Darna is a fictional character and superheroine created by Filipino komiks (Philippine colloquial term for comics) legend Mars Ravelo. In her more popular incarnations, she is a warrior from outer space manifesting herself through a girl from Earth, named Narda.
Darna was originally known as Varga and first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17, on July 23, 1947. Ravelo had differences with the editors of Bulaklak Magazine and Varga's name was changed to "Darna". The character was re-launched on May 13, 1950. Nestor Redondo drew the first Darna.
Since then, Darna has become a Philippine cultural icon and the most recognizable character among Ravelo's creations.
Character overview and history
Regardless of her many incarnations, the 1950's origin of Darna begins with a village girl named Narda who finds a small white stone, a tiny meteorite from outer space. Narda swallows the stone and shouts "Darna!" - becoming a mighty warrior ready to defend Earth from evil forces.
Darna's powers include flight, super strength, super speed and near-invulnerability. In the 2003 retcon, the latest releases of the comic, this is due to her psionic background. Thus a form of telekinesis enhances her speed and strength and allows her flight. Her skin has a high level of invulnerability because of her race. Her psionic abilities also allow her to exercise limited psionic influence or telepathy. For weapons, the ruby encrusted in the winged medallion on her helmet also augments her psionic abilities, allowing her to emit a powerful concussion blast and the medallions that make up her belt can be used like throwing stars (shuriken). In the 2005 TV series, she also has heat vision, lent by the ruby. In the TV series, she uses her bracelets, similar to Wonder Woman's to deflect bullet impacts since impact also hurts. Narda transforms into Darna, and vice versa, by shouting out their respective names. First, however, Narda has to swallow the white stone, which conveniently comes out of her mouth every time Darna changes back into herself. However, it was not so in her comic incarnations (see below).
Contrary to what some Filipinos may believe, Darna was not named after the magical Ibong Adarna (Adarna bird), which appears in a Philippine epic of the same name. In Bulaklak Magazine, Narda was already established as Varga's mortal identity. "Darna" was simply an anagram of "Narda". Also, see
Darna's first adventure (as Darna) was first serialized in the pages of Pilipino Komiks #77, where she was pitted against the sultry snake goddess Valentina. Here, Narda, a young girl, swallows the stone, which has the word Darna on it, and transforms into Darna by shouting out the latter name. Likewise, Darna turns back into Narda by shouting her name. The stone, from the planet Marte, stays in her body, and her secret is known to her grandmother, and her brother Ding, who becomes her sidekick. The superheroine quickly gained popularity among Filipino comic book readers.
Starting in 1951
, several Darna movies were made. Some made from 1973 onwards starred the future multi-awarded dramatic actress and politician Vilma Santos
. In these 1970s films, Darna's origin was changed; no longer a little girl, Narda was now in her late teens. Also, she herself becomes Darna, unlike the original where she just "channels" her (not unlike Jason Blood and Etrigan
). Only Ding knows her secret in this version. Also, the stone comes out of Narda's mouth every time she changes back; she has to swallow it every time she wants to transform (This became standard for following versions). Darna is not specified as coming from Marte, just as a "warrior of Light". This version of Darna became most people's idea of the character for about 3 decades. A catchphrase
popularized by the movies and said by Narda runs, "Ding, ang bato!
" ("Ding, [give me] the stone!")
A TV series was also produced in 1977. Created by Ketchie Benedicto and airing on KBS 9, Darna! The TV Series starred another future multi-awarded dramatic actress, Lorna Tolentino, as Darna/Narda.
The Mango Comics miniseries
In 2003, an award-winning Darna 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 stone 10 years before. However, the details of Darna's origin was changed again - Her race of "Adarna Warriors" originally came from the planet Tiamat, as did Valentina's, the "Serpent Queens". Their respective peoples had warred for many years. On Tiamat, Darna's race used artificial wings, reminiscent of the Hawkmen and Hawkwomen of Thanagar, while Valentina's race was reminiscent of Nagas as well as Gorgons. Because of the war between the Adarna Warriors and the Serpent Queens, they fled the planet Tiamat and went to the planet Nibiru, also known as Marte.
