Sunday, May 28, 2017


Angel Locsin as Darna, on the cover of
MOD August 12, 2005 issue.
The Sexiest and most popular Darna.
In the 21st century, we’ve seen four actresses portrayed the role of Darna. Regine Velasquez did a cameo of Darna in the Bong Revilla film Captain Barbell (2003), and also donned the costume in her The Singer and the Songwriter concert tour (2004). Angel Locsin beat all the television ratings record portraying the role in the 2005 GMA-7’s Darna series. The Kapuso Network made a Darna remake starring Marian Rivera in 2009-2010. In that remake, Angel Aquino portrayed a predecessor Darna. Ruffa Mae Quinto also wore, albeit, a fake Darna costume (so, she’s not included in the list).

          Since 2013, when ABS-CBN obtained the rights to Darna from the Ravelo heirs, talks have been circulating that Angel Locsin will again play the prized role, this time in the big screen. It awakened the Darnamania not only in the Philippines but all over the globe. Star Cinema, ABS-CBN film outfit, was supposed to make the “biggest” film ever in Philippine cinema history with award-winning director Erik Matti and his production company Reality Entertainment at the helm of Darna, the Movie. In June 2014, Angel Locsin even announced: “Pwede ko na siguro sabihin. It’s official, nasa sa akin na ulit ang bato!” (I think it can already be said. It’s official, I again have the [magical] pebble!) Vilma Santos, also a former Darna portrayer, was said to play the role of Lola Asay, and Sarah Lahbati was to play Valentina.

          Indeed, Locsin was already preparing to don the crimson bikini again, but she got injured during stunt training. She developed a "disc bulge" in her spine because of the strenuous training. Darna fanatics, however, did not lose hope. They even created websites bannering “Darna Waits (for Angel).” Up until the end of September 2016, Locsin was still the only choice to play Darna. Several months passed, the wait continued until Locsin himself finally said that she could no longer play the role.

          Many, millions to say the least, were disappointed. The legacy of Mars Ravelo’s Darna, however, needs to move forward. The hunt for the new actress to portray Darna begins. I just hope that this time, they will make Darna, the original Filipino superheroine that she is, and not a second-rate copycat of Wonder Woman that other writers and directors have portrayed her in the past, especially after Mars Ravelo had passed away. (Read more about Darna in my other blog post: Darna: The Original Filipino Superheroine. Read also the proof that Darna is the original, and it is Wonder Woman that is a copycat: The Untold True Beginning of Darna)

          The early list includes Bea Alonso, Anne Curtis, Isabelle Daza, Shaina Magdayao, Bianca Manalo, Jessy Mendiola, Cristine Reyes, Maja Salvador and a host of other ABS-CBN talents. Later added on the list were Ritz Azul, Sarah Geronimo, Nadine Lustre, Julia Montes, Arci Muñoz, Yassi Pressman, Mariel Rodriguez (who earlier played Varga), Liza Soberano, Megan Young (Miss World 2014), Pia Wurtzbach (Miss Universe 2015), and even talents from the rival network GMA-7, Carla Abellana, Glaiza de Castro, Maine Mendoza, Jennylyn Mercado, and the last Darna portrayer, Marian Rivera, were being considered by fans.

The Galaxy of stars being considered by fans to play the next Darna: (From top left, clockwise)
Bea Alonso, Ritz Azul, Anne Curtis, Isabelle Daza, Sarah Geronimo, Nadine Lustre, Shaina Magdayao, Jessy Mendiola, Julia Montes, Yassi Pressman, Cristine Reyes, Mariel Rodriguez, Maja Salvador,
Liza Soberano, Megan Young and Pia Wurtzbach.
Anna Gonzales on the cover of
Hiwaga Komiks (February 6, 1974).
One among a few actresses who
declined to play Darna.
          Darna is a career defining role. Ever since Rosa del Rosario soared on the silver screen as the first Darna, it has been a much sought after role for many aspiring actresses. There are, however, a few actresses who backed out from portraying the role after it was offered to them. Before Gina Pareño was bestowed the “magical pebble” for Darna at ang Planetman (1969), two actresses, Anna Gonzales and Vilma Valera, were considered to play Darna, but they both declined. I can’t imagine the regrets in their minds afterwards.

