Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4,
Captain Barbell, Lastikman,
Daria (alternate mortal guise)
Possesses the allure of Venus,
Darna is a fictional character and Filipino comics superheroine created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo. In her more popular incarnations, she is a deceased warrior from another planet manifesting herself through a girl from Earth, named Narda. She first appeared in Pilipino Komiks (Ace Publications, Inc.) #77 (May 13, 1950).
Darna is a retooling of Ravelo's earlier character, Varga, whose stories he wrote and illustrated himself. She first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17 (July 23, 1947). Ravelo left Bulaklak due to the differences with the editors.
Mars Ravelo's Darna is a superheroine that began as a concept before World War II/late 1939. Mars Ravelo (1916-1988), a then young pioneering illustrator from Tanza, Cavite, thought of creating a female counterpart for Superman because he believed in the concept that America is “male” and the Philippines is “female.” Ravelo's inspiration for Darna's heroic qualities came from his childhood fascination with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman (first appearance on Action Comics, No. 1, June 30, 1938; debut as a newspaper comic strip in January 16, 1939). The Pinoy superheros ability to change from Narda to Darna, was inspired by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker's Captain Marvel (first appearance on Whiz Comics, No. 2, February 1940), who changes from the young boy Billy Batson to Captain Marvel by shouting, Shazam!. He didn’t want to use the term “Superwoman” so as not to plagiarize the Siegel and Shuster creation. So instead as inspired by Superman, Mars Ravelo originally referred to his superheroine as "Kamangha-manghang dilag" (The Amazing Warrior Maiden) and combined the superhuman qualities of Superman with his own real life hero--his mother.There were claims that Darna was a copy, or less-charitably, a rip-off of William Moulton Marston's Wonder Woman (first appearance on All Star Comics, No. 8, December 1941). But people who have spoken with Ravelo personally claimed that the Filipino comics legend based Darna on his own mother who raised him single-handedly.
Mars, a young and struggling cartoonist then, brought his superheroine idea as the Philippines’ answer to Superman to various publications both in the Philippines and in the United States but was rejected because publishers kept telling him "female superheroes will not sell". So Ravelo shelved his concept for the duration of the war. Years after the war, Ravelo realized the Filipinos were in need of a superhero so he again shopped his superheroine concept to publishers until one of them, Bulaklak Komiks ("Flower Comics") agreed to publish Ravelo's heroine that he now called "Varga" in 1947 (inspired by the Varga Girls series of illustrations) and the strip took off. Varga made her debut in Bulaklak Magazine, Vol. 4, #17 on July 23, 1947 which Mars both wrote and drew himself. In an interview, Ravelo revealed that he offered his creation first to Liwayway Magazine and then to other publications but was rejected several times. 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!).
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, Varga was, in all things but name, the woman we now know as Darna. The concept and image of Varga (who could be the first female superhero in the Philippines) was based on the illustrations of Superman appearing on comic books brought by soldiers from the United States to the Philippines. It was the story of a mortal girl named Narda (named after one of Ravelo's childhood playmates), her brother Ding and their grandmother, lola Asay who lived in the town of Masambong when a falling star revealed itself to be a magic amulet that turns the little girl named Narda into the superheroine Varga.
By some twist of circumstance, the name Varga became the ownership of Bulaklak Magazine and when Ravelo left Bulaklak in 1949 after a falling out with its editor, Varga stayed behind. Ravelo took the "Varga" concept to Pilipino Komiks and transformed it to "Darna". Although the concept remained the same, Ravelo assigned another artist to illustrate his creation-–the soon to be legendary Nestor Redondo. Darna's first adventure as DARNA was first serialized in the pages of Pilipino Komiks (Ace Publications, Inc.) #77 on May 13, 1950, where she was pitted against the sultry snake goddess, Valentina. Here, Narda, a young girl, swallows a 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, which was from the planet Marte, stays in her body. 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. The komik serial, created by the great Mars Ravelo ran for 28 issues and those issues were vividly and expertly illustrated and executed by Nestor Redondo.
It can also be noted that Varga was a character archived twice, first, for the duration of World War II and second, when the name Varga became the ownership of Bulaklak magazine (during those times, intellectual property right is not yet in effect) and so when Ravelo left the publication in 1949 after a falling out with its editor, Varga stayed behind.
In May 31, 1951, Darna made a crossover from comics to cinema even before the Komiks serial was even finished, Royal Publications under Fernando Poe Sr. would produce the first Darna movie starring Rosa Del Rosario who was the original actress to play Darna. Darna was the last film directed by Fernando Poe, Sr. Since then, a number of actresses and actors have portrayed the most popular Pinoy superhero, not only in movies but also on different platforms. 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. Darna also had her own cartoon series in 1986 by GMA 7.