Darna is NOT a 'Rip-off" of Wonder Woman

Darna is NOT a 'Rip-off" of Wonder Woman

A short Retrospective of an often misunderstood character!

By Raffy Arcega
of both the Wonderverse & Mars Ravelo's DARNA fansites

This coming August 10, 2009. Mars Ravelo's DARNA, will once again be flying through our television screens in a brand new reboot of the series that will star GMA Network Actress and Fan Favorite, Ms. Marian Rivera.

I recently wrote an article that was published on the official Darna Website (http://www.marsravelodarna.com) on the topic of why Rosa Del Rosario, Vilma Santos, and Angel Locsin are the three definitive versions of the superheroine so far and the challenge Marian Rivera now faces in making her version, just as memorable as the other three.

One thing is certain. DARNA always stands out whenever she is portrayed the way she ought to be, according to her original concept as was envisioned by her legendary creator, Mars Ravelo. Now I do understand that Darna has had many incarnations through the decades and every generation of fans have their own vision of what Darna is all about. Yes, she is a superhuman with the powers of super-strength, speed and flight but she also has her own unique qualities all her own.

And no, despite what people saw in those 2 movies from the 1990's, DARNA IS NOT A "WONDER WOMAN COPYCAT." Although I looked forward to seeing those movies at first, I always ended up being disappointed because those films attempted to "reinvent" Darna in Wonder Woman's image. Those 2 movies both depicted Darna using her "bracelets to deflect bullets: when she was fired upon by thugs. They also tweaked her costume to make her look more like Wonder Woman (by taking away her helmet and replacing it with a "Wonder Woman style" headband/tiara that had her golden winged medallion in the middle) rather than remain true to her original look. These unnecessary changes did not in any way make these 2 movies any better because aside from being not well conceptualized, they also lacked the soul that the earlier Darna movies had: Darna's own identity. The two 90's films seemed more concerned with special effects and flash rather than great plot and dialogue.

But these aren't the only things that fed the misconcepcion that Darna is a "Wonder Woman Copy-Cat" but the details of her costume design. So in the interest of educating the general public, here's the history of how Darna's costume evolved through the ages:

Darna is a superheroine created by Mars Ravelo under a different name in 1947. She was originally called "VARGA" and was published by Bulaklak Komiks. The original Varga is not to be confused with the other "Mars Ravelo's VARGA" that was recently featured as a tv series on ABS-CBN. The Original Varga pretty much looked like DARNA except that her original costume featured long sleeves and fitted shirt that featured the SUN and 3 STARS from the Philippine flag. She wore short shorts and a simple belt with a loin cloth in the middle (just like Darna) before letting go of the long sleeve form fitting shirt with the 3 stars and sun and replaced it with the familiar bra while only retaining 2 of the 3 stars. It was the story of a mortal girl named Narda, her brother Ding and their grandmother, LOLA ASAY who lived "sa bayan ng Masambong" (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 named....VARGA! (Sound familiar?)


But there was a falling out between Mars Ravelo and Bulaklak Komiks so he took his creation to Ace Publications' "Pilipino Komiks" where the series was rebooted with a new continuity and the character was renamed "DARNA". Not after the legendary Adarna bird of Philippine folklore but rather an anagram of her mortal name- "NARDA". (Remember that in the earlier Varga series, her mortal name was already NARDA even back then.)
The 2 Stars on Darna's bra are NOT copied from Wonder Woman's costume but are based on the yellow stars that appear on the Philippine Flag.

It was under the name "DARNA" that this Ravelo creation would become famous for. In 1951, before the Komiks serial was even finished, Royal Publications under Fernando Poe Sr. would produce the legendary first DARNA movie starring the late film actress of Philippine Cinema's golden age, MS. ROSA DEL ROSARIO who was the Original actress to play DARNA.

