Monday, June 4, 2012



One who is not familiar with Mars Ravelo’s Captain Barbell character would quip that it’s ridiculous. Some would even say that the character is laughable. How in the world would anyone think of creating a superhero whose power is dependent on a barbell? But there is a story behind it.
Captain Barbell on the covers of Pinoy Komiks #2, 5 and 15.
It all started with another immortal character created by Ravelo – Darna. Many writers today believed that Darna is a copycat of Wonder Woman. This is actually a case of “racist” misinformation. Ravelo’s concept of Suprema/Varga (Darna’s predecessor characters), which he called “Kamanghamanghang dilag” (Wonderwoman) predates that of Wonder Woman.
In 1939, after seeing Superman in the first few issues of the Action Comics and newspaper comic strips, he created Varga as the female counterpart of Superman, which initially he called Suprema. The name Suprema is the female equivalent of Supremo (Tagalog for "highest rank leader), which is also the nom de guerre of Andres Bonifacio. He later changed his mind because the name might create controversy since he hailed from Cavite, the home province of Emilio Aguinaldo. He started telling his story and showing his creation, clad in more or less a Philippine flag-like costume, to his American friends as the Philippines’ answer to Superman. He believed in the concept that the U.S. is male and the Philippines is female. Unfortunately, several publishers including Liwayway turned him down saying that “a female superhero won’t sell.” So he archived it until after World War II when it was first published it Bulaklak (Hiyas ng Tahanan) Vol. 4 No. 17 on July 23, 1947. He was, however, disappointed when Wonder Woman came out in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941. Ravelo sincerely believed that Charles Moulton, the creator of Wonder Woman, was here in the Philippines sometime in 1939-1940, and was allegedly one among those who heard his story of Suprema/Varga (During his early twenties, Ravelo was quite vocal in storytelling about his komiks ideas). He sincerely believed that some of the concepts of Varga, his “Wonderwoman from the Planet Marte” was bootlegged.

Captain Barbell
(Pinoy Komiks #8, August 29, 1963)
Notice how Jim Fernandez illustrated
Tenteng, Captain Barbell’s alter-ego.
Does he not look like Dolphy?
Ravelo vent out a sort of retaliation on the Captain Marvel character, which like Superman he also likes very much. This time, he admitted doing the spoofing himself, and out came Captain Barbell. He tailor-made the character Tenteng (Captain Barbell’s alter-ego), to Dolphy, who was then a comical skinny actor, as a pun or insult, as opposed to the matinee-idol type Billy Batson (Captain Marvel’s alter-ego). He specifically told illustrator Jim Fernandez about that, and you can see the obvious similarity between Dolphy and Tenteng in Fernandez’ drawings (“Captain Barbell,” Pinoy Komiks, 1963). He even intended the character to have a funny transformation, that Captain Barbell would turn into a skinny bungling superhero (Ravelo, however, later changed that story, which became “Captain Barbell vs. Flash Fifita”). (Un)Fortunately, Captain Barbell became a great hit and Dolphy made his character Tenteng quite a sensation. So, Ravelo changed his mind and continued the legacy of Captain Barbell.
In these four selected frames (Pinoy Komiks #8, August 29, 1963),
Tenteng was able to get even with his four half-brothers –
Bruno, Badong, Baldo and Banong – who constantly maltreated him.
This he did after winning the bet that he could lift the golden barbell.

In the original Captain Barbell komiks series (May 23, 1963 – June 18, 1964), and in the first movie, Tenteng was a laughable skinny young man very much maltreated by his four step-brothers, Bruno, Badong, Baldo and Banong. When I asked Uncle Mars what was Tenteng’s full name, he revealed that it was originally Penitente Mumolingot, and smirkingly hasten to add “huwag mo ng itanong” (don’t bother to ask). When I asked Tita Lucy (Ravelo’s wife) years later, she didn’t know about the “Mumolingot” surname but told me that Tenteng was actually taken from the name of a tall lanky boy who bullied Ravelo as a kid.

