Monday, February 15, 2010

DARNA: The Original Filipino Superheroine

          The Philippines’ foremost fictional female superhero created by Marcial “Mars” Ravelo (1916-1988) that has been showcased in komiks (Filipino comics), newspaper strips, movies and television series, and has become part of Philippines pop culture. In the original komiks series, a Filipino barrio girl named Narda got hold of a pebble that fell from the sky, and when she swallowed it and called out the name “Darna” inscribed in the pebble, she was transformed into a superwarrior entity from the Planet Marte. Several versions of the character have since appeared both in comics, films and TV series.



          The concept of a female superhero started in the mind of a young pioneering writer-illustrator named Marcial “Mars” Ravelo sometime in 1939. Ravelo was a great fan of Superman, created by Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and Joe Shuster (1914-1992), which first appeared in Action Comics #1 in June 1938 and debut as a newspaper comics strip in January 16, 1939. Ravelo thought of creating a female counterpart for Superman because he believed in the concept that America is “male” and the Philippines is “female.”

          Back then, Ravelo’s original superheroine was named Varga, the “Wonderwoman from Marte (the planet Mars in Filipino),” which like Superman is super strong, can fly at great speed, impervious to any man-made weapons and originated from another planet. He didn’t want to use the term “Superwoman” so as not to plagiarize the Siegel and Shuster creation. Instead he used the term “Kamangha-manghang Dilag” or “Wonderwoman.”

          Ravelo, who at 23 was also a struggling cartoonist, started showing his creation, clad in more or less a Philippine flag-like costume, to his American friends as the Philippines’ answer to Superman. He also tried approaching several publication company both here in the Philippines and in the United States. He was rejected several times; the common response was “a female superhero will not sell.”

          He was quite dismayed by the reactions, especially when All Star Comics released a very similar superhero character, Wonder Woman, in December 8, 1941, said to be created by William Moulton Marston a.k.a. Charles Moulton (1893-1947), who is also the inventor of the polygraph or lie detector. As it turned out, Moulton copied the idea of a "female superhero" including the original name of the character, Suprema, from Ravelo. (READ also THE LOST WORKS OF MARS RAVELO & THE UNTOLD TRUE BEGINNING OF DARNA).

The single page of the first issue of "Varga" in
Bulaklak magazine Vol. 4 No. 17, July 23, 1947.
          It was not until after World War II that luck smiled on Mars Ravelo’s behalf. His superheroine Varga made her debut in Bulaklak magazine Volume 4, Number 17 on July 23, 1947 and became quite popular with readers everywhere. Varga was, in all things but name, the woman we now know as Darna. She stood up for the weak and the oppressed, battling common criminals as well as evil in supernatural form. Varga was both written and illustrated by Ravelo whose artistic style resembled the cartoons of Irish cartoonist George McManus (1884-1954) of the “Bringing Up Father” fame, and Jewish-American animator Max Fleischer (1883-1972), the creator of the doll-like cartoon character Betty Boop.

            By some twist of circumstance, the name Varga became the ownership of Bulaklak magazine and when Ravelo left Bulaklak in 1949 after a falling out with its editor, Varga stayed behind. Ravelo took her image, flowing sash and all, to Pilipino Komiks.

            On May 13, 1950, Mars Ravelo re-launched his beloved comic superheroine now called Darna, the “Mighty Warrior from Planet Marte.” Darna’s first breath-taking adventures were first serialized in the pages of Pilipino Komiks #77, where she fought the snake-haired woman Valentina.

          Although the concept remained the same, Ravelo assigned another artist to illustrate his creation – the soon to be legendary Nestor Redondo. Unlike Ravelo, Redondo’s style of drawing was more realistically proportioned. Darna then donned the costume of crimson two-piece bikini with a star in each brassiere cap, transparent white front sash, almost knee-high stiletto and golden wings on the forehead. With the success of “Darna,” it was followed by “Darna at ang Babaeng Lawin” (Darna and the Hawkwoman), also in Pilipino Komiks in 1951. Now, here's one for the books: Do you know that Ravelo created his character Babaing Lawin (Hawkwoman) more than nine years ahead of D.C. Comics' Hawkwoman created by Joe Kubert (1926-2012) and Gardner Francis Fox (1911-1986)? D.C. Comics' Hawkwoman was later changed to Hawkgirl, but she continue to appear interchangeably, which became quite confusing.

