is banished to the Nether Realm by her aunts Hilda and Zelda for her trouble.
Riverdale slowly but surely suffers at the hands of the zombies, but we don't learn about what happened to Sabrina for another five issues. Her story picks back up in issue 6 where we see Sabrina exploring her memories and even creating some new ones before she realizes that she's still trapped in the Nether Realm and is being forcibly married to...Cthulu. Yes, that Cthulu.
It's a big fucked up moment delivered in a big fucked up way, but that isn't the only reason that it's striking. Three issues later, she descends on Reggie just as he's about to be eaten by a horde of Zombies and offers to kill Betty. And she looks like she just walked out of a Conjuring/The Host double feature.
Sabrina's lighthearted world of witchcraft was portrayed in a darker context for the first time with her short but memorable role in Afterlife with Archie. Much like the original Sabrina predated and influenced Bewitched, Aguirre-Sacasa enjoyed this version of the character so much that it inspired the creation of the original Chilling Adventures comic. One wouldn't exist without the other. For that reason, it struck me as the most surreal and surprisingly messed up thing to happen to Sabrina in her 56 years of comics history.