Saturday, February 23, 2013

KAMANDAG: Blood is Thicker than Venom

Art by Gilbert Monsanto
Most people know Kamandag ("Venom") from the 2007-08 GMA television series, but the character actually began life as a 1980's People's Journal comic strip by writer Carlo J. Caparas and artist Karl Comendador.  In fact, this incarnation was quite different from the TV hero that most are familiar with.  In the original strip, he was pretty much a villain; a hideous scaly-skinnned snake-man and a sex maniac.  His greatest weakness: herpes.  I'm not kidding.


When the GMA Network adapted Kamandag into a TV series, the character was completely reinvented from amoral anti-hero to full-fledeged superhero.  In the show, he was the half-human son of Saban (Gardo Versoza), the snake-king of Ambograw, an underground civilization of animal people known as the Ambog.  After falling in love with a human female, Alicia (Eula Valdez), Saban moves to abolish the kingdom's practice of human slavery, a decision opposed by most of the Ambog tribes.  When Saban is assassinated by the wolf-king Gulag (Zoren Legaspi) and the cat-queen Kuran (Francine Prieto), his infant son is sent to the human world, entrusted into the care of a kindly ranch-hand Domeng (Emilio Garcia) and his family.  Named Vergel, the boy eventually discovers that he can transform into a snake-like creature when angered.  On top of his scaly complexion, he also has enhanced strength and agility, and fangs full of deadly venom.

 As a young man (now played by Richard Gutierrez), Vergel learns about his true origins from the bull-king Budol (Johnny Delgado), a loyal friend of his real father.  He is then given a mystical bracelet, which activates a scaly suit of armor that once belonged to his father.  He decides to use his abilities and new-found armor to fight evil and protect the oppressed under the alias Kamandag.

Gotta admit, that's one cool-looking outfit, although the pants are a bit odd.  Anyway, he eventually loses the jeans, trading it in for a long hooded vest, and he acquires a pair of magic daggers as well.  Towards the end of the series, his suit gets upgraded to a more intimidating design.


Even though the series turned Kamandag into an outright good guy, it still did present an evil Kamandag of sorts in the form of Talim ("Blade"), played by Mark Anthony Fernandez Childhood friend and cousin to Vergel, young Lucero was bitten by the golden snake that served as Vergel's guardian.  Brought to the hospital for treatment, the anti-venom injected into him had a strange reaction to the mystical snake venom, causing him to periodically transform into a snake-like being with an insatiable bloodlust.  Under the manipulations of his corrupt father, Abdon (Ariel Rivera), Lucero grows up to use his mutant abilities as the ruthless hitman Talim.  Loyal friend to Vergel and arch-nemesis to his alter-ego, the two would also find themselves rivals for the affections of token love interest Jenny (Jewel Mische).


Played by Ehra Madrigal, Ditas is Domeng's daughter and Vergel's foster sister.  As children, Vergel and Ditas tried to emulate a blood compact while playing, inadvertently passing on the venom in Vergel's blood to Ditas.  Whereas Kamandag is good and Talim is evil, Ditas is somewhere in the middle.  Initially resenting Kamandag for causing her condition, she eventually joins over to his side.

Incidentally, there actually was a female Kamandag in the original comics; his daughter Kamandra, who took over the strip for a time when her dad went MIA.  Died of herpes, the poor girl.

Anyway, in closing, here's a clip of the "Kamandag Family" in action.

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