You may know her from the popular sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Netflix’s new drama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, or the comic books those shows were based on, but now Archie Comics is ready to introduce a new Sabrina on March 27.
Following a successful year of her Netflix series and supporting role in Nick Spencer’s Archie run, Archie Comics is launching a new Sabrina the Teenage Witch limited series with writer Kelly Thompson and artist Veronica Fish at the helm. This will be a modern exploration of the character that will have something for every type of Sabrina fan.
Newsarama had a chance to talk to the creative team about what readers can expect from the title. We discuss Kelly and Veronica’s introduction to the Sabrina franchise, the look and inspiration behind their modern version of Sabrina, and the most important question of them all - if Salem will be a talking cat in their take of the series.
Newsarama: Kelly, what can you tell us about your version of Sabrina?
Kelly Thompson: I think she’s very much in the spirit of the Sabrinas we have seen through the years just updated for a modern era and hopefully with a few creative reinventions to keep everyone on their toes. Sabrina is smart and a little bit mischievous, she’s talented and kind and funny, but there’s also a bit of darkness that clings to her - it’s a fascinating mix.
Nrama: What type of series will this be - a slice of life, comedy, mystery?
Thompson: I think I’d describe it as comedy horror? We’ve used Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a descriptor since Buffy really helped define the high school comedy horror genre - we’re definitely trying to play in that world. Admittedly can be a razor’s edge to balance…but I think Sabrina is perfect for that kind of treatment and it’s a genre I’m super fond of. I hope it will be magical.
Nrama: Did you pitch the story or did Archie come to you?
Thompson: Archie asked me to pitch, but it was actually quite a while ago – back in 2017 I think – and then I got the call this past fall from Alex Segura that they wanted to do it. It was an awesome surprise.
Nrama: Veronica, what made you want to return to the Archie universe and tackle Sabrina?
Veronica Fish: She's actually the character I have the most affection for in the Archie universe, after Jughead. I was also a big fan of the Melissa Joan Hart show growing up, so it was an intriguing opportunity. The chance to work with my husband Andy on the art is also exciting, he's my favorite person to collaborate with and having his support makes the end result even better.
Nrama: Have you taken anything from the cartoon, sitcom, or Netflix show to help you build your own world of Sabrina?
Thompson: I think we draw on all of those things a little bit in order to get that authenticity - to make sure we feel like Sabrina. At the same time, you don’t want to be derivative of other takes - you gotta cut your own path and do your own thing - and especially in the case of Chilling Adventures - both the comic and the show - they’re fantastic and the last thing they need is us glomming on to them. I hope this is something a little different and can be enjoyed both by fans of Chilling Adventures and also fans that feel that take is a bit dark.
Nrama: How do you visually show Sabrina’s powers?
Fish: We are coming up with a "spell" style panel and word balloon, so it's got multi-person input. We'll see what Jack Morelli comes up with - he's the best letterer in the business. As for the art, I'm looking at how Hayo Miyazaki handles magic in Kiki's Delivery Service and Ryoichi Ikegami's Mai the Psychic Girl for inspiration.
Nrama: What’s the balance between the supernatural and regular teenage antics?
Thompson: Percentage wise? I can’t say for certain but it’s probably about 50/50?
Nrama: What’s Sabrina’s dynamic with her aunts and classmates like?
Thompson: Sabrina is new to Greendale so she’s dealing with all the classic new girl hurdles - mean girls, cute boys, making friends, finding your place, understanding a complex high school political hierarchy. Sabrina is very close with Hilda, who has a softer and more loving demeanor and close with Zelda, but with a frostier outer shell.
Nrama: Besides Sabrina’s aunts and Salem, will we see other supernatural supporting cast members for Sabrina?
Thompson: Yes! But I can’t say more without giving too much away!
Nrama: How did you come up with the looks for Sabrina and her supporting cast?
Fish: I came across a photo of Noreen Carmody with a perfect bob haircut and started drawing her over and over. Eventually it morphed into the current version. Then from that point you just do tons of variations on faces, jumping off different points. What shapes haven't I drawn yet? What will make all these people feel specific? Then they kind of grow organically. Andy and I are going to add in lots of people from our real life which is always a pleasure.
Nrama: Which character is your favorite to draw?
Nrama: Now the most important question of them all, does Salem talk?
Thompson: He talks and he’s sarcastic as hell. I love him.
Nrama: What’s it like drawing Salem? How do you bring your own flare to a character who also so happens to be a cat?
Fish: Salem is the best. We want Salem to look like he's being drawn by an animator, so it's a challenge but really fun just the same.
Nrama: How did your collaboration with each other come to be?
Thompson: Veronica has done terrific work for Archie already so Archie were keen on her for this book right away and while I knew she’d be great it was actually looking at her book Blackwood with husband Andy Fish that convinced me they’d be perfect for this book.
Nrama: What’s your collaborative process? Do you talk a lot to each other about certain panels or let the script speak for itself?
Thompson: I write a pretty tight script, especially when I’m working with a new collaborator. In my experience, the more we know each other, the more those scripts and our process will continue to evolve and loosen up. But even when I’ve turned in a tight script, I always want the artist to bring themselves to it. Collaboration is key, and most times an artist’s idea of how to execute a visual is better than your own way anyway.
Fish: Kelly writes out the script with full panel descriptions, but I think Andy and I have license to expand on certain things when we have an idea for something. For example, we added in a kid sleeping in class who stays asleep no matter what happens (that just made us laugh) and we designed all of Sabrina's house and the rooms. Andy and I do the layouts together, then after those are approved Andy will begin laying in the perspective lines on tricky panels and I begin drawing. Andy will help me with anything that needs fixing during inking and he'll start on color flats and I'll do the color finishes. Then it's off to Jack for lettering and on to the next issue!
Nrama: What was your first exposure to Sabrina? Was it the sitcom, the cartoon, the comics, or the new Netflix series?
Thompson: Archie Comics were literally the first comics I ever read when I was a kid, so I’ve been reading Sabrina going all the way back. I know the sitcom and the cartoon but not as deeply and the new Chilling Adventures comics are absolutely a brilliant reinvention and the Netflix show is doing a great job from what I’ve seen of capturing that.
Fish: We don't have Netflix so we actually haven't seen any of the new show, just photo stills.
Nrama: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes place in the 60’s. Did you want to make this a period piece as well or give Sabrina a new modern flare?
Thompson: I think for the kind of story we’re telling - and also in order to separate ourselves from the Chilling Adventures stories - to not get in their way - it was important that we keep our Sabrina modern.
Fish: All the fashion I visualize for the characters is very 90s but I think it's pretty modern.
Nrama: As of right now this is a limited series, but do you want to see Sabrina as an ongoing title?
Thompson: Of course. Sabrina deserves an ongoing…or at least a series of minis! I hope we’ll do right by her and she might get that.