EXCLUSIVE: Sabrina writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa casts spell with new Archie Horror comic

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Oct 7, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

Halloween time is already here, but the season of the witch doesn’t begin until tomorrow. That’s when Sabrina, the teenage witch known for her lovable hijinks, gets a dark, occult reimagining in her new title from Archie Comics.

Much as he did with Afterlife With Archie -- the ongoing zombie apocalypse comic featuring the gang from Riverdale -- Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes a well-known and traditionally wholesome character from the funny pages and transforms her world into one of horror. Scripted by Aguirre-Sacasa with art from Robert Hack and Rachel Deering, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, debuting Oct. 8, is not a title spoofing the half-witch but is, instead, a serious terror title about a young witch coming of age and caught between two worlds. 

According to the official synopsis of the first issue, “The young sorceress finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend” when an old family foe, Madame Satan, arrives in the town of Greendale with a “deadly agenda.”

Since she debuted in the early 1960s in Archie’s Mad House, Sabrina has appeared in comics and animated series, and was portrayed by Melissa Joan Hart for seven years in the live-action sitcom. But Aguirre-Sacasa put a new spin on the character when he had her resurrect Jughead’s dog and kickstart a supernatural zombie plague in 2013 in the well-received Afterlife title. From there, Sabrina earned a stand-alone issue where readers learned her actions also gained her the favor of some very nasty beings.

Chilling Adventures exists in a separate Archie-verse not connected to the zombie tales, and returns the character to the 1960s. But that doesn’t mean characters from neighboring Riverdale won’t be showing up in Greendale. Along with the following sneak peek pages below, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa joined us to discuss the witchy ways of this new horror title.

Why is Sabrina more of an interesting character for you to play with, as opposed to the Archie gang?

They’re all interesting, is the truth. Sabrina’s interesting in a different way than the Riverdale crew because of her supernatural origins -- being half-witch, half-mortal. So magic is woven into the fabric of this universe. Also, unlike Archie, for instance, who is the straight-up hero of Afterlife, Sabrina is a heroine, a force of good ... but there’s darkness in her, as well and the real potential for evil. On the spectrum between Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West, she’s somewhere in the middle.

While connecting Archie with zombies was a pretty new idea, Sabrina has always been a witch. But how is this Sabrina different from the traditional comic?

It’s darker. It’s more occult-based. It’s linking Sabrina to the real, dark tradition of witchcraft in this country. There are multiple covens, there are demons, there’s more of a grounding in psychological horror. It’s a tonal difference, by and large.

Will you compare the storytelling potential in Greendale versus Riverdale? 

There’s a little more freedom in Greendale, honestly. You can tweak the characters a bit more, since the Archie kids are so iconic and well-known. Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey Kinkle, for instance, is known and loved by fans, but how much do we really know about Harvey? Same with Sabrina’s aunts; I think we’re really getting a chance to build them from the ground up in this series. Another change, just to give you an example, is Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, a fellow witch. He was much older in previous incarnations. In our book, he’s the same age as Sabrina, and British.

How is the storyline connected with the events of Afterlife With Archie, and will this connect to the Sabrina one-shot?

They’re not connected at all. We made a very conscious decision to not make this Sabrina a spinoff book. Sabrina’s a strong enough character, her mythology is deep enough and rich enough that she can support her own book, quite independent of Afterlife. Plus, we wanted to set it in the 1960s. It’s a companion book, and there might be echoes -- in fact, there will be echoes -- but that’s it, at this point.

Will there be cameos from Riverdale?

Not just cameos; there’s a rival coven in Riverdale with all the usual suspects. We meet the witch versions of Betty and Veronica in the first issue! And they’re going to create a lot of headaches for our girl Sabrina.

How far out have you planned her arc?

The first 12 issues are plotted, though things are shifting a bit as we move forward. The first six-issue arc is Sabrina’s origin story; it’s called “The Crucible,” because it’s really about Sabrina’s first test as a teen witch, her dark coming of age. The second arc, also six issues, is called “Witch War.” It’s epic.

To give some witchy context, what are some of your favorite black magic movies?

Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Burn, Witch, Burn, Suspiria, Burnt Offerings, The Amityville Horror, Black Sabbath, The Crucible, The Blair Witch Project and The House of the Devil, just off the top of my head …

Is there a page or panel from the first issue you're most excited for readers to check out?

Great question. I think our last page is terrific -- an omen of the crazy things to come. I think the “honey pot” sequence is just fun and terrific -- and, by the way, an actual, real spell. A friend of mine, who is a sort of junior witch, talked me through the steps and I pretty much just transcribed it, in a how-to kind of way.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1, page 17. Courtesy Archie Comics.

What do you think of this new take on Sabrina? Are you ready for a darker, scarier teenage witch?