Because of the character's immense popularity, several other studios would license the character and produce more Darna movies throughout the next several decades. After Rosa Del Rosario, Vilma Santos (who first played Darna in 1973's "Lipad, Darna, Lipad") would be the most well known and the most in demand to play the character. She starred in a total of 4 Darna movies. Her 4th and final one being in 1980.

For years after that, no more Darna movies were produced. It was not till 1991 when another one would be produced but it starred a relatively new actress in the role that "reinvented" Darna into a "Bullets & Bracelets" deflecting character that no longer wore the iconic Darna helmet and instead wore a headband. A follow up movie would sooin follow 3 years later that tweaked Darna's look even further where she still wore the "Wonder Woman-type headband" only this time lost the winged medallion altogether in favor of "golden leaves". Yet they again made her deflect bullets with her bracelets. So as we can see, every recognizable Darna elememt was slowly stripped away and replaced with accessories that mimicked Wonder Woman. And in addition, they even gave her Kryptoinian-style heat vision. Now granted, many superheroes fly and possess superhuman strength, but heat vision and deflecting bullets using bracelets are iconic Superman & Wonder Woman elements that are SPECIFIC to these 2 characters. They are not meant to be taken and grafted onto DARNA and representing her to the world as "the Philippine copy of Wonder Woman". Labeling her as such and presenting her to look like a copy does a disservice to the greatness of this character.

And from then on, Darna's prestige as a character was put into question because of the damage inflicted upon her image by misguided flimmakers who valued mimicry to originality. It's one thing to be inspired by Superman and Captain Marvel. But it is a completely different thing altogether to
cannibalize elements from foreign characters and graft these elements onto an existing one with a rich history and established lore as Darna.

Darna is about a poor young Filipina girl with a pure heart whose values and virtues made her worthy of weilding the magical powers of a celestial "agimat" that allowed her to channel the superhuaman being "DARNA of the Planet Marte." Philippine folklore has a tradition of presenting humble, pure hearted mortals that are awarded amulets that allow them to (in a way) transform their virtues into superpowers that allow them to battle supernatural evil.
Darna is a character that fused together the concept of the superhero with the traditions of Philippine folklore that give us a unique type of hero in Darna. The yellow/gold stars come from our Philippine flag, the loincloth (bahag) is a visual inspiration from native costuming, and the agimat concept come from our very own traditions.

So it is my hope that this new Darna series will treat this beloved Mars Ravelo character with the respect she deserves and imbue her with qualities that further enhance her uniqueness and not with gimmicks and contrived cliches stolen from other characters. DARNA is worthy of respect and has a very special place in Philippine Pop culture. Not as a "just a novelty" or a character misconstrued to look like a"Wonder Woman Copy-Cat" but as her TRUE self- Asia's First Superheroine: Mars Ravelo's DARNA.
Posted By:
Member Since 12/10/2008
Filed Under "Other" 7/15/2009 Source: Raffy Arcega
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SupahPhreak - 7/15/2009, 2:34 PM
..She looks like Wonder Woman.
YohonKalic - 7/15/2009, 3:33 PM

She seems cool, I like her black outfit, She doesnt really look like WW to me, other then being a woman. Im sure KeepItReal would agree with me.

LEEE777 - 7/15/2009, 4:10 PM
WONDERVERSE @ We know she ain't a RIP OFF!

Every Superhero has part of another Superhero in them anyway!

Good article by the way! ; )

I wouldn't listen to anyone on here that says she does lol!
InSpace - 7/15/2009, 4:23 PM
she looks like a cross between elektra and WW
superdog - 7/15/2009, 4:33 PM
Anil@ your right. There only a certain number of powers out there. Eventually they will overlap. It is more than personality and origins that define them, not the powers
WONDERVERSE - 7/15/2009, 7:16 PM
That's still good to hear. I'd rather she is compared to Wonder Woman than Vampirella or Lady Death.
Spock - 7/15/2009, 7:51 PM
She looks nothing like WW, good article. But comparing the 2 who is stonger?
kendaile - 7/15/2009, 9:37 PM
look at this costume? this doesnt look like wonder woman :)
kendaile - 7/15/2009, 9:38 PM
this is the actress NANETTE MEDVED love her tiara no helmet costume :)
Spock - 7/16/2009, 2:55 AM
In your opinion who is stronger thou?
spanky - 7/16/2009, 10:22 AM
oh i gotta see this vid
sadmamba - 7/16/2009, 12:58 PM
@ wonderverse
nice one there. good article.