          On the other hand, there were actresses that probably would have given justice to the superheroine role. Among them Delia Razon (in the 1950s, perhaps after Rosa del Rosario), Alma Moreno, Gretchen Barretto and Dawn Zulueta (in the 1980s), Ina Raymundo (in the 1990s), and Nadine Samonte and Glaiza de Castro (after Angel Locsin and Marian Rivera). The amazing lady who played Bathaluman Ether in the Encantadia remake, Janice Hung, has all “assets” fit for the role, she’s beautiful, sexy, physically athletic, and can kick butts being a wushu champion. Too bad she’s on a rival network.

          As of this posting (May 2017), five names topped the list of contenders: Nadine Lustre, Jessy Mendiola, Maja Salvador, Liza Soberano and Megan Young.
On the top of the list of contenders to play the next Darna: (From left to right)
Nadine Lustre, Jessy Mendiola, Maja Salvador, Liza Soberano and Megan Young.
          So far, 16 actresses have played the role of Darna, in films and television series, including cameos: Rosa del Rosario, Liza Moreno, Eva Montes, Gina Pareño, Vilma Santos, Lorna Tolentino, Lotis Key, Brenda del Rio, Rio Locsin, Sharon Cuneta, Nanette Medved, Anjanette Abayari, Regine Velasquez, Angel Locsin, Angel Aquino and Marian Rivera.

          Who will be the next?


Friday, May 12, 2017


(More excerpts from the 1985 unpublished interviews with Mars Ravelo)

          Darna is the most popular character in Philippine komiks. Its iconic popularity is so well-established that just like the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman, the character that inspired her creation, it transcends racial and cultural borders. Darna is not only loved by millions of Filipinos, but her charm has attracted fans from all nationality, all over the world. Even in the manga and Marvel universes, you’ll find Darna fanatics. There’s even a fan club of Darna in, of all places, Russia.


          What makes Mars Ravelo’s Darna unique from any other superhero characters has been the object of several write-ups. If you read her stories, saw her films and television series, you would probably say she’s a superhero like most others, can fly, endowed with superstrength, champions the cause of good and justice, etc. So, what makes her different?

          If I remembered correctly, Mars Ravelo once said: “Si Darna, nakuha niya ang damdamin at panlasa ng mga sumusubaybay sa pakikipagsapalaran niya.” (Darna, she captured the emotion and taste of those who followed her adventures.) Who wouldn’t?

           A young barrio lass, living a plain and simple life together with her grandmother and younger brother, is bestowed a power to fight injustice and all forms of evil. People saw themselves in her and in the hope, no matter how mystical, she brings. The simplicity and fluidity of Ravelo’s story combined with the uniqueness of his story-telling style are also factors inherent in Darna’s iconic popularity. Ravelo is no longer around to write or supervise the writing of Darna’s continuing stories, but the legacy of the superheroine he created lives on. For seven decades spanning four generations of fans, her name – Darna – still soars sky-high.


          Darna’s character and image had gone through several changes and twists from the original simple story. While some fans like this evolution, majority don’t. Indeed, if you based it on the critical reaction of fans in every walk of life, every time there is a sudden alteration of her character, image or even her powers, you'll know they are against it. Majority would prefer the original Darna, unblemished, beautiful, sexy, alluring, but can kick the wits of any villain she encounters.

          Recent writers had used the Marvel style of incorporating the so-called multiverse (either “multiple universe” or “multiple version”) in continuing her saga and adventures. In one film (Darna: Ang Pagbabalik, 1994), she was given powers like that of Superman. In another post-Ravelo story in Super Action Komiks, a scenario of three Darna was narrated. Still another story forcibly connected her with the Adarna bird, which is contrary to Ravelo’s concept. Some illustrators even showcased a change of image, giving her a different costume and outlook. Still others gave her an Amazonian physique, which many fans, both male and female, considered abhoring. For today’s writer and illustrators, for all intent and purposes, she should remain sexy and alluring.


          In all of Darna’s history, one controversy refused to give up: Was she a copycat of Wonder Woman? Or if I may boldly asked, could it be possible that it’s the other way around – Mars Ravelo’s concept was stolen from him? This is especially so when you look at and scrutinize the circumstances and coincidences behind the creation and publication of these two characters.

          In my unpublished 1985 interviews with Ravelo, he 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. According to him, it took three weeks to one month of conceptualizing before he was able to form his story. “Ang dami kasing pumapasok sa isip kong ideya. Pinili ko ang pinaka-simple.” (There are a lot of ideas going inside my mind. I chose the simplest.)