Here, Darna (both the name and the character) is explicitly linked to the Adarna bird (Ibong Adarna).
The 2005 TV series
In 2004, executives of 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. It premiered in Filipino homes on April 11, 2005 and garnered a 47.1% rating according to AGB, making it one of the highest rated pilot episode ever in Philippine television. During the fourth episode, it garnered 52.1% overnight ratings from AGB, the highest rating yet for the show because this was the episode that Narda transforms into Darna for the first time. Filipino actress Angel Locsin starred as Darna. The television series ended Friday, November 25, 2005.
A lot of changes and new material were added for this incarnation of Darna. The show follows the original with Narda finding the stone as a child, but she only becomes Darna and discovers her powers at age eighteen. It follows the 2003 comics in making Darna part of an alien race (the Adranika of Marte) who fought another alien race of serpent people (called the Anomalka). However, many new allies and enemies were invented for the show, as well as more backstory. Notably, Narda and the (half-Anomalkan, half-human) Valentina are half-sisters.
Four actresses who previously played Darna were involved in the 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 Captain Barbell, 2003) sang the theme song of the series. Quite interestingly, she also provided a voice clip of shouting "Darna!" for use in the TV series, as Angel Locsin's own efforts were apparently subpar.
The series features several prominent Filipino actors and actresses as the villains:
Similarities and inspirations
Some may point out that Darna is very similar to (or less charitably, is a rip-off of) Western superheroes, particularly Wonder Woman.
Aside from the bullet deflection misconception (perpetrated by the Viva Films movies), Darna's similarity to Wonder Woman is superficial, if anything. Besides the fact that super strength, flight, and super speed are common and hardly unique powers among superheroes, the character has several differences with her purported source material. She has always possessed the power of flight from the very beginning (as Varga in 1947, and as Darna in 1950), while Wonder Woman only gained the power to "glide on the air currents" in the 60's and the real power of flight in the 1987 relaunch of her title after the Crisis on Infinite Earths changed the DC Universe.
She does not require bracelets to deflect bullets with, because they already bounce off her body (like Superman). It seems that only Viva Films' rendition of Darna copies Wonder Woman, because they have her deflect bullets with her bracelets. It should be noted that bullets also don't kill Wonder Woman if hit directly unless the force is stronger than human technology or weaponry. Her bracelets are used for style to demonstrate superhuman reflexes and deflection of any form of projectile, not just bullets, and she's nearly as durable as Superman. Strength levels are also different, as Wonder Woman is many times stronger than Darna, being one of the DC Comics' characters who helped move the earth's moon using brute strength. Also, Darna is not nor has she ever been an "Amazon princess". She is an "Adarna Warrior" from an alien race called Adranika from the Planet Marte (a.k.a. "Nibiru").
Darna's chief inspirations did not include Wonder Woman, but were rather Superman and Captain Marvel, whose comics Ravelo regularly read.
According to confirmed sources, the reason why Mars Ravelo chose to create a female superhero rather than a male one was because Ravelo grew up with an absent father; thus, he never had a father-figure and he considered his mother as his biggest hero growing up. His mother represented Darna, and young Mars Ravelo represented the kid sidekick, Ding.
- Ding - Narda's brother and friend. Died in the 2005 TV series.
Invented for the 2005 TV series:
- Tatay Mulong (Nosferamus) - Narda's deceased (and resurrected) father.
- Nanay Ising - Narda's foster mother. (deceased)
- Prospera - Narda's biological mother.
- Iking - Narda's adopted brother.
- Lenlen - Narda's adopted sister.
- Valentina - made her half-sister.
