Darna - Whatever You Do Don't Call Her Wonder Woman

Written By: Ken Hulsey

If you really want to piss off a Filapino comic book fan compare that countries uber-famous superhero, Darna, with Wonder Woman. Trust me I did that in one of my articles and I caught an ear full from a die-hard fan.

In my defense, however, the only photos I saw of Darna were from a movie version produced by Viva Films. As I was informed by the for mentioned fan that was a cheaply made film that did indeed copy Wonder Woman but all other incarnations of the character differ from her in numerous ways.

Darna's appearence may somewhat resemble that of Wonder Woman but her powers were actually modeled after Superman.

Darna has always been able to fly, an ability that Wonder Woman originally did not possess.

Even though Darna wears large metal bracelts, she doesn't need them to stop bullets and the like. Her skin is unpenetratable barrier just like Superman. Projectiles bounce right off of her.

As we all know, Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess. Her powers come from superior diet, training....and well that mysterious Bermuda Triangle.

Related: Wonder Woman #186, February 1970 Issue - DC Comics

Darna is an alien. All of her powers come from her exterrestrial origin, just like Superman.

Like I said before, Darna is ultra uber popular in the Philippines. The character has appeared in an endless string of comic books, TV series and movies since 1947.

Lets take a look at Darna's long and glorious history:

Dara was 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.

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 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.

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).
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.

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