Saturday, October 9, 2010

The TRUTH About CAPTAIN BARBELL

In commemoration of the late, great Mars Ravelo's birthday (just one day after mine!), I thought I'd talk about one of his many popular creations...

Art by Reno Maniquis, courtesy of CapsuleZone

Most Filipinos assume that Captain Barbell is the Philippine version of Superman. To be more accurate, though, he's actually more influenced by Captain Marvel (the Shazam version). Now, I say "influence" rather than "rip-off" because CB, at least as he was originally envisioned by creator Ravelo, has enough unique elements that make him his own character.

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Let's take his origin, for instance. Most of us know the story of a skinny weakling who met an old hermit that gave him a magical golden barbell, which gave him the power to become a muscle-bound superhero. On the other hand, younger fans might be more familiar with the baby from the future whose time machine crash lands to the present, is raised by a kindly old farmer and his wife, and grows up to discover he possesses superhuman abilities (yeah, I know, WTF?!). But as I've been learning more about the character in recent years, I came to realize--

EVERYTHING WE KNOW IS WRONG!!!

The fact of the matter is, Captain Barbell's true origin story is way different from how we've remembered it. And not only that, but there have actually been more than one person to assume the hero's identity throughout the years.

TENTENG

Art by Jim Fernandez, courtesy of Unang Labas

The first and most well-known of Captain Barbell's alter-egos, Tenteng is the name that we identify with the hero to this very day. However, we've been getting his story wrong all along.

As he appeared in the very first Captain Barbell serial (Pinoy Komiks, 1963-64), written by Ravelo and illustrated by Jim Fernandez, Tenteng was a thin, asthmatic young man who was constantly abused by his 4 thuggish half-brothers. Admiring the bodybuilders in his neighborhood, he longs for nothing more than to be strong and muscular himself so he can stand up for himself against his bullying brothers and impress the girl of his dreams. Naturally, Tenteng's fortunes change dramatically when he finds the magic barbell that transforms him into "Captain Barbell" (spelled with quotation marks back then). But here's where the story differs from the one we've known all this time. Because Tenteng doesn't get the barbell from an old hermit; he gets it from a genie! (spelled in the story as "Genii")

The original stories also established that Captain Barbell's power would remain with its host for as long as he was oppressed and in need of justice. At the end of the first series, CB seperates himself from Tenteng once his personal issues were resolved, and the barbell is sent to the bottom of the sea, where it awaits the next person worthy of wielding its power.

You can read the first chapter of the original Captain Barbell serial onVideo 48.

Read 2 further chapters at Unang Labas:

Chapter 24

The Final Chapter

DARIO

In the second serial Captain Barbell Kontra Captain Bakal (Pinoy Komiks, 1964-65), by Ravelo and Fernandez, we meet Dario, a polio-stricken lad confined by his illness to a makeshift wheelchair (which looks more like a skateboard). Despite his condition, he works as a sweepstakes vendor, getting into various trouble on the mean streets in the process. Somewhere along the line, Dario gets thrown into the ocean, where he makes contact with the lost barbell and becomes the second person to turn into Captain Barbell. He goes on to battle the villain of the title, the robotic Captain Bakal ("Captain Iron" or "Captain Metal").

To see the kind of trouble Dario had to put up with, read the second chapter of the serial on Unang Labas.

GOMER


The third series, Captain Barbell Versus Flash Fifita, began in Liwayway in 1966. Set around the fishing village Baryo Dagundong, the protagonist this time around was Gomer, a crippled fisherman who had to take care of his 5 younger siblings.


You can view this serial's first chapter posted at Unang Labas.

ENTENG

Art by Clem Rivera

There had been a few more Captain Barbell serials that followed, the last one running in the pages of Pilipino Komiks from 1985-86. Still written by Ravelo with art by Clem Rivera, this was my first introduction to the character, and it formed much of what the public knows about the character today. First of all, this version originated the familiar yellow costume that would be associated with CB for years to come. And then there's the title logo, whose basic design has been prominently used in filmed incarnations and merchandising up to now (except maybe for Panday, who used pretty much the same logo in his komiks serial and first few movies, I can't recall any other classic Pinoy character who has had a more lasting logo design). And of course, it was here where the origin that everyone has come to know actually came from. We are introduced to a Tenteng analogue named Enteng, who receives the mystic barbell from a mysterious old man (I'd like to think it was one of the previous CB's. Tenteng perhaps?).

DIGMAAN

Art by Gilbert Monsanto, courtesy of santomon's name

Captain Barbell has since been absent from the komiks pages-- or at least, from the printed komiks pages. But from 2005, CB reappeared in Gilbert Monsanto's online fan-comic Digmaan ("War"), which featured him fighting alongside several classic and modern Pinoy comic book characters.

CB w/ Jim Fernandez creations Zarbot and Dino (Son of Zuma)

This interpretation is much closer in design to the original 1960's incarnation, but writer/artist Monsanto adds a new and unexpected twist to the character. I don't want to spoil it here, but you're not going to believe who Captain Barbell's new alter-ego turns out to be.