           Darna's success continues with “Si Darna at ang Babaeng Impakta” (Darna and the Evil Twin) in Kenkoy Komiks in 1962, “Darna at ang Babaeng Tuod” (Darna and the Woodwitch) in Liwayway magazine in 1964, “Si Darna at ang Planetman” (Darna and the Planetman) in Holiday Komiks in 1966, etc. The character became so popular that she was given her own komiks title, Darna, by Atlas Publication, the publisher of Pilipino Komiks.
Darna at ang Taong Ibon
(Darna Komiks Magasin #964,
October 12, 1987). Date of
issue was 3 days after
Mars Ravelo’s 71st birthday

            The Darna Komiks Issue #1 was released on February 3, 1968 featuring the series “Darna at ang Babaeng Linta” (“Darna and the Leech Woman”). At the start, the Darna Komiks Magasin was released twice a month. But by popular request, it immediately became a weekly issue. Since then more than 25 comics series have been written bearing her name. She fought the likes of Black Orchid, Dyanga, Taong Diablo (Demon Man), Taong Ibon (Birdman), Zumarma, Black Mercury, Araknido, The Warlock, Black Widow, Satanina Dayabolika, Toxic Monster, Devil Dinosaur, etc. Darna was and still is the most popular character in Philippine comics history. An iconic popularity unsurpassed, spanning six decades, even after the death of its equally iconic creator, Mars Ravelo.
Three issues of post-Ravelo Darnas: Darna Komiks #1275, September 27, 1993; Super Action #1 where Darna was given a new look; and Super Action #12.
The first issue of the first Darna series (Pilipino Komiks #77, May 13, 1950)
            On Darna’s first adventure series in Pilipino Komiks, written by Mars Ravelo and illustrated by Nestor Redondo, she was introduced to possess the charm of Venus (Roman goddess of beauty and love), the fortitude of Apollo (Greek god of eloquence and of the Sun) and the strength of Samson (Biblical hero of great strength). Her alter-ego, Narda, a young girl from a barrio identified only as “M-” (in reference to Malabon, General Trias, Cavite, the birthplace of Mars Ravelo) not far from Manila, living with her younger brother Ding and her grandmother. One night while Narda and her brother were playing hide-and-seek with other children, she saw a bulalakaw (meteorite) streaking down from the sky and when it was falling towards her, it suddenly lost its brightness and turn into a pure white pebble. Narda notice an inscription in the pebble, the name “Darna.”

            Suddenly her playmates where coming towards her. Fearful that they might take the beautiful pebble from her, she put it in her mouth, but as if the pebble has a life of its own; it went down her throat and into her stomach. She then felt like traveling into the cosmos together with tens of thousands of stars.

            When Narda return to her senses, she was already at home with her brother and grandmother. Narda told them what happened, and when they asked what was the named inscribed in the pebble, she blurted out “Darna!” In a split second, Narda was transformed into Darna.

          The transformed entity – Darna – explained to them that she is in the person of Narda, and that the pebble is an amulet that transforms her body and gives her power and strength. Darna also told them that she came from the Planet Marte (which is the Filipino equivalent of the Planet Mars, and also in allusion to the nickname of the character’s creator). Darna also demonstrated how she would transform back, by shouting the name of “Narda.” Darna would henceforth be the champion of good that will combat all forms of evil on Earth. In this regard, Ravelo made her superheroine a fitting tribute to his mother, which he considered as his “champion and hero.”

            In Pilipino komiks #78, Ravelo narrates the origin of Valentina (referred to as the “goddess of snakes”), Darna’s first super-foe. Valentina was the daughter of Miguel and Doray. She has snakes instead of hair on her head (much like the mythical gorgon, Medusa). She also has the command over all kinds of snakes. Valentina was mentored by a snake creature name Kobra (which in the GMA 7 TV series Darna that starred Marian Rivera, was purportedly revealed as Valentina’s real father. However, in the komiks version, Kobra was originally a female entity).
The last issue of the first Darna series (Pilipino Komiks #104, May 26, 1951)
            Valentina was spurned by humankind and by the only man she loved the most, Edwardo. She also committed parricide. This drove her into evil and soon she planned to destroy humankind and transform Earth into a world of snakes. Darna tried to stop her. An earthquake annihilated Valentina’s legion of snakes together with Kobra. In the end, Valentina was defeated and committed suicide by jumping into the cliff where she threw the dead bodies of her parents.

Manila’s Golden Age movie queen Rosa Del Rosario
as the first Darna (1951).
     On May 31, 1951 Filipinos witnessed the first marvelous flight of Darna (courtesy of Royal Films), in a Fernando Poe Sr (1916-1951) directorial Darna starring Manila’s “Golden Age” movie queen Rosa Del Rosario (1917-2006) as Darna and Cristina Aragon as the supervillain Valentina, while Mila Nimpa portrayed the young Narda and Manuel Ubaldo played the role of Ding, Narda’s little brother. The movie was a huge box office success. From then on there was no stopping Darna. Numerous box office films and endless serialized stories in different comic books followed.