In the original story, Tenteng released a genie from a bottle and in return the genie gave him three wishes. His first wish was for a fried chicken. His second wish was a barbell he alone can lift that possesses the power to transform him into a super being the moment he shouts “Captain Barbell” (much like “SHAZAM” in Captain Marvel). His third wish was for the genie to become small again. Unfortunately the genie got eaten by a cat.

Richard Gutierrez with an entirely different
Captain Barbell costume on the cover of
Moviestar April 4, 2011 issue

The start of the original story was filled with comedy (with Dolphy’s unequalled portrayal of Tenteng in the movie). Tenteng has a love interest named Nora (portrayed in the film by Rebecca). Like the Narda (Darna), Tenteng has a kid sidekick named Rex, whose father was killed by Tenteng's half-brothers. The original Captain Barbell (portrayed by Bob Soler) had an eye mask, a simple costume, and a barbell made of “magical” solid gold. Captain Barbell and his alter-ego Tenteng each has a separate identity and portrayal. Tenteng is funny and a weakling while Captain Barbell is a serious character, and superstrong and invulnerable to any man-made weapons. He doesn’t, however, have superspeed as portrayed on the television series. In fact, GMA 7’s adulterated versions of Captain Barbell (2006 and 2011) are almost entirely different from the original character, in storyline, costume and characterization. In the 2006 version, the plot, storyline and characterization were almost like a "second rate copycat" of the first season of the TV series Smallville. I would  venture to think that Uncle Mars would pound them with a barbell if he is still alive today for adulterating his creation.

Captain Barbell Kontra Captain Bakal
On the cover of Pinoy Komiks #31,
July 16, 1964.

Furthermore, after the power of the magical barbell left Tenteng (in the end of the original series), Captain Barbell separated himself from Tenteng. He took the barbell and threw it into the sea. In the succeeding series, the magical barbell re-emerged and found new rightful owners. In the second series, “Captain Barbell Kontra Captain Bakal” (Pinoy Komiks, beginning July 2, 1964), Captain Barbell hence became the alter-ego of the legless cigarette vendor Dario. The movie version starred Carlos Padilla Jr as Dario and Willie Sotelo as Captain Barbell. 
In the third series, “Captain Barbell Versus Flash Fifita”  (Liwayway, beginning December 26, 1966), the recipient of the barbell is Gomer, a limping fisherman from Baryo Dagundong. There were plans to make it into a film which would bring back the original starrers in the first film, but on opposite portrayals, Bob Soler as Captain Barbell and Dolphy as Flash Fifita. It, however, didn't push through. Dolphy, nonetheless made a second film, Captain Barbell! Boom! (1973) under his own film company, RVQ.

The first issue of “Captain Barbell Versus Flash Fifita”
serialized in Liwayway (1966-1967),
where the power of the barbell was bestowed upon a limping fisherman named Gomer.
The last Captain Barbell series written by Ravelo appeared in Pilipino Komiks (1985-1986) and illustrated by Clem Rivera. It is here were the name Enteng was introduced as recipient of the magical barbell, this time from an old sage. It was made into a film Captain Barbell (1986), starring Herbert Bautista (as Enteng) and Edu Manzano (as Captain Barbell). It is in this film that Sharon Cuneta appeared as Darna (perhaps more than a cameo). Upon the advise of the old sage (portrayed by Leroy Salvador), Darna carried and brought the barbell to the beleaguered Enteng.

As of this writing there have been five Captain Barbell films and two television series.

NOTE: Based on excerpts of an unpublished interviews by the author with Mars Ravelo in 1985. Part of this article was first published in MOD (July 2011) under the title "Captain Barbell: The Real Origin of a Pinoy Superhero."

