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Pinoy Komiks Debate: Is Darna, A Wonder Woman Rip-Off?

Written By J.P. Sakuragi on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | Tuesday, September 13, 2011



This article is a response to the article "Darna is NOT a 'Rip-Off' of Wonder Woman," by Raffy Arcega. I myself is a big fan of comic books especially those of the classic superheroes like Superman and Batman from the DC Universe and Spiderman and the X-Men from the Marvel Universe. Though I am a patriotic Filipino, I am quite familiar with the Filipino Komiks in their entirety but I am not especially pleased that these superheroes are "original." Though the man usually attributed to our local genre, Mars Ravelo, has been the icon in our childhood past. He's a talented and creative individual who is the driving force behind popular staple heroes like Darna and Captain Barbel. But nowadays, the creative talent in the entertainment industry is now diluted, frankly speaking, that is why television channels keep on syndicating popular comic book characters as if its brand new. What makes it worse is that the typical superhero story in the comics has now tailored-fit to be in a teleserye format.

I don't see why such blasphemy is tolerated. In August 2009, a new Darna teleserye is now in the works. I won't be surprised that the TV series will be much focused on the mundane family and social problems affecting Darna (nee Narda) like her lovelife, the men who fell for her and the "complicated" social mobility issues such as rich-poor relations. The typical antagonists will act as a typical teleserye contrabida.

In this case, they still claimed its original and based on the komiks classic. But the fact is that Darna resembles Wonder Woman in every aspect. Even the costumes of both heroines are strikingly similar. The fact that Wonder Woman first appeared in the comic book in December 1941 means that it pre-dated Darna by 6 years since Mr. Ravelo gave life to Darna in 1947 under the original name "Varga." At that time, American influence in local pop culture is quite evident and so its not surprising that American comic book superheroes are "ready-made templates" for aspiring Filipino comic book artists and writers. In that case, the pre-Darna Varga looks original but as the series picked up, she assumed the identity that looks like Wonder Woman. Its ok to emulate other characters after all many comic book artists had their influences but claiming it as original is a different story.

Take case of Exhibit 1, Darna has the similar red costume of Wonder Woman. Though without the lasso, Darna has similar superhuman strength and flying ability as Wonder Woman. You are the judge.

And Exhibit 2 shows Wonder Woman, take note that both women look identically the same.

Now, Darna is a household figure of female power and sensuality and as the decades passed by with different actresses donning the heroine's costume, Darna has become more sultry and sexier than ever before. Even bust size grow. I guess producers are banking more on the actresses' popularity or the ever popular teleserye format in their shows. No wonder, the top 10 highest grossing films shown in the Philippines are American comic-based films like Spiderman, Wolverine and X-Men.

Its just sad that we can't be as competitive with our American counterparts. And with these arguments I disagree with Mr. Arcega. Tweaking Darna's costume doesn't mean they didn't copied the concept right up to the bullet-proof bracelets. According to Mr. Arcega:

"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."
Thats our problem, we keep on reinventing the wheel. You know what, they are now planning to reboot the whole "Panday" series. That is why our films look so "baduy." But I must say, one thing we got it going right here is that the Darna actresses are getting way "hotter" and way titillating than Linda Carter of the 1970's Wonder Woman fame. If Megan Fox wants to be the next Wonder Woman, then all my bets off for Angel and Marian.

Angel Locsin and Marian Rivera? Don't who's better but I go with Marian even though I'm not a fan of both actresses. Darna indeed has come a long way since Rosa del Rosario flew as the original heroine in celluloid.

I must admit though that I have this weird fetish of women wearing this costumes in bed but lets not talk about it in lurid details. What I can say though, these women in costume captivated my mind in a different way.

On a side note, I was surprised that first Darna movie in the 1950's can never be found in our country but a film archive in Thailand. In those days, we are the only country in Southeast Asia that has a more advanced and developed film industry. As a matter of fact, country's like Thailand and Cambodia imported Philippine movies dubbed in their languages. The Darna movies made a lasting impact in their movies that the serpent-headed Valentina became the typical antagonist in their own movies today. Take a look from this Sine Totoo documentaries by Howie Severino:


My final verdict, Darna is a RIP-OFF...but in a different way.

Editor's Note: This is a reprint of my article posted on July 24, 2009 in my old blog site.
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