Saturday, July 3, 2010


Created by legendary komiks writer Mars Ravelo and internationally-acclaimed artist Nestor Redondo, Darna has always been an icon in Philippine pop culture ever since her first appearance in Pilipino Komiks #77 (May 13, 1950).

But as the Filipino comic book industry began to wane in the late '90's, the Atlas Publishing Co. decided to update the character for the coming millenium. And in English!

The new-and-improved Darna made her debut on the cover of the revived Super Action Komiks' first issue in 1998. Not that anyone would recognize her...

Incidentally, this article would seem timely in light of the recent news of Wonder Woman's radical revamp. Actually, I have been planning to do this piece all along, so this is just an interesting coincidence.

Anyway, the uncredited story, Darna-The Legend Lives On, starts with a recap of the heroine's career.

So what did happen to Darna? The million dollar answer: She got a makeover.

That's right, the new "space age" Darna now had x-ray vision, among other new powers, which she uses against the alien invaders from the planet Trexius Centauri. Apparently, this technologically-advanced race of alien warriors were worried that they might one day be conquered by us waaay-superior Earthlings, so they decided to beat us to the punch. Go figure.

Darna engages the aliens in battle with her new abilities, such as shooting lasers from her fingers...

She now also had a "superbelt" equipped with an "invisible ray" that deflects missiles...

The only other instance I know of that Darna had x-ray vision was in the 1994 movie Darna-Ang Pagbabalik ("Darna-The Return") starring Anjanette Abayari (as well as in those Toyota FX TV commercials she did prior to the film). I never did like the idea of her having that particular power. It just makes her more of a Superman knock-off.

After driving the aliens away, Darna decides to go on a quick sight-seeing tour of the US, Europe and Asia. For some reason, this makes her muse about the world's economy, peace-and-order and political situation. Then she heads for home where her younger brother Ding is waiting for her.

Okay, I'm aware that there's no English equivalent for Ate, but come on. Who calls their sister Sister?

Realizing that they haven't quite grasped the English language, the publishers immediately decide to switch Darna back to her native tongue. Super Action Komiks Vol.2 #4 reveals the origin of Darna's new powers.

Written by Jose L. Gerardo and drawn by Armando Dela Cruz, Ang Planetang Pinagmulan ("The Planet of Origin") basically retcons the character's origin. In this version, the magic stone was created by an alien scientist named Stara.

Upon swallowing the stone, Stara transforms into a super-powered humanoid female, complete with costume. She uses her abilites to fight off the hostile alien invaders that threaten her world. Eventually though, she is defeated by her enemies, but not before she sends the stone to Earth, where it is found by the girl who would be Darna.

The revamped Darna never really caught on, prompting the series to return to the more traditional interpretation of the character, original costume and all. Unfortunately, her subsequent adventures were pretty much run-of-the-mill.

Super Action Vol.2 #7's Darna and the Toxic Monster (by writer Danny G. Marquez and artist S. Magpali) pitted the heroine against "Godzi," a toxic waste-spawned beast created by a mad scientist.

While the cover to Super Action Vol.2 #9 featured Darna tussling with a T-Rex, the actual story had her fighting a creature more resembling a Styracosaurus.

For what it's worth, Darna Vs Devil Dinosaur (by writer Jose L. Gerardo and artist Randy P. Torres) at least had kind of a wacky plot. A dinosaur is found frozen in an iceberg and revived by yet another mad scientist. A corrupt senator who had lost his bid for the presidency uses the creature to force the incumbent president to step down. Well, I guess a rampaging dinosaur is much more efficient than organizing EDSA 5 or whatever (I've lost count).

In general, Darna's Super Action stint was pretty much mediocre. However, there would be at least one issue which held a great deal of potential. In Part 2, we take a look at what was probably the best story in Darna's ill-fated late '90's run.

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