Salem Saberhagen is a fictional character from the American Archie Comics comic series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Salem is an American Shorthair cat who lives with Sabrina Spellman, Hilda Spellman and Zelda Spellman in the fictional town of Greendale, located near Riverdale. A former witch, Salem was sentenced by the Witch's Council to spend 100 years as a cat, as punishment for trying to take over the world; the sitcom establishes this time frame to be a century. Salem first appeared alongside Sabrina in Archie's Mad House #22 in 1962, and was created by George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo.
|Sabrina the Teenage Witch character|
|First appearance||Archie's Mad House #22 (October 1962)|
|Created by||Dan DeCarlo|
|Voiced by||Dallas McKennon (Filmation series)|
Nick Bakay (Sitcom series, Sabrina: The Animated Series)
Maurice LaMarche (Sabrina's Secret Life)
Ian James Corlett (Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch)
|Species||American Shorthair cat, formerly a witch|
Morty Saberhagen (uncle)
Goliath Saberhagen (uncle)
Grandpappy Saberhagen (grandfather)
Grammy Saberhagen (grandmother)
Annabelle Saberhagen (daughter)
Morty Saberhagen (uncle)
Goliath Saberhagen (uncle)
Gummo Saberhagen (father)
Grandpappy Saberhagen (grandfather)
Grammy Saberhagen (grandmother)
Mrs. Saberhagen (mother)
|Powers||As a cat, possesses either limited or no magical abilities. As a witch, possessed a vast range of magical powers, including the ability to time travel, fly and shape-shift|
Earlier comics portray Salem as an ordinary orange-colored feline who does not speak. With the debut and success of the 1990s live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom, Salem's backstory and character underwent several retcons to bring it more in line with the sitcom's version. A late 1990s story initially revealed Salem was turned into a cat for standing up Enchantra, the Head Witch, at the altar. A similar version of events was presented in a 1990s live-action TV movie, where he was imprisoned in the form of a cat for attempting to use his magic to make a mortal love him. However, the comics eventually gave Salem a similar backstory to that shown in the sitcom and its spinoff, Sabrina: The Animated Series. Further details about Salem's past before his transformation into a cat were revealed in the 2000s manga-inspired version of the comic, written and drawn by Tania del Rio.
In the graphic novel Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Salem is given a more serious role to fit with the series' darker tone. In this version, Salem often acts as a conscience and voice of reason to Sabrina, criticizing her riskier or more impulsive plans.
In other mediaEdit
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (sitcom)Edit
Salem has a barbed wit and is often the first character to come up with the one-liners or obvious puns in a scene. In addition to world domination, his ambitious plotting often includes attempts to make millions, become a famous celebrity, regain his magical powers, and become human again. He sometimes dispenses (bad) advice to Sabrina, often involving using magic to solve a problem, which usually ends up leaving Sabrina with even more problems than with which she began. He is motivated mostly by his greed, hunger, and ambition. Salem is proud of his singing voice, which he has shown off during the series. Some of his favorite pastimes include playing with yarn, lint spotting, surfing the internet, and reading Sabrina's diary. In the early part of the series, Salem is seen feuding with the neighbor's cat, Fluffy. He has a liking for Lizard Flakes, a snack for cats which is said to be fattening and full of cholesterol. In the show's pilot, he made the remark to Sabrina that he misses being able to dance. In some episodes, Salem acts more like a cat than a human, as if he was really one all along.
Despite his mischief, greed, and egocentricity, he is shown in many episodes to genuinely love the Spellmans, especially Sabrina, and also is very fond of Harvey, to the point that he once expressed a wish that he would be best man at Harvey and Sabrina's wedding. Harvey learned Salem's true nature sometime around the end of high school, but prior to this Sabrina would occasionally use a 'Doctor Dolittle' spell that would allow Harvey to talk with Salem and believe there was nothing unusual about it when circumstances prompted Sabrina and her aunts to go away and Harvey was left in charge of Salem's care.
