Archie Andrew’s world has always been elastic, containing the working-class tough guys of the original comic, the white-bread idealized Riverdalers of the 1950s, The X-Files-like adventurers of the turn-of-the-millennium cartoon, and the reinvented millennials of the 2000-teens. It has even included practising witches with supernatural powers. Josie's rival, Alexandra was originally such a creature, though her powers were later retconned out of existence. More famously, Arch and the Gang have attended classes with Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Sabrina first appeared in 1962, a creation of George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo. She was a spoofy feature in Archie Comics' Mad-inspired title, Mad house (first appearance: #22). Sabrina, in this incarnation, did not yet connect with the rest of Riverdale1. She was also a far more mischievous character than she later became, and used her magic to bring about certain high school mysteries and miseries: the unlikely fumble that loses the game, the mismatched pair who tumble into a relationship. She reappeared from time to time, along with her cat, Salem, and her aunts, who looked and dressed like conventional Halloween witches. Sabrina was finally revealed as a neighbor of Archie, Reggie, and the others in Archie's TV Laugh-Out (1969), where she became a leading feature. Her aunts' appearance went unnoticed by the residents of Riverdale; perhaps everyone was just too polite to comment.
Her popularity led to a Saturday morning cartoon in the 1969/1970 season. It failed to find a large enough audience, but Sabrina continued on TV throughout the early 70s, a back-up feature in various Archie cartoons and on The Groovy Goolies, whose bizarre characters she referred to as "cousins."
In 1971, she finally received her own title. In both the comics and the TV shows, an interesting phenomenon occurred. While the Riverdale teens are clearly shown as her friends in her own stories, she almost never appears or even merits mention in theirs. No doubt, the presence of a girl with supernatural powers (even though her abilities are a secret) would have been problematic in the more conventional Archie tales. In the early 1970s, the editorial staff also may have had concerns about offending fans brought to Archie through the then-current Spire Christian Comics, where the familiar Riverdale characters are all evangelical Christians.
In 1972 the teenage witch hosted Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Archie's foray into the recently-resurrected horror comics genre. It lasted two issues. In 1977, she rematerialized into Saturday morning as Sabrina, Superwitch. The show did not succeed, and her comic was eventually cancelled. Sabrina continued to appear as a back-up character in various titles, and headlined a number of holiday specials.
In 1996, Melissa Joan Hart appeared as Sabrina in a made-for-tv movie. It was set in Riverdale, though the other Archie characters did not appear.
Her aunts now resembled conventional middle-aged women; her cat, Salem, was a sorcerer condemned to wear a cat's form for a period of time, as punishment for misdeeds. The following year, the same cast appeared in a very successful Sabrina the Teenage Witch show. It captured a young audience with its comedy, moral lessons, and cynical talking cat. The setting, interestingly, is no longer Riverdale, but a nearby town named Greendale. The show continued into the twenty-first century, with Sabrina reaching adulthood and entering the workforce. The success of the show led to new cartoons. Sabrina: the Animated Series chronicled Sabrina's childhood adventures. This represents a retcon, since the pilot movie had her only learn of her magic powers and witch heritage as a teenager. It was followed by Sabrina's Secret Life, which lasted three seasons.
The show also waved a new Sabrina comic into existence, which often featured Hart on the cover, and incorporated elements of the show into the stories. Sabrina moved to Greendale (which is, however, near Riverdale), and developed a spell to transform her aunts into reasonable facsimiles of the actresses on the TV show. Salem reveals he is something akin to the character on the show. This comic has outlasted the series, and in 2006, took a new direction. Starting with issue #58, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was drawn "manga" style to tap into the popularity of Japanese comics. That incarnation lasted until 2009.
In 2013, an alternate-reality Sabrina set off the plot in Afterlife with Archie, while 2014 saw the release of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a darker, more Gothic version of the character. Chilling... takes place in the 1960s and features a character more in line with the original Mad House version, but written with a darker, more adult sensibility, and significant period occultism.
In 2018, Netflix began filming a series based on the more mature comic, starring Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as the titular Ms. Spellman.
With decades of history behind her, it appears that Archie's teen witch will be reinvented in pop culture for some time.
1.Archie and Betty, however, appear on a background television in the first story.
Paul Castiglia. "Ask the Archivist: Sabrina." Archie Website. http://www.archiecomics.com/acpaco_offices/askthearchivist/ask_june.htm
Don Markstein. "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." Toonopedia. http://www.toonopedia.com/sabrina.htm
Shawn Patti. "Sabrina Gets Manga Makeover." Silver Bullet Comics. http://www.archiecomics.com/temp.html
"Sabrina." The WB Shows.