     Since 1951, fourteen Darna movies have already been made. Each decade has its own version of this versatile superhero. Rosa Del Rosario made two successive films in 1951-1952. The 1960s saw Liza Moreno, Eva Montes and Gina Pareño portraying the role in the big screen.
Mila Nimpa played Narda and
her alterego Darna played by
Rosa del Risario. In the earlier
Darna films two actresses
portray the two characters.
          On its earlier version, the role of Darna and its mortal host, a young barrio lass named Narda, were portrayed by separate actresses. Among the noted actresses who played the role of Narda are Coney Angeles (1964) and Gina Alajar (1969). Francine Prieto (under her real name Anna Marie Falcon) played the young Narda in the Joel Lamangan 1991 remake of Darna with Nanette Medved in the starring role.

     The inter-galactic pebble-like amulet found its way to Vilma Santos’ throat in 1973 via the Emmanuel Borlaza, Joey Gosiengfiao and Elwood Perez trilogy Lipad, Darna, Lipad! She made a total of four movies in a span of seven years playing both Narda and Darna. Rio Locsin squeezed in a portrayal in 1979 with Bira, Darna, Bira!  But Vilma Santos made a comeback, with then child wonder Niño Muhlach as Ding, in 1980’s Darna at Ding.

     Aside from Manuel Ubaldo and Niño Muhlach, other notable child actors that played the role of Ding, were Boy Alajar (1969), Angelito (1973), Dondon Nakar (1973), Bentot Jr (1975), Romnick Sarmenta (1979), Lester Llansang (1994), and Robert “Buboy” Villar in the Marian Rivera’s TV remake of Darna (2009-2010).


Darna at ang Babaeng Lawin on the cover
of Pilipino Komiks #120, January 5, 1952.
     Contrary to popular belief, Darna was not named after the Adarna bird of Philippine myth. Since the name “Narda” (said to be the name of Ravelo’s playmate when he was a young boy) was already established as Varga’s mortal identity in Bulaklak magazine, Ravelo decided to rename his reincarnated superheroine from the anagram of Narda. So, the name “Darna” sprung from “Narda” and not the mythical Adarna bird. Half a century later, however, the writers of Mango Comics, which acquired the licensure rights over the Darna character, explicitly linked Darna to the Adarna bird.

     Revisions were made on how Narda got her powers. Darna’s origin is varied in numerous Darna comics and movie scripts. Since scriptwriters, directors and producers try to make their movies palatable to their different tastes and predilections.

          In the original komiks version, Narda did not have to remove the magic stone every time she transformed from Darna back to Narda, when she first swallowed the amulet, it has remained within her and all she needs to do is to say the magic words to transform. Later revisions show Narda carrying the stone in a pouch and swallowing it each time she needs to become Darna, and spewing it back out after transforming back to her earthly alter-ego Narda.
Vilma Santos as Darna, on the cover of Kislap
March 22, 1973 issue
     Originally, Darna was not Narda. In the strictest sense, the young Narda is just the medium, the vessel for the alien superwarrior Darna to take over. This means anyone who swallow the stone and shout the magical name, even a man, would surely still look like Darna, because by doing so (swallowing the magical stone and shouting Darna’s name), he is making a magical invocation for Darna to appear in his behalf. This is based on Mars Ravelo's original concept. So, Chiquito and Dolphy’s portrayals of a male (homosexual) Darna in Terebol Dobol (1974) and Darna Kuno (1979) are grossly incorrect. Niño Muhlach also briefly did the same, transformed into a "male" Darna in Darna at Ding (1980).

     The concept of Narda and Darna being of different entity was later revised. Today, we know Darna and Narda as one person of dual identity.

Anjanette Abayari as Darna in the film
Darna: Ang Pagbabalik (1994)
          The three best Darna films are Poe Sr’s 1951 pioneer Darna, Eva Montes’ Darna at Ang Babaeng Tuod, and Vilma Santos’ Lipad, Darna, Lipad! In the 1994 Anjanette Abayari starrer Darna: Ang Pagbabalik, directed by Peque Gallaga and Lorie Reyes, the special effects used is modestly good, but it is said to be the worst Darna film ever made because of several dubious error in the portrayal of the character, her powers, costume and appearance. They made her look like a cross between Superman, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, which shouldn’t be the case. Darna is an original Pinoy superheroine unique from any other.