Salem is also known for his trademark sobbing when distressed.
Salem was a witch, sentenced by the Witch's Council to spend 100 years as a cat with no magical powers. In the original comic [depending on the story], he retains limited powers via incantations, but requires Sabrina's magic finger to enact them. In the series, he retains no powers and was sentenced as punishment for his attempt to take over the world. In the film, he was cursed to spend a century as a cat because he had kissed a mortal (because he had used his powers to impress them). At the beginning of the television series, he had already served 25 years. Salem generally serves as some of the show's comic relief, with his rapid fire jokes and deadpan manner. Despite his megalomaniacal desires for world domination, he is generally portrayed as having a good heart and being a loyal friend to Sabrina. In the series he would generally serve two roles: one as a mentor / "familiar" - commonly an animal that guides a young witch, for Sabrina, as she found it easier to go to him with her problems, or the trouble-maker in the episode, such as finding an illicit way to become human again without being punished (once becoming convinced that he would turn back into a human if he could be kissed by someone who loved him) or convincing Sabrina to use magic to solve her problems, both of which generally ended up putting Sabrina in even more trouble than before. He has shown on multiple occasions to deeply care about Sabrina; in the fourth season, when Sabrina left to live with her father in Paris, Salem missed her terribly and went so far as to start a civil war on Pluto in order to get her back to Westbridge. Salem supposedly erased the holiday "Bobunk", as said in Christmas Amnesia
The leaders of his attempted revolution were also turned into house pets. Newt, the pet of Hilda and Zelda's cousin Monty, was heavily involved with the scheme, for the promised reward of Denmark. Another follower, Duke (played by Dick Van Dyke), had a reduced sentence and was set free during the series, though Salem tried to use him to take over the world again. A talking guinea pig named Stonehenge ("Stony" for short) was introduced in the first made-for-television film, but whether or not he was ever human is unknown. Hilda was also one of Salem's followers; her punishment was to keep Salem free of worms during his period as a feline, although she was pardoned at the end of season five. During season one, Salem was visited by his parole officer, to whom he insisted that his reformation is under way, but he accidentally lets it slip that he still yearns for control of the planet. By the end of the series, Salem never did turn back into his human form, and a brief period where he was transferred into the body of one of Sabrina's classmates resulted in an extra seventy-five years being added to his sentence even after he turned himself in when he realized that Sabrina was to be punished for his actions.
Members of Salem's blood family include his daughter, Annabelle, whom Salem loves dearly but doesn't interact with much due to his shame about being a cat. Salem managed to make it to her wedding and performed all the duties of father of the bride that he could in his furry state. Salem is visited by his mother and initially dreads the impending visit as she is hypercritical. Upon her learning he is a cat, she cannot help but be delighted by how cute his new form is and pampered him to the point Sabrina missed her own mother and went to visit her. It is revealed later in the episode that Salem's mother was unknowingly allergic to cats. Another member is Salem's grandfather, who is a hobo riding the rails of an Other Realm train. According to Salem, Salem's grandmother claims he (Salem's grandfather) was lost at sea. He also mentioned having an uncle Goliath and Morty. In one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Salem mentions that his father's name was Gummo, implying that he died.
Salem often uses Yiddish words and mentioned his cousin's Cheryl's Bat Mitzvah in "Sabrina in Wonderland" [episode 154].
- Mrs. Saberhagen, Salem's mother. She was strict but well-meaning and did not know that Salem was a cat until she came to visit him. She pampered him and he loved it. But she found out that she was allergic to cats and had to leave early.
- Uncle Morty is Salem's uncle. He is rude and has no manners.
- Gummo is Salem's father. Mentioned.
- Annabelle is Salem's daughter.
- Punit Mistry is Salem's first cousin, twice removed.
- Uncle Goliath, Salem's uncle. Mentioned.
- Grandpa, Salem's grandfather, works the trains.