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Thursday, February 23, 2012


(And Some Excerpts of His Unpublished Interviews)

          My first personal encounter with Mars Ravelo happened in the early 1980s, when I started contributing crossword puzzles and articles to different Atlas Publishing magazines. I was a working student, freelancing, mostly in making crossword puzzles and writing trivia articles for Sports weekly, Special People and MOD Filipina. I only knew Mars Ravelo from the komiks stories that I used to follow and admire as a kid. When I saw him talking to the editors at the MOD office I didn’t have the guts to introduce myself to him.
The first issue of Sixteen, the magazine founded by Mars Ravelo.
The first issue of Sixteen MOD Filipina,
December 6, 1974

Note: Mars Ravelo was one of the “Founding Fathers” of MOD. He was the one who brainchild the Pilipino Komiks Incorporated’s Sixteen Magazine (June 22, 1968, with Orlando R. Nadres as its first editor). Later, under Atlas Publishing, Ravelo’s Sixteen eventually expanded to the large-sized Sixteen MOD Filipina (December 6, 1974), then to MOD Filipina (October 10, 1975), and finally to the MOD title (July 3, 1992). It is also interesting to note that MOD’s earliest ancestors were written in Tagalog and later in Taglish before English became its permanent medium.

          In 1985, I was finally introduced by then MOD Filipina magazine editor-in-chief Ernestina “Ernie” Evora Sioco to Marcial “Mars” Custodio Ravelo (1916-1988), the “Dean of Filipino Komiks Writer” and “Father of Filipino Komiks Superheroes.” I was asked by Mrs. Sioco to interview Mr. Ravelo. Between the years 1985 to 1987, I had several meetings with Mr. Ravelo. We talked a lot. Uncle Mars was one of two persons (the other is Mr. Antonio Tenorio) who taught me how to conceptualize and write komiks scripts. His style of komiks script writing was very elaborate and descriptive. Illustrators like this because it makes their jobs easier. I’m proud to say that I’m lucky to have been mentored by Mars Ravelo and learned his style of komiks writing.

A tribute article in the “Starliners” section
of MOD Filipina September 23, 1988 issue,
written by editor-in-chief Ernie Evora Sioco.
Published 11 days after the death
of Mars Ravelo.
          I did two interviews with “Uncle Mars” as he was fondly called by the people around him. Both of the interviews revolved around many things from comparing politics of old to politics of the 1980s, to komiks and the different komiks characters he created, most especially the superheroes. The interviews were done in Pilipino; one inside the office of Mr. Antonio Tenorio, then Atlas Publication’s head of Komiks Department, in the old Atlas Compound in Roces Avenue, and the second in a Savory Restaurant together with his wife Lucy and Mrs. Sioco. He was around 70 years old, but aside from what he called “a few moments of lapses” he was still quite sharp on his wits. We were even planning to do a komiks project together. He asked me to create 4 or 5 superheroes and they will join his team of superheroes and create a group much like Marvel’s Avengers and DC’s Justice League. We already had a name for the group: Royal League (“R” for Ravelo and “L” for Lawagan), and Tagalized, Ligang Maharlika (again, “L” for Lawagan” and “M” for Mars). To this, Mrs. Sioco gave her thumbs up. Uncle Mars, however, died on September 1988 before the project even got to first base. 
Mars Ravelo’s creations: From
top left clockwise, Darna at ang
Babaeng Lawin, Dyesebel,
Captain Barbell Kontra Captain Bakal,
Latikman, Booma, Goro & Bondying.
(From Tagalog Klasiks #424,
April 14, 1967.
          For the Ravelo interviews, they were not published in MOD Filipina even after his death because Mrs. Sioco was thinking of starting a Pilipino-language magazine. But when Gintong Mariposa was established in 1992, I misplaced the envelope where the cassette tapes and typewritten notes of the interview (the result of my family’s transferring from one house to another). It was only about three years after, around mid-1995, that I was able to recover it. Sadly, during those times, I was “blacklisted” by Atlas Publishing “for writing in other magazines” like Celebrity World, Mr. & Ms., etc. The General Manager, Mr. Deo Alvarez, said it was MOD’s policy that its contributor should not write for rival publication. Heck, I wasn’t even allowed to enter the Atlas Compound to get my paycheck. Luckily, I had some inside help from Mrs. Sioco and Mr. Tenorio, who tacitly called on the Atlas Compound gate guards to let me in. Incidentally, it was also during those times that I had secured a “go signal” from Tita Lucy to push the project that Uncle Mars and I were planning. It was to Atlas Publishing’s lost that the project didn’t materialize because of petty misunderstanding. Mr. Tenorio was very much regretful about it.
Mars Ravelo’s comics/cartoon characters:
(from left) Rita, Ipe at Engot, Totit, Gorio at Tekla, and Varga.
          For the backdrop of the interview, I did some research and background profiling of Ravelo, and noted that he was the creator of many of the unforgettable characters in Philippine pop culture: Rita, Trudis Liit, Roberta, Si Gorio at Si Tekla, Maruja, Facifica Falayfay, Bondying, Dyesebel, among others. His komiks dramas like Basahang Ginto and Tubog sa Ginto were literally acclaimed as cinematic gold. His superhero characters like Darna, Captain Barbell and Lastikman were also immortalized in films and television series.
          Today, after comparing my notes with what I was able to gather about Uncle Mars in the Internet, it dawned on me that what he revealed to me in the interviews were valuable information unknown to most people.

