Sabrina the Teenage Witch #78

I’m astounded, in a good way, at what this comic is teaching its readers.

Sabrina, her boyfriend, her best friend, and the best friend’s boyfriend are plotting to overthrow their government. And this is shown as a good thing, because the authorities are lying to the public, keeping important secrets from them, and need to be stopped for the good of the realm.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch #78 cover
Sabrina the Teenage
Witch #78

I suspect writer and artist Tania del Rio is drawing from the manga tradition of stories about girls with previously unknown magical powers saving an empire in a fantasy kingdom — it’s just that her girl hero knows all about her abilities. In fact, there have been hints that she’s more powerful than anyone suspects.

Boyfriend Shinji knows that the accepted history, about Four Blades Day commemorating the capture and imprisonment of four traitors, is untrue, because his parents were two of the four martyrs. They weren’t traitors but loyalists, killed to prevent them revealing the queen’s secret. And how strange is that, to live in a place where your parents’ death is a national holiday?

There’s a whole page of the teacher going on about the official history while Sabrina thinks to herself what the true story is. It’s a direct lesson about the fallibility of authority and the need to think for oneself that concludes with Sabrina getting righteously angry about being lied to.

After a magical battle (the requisite power scene), the four teens commit to plans that will ensure, as Sabrina thinks on the last page, “nothing will ever be the same again.” They’re plotting treason in the great American tradition. And this is a kids’ comic.

13 Responses to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch #78”

  1. Kiki Says:

    Sabrina is one of the few books I look forward to each issue. And isn’t it strange that a book that is firmly in the shojo tradition manages to use thought balloons, flashbacks, subplots, and footnotes in a manner that should appeal to those fans who have been complaining about the “mainstream’s” lack of such? Tania del Rio has really come up with a storyline that should appeal to a broad array of fans, so how come you and Tony Isabella seem to be the only ones who mention it?
    Issue #79 puts the 4 Blades on the backburner, but sets up some new plots, adds some detail to some old storylines and delivers a cute Halloween story. I thought it worked well. What’s your opinion?

  2. Johanna Says:

    I suspect no one else reads it for a combination of reasons: Archie comics are seen as girly, and there’s still a relative lack of female voices in comics. There are even fewer who cover all ages or kids’ books. A lot of people stick to what they’ve been reading for a long while or read as kids, which for most is superheroes.

    I don’t think I’ve read #79 yet — I’m a little behind. I’ll have to look for it, thanks.

  3. david brothers Says:

    I don’t know that Archie is seen as girly, per se, but probably more likely terminally “uncool.” It’s from an old era and people know it, like Miami Vice or the Beav.

  4. Lyle Says:

    I remember when Brian Cronin gave a good review to an early Sabrina comic. It inspired a bunch of comments that went along the lines of “Dude, you just publically said you liked a gurlz comic.”

    I have a hard time following Sabrina myself, if only because it still seems to be a title that falls under the radar at many comic shops. I think a bigger problem for the series isn’t that it’s percieved as a girls’ comic but that it’s percieved as a kids’ comic. I usually see it shelved with titles like Teen Titans Go, Sonic Adventures or other Archie comics. While that’s apt from a customer standpoint, those other titles aren’t as serialized as Sabrina (it’s not a big deal if you find TTG #16, 17, and 20 on the shelf) and, from what I’ve seen, that shelf doesn’t get the kind of attention a superhero title that sells out on the shelf copies gets.

    (This also comes at a time when I’m not as active a comics buyer, so I’m much more likely to miss out on comics that sell out on the shelf because I only go in once a month or so.)

  5. Johanna Says:

    But David, comics as a whole have been considreed uncool for years (until recently) — yet Archie titles seem specially singled out.

    Lyle, seems true enough. I applaud Archie experimenting with the manga style with this title, because it’s such a good match (especially since Tania is so good at it) — but it does set this title apart from the interchangeable nature of the rest of their books.

  6. david brothers Says:

    But David, comics as a whole have been considreed uncool for years (until recently) — yet Archie titles seem specially singled out.

    This is purely personal experience and anecdotal evidence, but I disagree. There’s been a vein of “Hurrr, comics nerds are fat!” for years, yeah, but I don’t think that comics themselves were ever uncool.