          “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?). Then he revealed something else: “Pero alam mo, hindi naman Varga ang unang pangalan ni Darna. Atin-atin lang ito ha.... Ang una kong itinawag sa kaniya ay Suprema.” (But you know, Varga was not the first name of Darna. This is just between the two us.... The first name I gave her is Suprema.)


          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. She would be a Filipina given supernatural power by a diwata (fairy). 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 want 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.) This was in the middle of 1939. This should be the year of the birth origin of Darna.

          Ravelo had a change of mind, however, and opted not to use the name Suprema. “May nagsabi kasi sa akin na baka may magalit at sabihin pang iniinsulto ko si Bonifacio. Taga-Cavite ako. Alam mo naman noon.” (Somebody told me that I could get the ire of some people who may think I’m insulting Bonifacio. I’m from Cavite. You know the situation during those times.). The controversy between Emilio Aguinaldo, who hailed from Cavite, and what happened to Andres Bonifacio and his brother were still an unresolved problem at the time. So, Ravelo had to change her name.

          “Nag-isip ako ng panibagong tawag na naiiba. Tapos nakakita ako ng dibuho ng mga seksing babae, ang tawag ng mga Kano ay Varga Girls. Ang gaganda ng mga dibuho. Doon ko kinuha ang pangalang Varga.” (I try thinking for another name that is unique. Then I saw some illustration of sexy girls, which the Americans called Varga Girls. The illustrations were so beautiful. That is where I got the name Varga.)

          When Ravelo changed the name to Varga, he also changed some of the premises of the story. The superheroine will no longer be a Filipina given superpower by a diwata, but an alien entity will used a young barrio girl as vessel to appear and fight evil. The idea of a “vessel,” a child turning into a superhero after shouting a word is something he borrowed from another character he admired, Captain Marvel. 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 the name of 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 came to pass that Ravelo borrowed the name Varga from the Varga Girls, which were painted pin-ups that Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas created for Esquire magazine (1940). There was another reason why he chose Varga, but as of this writing I couldn’t recall the complete details as much of the notes of my 1985 interviews with him are gone. Though I remember that it also has something to do with anagrams.

          For Varga’s alter-ego, Ravelo has a galaxy of names mostly beginning with the letter “D” (I wasn’t able to ask why): Diana, Digna, Dina, Donata, Donna, Nova, Olivia, etc. Then later on he saw one Varga Girl name Diana. “Mahilig ako sa mitolohiya. Kaya napansin ko agad ang pangalang Diana. Siya ang diyosa ng pangangaso at ng buwan. Gusto ko yun. Pero gusto ko rin na katutubo ang dating.” (I like mythology. So the name Diana immediately caught my attention. She is the goddess of hunt and of the moon. I like it. But I also like a native impression.) Ravelo like playing with words and anagrams. He likes leaving signatures in his works. One anagram of Diana is Nadia. Then he noticed that if he replaced the “I” with an “R,” the first letter of his surname, the name “Narda” could be formed. “Bingo!” He said. “Naalala ko ang pangalan ng isang kakilala ko noong bata pa ako – si Narda.” (I remember the name of one of my acquaintances when I was a kid – Narda).

          Ravelo drew the illustrations of Varga himself, the first issue being just a one-page, six-frame, layout, with a first-frame showcase of Varga. He admitted that his drawing was bordering on the unrealistic, “Malayo sa hugis” (far-off shape). “Naisip ko baka isa yun sa mga dahilan kaya inayawan ng mga publishers.” (I thought maybe that is one of the reasons why the publishers rejected it)


          “Natatandaan ko inalok ko yung istorya sa Liwayway, Salinlahi, Mabuhay, pero tinanggihan nila. Pakiusap ko pa sa isang publisher na para sana sa kaarawan* ko iyon. Pero hindi raw bebenta ang isang babaeng superhero.” (I remembered offering the story to Liwayway, Salinlahi, Mabuhay, but they turned it down. I even pleaded to one publisher that it would be for my birthday*. But they say female superhero will not sell). “Sabi pa nila, manatili na lang daw ako sa mga kuwento ng pagpapatawa.” (They even said, I should just stay in stories that make people laugh**). *RAVELO WAS BORN ON OCTOBER 9, 1916, AND HE STARTED HIS CAREER IN KOMIKS AS A **WRITER-CARTOONIST OF HUMOROUS EVERYDAY SITUATIONS OF ORDINARY PEOPLE.