- Cheryl, Salem's cousin. Mentioned.
- Grandma, Salem's grandmother.
Awards and nominationsEdit
|1998||Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Animal Star||Won|
The sitcom modelEdit
The sitcom's creators were very sensitive to the treatment of animals, so Salem was often played by an animatronic puppet rather than one of the 4 actual cats who are used for the non-dialogue scenes (or at least used for scenes where Salem is moving and it was not required for the audience to actually see him talk). The four trained cats portraying the character were named Elvis, Lucy, Salem, and Witch. This part was performed by three puppeteers and two different animatronic puppets. The mechanical Salems were originally made by Animal Makers, but in early 1998 they were fired, and their puppets were replaced with ones made by Chiodo Brothers. The new mechanical Salem(s) were controlled by 3 puppeteers, who could manipulate Salem's body in more than 30 ways via rod, cables, and radio control. Animal Makers posted a video of some of the puppets highlights on its website.
In a few instances where his human form is shown in flashbacks, he is portrayed with his face in shadows, but with a body type and militaristic uniform similar to Fidel Castro (Castro himself is depicted as being a friend of Salem).
In the sitcom and Sabrina: The Animated Series, Salem was voiced by actor Nick Bakay In one sitcom episode titled "Jealousy", Salem says he needs to make a phone call to Bakay, saying, "I need to call in to Nick Bakay's sports show on ESPN radio. All he ever talks about is the Buffalo Bills, and his voice? LORD, is it annoying!"
The sitcom version of Salem also made a guest appearance on the Disney-ABC owned shows Boy Meets World, You Wish, and Teen Angel on November 7, 1997 and Disney's One Saturday Morning on Friday Night with Valarie Rae Miller on September 11, 1998
Filmation animated seriesEdit
In the Filmation series, Salem (similar to the comics) was portrayed as an ordinary orange-colored cat who could only meow. Salem's meows were provided by Dallas McKennon. In these appearances, Salem possessed limited magical abilities, including the ability to teleport himself. A running gag in this series was Salem's recurring feud with Jughead's dog Hot Dog.
DIC animated seriesEdit
Salem was a recurring character in Sabrina: The Animated Series and its follow-up series Sabrina: Friends Forever and Sabrina's Secret Life. Salem here retains his backstory from the live-action sitcom, including his last name being "Saberhagen," being black colored, and having been a former witch turned into a cat as punishment by the Witch's Council. Unlike the live-action sitcom, but similar to the previous Filmation series, Salem possesses a limited range of magical powers.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (television film)Edit
Salem appeared in the Sabrina the Teenage Witch live-action TV movie.
Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage WitchEdit
Salem appeared in the 2013 series Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch. Ian James Corlett voices Salem. His voice in the 2013 series was an imitation of actor Paul Lynde. Unlike in previous incarnations, he's a spy for Enchantra the head witch, and the Spellman family isn't aware he's really a witch.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (TV series)Edit
Currently, Salem appears in the Netflix television series, which an adaptation of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comics. Instead of being a human originally like in previous iterations of the character, Salem is a familiar, which are goblins who have taken on the shape of animals to better serve their witch masters. This version of the character also doesn't speak though it was hinted that he might in the future by series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Although, he currently only communicates via telepathy, represented in the form of a meow.
- Sabrina, the Teenage Witch #58–100, August 2004 – April 2009
- Jasper, Marykate (February 10, 2018). "Things We Saw Today: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Shows Off Its Salem". The Mary Sue. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
- Beaver County Times - Google News Archive Search
- Animal Makers website
- Disney Adventures magazine, 'The Scoop on Salem'
- Animal Makers website, 'video highlights Archived 2008-10-07 at the Wayback Machine'
- Toledo Blade - Google News Archive Search
- Nguyen, Hanh (2018-10-30). "'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina': Series Creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Explains Why Salem the Cat Doesn't Talk — Yet". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-10-30.