By Gray Morrow, Alex Toth, Frank Thorne, Marvin Channing, Vicente Alacazar, Dick Giordano, Howard Chaykin, Dan DeCarlo, Jim DeCarlo, Bill Yoshida, Frank Doyle, Jon D’Agostino, Stan Goldberg, Mario Acquavia, Don Glut, Phil Seuling, Carole Seuling, Larry Hama, Rudy Lapick, Steve Skeates, Mary Skrenes, Ed Davis, T. Casey Brennan, Carlos Pino, Henry Scarpelli, Bruce Jones, Jack Morelli, Victor Gorelick, Vincent Lovallo
With news that the show based on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is speeding along, it’s only natural to wonder about Archie Comics’s horror legacy. Luckily, there’s a conveniently timed collection for your curiosity. Chilling Adventures in Sorcery is the first time these stories have been packaged together in a single book, providing an interesting look at the evolution of the series over time. While some are noticeably dated, the collection is still satisfying to those who appreciate the horror anthology comics of the ’70s and their history.
Chilling Adventures in Sorcery begins in a similar format to the popular Creepy magazine. It’s first two issues are narrated by Sabrina, recounting tales shared by her aunts. Of course in a family of witches, these aren’t normal bedtime stories. Filled with all manner of ghouls and monsters, they usually have some type of twist or terrifying end for their protagonists. Drawn in the recognizable and clean Archie style, they have an innocent quality to them that only makes the scares much more frightening. It’s one thing to have a comedic-looking witch at her cauldron, it’s something else entirely to see a teenage boy disgustingly melt into a shambling corpse. These are probably the best parts of the collection, with plenty of ironic humor and monster tropes to make any classic horror fan happy.
Issues #3-7 of Chilling Adventures in Sorcery (changed to Red Circle Sorcery for the last book collected here) are much more akin to standard horror anthologies of the time. Deciding to get rid of Sabrina and the role of narrator entirely, it shifted to having realistic art and more gruesome elements at the cost being unique. While these stories are much more text-heavy, they also have their own quirky character to like. Entries like “Suicide…Maybe” contain chuckle-inducing lines such as, “They call me Satan!” while others like “The Benefactor” have a quiet, solemn nature to them. Overall, it’s an appealing smorgasbord of approaches to similar themes.
A wide range of talent was involved in bringing these hair-raising comics to fruition, including Man-Thing co-creator Gray Morrow and Space Ghost creator Alex Toth. In the later issues, their art carries the narrative, creating a much more grisly mood to match the tone. Interconnected and overlapping pages such as in Morrow’s “Haunted Gallery” portray feelings of panic and apprehension to great effect, inspiring a loss of control in the reader. These moments make the way artists are attributed in the opening pages of the collection a little odd, choosing not to directly associate them with the issue(s) they worked on. Morrow and others sign their work in their stories, but the creative teams of the ones narrated by Sabrina do not. This can be a little irritating when trying to find their other work or more about them in general.
Covers of the issues are unfortunately not colored like they were originally published, instead opting for a more unified look in black and white. For those interested, the first two issues also have remastered lettering by Jack Morelli which blends in perfectly with the older-looking format. The collection does raise the question of why the four missing issues of the series weren’t packaged in, as it seems this will be a singular release. However, even with this omission what’s included is still worth it.
Chilling Adventures in Sorcery is an interesting trip down memory lane for a niche of horror history. While modern readers won’t be wowed compared to the current Archie Horror lineup, it’s still recommended for fans of the scary comics of old. Whether it’s through menacing undertones or bluntly used tropes, the majority of the stories are just spooky, campy fun.