Darna. Captain Barbell. Lastikman. Ang Panday. These are the most popular fiction superheroes of Filipinos of all ages.
These super heroes first appeared in comics. Their popularity grew when the characters were given life on the big screen and later, on TV, with the current heartthrob and most popular actors essaying the roles, never mind if some acting were not at par. Let’s get to know them briefly:
Darna is the first fictional Filipino heroine and the “oldest” - having appeared sometime in the early 1950’s and the story written before World War II. She is one of the fictional characters created by the late Mars Ravelo. Darna possesses psychic powers, she has the ability to fly and move with extremely fast speed. Her gears – cuffs, ruby encrusted helmet with wings give her extra powers that make her invulnerable.
The original setting of Darna was in a barrio where a young girl witnessed what seemed to be a falling star that hit the ground near where she lives with her younger brother Ding (who later became her sidekick) and grandmother who raised them. These two people where the only ones who knew the secret of Darna who came from another planet.
The storyline of Darna combined the idea of super heroes, fantasy and Philippine folklore that include the use of amulets or charms. The values espoused by Darna, her alter ego Narda, Narda’s grandmother and brother Ding were said to be inspired by the author’s own mother.
The most notable portrayal of Darna in the big screen was that of multi-awardee actress Vilma Santos.
Captain Barbell is another creation of the author of Darna. Like Darna, Captain Barbell also has an alter ego named Tengteng, a skinny man whose dream is to have a well-built, muscled body. Tengteng was bullied and maltreated by his four stepbrothers. All these changed when he found the magic barbell. Each time he lifts the barbell and shouts “Captain Barbell”, he is transformed into one. In this character, he is able to ward off malevolent characters and defend hapless victims.
Like Darna, Captain Barbell eventually was made into movies and shown on TV. It was popularized by the late actor Dolphy (as the skinny Tengteng) who was considered to be the Philippine Movies’ King of Comedies. The role of Captain Barbell was essayed by different actors, the most recent of which was Richard Gutierrez.
Another creation of Mars Ravelo is Lastikman. Lastikman (from the words plastic and elastic) is a superhero whose ability to stretch himself and assume any form. In the story, Lastikman originated from another planet that accidentally landed on Earth. While here, he became the protector of the weak and defends them against evil-doers.
Movie versions of Lastikman were popularized by well-known TV Host and actor/comedian/singer Vic Sotto. The genre of the movies was a combination of comedy and fantasy.
ANG PANDAY (The Blacksmith)
Created by another masterful artist, Carlo J. Caparas, this superhero also made its first appearance in a serialized story in comics.
Its lead character named Flavio found a material liken to an ore after a meteorite hit the ground. As a blacksmith, he used this material to make a dagger. He soon found out that whenever he would raise this dagger towards the sky, it transforms into a sword and that he gains extra strength and power. He uses this to fight his arch-nemesis named Lizardo.
ANG PANDAY, the movie was a big hit among moviegoers, especially avid fans of the late Fernando Poe Jr., the lead star. After his death, the lead character in succeeding sequels was portrayed by Ramon Revilla, Jr. who is also a member (Senator) of the Philippine Congress.
The recurrent theme is good vs. evil. And this is presented steeped with legendary flavor common in Philippine folklore, that is, virtuous individuals with exemplary moral qualities are recipients of amulets and charms that transform them into beings with super natural abilities and powers to fight off evildoers in the society.