Allies and Enemies
Over the years, Darna has fought against and alongside many characters in her various incarnations, like:
- Captain Barbell - a superhuman Earth champion like Darna with a human dual identity. Captain Barbell also possesses Superhuman strength and the power of flight. A famous Philippine comics character also created by Mars Ravelo.
- Lastikman - an alien shapeshifter, not unlike Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic; also created by Ravelo.
- Dyesebel - a mermaid born from human parents who helped Narda in her mission against Braguda & the Anomalkans. Another of Ravelo's characters.
- Dyangga - head of the mermaids who showed Narda the location of the Mahiwagang Kabibe (Magical Clam). (Ironically later, used to be a villain, played by Mylene Dizon, in Dyesebel in 2008)
- Queen Adran - Matriarch/Queen of the noble Adranika race of the Planet Marte.
- Aio - Queen Adran's "right hand person". The White Stone-bearer and Darna's mentor.
- Wonder kids - two super kids created in the 2005 TV series.
- Pedro Penduko - Darna and other Mars Ravelo characters made a special cameo in this movie.
- Darna Kuno - In this movie, the real Darna was "in the family way" and had to pass on the magic stone to another mortal.
- Valentina - Darna's most famous and greatest foe.
In the 1950s, she was originally a bitter, deformed woman born with snakes for hair from ordinary human parents. When she grew up, her parents were killed by the local people and was subsequently adopted by a creature named "Kobra", a giant serpent with a hag's head. Valentina was soon referred to as "goddess of the snakes" who had a close familiar - "Vibura", a loyal serpent. (Vibora is Spanish for viper.)
In the 1973 film "Lipad, Darna, Lipad" ("Fly, Darna, Fly")", she is played by Celia Rodriguez and is known as "Dr. Valentina Vrandakapoor", with a Ph.D. in Reptilian Zoology from the University of New Delhi. Valentina is portrayed as the Queen of the Serpents and moonlights as a ramp model. She was seen walking on the lobby of the Manila Hotel in a turban covered Medusa wig, bare midriff Indian sari, and on her belly button, a giant ruby known as the “Star of Bombay” that can blow away suspecting Bollywood wannabees. Humorously, she sees Darna flying across Rizal Park and she says, “Sino ba yang babaeng mababa ang lipad?” ("kalapating mababa ang lipad" - literally low-flying doves - is a Spanish-derived Tagalog euphemism for women of low repute, i.e. prostitutes.)
In the 2005 TV series, Valentina is a human/Anomalkan hybrid. She is Braguda's greatest and most favored apprentice when she returns to planet Earth. She believes herself to be Narda's cousin but later learns that they are half-sisters. Ultimately, she helps Darna kill Braguda.
- Babaing Lawin - Armida the Hawk Woman (Unrelated to the later GMA TV series Mulawin, also starring Angel Locsin, the 2005 Darna)
- Impakta (I) - A "manananggal", a vampire-like aswang(supernatural monster in Philppine folklore in which it separates at the waist, the upper half is enabled to fly while the other half walks to frighten people and to signify that a manananggal lurks) in the "Lipad, Darna, Lipad" film (1973). It made a comeback in "Darna" (1991)
- Babaing Tuod (I) - (Lucifera the tree monster-also called The Woodwitch; has the ability to fight enemies by means of her vines and roots, and can turn plants into deadly weapons.
- Domino Lipolico - used by the devil to spread Dominism in Southeast Asia, starting in the Philippines
- Electra - Leader of the Planet Women
- Impakta - Evil Conjoined twins
- Isputnik -a superheroine who once did battle with Darna.
- The "Planetmen"- Extra-terrestrials from "Darna at ang Planetman"
- The "Planet Women"- Amazonian emissaries who tried to transport the Earth into their part of the galaxy; from "Darna vs. the Planet Women"
- The Giants - genetically altered earthlings by Warrior Queen - from "X3X"
- Valentine Adan - the daughter of Valentina in "Darna Ang Pagbabalik" (1994) and like her mother, Valentine is actually a gorgon concealing the snakes on her head beneath a bathing cap like hat (turban). She is a tele evangelist who claims that only she can protect the city from an advancing lahar (volcanic mud flow) and will save those who have pledge their undying devotion to her.
