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Review: ‘The Complete Sabrina The Teenage Witch Vol.1: 1962-1972′

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The Complete Sabrina The Teenage Witch: 1962-1972
Writers: George Gladir, Frank Doyle, Dick Malmgren and others
Aritsts: Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick, Bob White and others
Archie Comics; $9.99

Because of the peculiar, frozen-in-amber aspect of Archie Comics’ teenage protagonists—which means that a kid today can read Archie Comics and get the same basic story that their parents, grandparents and maybe even great-grandparents got, with only the fashion and technology dating the content—sometimes the most interesting eras of the comics are the earliest, wherein the characters and their associated conceits are still taking shape.

SabrinaTheTeenageWitch-CompleteCollection-717x1024That’s certainly the case with Sabrina, a relative latecomer to the Riverdale gang, as this first volume of a complete collection introduces us to the teenage witch in a short, George Gladir-written, Dan DeCarlo-drawn five-page strip, but it takes years and hundreds of pages before some of the more familiar elements enter into Sabrina’s comics.

That first strip shows that, visually, Sabrina was pretty much fully-formed from the start: Pale, white-blond hair with a black hairband, freckles, an upturned nose, and a typically curvy DeCarlo girl figure. She had a little black cat familiar named Salem, and she had to keep her mischievous magic secret from the world. Everything else was still evolving.

In fact, the table of contents is rather revealing, as it breaks down the over 500 pages worth of stories year by year. In 1962, there was just that original strip. The rest of the 1960s saw only a handful of stories per year, averaging about four strips, and then when 1970 hits, the Sabrina content explodes, and she starts earning her own titles and dozens of appearances per year (1971, incidentally, is the year she first got her own television show, an animated series on CBS).

Her supporting cast quite gradually takes shape. At first she answered to a head witch and received advice and assistance from a “Fairy Witch Mother” named Greta. Greta became Hilda, and then Hilda became her aunt, who Sabrina lived with, and was a constant source of tension, as Hilda was a traditional Halloween witch, who didn’t like Sabrina’s “ugly” looks, her reluctance to do bad deeds, or her “weird” friends. Eventually she receives her second aunt in Zelda and a recurring love interest in Harvey, although other wacky relatives and normal teen boys show up before them.

In rather marked difference to her more recent adventures—as in, the last few decades—Sabrina interacted with Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie on a fairly regular basis, being something of a fixture in their gang.

Through all these changes that ultimately result in a Sabrina that will be familiar to kids of the last two generations, the constants include short, humor-focused stories in which Sabrina’s attempts to work magic usually cause some sort of mischief, the generation gap disagreements over a witch’s place in the modern world, and, of course, tons of great artwork.

For older readers, this is a treasure trove of some of the all-time great Archie artists, including not only DeCarlo, but also Stan Goldberg, Bob Bolling, Joe Sinnot, Harry Lucey, and others. There’s also a surprising spectrum of styles employed; Archie Comics traditionally gets a lot of grief for how stylistically static their artwork can look over the years, but that’s not the case here, with Bill Kresse providing some incredibly cartoony, highly stylized work in the late 1960s that is in sharp contrast to the more familiar Archie house style.

Brick-thick, digest-sized, black-and-white, and relatively cheap at just $9.99, this is a pretty perfect summer read, whether one is meeting Sabrina for the first time or is a long-time fan who wants to see where the character played by Melissa Joan Hart, drawn by Tania del Rio, and currently causing trouble in the pages of Jughead came from.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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