@ ken daile

noticed my avatar?
WONDERVERSE - 7/16/2009, 3:18 PM
Everyone's entitled to their own opinions. But facts are facts. What do characters like gagamboy and Capt.Barbell have to do with Darna?

And why so much rage? Chill out its just a comicbook.
WONDERVERSE - 7/16/2009, 3:46 PM
This has been an interesting thread. I just didn't realize there would be so much rage and animosity and a lot of 'f' words from foul mouthed 'Artists' who are seething with hate and resentment. And all I did here was relate a story- The history of a comics character. Is that normal?
TucsonRican - 7/16/2009, 4:00 PM
What? He didn't use a bad in that whole rant.

He just sounds passionate about the subject. Nothing wrong with that...
adamant877 - 7/16/2009, 4:09 PM
Personally, since I was first introduced to the character (on this site, merely weeks ago), it's been hard NOT to call her a direct rip-off of Wonder Woman, and more appropriately, I think, of Captain Marvel (Shazam)!
But let's remember something ladies and gentleman, nearly just about EVERY comic book super hero or villian, for that matter, is a rip off of another character! Whether it's from comic book lore, or mythology, they all have their roots in some story that has already been told! That's how our culture(s) work:

1. We take something that relates to us from an original source.
2. We change that something by adding a "twist" that makes that character "original", or more "relateable".

The truth of the matter is, I could have anyone from this site mention a single, solitary character that they hold dear, and I could EASILY turn around and tell that person where the original inspiration for that character lies. (And more often than not, it would be a pretty easy task!)

Just wanted to throw that out there for arguments sake. ;-)
adamant877 - 7/16/2009, 5:26 PM
Gose: Thank you.
harrisonefreeman - 7/16/2009, 5:26 PM
I feel like the word "rip-off" is getting tossed around a lot here. I had never heard of this character until a few minutes ago when I read this article so whether Ravelo ripped off the idea or not, it clearly didn't pan out here in the states.

That said, everyone go read Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." Or if you are too lazy to read let me summarize what Campbell called the "monomyth." The book discusses a general archetypal character that is spawned from the collective mythos of the character's respective county of origin in other words, though many cultures have varying mythological stories, the characters they create all have a common thread. They all follow a standard theory. The details change but the stories remain essentially the same.

Campbell's famous quote sums it up nicely: "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man"

So the point is, go read this book and you will feel differently about how people "rip-off" ideas. Personally I am of the belief that there is nothing new under the sun and that good artists and writers or craftsmen of any sort would be nowhere without their influences. Another famous quote, just to close:

"Mediocre writers borrow; Great writers steal" T.S. Eliot

And P.S. angry Filipino guy, don't quote Wikipedia if you want to be taken seriously.
dejitarus - 7/16/2009, 8:03 PM
Darna is a legend
kendaile - 7/16/2009, 10:47 PM
@ sadmamba classic n Great avatar!
@ spock i think wonder woman is stonger.. base on seeing them use strength.. but i love DARNA.. the Helmet is so old school.. Darna is powerful enough she doesnt need to protect her head by a helmet. the 90s Darna movie shows more of her Femininity and we love the hair flowing while she fights ;) check this out friends :)
kendaile - 7/16/2009, 10:54 PM
@ spanky
its on VCD :)you will like her
kendaile - 7/17/2009, 12:15 AM
WONDER WOMAN is the QUEEN of all female superheroes! :) seeing women with boots reminds me of wonder woman. Darna can be her long lost sister :p
Kratos6 - 7/17/2009, 10:06 AM
Yea just gonna call this one like I see it. Looks like a rip-off to me.
WONDERVERSE - 7/17/2009, 11:37 AM

That's what DC said about CAPT.MARVEL in their lawsuit against fawcett that led them to winning the case.

