Many were called but only nine actresses were chosen to play the role of Darna, Pinoys' most well-loved heroine. But it was Vilma Santos's portrayal which became very popular among the moviegoers. She topbilled four Darna films. In 2006, Richard Gutierrez was the boob tube's Captain Barbell. Some critics claimed that "he is too tisoy to become a Pinoy superhero." Nevertheless, the viewing public, especially the kids, adored him. Photo: Darna (www.marsravelodarna.tripod.com), Captain Barbell (www.captainbarbell.org)

 

Our grandparents read about them in komiks, a popular graphic medium that was formally introduced to the Pinoy market in 1920s. Our parents saw them on the big screen, while the present generation watched them on TV.

 

There are so many of them but, for now, the spotlight is on superheroes created by Mars Ravelo—a Filipino graphic novelist born on October 9, 1916, in Tanza, Cavite. They are also the fictional characters that traversed from comics to cinemas, then television sets.

 

DARNA UP CLOSE. The most popular Pinoy superhero had been a crowd darling since she was born on July 23, 1947, also her debut appearance in Bulaklak Magazine. Her name then was Varga. But in May 13, 1950, she was baptized as Darna—a warrior from outer space. A girl named Narda would swallow the "bato" and transform her into a heroine, Darna.

 

Some critics claimed that an American fictional character born in 1941 inspired Darna's inception. Nestor Redondo's first drawing of Darna's costume bore a striking resemblance to Wonder Woman's two-piece costume and headband. But eventually, Darna totally moved away from the shadow of the stateside superheroine, and differentiated herself through her unique powers and skills.

 

She made a crossover from comics to cinema on May 31, 1951. Darna was the last film directed by Fernando Poe, Sr. Rosa del Rosario was the first to portray Darna's role, while Mila Nimfa played Narda.

 

Then she went on to become a screen sweetheart with the release of 13 more Darna movies with Rosa del Rosario, Liza Moreno, Eva Montes, and Gina Pareno bagging the lead role.

 

After Gina, Darna and Narda became one person. That was in 1973, the year when Vilma Santos flew in Lipad, Darna, Lipad! She assumed Darna's role four times. Rio Locsin, Nanette Medved, and Anjanette Abayari also played Darna/Narda.

 

Interestingly, the red costume was also worn by Comedy King Dolphy (Darna Kuno), Megastar Sharon Cuneta and Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez (when Darna had a rendezvous with Captain Barbell).

 

After five decades of being a movie star, she made her presence felt on the boob tube. In 2005, GMA-7's Darna was launched with Angel Locsin getting the most coveted title role. Its pilot episode registered the highest rating in TV history.

 

CAPTAIN BARBELL IN A NUTSHELL. Captain Barbell was created in 1963, and first appeared in Pinoy Komiks Magasin. A young boy named Enteng would lift the magical barbell to become Captain Barbell. The superhero only had his mask, cape, belt—with the letter "CB" engraved on the buckle—and tight pants then. Originally, he was shirtless. The look was inspired by circus strongmen, according to www.internationalhero.co.uk.

 

When he made his first cinema appearance in 1965, Bob Soler—the first to play the part—donned a yellow shirt with Captain Barbell's initials on his chest. Dolphy also starred in a movie titled Barbell in the early ‘60s. His alter ego was called Ting-ting (coined from walis ting-ting, a broomstick) instead of Teng.

 

In 1986, Herbert Bautista—as the skinny character named Enteng—shouted "Captain Barbell," and turned into a matipuno superhero played by Edu Manzano. This was where Sharon Cuneta took the part of Darna, who appeared in a cameo role. Under the direction of Leroy Salvador, this remake followed the original comics story.

 

Year 2003 marked Captain Barbell's comeback. It was Bong Revilla's turn to play title role. This Captain Barbell movie was able to elaborate on the source of the superhero's powers and strength. Lastikman (PJ Malonzo) and Darna (Regine Velasquez), other creations of Mars Ravelo, were both seen in this film.

 

His journey to the tellie world began in May 2006. Richard Gutierrez played the lead in Captain Barbell, the TV series that aired on GMA-7 for eight months.

 

Richard wore a $50,000 suit made by Miles Teves, a Filipino-American who designed the costumes of Batman, Superman, and Robocop. It was said that the muscular outfit of our Pinoy superhero was inspired by Batman's bulky costume.

 

The TV series was an expanded version of the comics' story. It had more details about the origin of the Captain Barbell and his powers. It introduced the superhero's parents. It presented more villains. And it renamed Enteng as Potenciano "Teng/ Enteng" Magtanggol ("Potential Defender" in English).

 

LASTIKMAN'S LIFE. This Mars Ravelo fictional character was first spotted in Aliwan Komiks in 1964. His name was derived from the English word "elastic," which means "flexible and stretchable." His claim to fame was his ability to stretch parts of his body, and reshape himself into whatever form.

 

In the "komiks" version, Lastikman was an alien from another planet. But the two movie adaptations related different stories: (1) a boy named Hilario was near a rubber tree when a meteor struck it. (2) another lad, Adrian, was found lifeless under a rubber tree, which gave him the special powers.

 

The first to play the title role was Von Serna, the dad of Snooky, in 1968. It returned to the screen, with Vic Sotto as the Lastikman, in 2003. That same year, the elastic character made an appearance in Bong Revilla's movie, Captain Barbell. It was Christopher "PJ" Malonzo who wore the predominantly-black-with-white-boxes costume. A year after, it was Mark Bautista's turn to be Lastikman in Mars Ravelo's Lastikman: Unang Banat.

 

This coming September, Lastikman will be presented to the TV viewers of Kapamilya network, with Vhong Navarro giving life to the character. His human counterpart will be known as Miguel, an import from the planet Harraio.

 

From komiks, these characters leaped off the page and soared! The comics tickled the imagination of our lolos and lolas. The movies, with the special sound and visual effects, awed our parents. And TV endeared these superheroes to the Pinoys even more deeply. Cheers to the man who created them all, and to the PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) user who suggested that they be given a space in this website.