The three issues of Mars Ravelo’s Darna (2003) published by Mango Comics

     In 2003, an award-winning Darna komiks miniseries was published by Mango Comics, with major input from Ravelo's family. This version showed Narda as a college student who first found the pebble 10 years earlier. The details of Darna's origin, however, were changed again – Her supposedly ancestral race of Adarna warriors originally came from Planet Tiamat, as did the serpent queen Valentina. Their respective people had warred against one another for many years. On Tiamat, Darna’s race used artificial wings (In this version’s rendering, Darna’s race is similar to the D.C. Comics’ Hawkman’s race in Thanagar, while Valentina’s ancestry is reminiscent of the Nagas and Gorgons). Due to the fierce war that destroyed Tiamat, the Adarnas fled to the planet Nibiru, also known as Marte. Here, Darna (both the name and the character) was explicitly linked to the Adarna bird (Ibong Adarna in Philippine literature).

Angel Locsin as Darna, on the cover of
MOD magazine August 12, 2005 issue.
          GMA Network and Hugo Yonzon, current license holder of Darna and head of Mango Comics, signed a licensing agreement for a new Darna television series in 2005. It premiered in Filipino homes on April 11, 2005 and garnered a 47.1% rating according to AGB-Nielsen, making it one of the highest rated pilot episodes in Philippine television. During the fourth episode, it garnered 52.1% overnight ratings from AGB, the highest rating ever for any Philippine TV show. This was the episode that Narda transforms into Darna for the first time. Filipino actress Angel Locsin starred as Darna. The television series ended on November 25, 2005.

          In this TV version, most of the Mango Comics storyline were carried over. Darna’s origin was portrayed to be from the lineage of Queen Adran (another anagram of Darna) of the Adranikan race in the Planet Marte. Her arch-enemy, Valentina (played by Alessandra de Rossi), on the other hand, was the product of hybrid impregnation of an Earth woman by an Anomalkan creature sent by Braguda, arch-enemy of Queen Adran.

          Four actresses who previously played Darna were involved in this TV series: Gina Pareño (Darna and the Planetman, 1969) appeared as Darna’s grandmother, Rio Locsin (Bira, Darna, Bira, 1979) appeared as the wife of Dr. Zombie, one of the villains, Lorna Tolentino (Darna in 1977 TV series) portrayed Queen Adran of Marte, Regine Velasquez (plays Darna in the Bong Revilla’s 2003 starrer Captain Barbell) sang the theme song of the series. Velasquez also provided a voice clip of shouting “Darna!” for use in the TV series.

          In the final episode of this series, Narda threw the magical pebble into the sea, and later got in trouble and was unable to transform. She was saved by Captain Barbell (the portrayer of which was never revealed), which became the precursor for the 2006 TV series Captain Barbell starring Richard Gutierrez.

          Later after the end of the Captain Barbell series, GMA 7 aired a teaser hinting the coming of a joint series, Captain Barbell Meets Darna. Angel Locsin, however, already transferred to the rival network ABS-CBN and Richard Gutierrez was busy with other roles. The Internet Movie Database website ( posted the same title – Captain Barbell Meets Darna – which would supposedly led by Dingdong Dantes and Karylle sometime in late 2007, but did not materialize. In 2008, news again spread about the series which will now be starred by Richard Gutierrez as Captain Barbell and either Rhian Ramos, Jackie Rice or Marian Rivera as Darna. It also didn’t materialize.

          Instead, in late 2009, GMA 7 made a remake of Darna starring Marian Rivera showcasing a more acceptable storyline that the mahiwagang bato (magical pebble) is transferred from one rightful keeper or Tagapangalaga to another every generation or so (similar to the Green Lantern’s ring in D.C. Comics). Here, the Darna portrayed by Rivera would battle the resurrected most powerful supervillains: Armida, ang Babaeng Lawin (played by Ehra Madrigal), ang Babaeng Impakta (jointly played by Nadine Samonte and Mura), Lucila, ang Babaeng Tuod (played by Francine Prieto), and Garda, ang Babaeng Linta (played by Margaret Wilson) that the earlier Darna (Angel Aquino) imprisoned in ice, and a re-scripted Valentina and Kobra portrayed by Iwa Moto and Paolo Contis, respectively. In this series, Ruffa Mae Quinto also wore, albeit, a fake Darna costume.

          For several years now, there have been hints that a “major” film production of Darna (the Movie) was being conceptualized. It was supposed be the “biggest” ever film made by Star Cinema with Angel Locsin, in a Facebook post, even said that “It’s official. Nasa akin na uli ang bato (I now again possessed the stone). This was a welcome treat to the millions of Darna fans all-over. I even offered a storyline for Darna Meets Lastikman, which will star the characters previous portrayers, Angel Locsin and Vhong Navarro. Later, around May 2016, however, Locsin said that she could no longer portray the character because of the back injury she sustained while training for the role. The reverberation of Darna again flying on the big screen persists nonetheless. Several actresses like Cristine Reyes, Jessy Mendiola, Bea Alonzo, Maja Salvador, Lisa Soberano, Yassi Pressman, etc., were being considered for the role.