To find out the new CB's secret, read Digmaan at Gilbert Monsanto's blog, santomon's name.

THE MOVIES

The first few Captain Barbell movies were faithful to the original comics. Captain Barbell was adapted to film in 1964, starring Dolphy as Tenteng and Bob Soler as CB. Captain Barbell Kontra Captain Bakal was filmed in 1965, this time with Willie Sotelo as the Captain and Carlos Padilla, Jr. as Dario. Even the first colored remake in 1973, Captain Barbell Boom! (with Dolphy playing both Tenteng AND CB), used the "genie" origin from the first serial (this version was also made into an animated TV show during the late 1980's).
The 1986 Captain Barbell movie (starring Edu Manzano in the title role) wasn't a direct adaptation of the series then-running in Pilipino Komiks, but it did incorporate the costume and the "old hermit" version of the origin established in those issues. CB's alter-ego in this film, however, was named Tenteng (played by Herbert Bautista) after the original. A fondly-remembered film up to now, this is most probably where the popular misconceptions about the character's origin story began.
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Captain Barbell returned to the big screen in the person of Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. in 2003. His alter-ego this time around was given the name Enteng (portrayed by Ogie Alcasid), but his origin story is completely new. Basically, Enteng finds the magic barbell in the most appropriate of places; in a gym, where he works as a janitor.



No explanation is given as to how it got there in the first place, but the barbell itself is said to have been forged from a magic stone that fell from space and embedded itself deep into the earth. During times of great crisis, the barbell is expelled to the surface to seek out one who would use its powers for good. Though not actually stated, the way the barbell's origin is explained seems to imply that this has all happened before, and that Enteng is only the latest person to become Captain Barbell (I'd like to think of it this way. It gives it a sense of continuity with past versions). Indeed, prior to Enteng finding the barbell, CB is already established in the film as a well-known comic book character.

THAT DAMN TV SHOW



Sigh. Yes, we have to talk about this.

Okay, following the success of the 2005 Darna television series, GMA 7 produced their own adaptation of Captain Barbell. Starring Richard Gutierrez as both Captain Barbell and his alter-ego (named here as simply Teng), it was broadcast 5 days a week from May 29, 2006 to January 12, 2007.

Now, let me be brutally frank about this: I hate this show. I LOATHE THIS SHOW WITH A PASSION. Beyond the wanton disregard for the source material (Mars Ravelo must be suffering from vertigo right now), there were simply a million things wrong with it. It's badly written, the action sucked, characters were stupid (and I'm talking intellectual capacity here), the plots were illogical, and the concepts, I kid you not, WERE STOLEN FROM EVERY MAJOR SUPERHERO MOVIE AND TV SHOW MADE IN THE LAST 4 DECADES. (I should know, I've seen 'em all. I could enumerate every single thing they ripped-off, but maybe some other time). This is very evident in the revised origin, which takes its cues from Superman/Smallville (strange alien from another world/timeline, adopted by a farmer and his wife, saves his future arch-foe from a car crash, fights meteor freaks), Spider-Man (adopted father gets murdered, learns that with great power-- you know the rest...), and frickin' Wolverine (he's got a metal skeleton?!)!

Oh, and the barbell? The excuse is that Teng can only use his natural powers for a short period of time before he gets exhausted (sissy). The "barbell" is actually a power battery that grants him unlimited strength, the ability to fly, and that big yellow muscle suit he wears. On the positive side, I did like the new costume design. It's just too bad he could hardly move in it.

Personally, since the character was originally conceived as an everyman who becomes a hero, I think making him special from the start robs him of his appeal. Anyway, a second Captain Barbell TV series is currently in production, still under GMA and once again to star Richard Gutierrez. And as disastrous as their first effort may have been, believe it or not--

I'm actually looking forward to it.

As a fan, I'm always excited whenever a new Pinoy superhero movie or show is being made. And I rarely pass judgment on anything without seeing it first. Maybe they've learned from their mistakes and they'll actually deliver something good. Maybe they'll respect Mars Ravelo's legacy this time and really do justice to the character. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Until then, I remain optimistic.

But if they do screw this up again, you can bet I'll be bitching like hell about it.



So there you have it; the many names, faces and origins of Captain Barbell. As I've mentioned above, the character, when done right, should be able to retain that everyman appeal. And as Mars Ravelo himself originally wrote him, he quite literally was every man.

20 comments:

  1. Glad you liked the latest costume design. :)

    Would you mind if I forwarded your thoughts to the Ravelos? It might help sway the network to do something... original, at least.

    What's your email? I'd like to send you the story we did that was supposed to be a precursor to a new komiks series, but sadly plans got scuttled.

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  2. First time I saw the new costume was on a T-shirt. I didn't know back then that it was official. But yeah, it's a great design.

    Sure, go ahead, spread the word if it helps. Thing is, there's nothing inherently wrong with revising the story, and it's not even necessarily a bad thing to be influenced by something. The problem was that the show was deliberately making itself look like a bad rip-off, and they were insulting their viewers by assuming no one would notice. And like I said, that's only part of the problem, they had lots.

