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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Darna, the Filipino Wonder Woman

As part of my presence in the Wonderverse, I belong to a fair amount of Wonder Woman fan groups on Facebook. A fair amount of those groups are moderated by my friend, Raffy Arcangel.

As you’d expect as Wonder Nerds, we talk a lot about Wonder Woman. Somehow, Raffy brought up Darna. As the Philippines’ version of or answer to Wonder Woman, I was immediately intrigued. I had no idea who she was. I thought it would be fun to learn about Dara together by having Raffy tell us about her in a little Q & A. So, without further ado, let’s talk Darna and her relationship with Wonder Woman.

Michael Fitzgerald Troy: Thanks for introducing me to Darna. I love her! For those not in the know, like me, please tell us who she is.

Raffy Arcangel: Darna is a local comics superheroine created by Marcial “Mars” Ravelo in the Philippines who was initially known as Varga when she was first published in 1947 and possesses strength, speed, and flight.   After discovering a white, shiny magic amulet while playing hide and seek, Narda utters the name inscribed “Darna” and is transformed into her superhuman form as Darna. When her first film premiered in the Philippines in 1951, the film was a big hit and captured the imaginations of many. Initially, there were many who doubted the ability of a female superhero to sell, and yet Darna was a hit. She has had around 13 films since 1951, as well as a brand new one expected to go into production later this year.

MFT: Who did you discover first? Darna or Wonder Woman?

RA: I discovered Darna first through her 2 films in 1973 starring actress Vilma Santos. Then in 1975, we discovered Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and have loved Diana ever since.

MFT: Does Darna have the same rabid fanbase that Wonder Woman has?

RA: Yes, she has. Also, Darna is the premiere superhero of the Philippines; however, she was actually inspired by Superman who was Mars Ravelo’s favorite American hero, as well as his mother who single-handedly raised him. He said that his mother is his real-life hero.

MFT: Has Darna appeared in any comic book or cartoon series?

RA:Yes. She began in local comic books first, then numerous times in live-action films through the years.

MFT: I really like the character’s design. Which is your favorite?

RA: The classic 2-piece costume in red and gold with the sash in the middle.

MFT: Are there a fair amount of Darna collectibles and merchandise out there?

RA: Not till the past few years. There are mostly shirts, watches, and a statue from Halimaw Sculptures.

MFT: What kind of following does she have in the U.S?

RA: Just mostly from Filipino and Filipino-Americans and a small number of non-Filipino enthusiasts. But thanks to the power of the internet, here we are today!

MFT: Conversely, what kind of following does Wonder Woman have in the Philippines?

RA: Mainstream audiences. Wonder Woman also has a big following in the Philippines and has similar qualities we also love with Darna: beauty, grace, strength, class, as well as being a champion of the oppressed. Qualities we love from Darna that we also love so much with Wonder Woman.

MFT: Lynda or Darna?

RA: Oh my!!! It’s really both for me. It’s a tie. I have a longer history as a Darna fan, but I really love Wonder Woman, as well.

MFT: Since it’s comics… who would win in a fight: Diana or Darna?

RA:  If Wonder Woman is able to stop the transformation into Darna, Diana would won. If Darna is able to catch Diana off-guard, it’s Darna for the win.

MFT: Didn’t you tell me she has a new movie coming?

RA: Yes, the filming is expected to begin later this year from Star Cinema.

MFT: Any Tinseltown adaptions in the pipeline? I’m surprised there hasn’t been one yet? I vote for a Netflix series.

RA: You and me both, Michael.

MFT: Anything else about Darna we should know before we wrap?

RA: The new film is expected to play on the big screen in select cities on a limited engagement.

Well, I guess that wraps up our little introduction to Darna, the Filipino Wonder Woman. I’m looking forward to looking up some of her films and definitely looking forward to the new feature. (Hey, Netflix! Get on that series!)

See you next week.  Follow me on Instagram (@MichaelFitzTroy).


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