Rosa Del Rosario – Darna (1951), Darna at Ang Babaeng Lawin (1952). Here’s where the saying, “The original is best” aptly holds true. This Fil-Am actress is by most choices, the best and most beautiful Darna.

Liza Moreno – Si Darna at Ang Babaeng Impakta (1963), Isputnik vs. Darna (1963). Nida Blanca portrayed the role of Isputnik.

Eva Montes – Darna at Ang Babaeng Tuod (1964).

Gina Pareño – Si Darna at Ang Planetman (1969). The name of Darna's alter ego in this film as in the komiks version of the film (serialized in Holiday Komiks) is not Narda but Daria, also played by Pareño. It is also noteworthy that Darna's costume in this film adapted the colors of the original Nestor Redondo illustration.
Gina Pareño as Darna, on the covers of
Espesyal Komiks (January 27, 1969) & Darna Komiks (February 3, 1969).
Vilma Santos – Lipad, Darna, Lipad! (1973), Darna and the Giants (1973), Darna vs. Planetwomen (1975), Darna at Ding (1980).

Lorna Tolentino – KBS 9 TV series Darna (1977) produced by Kitchie Benedicto. The then 14-year-old Tolentino was the first actress to portray Darna on television.

Lotis Key – Darna Kuno (1979). In this film spoof Brenda Del Rio and Dolphy portrayed a pregnant and a male Darna, respectively. The first to play the role of a male Darna is Chiquito in the 1974 comedy Terebol Dobol.

Rio Locsin – Bira, Darna, Bira! (1979).

Sharon Cuneta – Guest appearance in Captain Barbell (1986).

Nanette Medved, the only person of non-Filipino descent
to portray Darna in Philippine movie.
Nanette Medved – Darna (1991). The only foreigner to portray the role of Darna in Philippine movie is Medved. Although she grew up in Angeles, Pampanga, her father is Russian and her mother is Chinese. In this film, Darna was made to deflect bullets with her armband, which started the talk that she was a rip-off of Wonder Woman. This is a farce, and an obvious stupid mistake on the part of either the scriptwriter or the director of the film since Darna is impervious to bullets.

Anjanette Abayari – Darna: Ang Pagbabalik (1994). Cameo appearance in Ang Pagbabalik ni Pedro Penduko (1994). Abayari, together with Binibining Pilipinas titlists Daisy Reyes, Maria Sovietskaya Bacud and Alma Concepcion also played various versions of Darna in Toyota FX commercials.

Liza Macuja – Ballet Manila’s stage production Komiks the Ballet in celebration of Darna’s golden anniversary (1997)

Regine Velasquez as Darna,
on the cover of True Horoscope,
December 19, 2003 issue.
Christine Crame and Kris Belle Paclibar – Played the role of Darna in the stage production Darna the Ballet (2003)

Regine Velasquez – Guest appearance in Captain Barbell (2003). She also donned the Darna outfit on her The Singer and the Songwriter concert tour (2004)

Angel Locsin – GMA 7 TV series Darna (2005). In this telefantasy series, Lorna Tolentino reprised her Darna costume as Queen Adran of Planet Marte, which supposed to pass the enchanted pebble to Narda portrayed by Angel Locsin. There were a lot of twists and deviations from the original story in this series. The series also had lots of peculiarities including eels being portrayed as snakes. Several scenes from the Christopher Reeve starrer Superman (1977) were also plagiarized in this series including the “getting the cat from the three” and “catching the love interest falling from a building” scenes. In this series Katrina Halili played the role of Black Darna. By most choices, Angel Locsin is the “sexiest” Darna. This TV series also has the highest average audience viewership percentage of all telefantasy series shown on Philippine television. Angel Locsin also portrayed Darna in a Robitussin commercial (2006).

Marian Rivera as Darna and Iwa Moto as Valentina.
Marian Rivera – GMA 7 TV remake Darna (2009-2010). This is probably by far the best production of any Darna (both film and TV series). Except for the Electra (and the Planetwomen) episodes, which was terribly corny and out of place, and some few glitches and limitations in the scripts, the overall storyline and portrayal were quite good. Angel Aquino also briefly portrayed Darna in this series, as this version narrates the story that span two generations of Darna, and the passing of the magical pebble from the older amulet keeper (Aquino) to Narda (Rivera). In the series’ end, it was hinted that the character that Rivera portrayed would past the pebble to a new girl which is also named Narda.


