The Black Witch mixes stuff in her cauldron. Artist: Sam Cooper.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Unknown writer and J.S. Phillips (artist)
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The horror genre in comic books is generally considered to have reached its apotheosis in the early 1950s, with such EC titles as The Vault of Horror and Tales from the Crypt, and not to have existed at all just a couple of years before that. But here's …

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… a perfect prototype of EC's output, which appeared in comics as early as 1942 — published by, of all companies, Archie Comics.

Back then, the company was calling itself MLJ Comics, after the initials of its founders. It didn't rename itself after its most popular character until 1945. But its later wholesome image belied some of its early features, such as The Hangman, who liked to murder bad guys, and Madam Satan, consort to the most evil being in all Creation. The superheroes that had sustained the company since its early days were starting to get a little soft in the market, so in Blue Ribbon Comics #20 (January, 1942), a back-pages Steel Sterling spin-off named Inferno was dropped in favor of The Witch's Cauldron, a horror series.

Even the format of the "Witch's Cauldron" series presaged the ECs, with their "horror hosts" such as The Crypt Keeper. She was even of the same "species" as The Old Witch, who "hosted" The Haunt of Fear. The Witch of the title didn't take part in the stories, which were about the sort of incidental characters who came and went in her life (sort of like Mary Worth's stories), except as their narrator or catalyst. The first "Witch's Cauldron" story, "The Future Bubble", was drawn by J.S. Phillips, whose other credits in comics are sparse, but the writer is unknown.

The Witch's Cauldron didn't last long in Blue Ribbon Comics. In fact, Blue Ribbon itself lasted only two more issues. After three outings it was moved to Zip Comics #26 (May, 1942), where it replaced a western called Nevada Jones. The title was changed in the new venue to "Stories of the Black Witch", but the type of story remained the same.

But she didn't last much longer in Zip. In #30 (October, 1942) she was replaced with Zoom O'Day, one of those back-pages funny guys. And that was the end of Archie's brief foray into supernatural horror.

But maybe not quite. In 2008, DC Comics re-licensed the old Archie Comics non-teenage characters such as The Shield and The Black Hood. (It had first licensed them during the previous decade, for its imprint !mpact Comics.) The Black Witch hasn't been seen as part of that re-licensing, but there's been talk of reviving her.

But in what capacity? It seems inappropriate to dress her in skin-tights and put her out to combat evil. But with Cain, Destiny (no relation), the tripartite host of the old Witching Hour title, etc., DC probably has about as many horror hosts as it can use.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.