TV and comics fans who are familiar only with Melissa Joan Harts sunny 90s take on Sabrina the teenage witch—or her squeaky-clean 60s comic-book alter ego—may feel skeptical about Netflixs dark, horror-filled version of the story, which debuts October 26. But the truth of the matter is that this new on-screen iteration of Greendales blondest, most magical teen is actually many, many degrees tamer than the Sabrina haunting the pages of Archie Comics publications. In fact, theres a whole host of horrors on the page that may never make it to your screens.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack, may look like a retro throwback—but it was launched in 2014 as a companion of sorts to an extremely popular Archie zombie comic called Afterlife with Archie. Aguirre-Sacasas gruesome take on the malt-sipping residents of Riverdale was such a smash hit in the comic world that he was quickly named chief creative officer of Archie Comics. He parlayed his ambitions for the company into first show-running Riverdale, and now Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—an even more direct adaptation of his own book. The comic version is only eight slim issues, and Aguirre-Sacasa abruptly halted the story in October 2017—just one month after the TV adaptation was announced. Perhaps Aguirre-Sacasa decided he wanted to save any bright Sabrina ideas for her new home at Netflix.
When Aguirre-Sacasa first conceived of Chilling Adventures, he set the action in the 1960s to further distance it from the horrors of Afterlife with Archie—in which a more modern version of Sabrina has her own role to play. This period setting prompted Aguirre-Sacasa to draw on the likes of Rosemarys Baby, The Omen, and more to inspire his blood-soaked plotlines. It also meant that some of the more progressive issues that Aguirre-Sacasa usually explores got somewhat buried: in book form, Chilling Adventures is extremely white, and and Sabrinas Patricia Highsmith-reading cousin Ambrose is merely coded as gay.
But in this new Netflix series, Aguirre-Sacasa tries to have his demonic cake and eat it too. The show still looks like its set in the 60s—even though it takes place in the modern day. Issues of sexuality, gender, and racial identity all have a part to play. But the show occasionally runs into trouble as it tries to mine the ghoulish world of Satanism and sacrifice, while also softening the go-for-broke horror of the comic. Kiernan Shipkas version of Sabrina is much sweeter than the comics Sabrina; her aunts dietary habits are less grisly; and, as far as I can tell, any whiff of undead incest (oh yeah!) has been bleached out of the new show. But if its cannibalism or the most taboo will-they, wont-they romance youre after, here are 10 crazy Chilling Adventures comic plots (and one bonus palate cleanser) that will likely never make it to Netflix.
Hilda and Zelda Are Cannibals—and They May Not Be the Only Ones: When Sabrinas aunts move her to a new home in Greendale, they pick a plum spot right across the street from the cemetery—the better to midnight snack, I suppose. The aunts make references throughout the comics to sweetbreads (a.k.a. organs) and other human delicacies, prompting Sabrinas droll cousin Ambrose to remark on their not-so-subtle taste for human flesh. Are the aunties sparing Sabrina the blood and flesh they so eagerly dish up? Well, theres no indication she eats differently than they do when at home—so perhaps shes a fine, young cannibal, too.
Betty and Veronica Are Witches: Its a shame, really, that the Netflix version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina wont cross over with Riverdale anytime soon, because the comics witchy version of these two iconic characters is really a sight to behold. Artist Robert Hack has a lot of fun with these girls in their immaculate cheer uniforms, busting out their finest dance moves in order to conjure ghosts and ghouls and demons. In the Sabrina comic, Betty and Veronica may also be just as gay as many of their fans have long wished them to be.
What Sabrinas Dad Did to Sabrinas Mom: In both the 90s sitcom and the new Netflix series, the question of Sabrinas parentage is treated as something of a romantic affair. Her father, Edward, a warlock, fell in love with her mother, Diana, a mortal, and defied convention to produce Sabrina, who winds up caught between two worlds. Not so in the comics, where Edward is considered the books biggest threat to Sabrinas well-being. He married Diana in order to further his own power-hungry goals of creating an heir that would please his master. (That would be Satan.) Once Diana gave birth and learned what her husband intended, he drove her mad and had her locked up in an insane asylum. Not quite the Romeo and Juliet of the witching world.
