Right now, Hollywood’s motto seems to be, “so many comic books, so little time.” It feels like every week another adaptation of a graphic novel (or a re-adaptation of an adaptation) is announced, and Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina is just the latest in this trend. Based on the comics of the same name, the show is a drastic (and dark) departure from beloved '90s series Sabrina The Teenage Witch — notably because of one of the show’s eeriest characters, Ms. Wardwell. Interestingly, Ms. Wardwell’s role in the Sabrina comics is hard to spot — mostly because it isn’t there.
According to Variety, the new Chilling Adventures character is “Sabrina’s favorite teacher and mentor at Baxter High," but when she's possessed by the Devil’s handmaiden, Madam Satan, things take a twisted turn: Ms. Wardwell becomes "a sultry, cunning manipulator, always trying to lure Sabrina down the Path of Night.” Sounds mildly terrifying, no?
But while Ms. Wardwell isn't directly from the comics, she does seem to be based on someone that is. Per Nerdist, Madam Satan got her start in the '40s Pep Comics series and was brought back in The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. She used to date Sabrina’s dad, Edward, but he left her for Sabrina's mother Diana. And hoo boy, was Madam Satan angry about that! She probably should have just channeled those feelings into a bad romantic comedy, a pint of ice cream, and a new haircut, but instead she vowed revenge.
After a trip to and from hell, she came back to the mortal world to target the one person that means the most to Edward and Diana — Sabrina — took the form of Evangeline Porter, aka Sabrina’s favorite teacher at Baxter High, in order to weasel her way into the young half-witch's life. In Netflix's The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, Mary Wardwell is basically Evangeline Porter, just with a new name. The gist is the same — Madam Satan takes over Ms. Wardwell’s body to keep tabs on Sabrina, this time to ensure that she signs her soul over to the Dark Lord. There could be a revenge element, of course, but viewers won’t know that until the series is available for streaming.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the creator of both the Chilling Adventures comic books and the Netflix show, so presumably, he had a good reason for changing Evangeline Porter’s name to Mary Wardwell. Maybe star Michelle Gomez didn’t like it, or perhaps Wardwell’s motivations for watching Sabrina so closely are a little different than Porter’s. Either way, Madam Satan is behind the creepy machinations of both ladies, and Sabrina is going to need all the help she can get to outmaneuver them.
In the comics, Riverdale, where Archie and his gang live, and Greendale, where Sabrina and her friends live, are very close by, and Sabrina calls on Betty and Veronica for some help when the going gets tough. Could Wardwell be what eventually brings the worlds of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina together? Taking her down will probably require the efforts of both towns.