Valentina – Played on-screen by Cristina Aragon (1951), Celia Rodriguez (1973), Pilar Pilapil (1991), Pilita Corales (1994).
Armida, ang Babaeng Lawin (Hawkwoman) – Elvira Reyes (1952), Liza Lorena (1973), Veronica Jones (1980).
Impakta – Gina Alonzo (and Paquito Salcedo as her evil conjoined twin, 1963), Gloria Romero (1973), Bing Loyzaga (1991).
Isputnik (not a villain but a rival superheroine) – Nida Blanca (1963).
Lucila, ang Babaeng Tuod – Gina Alonzo (1964).
Planetman – Vic Vargas (1969).
X3X , alien warrior queen – Helen Gamboa (1973).
Humans made into giants – Divina Valencia, Max Alvarado, Ike Lozada, Zandro Zamora (1973).
Electra – Rosanna Ortiz (1975).
Kara (one of the Planetwomen) – Lita Vasquez (1975), the other planetwomen are Diana Villa and Lieza Zobel.
Lei Ming, the Evil Witch – Celia Rodriguez (1980).
Dr. Vontesberg – Marissa Delgado (1980).
Dominico Lipolico – Edu Manzano (1991, 1994).
Ms. Valentine Adan, daughter of Valentina – Cherie Gil (1994).
Magnum – Bong Alvarez (1994).

     The following are supervillains that fought against Darna in two GMA TV series: the 2005 Angel Locsin starrer and the 2009-2010 Marian Rivera remake.
     Babaeng Lobo – played by Karen de los Reyes. She also played the Babaeng Impakta and Babaeng Tuod in the Angel Locsin Darna TV series.
Black Darna – the essence of Darna turned into supervillain of equal strength as Darna played by Katrina Halili (2005).
Angel Locsin as Darna and Katrina Halili as Black Darna.
Battle of the sexiest?

Braguda – powerful Queen of the Anomalkan race of the Planet Marte, played by Celia Rodriquez (2005).
Demonica – the demon woman played by K. Brosas (2005).
Dr. Zombie – a scientist that transform corpses into zombies played by Christopher de Leon (2005).
Flora Carnivora – a creation of the Babaeng Tuod played by Teri Onor (2009-2010).
Flora Venoma – another creation of the Babaeng Tuod played by Alyssa Alano (2009-2010).
Kobra – a giant serpent with a human head. In the original komiks version (1950), Kobra was a female while in the GMA 7 TV remake (2009-2010) played by Paolo Contis, the creature turned out to be Valentina’s real father.
Mambabarang (Insect warlock) – Played by Eddie Garcia (2005).
Molecula – a shapeshifter played by Cristine Reyes (2005).
Nosferamus – a grim-ripper like superbeing played by Tonton Gutierrez (2005).
Serpentina – Valentina’s half-sister played by Katrina Halili (2009-2010).
Shiro – notorious gangman played by Polo Ravales (2009-2010)
Sulfura – a woman that can spit fire and acid played by Carmina Villaroel (2005).
Toymaster – a clown with magical power stolen from a gnome played by Bearwin Meily (2005).
Trolka – Anomalkan warrior (2005).


Character Debut:

     Strictly speaking, the character with the name Darna debut in Pilipino Komiks #77 (May 13, 1950) but the original concept was made in mid-1939. According to Mars Ravelo (1985 interview), when he conceptualized the superheroine counterpart of Superman, the first name that came to his mind was Suprema, which is female for Supremo (highest rank leader), a nom de guerre of Andres Bonifacio. The character Suprema was supposed to be a Filipina named Nadia (from the anagram of the Varga Girl Diana), which will be given the power of invinsibility by a diwata (fairy). He later changed it to Varga when it was published in Bulaklak (Hiyas ng Tahanan) #17. Here, another character became his inspiration, Captain Marvel (first appeared in Whiz Comics #2, February 1940). The idea of a "child vessel" becoming the superhero after shouting a name is the one he borrowed from Captain Marvel.

          Wonder Woman debut in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941). There are allegations that Marston's idea of "Wonder Woman" is not original. In fact, in several interviews, he could not explain consistently all the aspects of his supposed creation. Even her origin, power and character were so vague that it created confusions among writers and fans for many years.

      Darna: In the original version, Darna was a superwarrior from the planet Marte who came to life when the young Filipino barrio lass Narda swallowed a magical pebble that fell from the sky and called out the name “Darna,” which is inscribed in the pebble. In the later version, Narda and Darna have been made into a single person with dual identity.
     Wonder Woman: Princess Diana of Paradise Island came to the United States under the guise of Yeoman First-class Diana Prince. She won the right to return Steve Trevor, U.S. intelligence officer whose plane crushed on Paradise Island. She turned into Wonder Woman every time she swirls around.