    I'd love to know what you were working on. Here's my email:

    sira_libra76@yahoo.com

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  3. Thanks for this! I remember the first time I was explaining Captain Marvel to my nephew; the Captain Barbell show was the new craze then. After every bullet point about Captain Marvel, my nephew would say "Wait, that's Captain Barbell, too!"

    Captain Barbell is of course not the only Filipino superhero inspired by Captain Marvel (though with that name, he is the most obvious). Darna is the other one. And of course, Lastikman was inspired by Plastic Man. People can accuse Mars Ravelo for taking ideas from popular comics at the time, but between Captain Marvel and Plastic Man, you can't say he didn't have good taste!

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  4. Hi Aris, I am JayVee, I am part of the creative team of the upcoming CB TV remake 2011. I'd be glad to hear your comments suggestions and opinions regarding the show.

    I also posted CB artworks i found here for promotions. Here is my facebook account JAYVEE ANTONIO

    Thanks so much and i salute you for this wonderful site.

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  5. Hello, Jayvee, good to have you. As you may know, I've had some, let's say, strong opinions about the previous show, and I'm really hoping for the best with the new one. From what I've seen of the teasers, I haven't seen anything alarming so far, so hopefully that's a good sign.

    The new costume looks more flexible, so I expect better action this time. No more of CB just standing there swatting the goons running towards him. I like the idea that not every other superpowered character is going to be the bad guy. And please, strive for more originality. It's okay to be influenced by a bit, as long as you don't out and out rip-off stuff like before.

    I don't ask for much. Just give us competent writing, respect your material, and respect your audience. You have a legacy to live up to, Jayvee, don't let us down. I wish you the best of luck.

    (^_^)

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  6. great blog, i myself hate the tv version of gma, im also doing my own story line nakaka 4 episode na ako sana makatapos ako maski 12 episode bago ako tamarin haha! goodluck dude thank you sa pgshare ng mga lumang origins at comiks ni Captain Barbell, agree ako sau tol sana magkaron naman ng originality ang mga pinoy writer natin. respect mars ravelos version!

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  7. I'm following the new show. I'll give it another week before I give my verdict.

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  8. I'm sorry to tell you that since the 2011 version is a sequel to the 2006-2007 one, it's probably gonna suck, no, I meant is currently sucking and will be sucking until it ends. Justice League rip off. Like in Smallville where they're forming the Justice League.

    Sana ni-reboot na lang ng GMA, to be more closer to Mars Ravelo's origin, wherein the Cap's power is magical instead of having pseudo-scientific origins. Power gained through science is overrated anyway.

    Oh well, what's done is done.

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  9. And also, the rubber suit sucks!

    They should've used spandex instead, and have the protagonist work his ass off for the physique.

    Sa Machete nga nagawa yun eh.

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  10. Excited to hear your verdict, man! Heheh..

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  11. I like you're blog so much bro!!!

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  12. As I hate so much this GMA Rip-off hero. Im loving your blog more. hehehe! every bitching letter of it. hehehe!

    So what is your verdict on this new show?

    for me, its still horrible! I really cant bare to watch or hear about what or how they destroy the name of our very own super hero.

    For the love of God... GMA! stop destroying what is our own and live to your words "tangkilikin ang sariling atin." and stop remaking it to resemble every other hero.

    :)Peace:)

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  13. I already posted my review of the new show, but I'm thinking of doing a follow-up. It's not as bad as the first one, but it still could use a lot of work.

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  15. Thanks for linking my blog on you're blog list...watch out for my 1st appearance capt. barbell...I'll be working on it. :)

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  16. Wow, hindi ko alam na ganun pala yung origins nya.

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  17. Dude,

    I APPLAUD YOU. NO, NO, YOU NEED MORE THAN APPLAUSE, as now man, you have my undying respect. I am a true blue (or yellow in honor of CB's colors) CB fan who's childhood has been influenced by the CB Manzano movie and I must say, I never knew there were others who inherited the legendary barbell. Your blog post was very informative and I love the way you commented on the tv series hahaha. . Its very comforting to know that there are other people who appreciate the story of Tenteng and CB made by Mr. Ravelo and even you who has summarized the whole CB saga throughout the years so accurately and very enjoyable to read. More power to your blog and keep it up. :)

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  18. He is a young teenager named Vicente magtanggol becomes captain barbell a powerful superhero with superhuman powers protect the innocent save the world from evil enemies and keep the peace inspired from the novel and movies and comic stories of the same name since the 1960's era became popular in the Philippines was theme bet of sanlakas league a superhero organization equivalent to justice league and the avengers combined into one organization to save mankind over the forces of evil and remains invincible.thanks for the information and send e-mail to your comments .from:Wayne

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  19. Coming to ABS-CBN tv the new Captain Barbell will be played by Gerald Anderson as the crime fighting superhero based from
    Mars Ravelo's comic book series movies and tv of the same name coming soon in 2013-14 on ABS-CBN tv Thanks for the information see you!from:Wayne

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