But everyone's entitled to their own opinions. some people think Dr. Don Blake being a cripple was completely original too in the pages of the Mighty Thor. selective amnesia made them forget that FREDDY FREEMAN, Capt.Marvel jr. was the original crippled mortal who became superhuman after a magical transformation.

Catwoman = Black cat
Captain Marvel= Miracleman/Marvelman
Batman= Moon Knight
Superman= Supreme
Supergirl= suprema
Wonder Woman= Glory= Power Princess (squadron supreme)
Niles Caulder of Doom Patrol= Prof. x of X-Men.

so before the pot calls the kettle black, i'd re-examine our facts here first. Let's not be so prejudiced here.

WONDERVERSE - 7/17/2009, 11:46 AM
I'd also like to pint out- that I happen to be a major WONDER WOMAN FAN too and am the owner of the WONDERVERSE FAN SiTE so to be clear, i'm not playing favorites between darna and wonder woman. i'm just surprised at the level of hostility and double standards some people have. Especially since all i did was do ACTUAL RESEARCH, and not base my article on something someone who didn't have his facts put on wikipedia.I base my facts on the actual material and from archival documents. The purpose of my Darna Fan site is to have fun. For established fans and for others like myself who enjoy exploring heroes from other lands. So even if that angry doesn't understand what a non-American character from GMA network Philippines is doing here, this fansite is here to stay.
LEEE777 - 7/17/2009, 11:56 AM
WONDERVERSE @ I like ya DARNA fansite! ; )
WONDERVERSE - 7/17/2009, 11:59 AM
and that's what matters ;-)
WONDERVERSE - 7/17/2009, 12:06 PM
Ken daile wrote:

WONDER WOMAN is the QUEEN of all female superheroes! :)
***just as Superman is the KING of all Superheroes.

seeing women with boots reminds me of wonder woman.
**Diana is the first major solo female hero so naturally, i agree!

Darna can be her long lost sister :p

**More like cousin. ;-)
But I do understand some of the similar qualities. They're
beautiful and sexy but the focus is always on their heroism.
kendaile - 7/17/2009, 11:48 PM
WONDERVERSE, thanks for the quotes.. i think ur a very kind person in real life :) comment on my sayings pls.. coz i REALLY like Darna with tiara with eagle NO helmet.. i fell in love with her when Nanette Medved became DARNA! :)
WONDERVERSE - 7/18/2009, 2:27 PM
Hi Ken. Thank you. Sorry, I didn't realize you wanted me to comment on the Nanette design. Anyway, if you like the Nanette Medved look, then that's really all that matters ;-)

Speaking for myself, I prefer the helmet on because it is what visually separates her from our other favorite character that she's always compared to- Wonder Woman.

The no helmet look was only with the Viva Films version. But the Ravelos and majority of fans wish to preserve her signature look with a few design tweaks here and there from time to time. Her current look designed by Bong Leal is pretty much here to stay. But her Mango Comics/Angel Locsin look is also considered one of her many 'Official' costumes just as the original by Nestor Redondo is. I hope I've answered your question to your full satisfaction :-)
quadibloc - 8/6/2013, 3:24 PM
Except for that one movie series in 1991, it's true enough that Darna isn't anything like Wonder Woman.

But she has powers very similar to those of Superman - and she transforms into her alter ego by using her name. That's an awful lot like Captain Marvel. Enough so that had she been published in the U.S., DC (or Fawcett!) probably could have successfully sued.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Darna deserves to be called a rip-off of Captain Marvel, but it's understandable that the comic could be so viewed by some.

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