Darna is a Philippine komiks superheroine created by Mars Ravelo in 1947. Dressed in a dark red bikini, knee-high stiletto-heeled boots, and a winged helmet, she fought a variety of fascinating superhuman villains and is one of the most popular and enduring Philippine komiks characters. Her popularity has lasted over the decades, with movies, television series, and other media as well as komiks utilizing the character.
Darna in everyday life takes the form of a young girl named Narda, an orphan raised by her grandmother. Narda and her brother Ding sometimes make extra money by going from house to house, with Narda singing while Ding plays the harmonica.
When Narda sees a falling star one night, she goes to see where it landed. She finds a mysterious white stone with the word “Darna” written on it. When she hears people approaching, she quickly puts it in her mouth and swallows it. She experiences a feeling of traveling through space, then loses consciousness. Her grandmother finds her, brings her home, and puts her to bed. When Narda regains consciousness, she is asked by her grandmother to recount what happened. As Narda mentions what was written on the white stone, she immediately changes from a little girl into a powerful warrior woman, the alien Darna. Along with the white stone, the alien woman who takes over Narda’s body is from the planet Marte.
Narda realizes that after swallowing the magical white stone, she can change into Darna by shouting out the name “Darna”, then change back by shouting “Narda”. Darna becomes a protector of the downtrodden with her superhuman strength, speed, and flight ability. She also has a winged helmet whose medallion is actually a “concussion ray” and medallions on her belt that can be used as throwing stars. In the 2005 television series, she was also given heat vision. In her exciting adventures, she battles and prevails over both ordinary criminals and those with superhuman abilities.
In 1947, Mars Ravelo made a comic strip for Bulaklak Magazine featuring a superheroine named Varga, who was essentially the same character as Darna. After the first comic strip, published in the July 23, 1947 issue of the magazine, the superheroine became very popular. Bulaklak continued to publish her story until 1949, when Ravelo had a falling out with the editor and decided to leave the magazine. Since the name Varga was owned by Bulaklak, Ravelo changed his character’s name to Darna. He got Nestor Redondo to illustrate the series, which was re-launched under the name Darna in Pilipino Komiks #77 on May 13, 1950.
Ravelo continued to write Darna’s exciting adventures, where she battled fearsome villains such as Babaing Lawin or Armida the Hawk Woman; Babaing Impakta, an evil pair of Siamese twins; Lucifera, the tree monster; Garda, the leech woman; the alien warrior queen X3X; Dambuhalang Ahas (giant snake); and Dr. Zombie, who raises corpses from the dead. But her arch-enemy was Valentina, a woman with snakes for hair who is sometimes called a snake goddess.
Ravelo continued the series until his death in 1988. Darna komiks continued to be published well into the 1990s and in 2003 Mango Comics collaborated with Ravelo’s family in creating a komiks miniseries based on Darna, but with substantial changes. In the Mango Comics version, Narda is an older girl in college and Darna is from a race known as the Adarna Warriors.
Darna in the movies
The superheroine’s popularity skyrocketed in 1951, when Royal Films produced a film version. Since then, a total of 14 films have been made portraying Darna. In 1951 alone, two Darna movies were made, both starring Rosa del Rosario. In the early 1960s, two more Darna films were made, starring Liza Moreno. Eva Montes also played the role of Darna in one version, as did Gina Pareno in 1969. But the 1970s movies with Vilma Santos as Darna are iconic, influencing people’s perception of the character for some 30 years afterwards. The line “Ding, ang bato!” (“Ding, the stone!) from one of these films, Lipad, Darna, Lipad, became a favorite catchphrase, though it was not in the original komiks. In these movies, Darna is already a teenager and she has to swallow the stone each time she transforms, as it comes out of her mouth whenever she changes back to Narda. Her home planet was not named.
In 1979, Rio Locsin portrayed Darna in “Bira, Darna, Bira!” Santos made one more Darna movie in the 1980s, Darna and Ding, with Niño Mulach as Ding. In 1991, Nanette Medved portrayed Narda, as a model working in Manila. Anjanette Abayari was Darna in the 1994 Darna: Ang Pagbabalik.
The character of Darna also appeared in the 1986 movie Captain Barbell, played by Sharon Cuneta. In the 2003 version of Captain Barbell, Regine Velasquez played the role of Darna, which she reprised in her concert tour “The Singer and the Songwriter” the following year.
Darna on television
In 1977, Lorna Tolentino appeared as Darna and Narda in a KBS 9 television series. The 2nd television adaptation was the GMA television series which debuted in 2005, which combined elements of the most popular film versions with the original characteristics of Darna. In this series, Narda discovers the stone as a little girl, as in the original, but only learns its origin as a young woman, similar to the 1970s films.
According to the findings of AGB Philippines Mega Manila, the series holds a record for the highest viewership ratings of a pilot episode and its 4th episode was locally the highest-rating television episode of all time. The series ended after 7 months with Darna restoring world peace following a battle with a giant scorpion and the gorgon-like snake woman Valentina.
Other portrayals of Darna
The character of Darna was used in a series of Toyota FX commercials, with Anjanette Abayari, Alma Concepcion, and Daisy Reyes portraying Darna. Angel Locsin also appeared as Darna in a 2006 Robitussin advertisement.
Darna has also been portrayed in ballet. Liza Macuja danced the part of Darna in Comics: The Ballet in 1997. Another ballet was produced in August 2003 by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). In this version, entitled Darna: The Ballet, Kristine Crame and Kris Belle Paclibar alternately danced the part of Darna while Chin-Chin Gutierrez and Tex Ordonez alternately performed the role of her arch-enemy Valentina.
Art and literature
In children’s literature, Edgar Samar wrote a story entitled “Uuwi na ang Nanay kong si Darna” which won the PBBY-Salanga Writer’s Prize in 2002 and was illustrated by Russell Molina, who won the PBBY Illustrator’s Prize.
- "Uuwi Na Ang Nanay Kong si Darna" by Edgar Samar
- Mars Ravelo's Darna
- Comic Book Movie Fansites
- Mars Ravelo's Superheroes
- Cueto, Eric. “Darna.” In Mars Ravelo’s Darna Website. (Accessed March 3, 2009).
- Red, Isah V. “Darna Bids Farewell Tonight.” In Manila Standard, November 25, 2005. (Accessed March 3, 2009).