Mars Ravelo’s Bemboy publishedin a 1939 Mabuhay Extra issue.
(from an anonymous contributor)
          Do you know for example that Ravelo’s first published works came out around mid-1938 when he was still a struggling 22-year-old cartoonist? But if you browse through the Internet and a couple of very “shallow” komiks history books, you would read that Rita (Kasinghot), published in Bulaklak magazine in 1947, is tagged as the first published komiks creation of Ravelo. That’s nine years off the mark!
          In my interviews, Ravelo revealed that “sa abot ng natatandaan ko” (as far as I can remember), his first published works were “Ponchong” and “Bemboy.” And had not Liwayway magazine turned him down on his Varga (Darna’s predecessor character), history would have put Darna’s origin inside Liwayway’s pages instead of Bulaklak, and she would have been the Philippines’ first komiks superhero (Yes, at least one-a-half years ahead of Wonder Woman's first comics appearance!).
          For two years since rediscovering the text of the interviews, I spent part of my spare time trying to find remnants of Ravelo’s lost works. I scoured libraries and my collector-friends’ bauls for naught. It was only in 2011 that I got lucky. I found “Bemboy” courtesy of komiks collector and archiver Jose Dennis Villegas’ blog.
          According to Mr. Villegas, he acquired the very rare find, a 1939 Mabuhay Extra magazine containing Ravelo’s komiks strip “Bemboy,” from an antique dealer. Since then I also scoured even junk shops for Ravelo’s lost works, expecting to be lucky one of these days and perhaps find his other lost work, “Ponchong.”
          Both Bemboy and Ponchong, like many of the Ravelo-created characters including Narda (Varga/Darna alter-ego), Bondying, Penitente Mumolingot or better known as Tenteng (Captain Barbell’s first alter-ego), Tony (of “Tiny Tony”), etc., were names of his childhood acquaintances.
Ponchong & Bemboy, the first two
published characters created by
Mars Ravelo (around 1938-1939).
          Ravelo also told me that the two persons that influenced him early in his career were Irish cartoonist George McManus (1884-1954) and Jewish-American animator Max Fleischer (1883-1972). McManus’ cartoon strips “Rosie’s Beau,” “Bringing Up Father,” and “The Newly Weds, influenced him so much both in his style of writing and drawing. The character Ponchong he said was a Filipino version of Jiggs, the character in “Bringing Up Father” that brought McManus to fame and fortune. The komiks strips “Totit,” “Ipe,” “Buhay Pilipino,” “Si Gorio at Si Tekla” and “Rita at Okay” were reminiscent of McManus’ style.

