Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the Shelf: Sabrina goes back in time---sort of----and other stuff

Archie Comics continues to build its teen horror line by giving Sabrina, The Teenage Witch a new solo series, not connected to the runaway smash from last year, Afterlife With Archie in any way, and, when you think about it, just as well, considering that in that book, Sabrina lost her powers and voice in the first issue, and then, according to reports, was forcibly married off to a Lovecraftian demon in issue 6.

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa opts for a little trip back in time in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is set in the late 50s-early to mid-60's. The reason for that is a belated 50th anniversary present for the teen witch and her fans. Sabrina made her debut in 1962, but Archie Comics didn't do a 50th anniversary trade paperback or omnibus to mark the occasion. However, Aguirre-Sacasa, also creative director for the company, reached into the archives to pull Sabrina's debut story from '62 as the backup feature. What that does is offer a sharp contrast to the dark, dreary storyline in the lead feature.

We are introduced to Sabrina's parents, and for most of us, it's a long time coming. Sabrina was the product of a warlock's forbidden marriage to a mortal woman. Howard Spellman took custody of Sabrina from his wife, Diana, and sent the missus off to a sanitarium. However, Howard didn't escape unscathed, as we see he's been turned into a tree. Sabrina is under a spell herself, left unaware of her parents' real fate, and led to believe her mother is dead. She thinks her father will return someday, but that may be a longer time coming.

One change from the classic Filmation cartoons of the 60's & 70's in effect here has to do with Sabrina's warlock cousin, Ambrose, rebooted as a British-born youth, presumably slightly older than Sabrina. Sabrina notes that Ambrose sounds like the Beatles' Ringo Starr. Give Aguirre-Sacasa credit for giving Ambrose & Sabrina both a taste for the pop sounds of the day. Unfortunately, this is offset by the fact that Harvey Kinkle, long the love of Sabrina's life in every itineration of the series, save perhaps for the current cartoons, has been rebooted as a blond jock, instead of being dark haired. I guess that's so he can't be confused with Ambrose. Aguirre-Sacasa clearly makes this an alternate reality by implying that the company's two other iconic babes, Betty Cooper & Veronica Lodge, are also junior witches, and that their teacher, Ms. Grundy, is also a high priestess. Egads, it's clear this guy lost his mind.

Robert Hack's atmospheric, moody artwork works perfectly in the right settings, but not in the high school scenes. Toward the end, we see the debut of a Golden Age character, Madame Satan, who will be fully formed in issue 2. Personally, I'd prefer Sabrina as I remember her best, from the formative years of my youth, and not in a dark, gothic setting as Aguirre-Sacasa insists on. The cover price ($3.99), a uniform change for the entire Archie line, may be a turn-off to budget conscious readers. The one plus is that Sabrina has been given telepathic powers, and we've seen her Aunt Zelda employ some shape-shifting. I'd not mind seeing Sabrina doing some of the latter myself.

Rating: C+.

Dynamite Entertainment has had a partial license on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter, Warlord of Mars for some time, in part because Marvel had the rights to do an adaptation of the recent Disney movie adaptation. Come next month, however, that all changes, as Dynamite will launch a monthly John Carter series. Previously, they could only use the title, Warlord of Mars, just as they could only refer to their first adaptation of TV's Six Million Dollar Man as The Bionic Man before getting full rights at the end of last year. Hmmmm, maybe for their next trick, they can link up with Moonstone and get the rights to The Saint........!

We previously noted that Scooby-Doo would meet The Flintstones in issue 7 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, due in 2 weeks. Come January, in issue 8, Mystery, Inc. will go on a time trip in the other direction to meet The Jetsons. Since today's Cartoon Network stars have their comics rights held by other publishers (IDW, Boom! Studios), having Scooby meet, say, Ben (10) Tennyson is out of the question, unless it's a collaborative effort with IDW, which has the rights to adapt the Ben 10 franchise. However, if you think that'd be wack, try this on for size. Word out of Archie Comics has the Riverdale gang meeting up with a certain movie franchise whose license is held by Dark Horse. Yep, get ready for Archie Meets Predator. You've been warned.


magicdog said...

It seems really weird to have Ms. Grundy; Betty & Veronica as witches in this alternate universe. I know multiverses allow for more storytelling options, but it seems off. Then again, imagine had Sabrina been around when Archie's Weird Mysteries was in production!

Scooby & the gang meeting The Flintstones AND The Jetsons? I'm worried! I wasn't crazy about the 80s TV movie that had the two families meeting up!

hobbyfan said...

Scooby-Doo Team-Up writer Sholly Fisch is experimenting with time travel, at least in these next two issues, so I'd not be surprised if after issue 8, they wind up in the old west and meet Quick Draw McGraw.......!

I'm not digging Aguirre-Sacasa's take on Sabrina, but I share your curiosity in re.: Archie's Weird Mysteries. I guess there was a sort of embargo preventing Sabrina, who had her own cartoon on ABC/UPN, coupled with her live-action sitcom, from appearing, though they could've used her help quite a bit.