- X3X- alien Warrior Queen from "Darna and the Giants"
TV series villains
- Braguda - Queen of the Anomalca race of the Planet Marte.
- Babaing Tuod (II)- The possessed version of Alice (Narda's Best friend) (2005 version from the TV series)
- Impakta (II) - Another possessed version of Alice (from the 2005 TV series)
- Babaing Lobo- Another possessed version of Alice (from 2005 version from the TV series)
- Babaing Linta - Garda the leech woman
- Dambuhalang Ahas (Giant Snake) - Also known as Higanteng Sawa (Giant Python), Braguda's first servant in Earth. Responsibe for the death of Nanay Ising and the transformation of Valentina to a Babaeng Ahas (snake-woman).
- Ms. Luna - a manananggal
- Mambabarang - Warlock king of insects
- Sulfura - has the ability to spew fire and acid and melt her enemies
- Molecula - a shape-shifter
- Nosforamus - grim reaper-"The Shadow of Death" and right hand man of Braguda
- Dr. Zombie - re-animator of corpses.
- Ella the Zombie - reanimated policewoman
- The Toy Master - a Clown who possessed the magical powers stolen from a Gnome.
- Divina Demonica - a villain created for the 2005 TV series
- Black Darna - the evil twin of Darna in the 2005 series; Black Darna has the same powers and abilities as Darna.
- Divas Impaktitas- Valentina's 1st 3 Vampire minions created by the magic Black Stone.
- Varca - Anomalcan who wishes the death of Braguda according to the Prophecy, however insists on dominating Earth. Killed by Braguda when she found out that Varka betrays her.
- Peruca - friend of Varca. Killed by Valentina for treason.
- Trolca- An Anomalcan Warrior/Executioner who carries a "Ball and Chain" Mace.
- Lalaking Ahas (Snakeman) - was Efren (Narda's true love) who was temporarily transformed into this creature by a spell cast by Valentina.
- Narda's past - it is said that Narda's past is the greatest enemy of Darna, according to the Adranicas.
- Mercuryo - was a discriminated homosexual and hopeless romantic that was transformed by the Black Stone into a liquid substance (mercury) that can shape itself and multiply.
- Dr. Xenia - mad scientist.
The following locations are featured in Darna stories:
- Sa Bayan Ng "M" (In the Town of M) (from issue # 1, 1950) - when creator/writer Mars Ravelo wrote the first issue - Narda & Ding's location - Sa Bayan ng "M" refers to the place Mars Ravelo grew up. "M" is Malabon, General Trias, Cavite in the Philippines. This is the setting of Narda/Darna's origin. (This information was confirmed by the Estate of Mars Ravelo.)
- Mabuhay University (from Mars Ravelo's Darna # 1) is the College where the adult Narda attended. It is based on the University of the Philippines.
- Planet Marte - the planet where both the magic white stone and magic black stone comes from. Darna's power comes from this planet that is both technologically advanced as well as mystically inclined. Science and magic are not seen as two separate opposing disciplines. They are both integrated in this society composed of two tribes - the noble Adranika race and the evil Anomalka race.
- Planet Tiamat - the planet of Darna and Valentina in the Mango Comics version; here their respective races fought each other for many years. Darna's race is reminiscent of the Hawkmen and Hawkwomen of Thanagar, while Valentina's is reminiscent of Nagas and Gorgons.
- Planet Marte or Nibiru - where the Adarna Warriors fled to when Tiamat was destroyed. This concept of 2 alien races warring for supremacy that came from the 2003 Mango Comics mini-series was utilized in the TV series. The "Adarna Warriors" were renamed "Adranika" while the "Serpent Queen" race was given a name - the "Anomalka". However, the TV series version introduces Adran and Braguda, the rulers of their respective races.