Two of George McManus’ works: “Snookums” and “Bringing Up Father.”
Look at the similarity of McManus’ and Ravelo’s style of drawing cartoons
about everyday family situations.
According to Ravelo, the character Ponchong was the Filipino personification of Jiggs.
          For the character Bemboy (I earlier thought it was “Bimboy” until I saw the comic strip discovered by Villegas), he recalled having a playmate who argued with his mother a lot because he put so much attention to his dog that he always neglect to do his home chores. It so happened that Fleischer created a character named “Bimbo,” the dog with a human girlfriend, which is “Betty Boop” (the character that immortalized Fleischer). Come to think of it, Bemboy is quite similar to McManus' Snookums. Ravelo sort of experimented during his early works, intermixing the real story with fiction, and also interspersing the drawing styles of McManus and Fleischer with his own.
          Varga is another casing point of Ravelo’s early style of drawing. True to his accounts, Varga’s illustration is a cross between McManus and Fleischer. And based on his story, the timeline of Varga’s birth origin should be put around 1939 and not 1947.

          Ravelo admitted that when he was in his early youth, he was quite gregarious and talkative. He loves telling his stories to both his Filipino and American friends and acquaintances. When he first saw Superman from a newspaper comics strip brought by American soldiers, he so loved it that he boasted he would create a female counterpart in Philippine komiks.
          To quote Ravelo: “Alam mo naisip kong gawin yung Varga para itapat kay Superman. Lalake yung sa mga Amerikano, babae yung sa atin. Di ba ayos?” (You know I thought of creating Varga as a counterpart of Superman. Male on the part of the Americans, female on our part. Isn’t that okay?).
          Many in the komiks world know that before Darna, there was Varga. But did you know that Varga was actually the second name. When Ravelo was telling his “Superman female counterpart” story, the name he was calling her was “Suprema,” which is the female equivalent of a “Supremo” (highest rank leader), a nom de guerre of Andres Bonifacio. Ravelo intended Suprema to be an all-powerful and indestructible woman just like Superman. When asked, “why not just call her Superwoman?” Ravelo answered, “Ayaw ko kasi siyang parang ginaya lang. Naisip ko, para maging naiiba siya.” (I don’t like her to appear like a copycat. I thought, to make her different.). Ravelo didn’t want to bootleg the character he so admired. “Naisip ko ring gumamit ng pang-uring tatatak sa isip ng tao. Naisip ko ang salitang ‘kamangha-mangha.’ Kaya ang itinawag ko sa kaniya ay Suprema – ang kamangha-manghang dilag.” (I also thought of using an adjective that will be retained in the minds of people. I thought of the word ‘wonder.’ So I called her Suprema – the wonder woman.)
          Ravelo had a change of mind, however, and opted not to use the name Suprema. Ravelo changed the name to Varga. From his nickname “Mars” (also the name of the Greek god of war and the fourth planet from the sun) and its Tagalog equivalent “Marte,” he purportedly used as Varga’s homeworld. So, the Philippines’ first superheroine was born – “Varga, ang Kamangha-manghang Dilag mula sa Planetang Marte” (Varga, the Wonder Woman from the Planet Mars).
          It can also be noted that Varga was a character archived twice. It was first published inside the pages of Bulaklak magazine Vol. 4 Number 17 on July 23, 1947. Varga became very popular with the readers, but by some twist of circumstance, the name Varga became the ownership of Bulaklak magazine (during those times, intellectual property right is not yet in effect) and when Ravelo left the publication in 1949 after a falling out with its editor, Varga stayed behind. Ravelo took Varga’s personality, revised her costume, and brought her to Pilipino Komiks, and renamed the character Darna.
          For more than two decades the character Varga was lost, until Ravelo established his own RAR Publishing House in 1970 and later acquired the rights to publish Bulaklak. He retitled it Bulaklak at Paruparo, and inside its pages, Varga returned and completed her story. It was followed by “Varga at ang Impakta,” which was illustrated by Jess Olivares. The resurrected Varga, however, didn’t have much flare like its successor-characterization Darna.
           It took three decades again before the name Varga resurfaced, when ABS-CBN Channel 2 made it into a TV series which started on August 2, 2008. The character portrayed by Mariel Rodriguez, however, was very different from the original creation of Ravelo. The superheroine’s costume was change, as well as her origin and beginning. The name of her alter ego was also change – from Narda to Olga. (READ ALSO: THE UNTOLD TRUE BEGINNING OF DARNA)
          The ABS-CBN series portrayed an alien princess named Vara from the planet Vargon who found herself drawn to planet Earth. Gifted with beauty, voluptuous body and superpower, Vara met and merged with a young Filipina girl named Olga (played by Angel Sy), and became Varga. Together they tried to fight evil and save the world. Varga’s archenemy in the series is Xandra (played by Sheryl Cruz), a woman who can literally sucked the youth out of every human.
          The series ended on October 4, 2008, after 11 episodes.