     Darna’s powers include flight, super strength, super speed and invincibility to all man-made weapons.
     Wonder Woman in the original version had the “strength of Hercules” and the “speed of Mercury.” She did not have the power of flight; she had an invisible jet which she used to fly around. She was not impervious to bullets as she needed an indestructible wristband to deflect them. She had a magical lasso which can make anyone tell the truth. In much later versions, her strength and powers were increased – she is now as strong as Superman, has the power of flight, and virtually an immortal. In fact, her origin and power had been changed more than a dozen times by different authors that it add vagueness to her character.

          Before Darna and her two-piece bikini suit, white front sash and stilettos, the original female superhero (Suprema/Varga) that Mars Ravelo conceptualized wore a one-piece suit much like the Philippine flag. Later when Darna first appeared on Pilipino Komiks #77, the costume was changed with the assistance of illustrator Nestor Redondo into what we see today.
          Originally, Wonder Woman wore a one-piece suit with the upper part having red stripes on white background and the lower part having white stars on blue background, much like the American flag hanging upside-down. This was how Moulton described her costume to comics editor and scriptwriter Sheldon Mayer. The publisher Maxwell Charles “Charlie” Gaines and Mayer didn’t like it and it was changed to a red upper garment with a golden eagle in the middle and a skirt with white stars on blue background, which was first shown on All Star Comics #8. Later on, the skirt was changed into a panty costume. Next, the number of stars on the panty costume was reduced. Wonder Woman costume like her origin, character and power were revised so many times that writers, illustrators and fans became so confused as to what is the genuine original concept, if there is any. Even Sheldon said that Moulton’s concept of the female superhero was “so vague that so many revisions were necessary to make it unambiguous.” Today’s Wonder Woman wore what more likely is a gladiatorial (armored) costume.

Wonder Woman’s three of many different character and costume changes: (from left)
Sheldon Mayer’s costume revision of Charles Moulton’s Wonder Woman
(from All Star Comics #8, December 1941-January 1942),
Wonder Woman with bullet-deflecting bracelets
(TV Times Weekly Entertainment Guide, March 13-19, 1977),
and Linda Carter as Wonder Woman with fewer stars on her panty costume
 (High Society, August 1979)

Films and Television:

Lorna Tolentino portrayed the first
TV Darna when she was 14 years old.
     The first Darna movie was shown on May 13, 1951, starring Rosa Del Rosario as Darna. Since then, 14 Darna movies have been made. In 1977, a Darna TV series starring a 14-year-old Lorna Tolentino in a one-piece costume was shown in KBS 9. Two Television series have also been made by GMA 7, the Angel Locsin starrer (2005) and the Marian Rivera remake (2009-2010).
          The character first appeared on TV in 1974 in Wonder Woman: Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, played by Ellie Wood Walker. In 1976, Miss World USA 1972, Lynda Carter, starred in the TV series Wonder Woman, which lasted three years. A vastly altered-from-original Wonder Woman, complete with indestructible sword and shield,  made debut in the 2016 film Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and was portrayed by Gal Gadot.

          When Darna was being conceptualized, initially as Suprema, Ravelo had in mind the idea of creating a “female” Filipino counterpart of Superman. He envisioned his superheroine to be the symbol of true womanhood with powers to protect the helpless and fight evil. In this sense, and in today’s parlance, this is symbolic of woman empowerment.
          The character Wonder Woman, since the beginning it was put on print had issues pertaining sexual deviance. Marston and comics editor Sheldon Mayer included among her powers the ability to make people tell the truth by tying her “magical” lasso around any person’s body. There are allegations that this act espouses “bondage.” Because the publisher, Charlie Gaines, and Mayer believed that it would be very difficult to market a female superhero, they gave her the personality of an amazon. In today’s modern version of Wonder Woman, her personality and language speak of lesbianism and bisexuality. Even Greg Rucka, a Wonder Woman comics writer, admitted this.

DARNA: The Filipino’s Object of Fantasy
     When the first Darna movie made it into the big screen on May 13, 1951, it became an instant box office hit. The very charming and beautiful Rosa Del Rosario, Manila’s golden age movie queen, portrayed the role of the superheroine, under the directorial of Fernando Poe Sr.
            Darna became a household name, and was beloved by people of all ages for more than half a century. She has also inspired the adoration of perhaps every hot-blooded Filipino male starting from that era. Rosa Del Rosario donning a two-piece bikini in 1951 was quite eye-catching (even though the film is just in black and white). But there was no culture shock as she portrayed a flying, butt-kicking superheroine, even though Filipino women at that time wear ever-too-modest attires – elbow-covering blouses and ankle-low sayas. Del Rosario wore the revealing costume just barely four years after Michèle Bernadini, the Parisian dancer-model, first wore the bikini in French swimwear designer Louis Réard’s public fashion modeling (July 18, 1946). Although it can be said that Del Rosario’s lower costume was more like a short pants than a bikini panty, the scenes where she wore the costume were still considered quite erotic during those times.