Ann-Margret Is a Witch, and More: Because the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic is set in the 1960s, the pop-culture references are a bit dated. The implication that Swedish-American Bye Bye Birdie star Ann-Margret is a witch, however, is one of the more modern references in the books. Aguirre-Sacasa cited Neil Gaimans comic-book opus The Sandman as an inspiration for his new take on Sabrina. Gaiman took delight in weaving literary figures and mythological plots into his stories of gods and mortals, and so Aguirre-Sacasa, taking a page from Gaiman, also included some Rudyard Kipling yarns in his saga—and gave Salem the cats backstory a familiar Arthur Miller twist.
Thats right: Chilling Adventures expects you to keep up with the 17th century witch trials illustrated in The Crucible, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and Bye Bye Birdie. Dont worry, the Netflix show wont be nearly so demanding.
The Devil Eats Salems Baby: What are literary references if not an excuse to have some fun? Salem—who was a randy little jerk named Samuel before he was transformed into a cat—accidentally knocks up The Crucible villain Abigail Williams, and—twist!—she and her accusatory Puritan friends wind up really being witches themselves. (We should note that Williams was also a real-life figure, as well as a character in Millers play.) When Samuel betrays her, Abigail gives their unborn baby up to the Devil . . . and, well, theres a theme of cannibalism in this book, so you can see where things go from there.
Harvey Gets Eaten: Not content to simply throw cold water on any romanticism involving the Spellman parents, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also comes for the teen love story between Harvey Kinkle and Sabrina. After stumbling upon a witchy ritual in the woods, poor, dopey Harvey gets eaten by some of the more ruthless member of the coven. And fairly early, I might add. Well, chilling is right there in the title!
Harvey Devours His Family, Too: Harveys chewed-up body doesnt stay in the ground for long. His girlfriend is a witch, after all. But as is often the case in stories about resurrections (or should be, at least), Harvey comes back wrong. Specifically, his body is now host to Sabrinas villainous father, Edward, who was trapped in a hell dimension by her aunts. When Edward-as-Harvey returns, he is famished—and the poor, unsuspecting Kinkles are first on the menu.
Sabrina Rides a Goat: I just thought we needed a palate cleanser. Sabrina rides both a goat and broomstick in the comic, and its fun and cute and witchy. But that might look strange in the live-action series—so, sorry, this probably wont make the cut.
Madam Satan Feeds Herself to the Lions: Sigh, back to this. We havent mentioned Madam Satan yet. In the Netflix series, her counterpart is played by the impressively daffy Michelle Gomez (Green Wing, Doctor Who)—but in the comics, shes a much grislier figure. Having lost her face somewhere along the way (lets blame the lions!), Edwards spurned lover comes back from the dead (thanks, Betty and Veronica!) to mess with Sabrinas life. For much of the comic, her face is a hellish arrangement of raw bones—though shes been known to steal other faces when she needs to blend in. Shes something of a twisted guardian angel to Sabrina in the show, but in the comics shes second only to Edward when it comes to villainy. And if you cant take someone who feeds themselves to a pack of lions after being dumped, who can you?
Edward Spellman Has the Hots for His Daughter: Yep, saved the worst for last. This is worse than cannibalism, right? Though the comic stops just short of going through with it, Edward, when in the body of Harvey, is sorely tempted to hook up with his teenage daughter. In fact, Sabrina—who has no idea shes not talking to the real Harvey—is only prevented from making a very regrettable decision by a disgusted Jughead—who, passing by, urges the two to get a room.
__Speaking of Jughead . . . __ Honestly, if you think Chilling Adventures sounds dark, you should check out Afterlife with Archie. In a fun, mystical-mental crossover, Sabrina gets a glimpse of that comic when she stops hitting on her father long enough to look at the passing Jughead, and sees a flash of him in all his Afterlife glory. Pretty gnarly, right? Eat your heart out, Cole Sprouse.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Joanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.