Three of many komiks novels written by Mars Ravelo:
“Goro, Ang Kapreng Mahiyain” on the first issue of Pioneer Komiks (December 3, 1962),
“Kitikiti” on the Pilipino Komiks #430 (March 4, 1965),
and “Nakangiting Halimaw” on the cover of
Tagalog Klasiks #401 (May 17, 1966).
          There were so many which can be considered as lost works of Ravelo. While they are listed among his resumes, many of his works are now considered rarities or, worst, no longer have existing copies. Do you know for instance that aside from “Varga” and “Rita” there was another character – “Ric Benson” – that Ravelo wrote and drew for Bulaklak in 1947? Ric Benson was published 16 issues ahead of Varga.
          Before Iskul Bukol’’s Miss Tapia, there was already “Miss Tilapia.” Before Jinkee Pacquiao was even born, Ravelo already have a character named “Jinkee.” Truly, sad to say, much of the priceless legacies left by this legendary komiks great maybe lost forever.

          Now, anyone of you heard about “Boksingera?” How about “Ang Biyenang Hindi Tumatawa?” Can you find me an existing copy of the “Baby Bubut” komiks series? Ah yes, how about “Zorina,” “Kitikiti,” or “Nakangiting Halimaw?” 
Two komiks novels written by Mars Ravelo.
On the left, an inside page) from Redondo Komix #23, March 10, 1964 (courtesy of Stephen Redondo):
“Devlin, Swashbuckler of the Seas” (illustrated by Nestor Redondo)
On the right, an inside page from Espesyal Komiks #269, January 28, 1963:
“Fil-American Girl” (illustrated by Nestor Leonidez).
          Still many more are not even listed on Wikipedia or on Mars Ravelo’s official website. Among them “David Arkanghel” (drawn by Carlos A. Divinagracia), “Devlin: Swashbuckler of the Seas” (drawn by Nestor Redondo), “Fil-American Girl” (drawn by Nestor Leonidez), “Ginto, Pilak, Tanso” (drawn by Bes Nievera), “Goro, Ang Kapreng Mahiyain” (drawn by Rex Guerrero), “Handsome” (drawn by Nestor Redondo), “Higantina, Da Big Byuti” (drawn by Nestor Infante), “Impakta” (drawn by Joe Marie Mongcal), “Jesus Iscariote” (drawn by Romy S. Gaupo), “Jikiriz” (drawn by Dell Barras), “Konde Artemius” (drawn by Romy S. Gaupo), “Mga Kuwento ni Lola Huga” (drawn by Romy Santos), “Pomposa, Ang Kabayong Tsismosa” (drawn by Elpidio Torres), “Wamboo” (drawn by Pat Facundo Jr), etc.

Four of many komiks novels written by Mars Ravelo under the penname Virgo Villa:
“Asuwang” on the cover of Extra Komiks #253 (May 1, 1961),
“Voodoo Diamond” on the cover of Lagim Komiks #248 (December 20, 1965) 
“Botong” on the cover of Universal Komiks #80 (April 7, 1967),
and “Tsangga Rangga” on the cover of Espesyal Komiks #338 (May 6, 1967).