- Galactica - Another term for "Galaxy".
List of Darna movies
Over the years, Darna has appeared in many films.
- Darna at ang Babaing Lawin (Darna and the Hawkwoman)
- Directed by: Carlos Vander Toloso
- Opening day: August 15, 1952
- Produced by: Royal Films
- Starring: Rosa Del Rosario as Darna, Elvira Reyes as Babaing lawin (hawkwoman) Mila Nimfa as Narda Manuel Ubaldo as Ding
- Si Darna at ang Impakta (Darna and the Evil Twins)
- Directed by: Danilo Santiago
- Opening day: June 27, 1963
- Produce by: PPI
- Starring: Liza Moreno as Darna, Gina Alonzo as Roma, Paquito Salcedo and Jose Padilla Jr as the evil twin
- Isputnik vs. Darna
- Directed by: Natoy Catindíg
- Opening day: August 12, 1963
- Produced by: Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions
- Starring: Liza Moreno as Darna/Narda, Nida Blanca as Isputnik, Tony Ferrer and Dencio Padilla
- Darna at ang Babaing Tuod (Darna and the Tree Monster)
- Directed by Cirio H. Santiago
- Opening day: April 14, 1965
- Produced by: Premiere Productions
- Starring: Eva Montes as Darna, Gina Alonzo as Lucila, Anita Linda, Ruben Rustia with Tito Galla and Nancy Roman with Coney Angeles as Narda
- Darna at ang Planetman (Darna and the Planetman)
- Directed by Marcelino Navarro
- Opening day: January 18, 1969
- Produced by: Vera Perez Productions
- Starring: Gina Pareno as Darna/Daria, Boy Alajar as Ding, Gina Alajar as Narda
and Bella Flores with Vic Vargas
- Lipad, Darna, Lipad! (Fly, Darna, Fly!)
- Directed by Maning Borlaza, Elwood Perez and Joey Gosiengfiao
- Opening day: March 23, 1973
- Produced by: Sine Pilipino
- Starring: Vilma Santos as Darna/Narda, Angelito as Ding, Gloria Romero as Impakta, Celia Rodriguez as Valentina and Liza Lorena as Babaing Lawin with Ernie Garcia
- Darna and the Giants
- Directed by Maning Borlaza
- Opening day: December 22, 1973
- Produced by: Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions
- Starring: Vilma Santos as Darna/Narda, Don Don Nakar as Ding, Helen Gamboa as X3X and Divina Valencia with Max Alvarado, Ike Lozada, Florence Aguilar and Kathy de la Cruz
- Darna vs The Planet Women
- Directed by Aramando Garces
- Opening day: December 22, 1973
- Produced by: TIIP
- Starring: Vilma Santos as Darna, Bentot Jr as Ding, Rossana Ortiz as Elektra, Zandro Zamora, Eva Linda and Lita Vasquez
- Darna Kuno? (a parody of Darna)
- Directed by Luciano B. Carlos
- Opening day: March 30, 1979
- Produced by: Regal Films
- Starring: Dolphy as Darna, Brenda Del Rio as Darna, Lotis Key, Marissa Delgado, with Celia Rodriguez, Ruel Vernal and Bella Flores
- Bira, Darna, Bira!