          That was not the case with Ravelo, who is a versatile and prolific writer. He likes writing in all genres, excel and be number one in it. “Gusto kong subukan lahat. Gusto kong maging mahusay sa lahat.” (I like to try everything. I like to excel in everything).


          It is an admitted fact that Wonder Woman (All Star Comics #8, December 1941) was published first before Darna (Pilipino Komiks #77, May 13, 1950), but this is only because the publishers that Ravelo approached in 1939-1941 turned him down. Then came the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines, the onset of the Pacific phase of World War II. Ravelo’s female superhero was shelved for more than five years. It was only after the war that he was able to again offer his works, this time to Bulaklak (Hiyas ng Tahanan) magazine. Now, as to who is the copycat among the two, I only recently confirmed.

          In the book Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) by Jill Lepore, it was mentioned that William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) a.k.a. Charles Moulton named his superhero “Suprema, the Wonder Woman.” Coincidence?! The probability is mathematically staggering! It was also revealed in Lepore’s book that Marston’s character was only called “Wonder Woman” when comics editor and script writer Sheldon Mayer dropped the name Suprema from the initial name given by Marston to publisher Maxwell Charles Gaines (1895-1947), which coincidentally also published Superman. Another coincidence is the name of Wonder Woman’s clandestine identity – Diana Prince. Well, maybe, we can accept the fact that Marston also love the Varga Girl name Diana.

          Backtracking, it is noteworthy that Marston only got his “opportunity” when Gaines saw his interview in Family Circle and afterward hired him as a consulting psychology for the National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would merged to form DC Comics. Marston immediately proposed to Gaines the possibility of publishing a female superhero. Like Ravelo, he also encountered difficulty in convincing the publisher with regards to a female superhero’s ability to sell. But unlike Ravelo’s experience of rejections with Filipino publishers, Marston was given a chance by Gaines.

          The revelation in Lepore’s book brought up one question after another in my mind. Why would Marston gave such a name – Suprema? Where did he get it? Or the better question, perhaps, is where did he hear the name? Don’t tell me it’s the female equivalent of the word “supreme.” That will bring up a million laughs. Mayer even said that Marston’s concept of the female superhero was “so vague that so many revisions were necessary to make it unambiguous.” Marston was in the Philippines in the late 1930s up to the third quarter of 1940. Did he overhear Ravelo’s storytelling? Did he bootleg Ravelo’s idea and turn it into his own? The evidences maybe circumstantial at this point but it warrants answers.


          The year Marston and Gaines died, 1947, was in a twist of fate the year Mars Ravelo got his opening for the publication of Varga (Karma working here or what?). Inside the pages of Bulaklak (Hiyas ng Tahanan) Vol. 4 Number 17, on July 23, 1947, Varga began her story: “In Barrio Masambong, not far from Manila, there lies a small hut. Here live Narda and Ding, in the company of their Lola Asay. They are orphaned and indigent. They ask people for alms while Narda sings accompanied by Ding’s harmonica. This is how they were able to make ends meet with their grandmother. One night, the two were with other kids playing hide and seek.....”

          Contrary to what the editors of the other publications said about a female superhero, 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, from the anagram of Varga’s alter-ego Narda.

          On May 13, 1950, inside the pages of Pilipino Komiks #77, Darna, the original Filipino superhero, donned a crimson red bikini, white sash, golden wings on her forehead, and knee-high stiletto (probably diluted from the aftereffects of seeing Varga Girls pin-ups), and drawn and illustrated by Nestor Redondo, started her adventures battling the snake-haired woman Valentina. Rosa del Rosario, Manila’s “Golden Age” movie queen, portrayed Darna on its silver screen debut on May 31, 1951. It was the blockbuster of the era!

          And the rest is history!


By markovah
By chlei-pinoyexchange
By gammaknight-monsanto
By maehao
By comicartcommunity
By waversphil
By ryanorosco
By hasmot-jennyjasminlacay

By 16siddhartha-brianfajardo
By jio2
By xenonvicentelegend
By raffya3-photobucket
By g_spot1
By mazingerpip
By jagr10-josegutierrez
By redgvicente

By josedalisayv
By keikei11-gladzykei
By noellayonflores-behance
By tristangarcia-tsart

By poch
By bobbyrubio
By luato
By migs3331
By ianar
By demidemi
By glee-chan
By jdan

By orig13-deviantart
By ralphgarcia-wooserr
By chufano19
By lynyrdnarciso