Mars Ravelo and Komiks
I readied myself by watching the multiple different Mars Ravelo adaptations. Those with the movies of course. Some did have a daily series (especially the Big Three). The others were relegated to a weekly series under the “Komiks” banner.
Darna. Filipinos declare her as the counterpart to Wonder Woman, She is more like an example of Captain Marvel/Shazam than Wonder Woman. It is like Mars Ravelo seem intrigued by this superhero. Has twelve official movies. Vilma Santos is the most popular hero, and was actually the longest one to be Darna. The latest Darna is Liza Soberano. The last cinematic appearance of Darna was by Anjanette Abayari, still the sexiest Darna ever. Three television series, in 1977 with Lorna Tolentino, 2005 with Angel Locsin, 2009 with Marian Rivera. The finale of the 2005 Darna even teased an appearance and possible crossover with Captain Barbell. There still exists an iMDB entry of the failed TV series Captain Barbell Meets Darna.
Captain Barbell is a more explicit version if only because they are both male and the name is too close. Earlier incarnations such as the 1964 one with Bob Soler as the titular hero and Dolphy as the alter-ego Tengteng. Followed up by a sequel with a different guy and also a different alter-ego. Again it has canon basis though. This is what fully separates him from Captain Marvel/Shazam/Billy Batson. Then in 1973, Dolphy reprised the role. This is the first time that the same actor played both roles. Then in 1986, Edu Manzano was Captain Barbell, and the alter-ego Teng played by Herbert Bautista. 2003, Bong Revilla, Ogie Alcasid. Incidentally, both of those latter movies have a Darna. The real crossover happened in the former movie. The Darna in the 2003 movie was in a dream sequence by the love interest of the hero. The dream sequence is also notable for the crossover between 3 of the most popular Mars Ravelo superhero creations, along with Lastikman. And then there is the attempt to make a “Smallville” by Richard Gutierrez. At least in the 2006 initial run. By the 2011, it seemed to lighten up but did not please the fans who are familiar with the “inspirations” they have incorporated.
Lastikman – Plastic Man. But Plastic Man is not the only stretchy hero in the American comic book industry. There is also Elongated Man (also from DC Comics.) On Marvel’s side there is Mr. Fantastic. (Maybe that is why Vic Sotto decided to do the Fantastic Man movie after he did the Lastikman movie. That Fantastic Man also got to have a series on GMA.) Played by Von Serna, Vic Sotto (2003), Mark Bautista (2004), Vhong Navarro (2007). What made me like Lastikman first was the 2003 version, playing the Spider-Man inspired elements just right. Though, it may have not aged well. Gonna revisit it sometime. Spider-Man really inspired a lot of heroes, with the parody-ish Gagamboy also played by Vhong Navarro. Could not really know about the Mark Bautista film as there seems to be no copies online but it is available to rent on Netflix so that is something.
Even Kapitan Boom is another Captain Marvel-inspired hero. The hero is played by Jon Avila, and the alter-ego by singer Jay-R Siaboc. It is a comedic weekly series, It seems like this could have been ABS-CBN’s replacement for the Captain Barbell character. He’s got supersonic hearing. Flight. The basic Superman package it seems. Meets Varga in the finale?
Darna did not start out fully as Darna. She was initially Varga. She was reworked by ABS-CBN into a different hero. Vara is an alien princess ghost who finds herself drawn to planet Earth. Gifted with beauty, superpowers and a voluptuous body, she meets a young girl named Olga, and together transform into the hero Varga, where they defeat evil and save the world. Mariel Rodriguez played the alien Vara and the superheroine Varga. Angel Sy portrays Olga. And in this version, whenever they are not united, only Olga sees Vara. So the ties to the Captain Marvel-type is lessened. What could Mars Ravelo thought about that? Met Tiny Tony in the finale.
Tiny Tony on the other hand is a mixture of Ant-Man (more Hank Pym than the MCU Scott Lang) and the Atom (more Ray Palmer, though Ryan Choi is also a scientist). A science prodigy with mathematical aptitude, Tony (John Prats) is a nerd who dreams of making a difference in society. Tony is a simple guy who after a freak accident is transformed from a normal person to a tiny superhero. One day he meets an accident which literally causes him to become small. Will Tony ever return to his normal size? Or will he forever be Tiny Tony? He does not meet Dragonna in the finale.
Dragonna. It is a story about a teenage girl who discovers that she has pyrokinetic abilities and decided to use this newly found ability for a greater good. She releases this ability every time she loses her temper. She meets Flash Bomba in the finale. Flash Bomba in a sense is what comes close to a Batman type character. And that would have led to a Justice League/Super Friends/Avengers inspired spin-off Isang Lakas. So imagine what I must have felt when I watched The Avengers back in 2012. Unlike the experience of The Avengers, I got a glimpse of the individual stories they had. Practically what I know then about the Marvel lore is that Spider-Man could have been in it. And whatever I saw from Itsjustsomerandomguy’s YouTube channel. This did not push through. It was too big and perhaps conflict arose.
Dyesebel may or may not count as a hero, as her movies tended to be a love story between her and the human Fredo. First appeared in 1953. Had one TV series, a daily one played by Marian Rivera, who later became Darna. Making her similar to Vilma Santos portraying the same two characters. The most popular version appears to be the Alice Dixson as Dyesebel and Richard Gomez as the love interest version. The closest thing they did to make her part of a hero ensemble is giving her powers for the 2014 incarnation of the character on TV portrayed by Anne Curtis. She is known as a viable endorser and sometimes acceptable acting but boy does she try to sing. She could be their counterpart to Aquaman?
Another fun connection for Anne Curtis to the Mars Ravelo lore is that she is rumored to portray the archenemy of Darna, Valentina. So the chances of her reprising the role of Dyesebel might be lessened. Plus, also the fact that she is a Viva artist, and not a Star Magic talent. Some have even expressed that Nadine Lustre is a more acceptable alternative to Liza Soberano as she appears more the conventional Filipina. Also her lookalike Kathryn Bernardo.
Wonder what future historians or archaeologists will say about our culture whenever they attempt to understand our lives in the late 20th to early 21st century.