Angel Locsin, by popular choice,
is the “Sexiest Darna” ever.
Millions of fans are hoping she
would again reprise her role,
this time in the big screen
          It is also worthwhile to note that although Darna was not classified as a “bold” movie (the term and genre may not have existed at the time), it can be considered as one among the first to show a woman wearing a two-piece bikini. And not only wearing a bikini, but flying, fighting, and doing all sorts of stunts.
     Mars Ravelo’s Darna is truly the most famous Filipino fantasy character given life both on the boob-tube and the silver screen. According to film critics portraying Darna is actually considered a career-defining role, so is directing a Darna movie. All Darna portrayer got a boost in their career after playing the role.
          Since Del Rosario’s time, Darna, the character has become an object of fantasy – sexual fantasy – of the Filipino male aficionados. True enough, all actresses who portrayed the role were labeled “strictly sexy.” The aura of the superheroine exudes sexiness beyond the heroic character.

(Parts of this blog was already published in TV Star Guide (May 2005) under the title "Darna! The Evolution of a Superheroine." This article is updated, May 2017)


  1. Hi Ernee I like your topic about Darna. Very Informative.

    1. KC Concepcion a new role will be played as Narda/Darna in a new teleserye underway to ABS-CBN network soon. Thanks for the information. From :Wayne.

  2. Hi Bopeep. Many thanks!
    I Just updated my blog. It's Lenten Season, so my newest blog is about the Bible. Hope you like it also.

    1. Angel Locsin the original Darna on television series since 2005-06 & returns to the small screen once again in 10 years to reinstate her role as Narda Batungbakal/Darna in ABS-CBN network soon. Thanks! From:Wayne

  3. thank you so much for this info! very informative and helpful for students :)

  4. Replies
    1. I request all the pictures/photos of Darna & other superheroes from the Philippines in film television comics & animated series from the Philippines. Thanks! From:Wayne

  5. Ito ang pinaka-kumpletong artikulong naisulat tungkol kay Darna na nabasa ko. Galing!

    1. Philippine version of Wonder Woman inspiration of the legendary Philippine superheroine with superhuman powers from another galaxy her name is Narda became the champion of peace & freedom against evildoers & savior of mankind created by Mars Ravelo serialized in comics television & animated series throughout the world. Thanks! From:Wayne

  6. Nice article. Where did you get the reference that Darna conceptually goes back to '39? The earliest references I've seen was '47 with Varga. I'd love to see references of her as early as '39 when everyone was envisioning all the various Golden Age heroes.

    1. First film in 1951 was Rosa del Rosario the original Darna of the 1950's Filipino superheroine story in the history of Filipino cinema icons. Thanks for the information. From:Wayne

  7. As answer to Me!: We know that "Mars Ravelo's Darna is a superheroine that began as a concept before World War 2". The World War 2 spanned for 6 years from 1939 to 1945.

    At Ernee:
    I know that Mars Ravelo originally referred to his superheroine as "Kamangha-manghang dilag" (The Amazing Warrior Maiden). But if we literally translate it, Kamangha-manghang dilag would mean Wonder Woman.

    WOW, so you're saying Wonder Woman is a rip-off of Darna not the other way around as some would say? Well, I never considered her a rip-off. It would be best if we see more evidences/references according this matter. By the way, I LOVE this article!

    1. I am the big fan of Filipino comics & animation/anime in the Philippines my favorite collection Filipino superheroes & historic people in popular culture in the Philippines. Thanks for the information. From:Wayne

  8. All these that you wrote about the legendary superhero was enlightening. I just wish that many would read the history of Darna. Of all the superheroes in Philippine comics and cinema, she was the one that stood out most. Darna was way ahead of her time. While Wonder Woman traces her origins to the Olympians, Darna comes from an alien race. Before Wonder Woman took flight Darna already has this ability. Thank you for posting this.

  9. Di ba may interview ka kay Mars Ravelo about Darna. I-publish mo naman.

  10. I have laid down part of my discovery. There is now proof that the idea of a female superhero was copied from Ravelo. Wonder Woman is the copycat. Suprema/Varga/Darna is the original.