Why People Need to Stop Comparing ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ to ‘Sabrina The Teenage Witch’

Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina next to Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina

As we anxiously await the premiere of Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale” I wanted to make a point of addressing something I have seen popping up a lot, the comparison on the 90’s sitcom “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” and the new Netflix series “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” The tipping point for me came in an argument in the comments of a “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” meme posted by Blumhouse’s Ryan Turek about a month ago where he argued with a commenter that the series was simply a shift in tone and style, and while to some degree he is right, it goes deeper than that. While both series are rooted in the same characters and similar storylines, it’s unfair to compare the two because they aren’t using the same source material.

The “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” television series, which aired from 1996 – 2003 and starred Melissa Joan Hart, was based on the comic book series of the same name. Originally published by Archie Comics in the 70’s and 80’s the series set the stage for all future iterations of the Sabrina character. The comics told of the adventures of Sabrina Spellman, a “half-witch,” born of a mortal woman and witch father who lives with her two aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman and witch-turned-cat-familiar Salem.

The “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” comics took place in the same universe as the classic Archie comics and thus shared that same vanilla/bubblegum feel the Archie comics were known for. Sabrina used her magic to navigate the day-to-day trials of being a teenager, but events taking place were never dark so much as playful when it came to her magic. The 90’s television series used this as its source material, which is what lent itself so well to being adapted as a sitcom.

Fast forward to 2014, and the character and story of Sabrina would be re-imagined in comic form in a much darker storyline thanks to the success of the 2013 release of “Afterlife With Archie,” which helped launch Archie Horror, a TEEN+ line of comics that has gone on to reimagine Archie characters Sabrina Spellman, Jughead Jones, and most recently Veronica Lodge as “Vampironica.” The Archie Horror line puts characters from the Archie universe in alternate realities that are, as you can guess by the name, more horror driven. Sabrina is surrounded by the same cast of characters, but this time she lives in a mortuary and the world around her is a lot darker and a lot more evil thanks to the influence of the Church of Night on both her and her family.

The Netflix series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is derived from this universe. In fact, the series was created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the writer behind the Archie Horror comic. Though there are deviations from the comic in the Netflix series, its dark, occult roots all stem from this universe and not the one depicted in the “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” comic or television adaptations.

One reason many may feel let down by the Netflix series is that the media kept classifying the series as a “reboot” or “remake” when really it was a different series entirely. While the comic series and subsequently the show are derived from the bubbly Sabrina Spellman made famous by Melissa Joan Hart in the 90’s, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” deserves to be judged on its own since it was born of a different storyline and universe altogether. As commenter llarsofthestars so eloquently stated on Ryan Turek’s Instagram post, “u gotta stop letting nostalgia get in the way of new things.”

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