           Let us not forget that because Ravelo was such a prolific writer, he needs to write under pennames so as not to overwhelm both the publication and the reading public. There are several works he did under the penname Virgo Villa: “Anak ng Bakulaw,” “Asuwang,” “Bamaw,” “Botong,” “Gorgonya,” “Higanta,” “Kanggo,” “Oggra, ang Kapreng Tanga,” "The Adventures of Rex Braganza,” “Tsangga Rangga,” to name a few. As of this updated posting (May, 2017), they are also not yet listed in Wikipedia.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012



Photography and painting, what’s the difference? They are both medium of illustrative arts. While the photographer visualizes with the lens of his camera, the painter creates images with the strokes of his brush. There’s no denying that in both, the mind of the artists unfolds the idea, the medium forms its flesh, and the dedication gives its soul.

The examples posted here with brief notes, though self-explanatory, give the audience the idea of comparison.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

VALENTINA: The Most Well-known Supervillainess in Philippine Komiks

Valentina on the cover of
Pilipino Komiks #81 (July 8, 1951)
illustrated by Nestor Redondo
          In the history of Philippine komiks, among the aficionados, who would not know Valentina? She is the supervillainess that Darna fought in her first adventure. Based on the komiks novel written by Mars Ravelo and illustrated by Nestor Redondo for Pilipino Komiks, Valentina is the daughter of Miguel and Doray. Ravelo is a big fan of mythology, and he conceptualized a being with hairs of venomous snakes similar to the mythological gorgon Medusa but with a Filipino touch. She is mortal, born in a rural scene, and does not have the power to turn people into stones by the mere looking at her eyes like the character in Greek mythology.

          In the original story, she was influenced by an evil creature named Kobra, one with a head of an old hag and a body of huge python. Valentine can command all snakes to do his biddings, for which Kobra called her the “goddess of snakes.”

Two episodes of “Darna” in Pilipino Komiks #78 and #92 showcasing
the birth of Valentina (Episode 2, May 20, 1950), and
Valentina’s revelation to Edwardo of her plans of turning the world into a realm of snakes
(Episode 16, August 26, 1950)
The third of the three-issue
Mars Ravelo’s Darna (cover
illustrated by Gilbert Monsanto)
published by Mango Comics.
          Valentina was feared and hated by the town folks and by the only man she ever loved, Edwardo. These drove her to become evil. She murdered her parents, and wanted to kill all the people, and transform the world into a haven of reptiles, much like the days of the dinosaurs. Darna, battled her and her minions. In the end, an earthquake killed Valentina’s army of snakes. Valentina, on the other hand, disheartened and nowhere to go, committed suicide by jumping into a cliff where she threw the corpses of her parents.

          In the first film, which starred Rosa del Rosario as Darna in 1951, it was Cristina Aragon who portrayed the snake-haired villainess. The other actresses who portrayed Valentina in the big screen were Celia Rodriguez (Lipad, Darna, Lipad! 1973), Pilar Pilapil (Darna, 1991) and Pilita Corales (Darna: Ang Pagbabalik, 1994). For the television series produced by GMA-7, Alessandra de Rossi (2005) and Iwa Moto (2009-2010) played the role.

Alessandra de Rossi featured on the
cover of MOD July 8, 2005 issue:
“It pays to be TV’s glammest uber-villain.”
          In the GMA-7 television series Darna, which was based on the three-issue Mars Ravelo’s Darna published by Mango Comics in 2003, the role of Valentina was tailored made for the 5’-7” actress Alessandra de Rossi. But De Rossi almost didn’t accept the role of the snake-haired villainess when it was offered to her. She has ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. She was, nevertheless, convinced by the production team after they explained to her the importance of her role. It is, in fact, the most sought after kontrabida (villain) role. She fought off her fear and was able to portray the role quite well. For her portrayal she was even called by journalists as the “Modern Valentina.” It was very noticeable (and quite laughable), however, that in many scenes black eels were used instead of snakes.