- Directed by Tito Sanchez
- Opening day: June 15, 1979
- Produced by: MBM Productions
- Starring: Rio Locsin as Darna/Narda, Romnick as Ding Moody Diaz and Rex Cortes with Ruel Vernal
- Darna and Ding
- Directed by J. Erastheo Navoa and Cloyd Robinson
- Opening day: February 8, 1980
- Produced by: D'Wonder Films
- Starring: Vilma Santos as Darna/Narda, Nino Mulach as Ding, Celia Rodriguez as Lei Ming, Marissa Delgado as Dr. Irene Vontesberg, Veronica Jones as Babaing Lawin
- Directed by Joel Lamangan
- Opening day: December 25, 1991
- Produced by: Viva Films
- Starring: Nanette Medved as Darna/Narda, Pilar Pilapil as Valentina, Bing Loyzaga as Impakta, Edu Manzano as Dominico Lipolico and Ton Ton Gutierez
- Darna Ang Pagbabalik (Darna The Return)
- Directed by Joel Lamangan
- Opening day: June 9, 1994
- Produced by: Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes
- Starring: Anjanette Abayari as Narda/Darna, Pilita Corales as Valentina, Cherrie Gil as Valentine, Lester Llansing as Ding, Edu Manzano as Max
Other Appearances of Darna
- Darna (1977) - first Darna TV series on KBS 9 were Lorna Tolentino played Darna. Lorna Tolentino was the first actress to wear a one piece Darna costume.
- Terebol Dobol - Chiquito played the first male Darna
- Captain Barbell (1986) - Sharon Cuneta as Darna
- Ang Pagbabalik ni Pedro Penduko (1994) - Anjanette Abayari as Darna, cameo role
- Toyota FX Commercials - Anjanette Abayari, Alma Conception, Daisy Reyes in darna costumes
- Comics Ballet (1997) - Liza Macuja as Darna
- Darna The Ballet (2003) - Mica Bernas as Narda. Chin Chin Gutierrez and Tex Ordonez as Valentina. Kristine Crame and Kris Belle Paclibar as Darna.
- Captain Barbell (2003) - Regine Velasquez as Darna, dream sequence
- The Songbird and the Song Writer Concert Tour (2004) - Regine Velasquez in Darna costume
- Darna TV Series (2005-2006) - Angel Locsin as Darna
- Robitussin Liqui Gel Commercial (2006) - Angel Locsin as Darna
Actors Who Played Darna in Movies and Television
- Rosa del Rosario in "Darna" (1951) and "Darna at ang Babaing Lawin" (1952)
- Liza Moreno in "Si Darna at ang Impakta" (1963) and "Isputnik vs. Darna" (1963)
- Eva Montes in "Darna at ang Babaing Tuod" (1965)
- Gina Pareno in "Darna at ang Planetman" (1969)
- Vilma Santos in "Lipad, Darna, Lipad!" (1973), "Darna and the Giants" (1973), "Darna vs The Planet Women" (1973) and "Darna and Ding" (1980)
- Chiquito in "Terribol Dobol" (1974) - first male Darna
- Lorna Tolentino in "Darna" (1977 TV Series)
- '''Brenda del Rio in "Darna Kuno?" (1979)
- Dolphy in "Darna Kuno?" (1979) - second male Darna
- Lotis Key in "Darna Kuno?" (1979)
- Rio Locsin in "Bira, Darna, Bira!" (1979)
- Sharon Cuneta in "Captain Barbel" (1986)
- Nanette Medved in "Darna" (1991)
- Anjanette Abayari in "Darna Ang Pagbabalik" (1994) and Ang Pagbabalik ni Pedro Penduko (1994)
- Regine Velasquez in "Captain Barbell" (2003)
- Angel Locsin in "Mars Ravelo's Darna" (2005 TV Series)
- Katrina Halili in "Mars Ravelo's Darna" (2005 TV Series) - first Black Darna
Songs Featuring Darna
- Hindi Ako Si Darna (1990s)
- Filipino version of "Superwoman" popularized by Karun White
- Performed by: Jenine Desiderio
- Narda (2005)
- Time In (2007)
GMA has announced the comeback of Darna into the TV screen with Mars Ravelo's Captain Barbell Meets Darna. It was already shown in GMA's teaser-trailer of 2008 shows however, the face of Darna and Captain Barbell were not shown. Angel Locsin, the actress who played Darna in GMA Network's 2006 series already transferred to rival station ABS-CBN. It is said that they are still deliberating on the casting.