    Case in point– I grew up (am growing up?) lower middle class, black, and in the south. I loved comics as a kid and I loved rap, and thought it awesome that so many rap artists made comic references. Not even nerd rap artists, mind. Something like 5 or 6 out of the 9 original members of the Wu-Tang Clan adopted comic nicknames, and ones based entirely out of Marvel at that. Ghostface and Method Man, two stars who are definitely big name, still use “Tony Starks” and “Johnny Blaze” (respectively) as aliases, and Ghostface used clips from an Iron Man toon as interludes on a (classic) album.

    Moving in to more recent times, Minnesota’s rap group “Atmosphere” mentioned in a song that “growing up, hip-hop and comic books were my genesis.”

    So, at least in my experience, comics have never been uncool. Certain comics have been uncool, such as Archie (though I realize now that you may be using Archie as an umbrella term for the entire company, not just the adventures of Betty, Veronica, & co), but never comics as a whole.

    All that aside, though, I honestly believe that they’re singled out because of their… datedness, if I can invent a word? They’re probably about as cool to kids as Showcase Superman or Essential Spectacular Spidey.

    It presents this other world where everyone acts nice, or acts mean once and feels really bad about it. A lot of people today (me, I guess?) can’t really connect with that, so Archie feels like fluff comics, granddad comics, uncool comics.

    Like I say, though, this is all anecdotal. I don’t think that Archie books, save for the obvious ones, are seen as girly. It’s just a combination of characters holding a certain naivete and the Leave It to Beaver/Brady Bunch atmosphere turning off kids/adults.

    I’m curious, has Archie ever had a fully multicultural/modern day series (or even revamping, Crisis-style), where they dress like people do these days? I’m wondering how successfully that goes over. In fact, I’m also wondering how The Punisher Kills Archie crossover went over some years back.

  7. Johanna Says:

    At one point, comics were visual shorthand for “stupid” or “sub-intelligent” or “immature for their age”, so yeah, they were definitely considered uncool as a whole. You may be too young to remember what us oldies suffered through, whippersnapper! :)

    Very interesting hearing your background. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. ~chris Says:

    If my teenage niece hadn’t asked for del Rio’s first Sabrina issue, I would never have picked the title up. Yes, the target audience is girls, and it is often “girly,” but I’m a 44-year-old man and I’m thoroughly enjoying this series (though not as much as my niece is).

    Issue #78 was very good, but I thought the first “Four Blades Day” story (#69 I think) was outstanding. In the first story, the two versions were shown visually– a “history” flashback intertwined with the true flashback. It was an exceptional use of the medium.

    I got the impression that Sabrina doesn’t know the extent of her abilities. She seems to be even more powerful than she herself realizes.

  9. david brothers Says:

    Very interesting hearing your background. Thanks for sharing it.

    Well, I write for a living, and if there’s one thing I don’t write about enough, it’s me!

    I kid. Probably.

    But, yeah. My first comics were Amazing Spidey 316 and 317 (1988? 1989?), so I basically got into the industry a few years before Image hit and before speculation made comics hilariously profitable and then hilariously worthless. I guess that does make me a fresh young turk in the blah-blah-blogosphere!

  10. Chris Galdieri Says:

    “But David, comics as a whole have been considreed uncool for years (until recently) — yet Archie titles seem specially singled out.”

    I’ve long suspected that those who belong to groups considered uncool are fanatical about whatever gradiations of coolness there may be within their particular group.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Please don’t mistake a desire for accurate analysis and classification (created in my case in grad school) for fanaticism. In the same way, genre placement isn’t a putdown (another common misunderstanding).

  12. Fortress Keeper Says:

    I’ve read comics off and on for about thirty years and while I’m still addicted to DC and Marvel, the rest of my family reads and enjoys Archie Comics.

    Sonic Adventures, which can be a real hoot, is even written in the style of an old Marvel comic with footnotes from the editor and continuing sub-plots.

    As for Sabrina, it’s everything I wish the current Supergirl title would be. Tania Del Rio is putting out one of the best books around right now!

  13. Hannah Harpley Says:

    the best show ever
    so should go back on tv!!
    love Han




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