The artist who drew the original Darna
This corner’s recent feature about Darna (Let Darna rest in peace), a rejoinder to the big to-do about who should play the Flying Heroine in yet another planned resurrection (Liza Soberano is the perfect choice, isn’t she?), drew several reactions, one of them from Roy Redondo (the PR for Joel Cruz’s Aficionado Perfume) who happens to be the son of Nestor Redondo, the artist who drew the original Darna komiks.
Artist Redondo is seldom, if ever, mentioned in stories about Darna when history credits him as the Darna co-creator of Mars Ravelo (1916-1988) who, according to research, created the first images of Darna in 1939 before World War II as a predecessor to a character named Varga. It is said that Mars, then a young, pioneering illustrator from Tanza, Cavite, thought of creating a female counterpart for Superman because “he believed in the concept that America is ‘male’ and the Philippines, then a colony of the USA, is ‘female’.”
Ravelo’s inspiration for Darna’s heroic qualities came from his childhood fascination with Superman, and called his super heroine Kamangha-Manghang Dilag (The Amazing Warrior Maiden), inspired by his own mother who raised him single-handedly. Did you know that Ravelo’s ideas of a Filipino super heroine was rejected by some publications that claimed female super heroes would not sell? That is, not until the end of the war when Ravelo realized that Filipinos needed a superhero. It was Bulaklak Magazine that agreed to publish the super-heroine story called Varga starting on July 23, 1947, with Varga’s mortal identity named Narda (an anagram of the eventual immortal komiks heroine Darna).
Darna first flew across the big screen in 1951 played by Rosario del Rosario in a movie directed by Fernando Poe Sr. for his own Royal Films. Considered to be the best Darna, bar none, Rosa again played her the following year in Darna at Ang Babaing Lawin directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa also for Royal Films.
“I read your article,” Roy Redondo texted me, “and for your information, my dad Nestor Redondo was the first who drew the Darna komiks.”
The costume of Angel Locsin, one of the actresses who have played Darna, is described as “official,” the way Nestor Redondo drew it — “traditional red bikini with gold stars, red helmet with the gold winged medallion, gold medallion bracelets, golden medallion belt with white loincloth in the middle and gold-rimmed red boots.”
“When Darna appeared in the ’50s to early ’60s,” recalled Roy, “hindi pa ako tao noon; I was born in 1966. I remember that when I was four years old, our family had ARES Publication (on Recto Ave.), putting out Redondo Komiks and Palos Komiks. The characters Palos and Gagamba were portrayed by Bernard Bonnin in movies. Palos was revived by ABS-CBN in a fantaserye with Jake Cuenca in the titular role, co-starring Bernard and Cesar Montano.”
When Martial Law was declared in 1972, Redondo had to close his publication.
“My father was able to get projects from DC & Marvel in the ’70s, such as Rima The Jungle Girl, Swamp Thing and Savage Sword of Conan. The First Lady, Imelda Marcos, was a big supporter of the arts in the ’70s and that encouraged my dad to go into oil and watercolor painting.
“After the People Power in 1986, there were no jobs for my dad so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for Calico company that produced Mr. Bogus. By the way, sometime in the ’70s, my dad exhibited his works at the San Diego Comic Convention. He died at age 67 in Granada Hills, California, on Dec. 30, 1995, and his remains were flown to Manila.”
There. Giving credit where credit is due.
Director Gil M. Portes also reacted to the article, saying that Lester Llansang is the best Ding ever, to Anjanette Abayari’s Darna in Darna, Ang Pagbabalik (1994). Gil directed Lester in Saranggola (The Kite), Gil’s first Oscar submission, for which Lester won Best Child Actor in the Manila Film Festival (MFF) and Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF).
As Gil requested, here’s the roster of child actors who have played Ding (as compiled by Funfare contributor Celso de Guzman Caparas):
• 1951: Darna, Manuel Ubaldo (to Rosa del Rosario’s Darna);
• 1952: Darna at ang Babaing Lawin, Manuel Ubaldo (with Rosa del Rosario);
• 1963: Si Darna at ang Impakta, Danilo Jurado (with Liza Moreno);
• 1963: Isputnik vs. Darna, Danilo Jurado (with Liza Moreno);
• 1969: Si Darna at ang Planetman, Boy Alajar (with Gina Pareño);
• 1973: Lipad, Darna, Lipad, Angelito (with Vilma Santos);
• 1973: Darna and the Giants, Dondon Nakar (with Vilma Santos);
• 1975: Darna vs. the Planetwomen, Bentot Jr. (with Vilma Santos)
• 1979: Bira! Darna! Bira!, Romnick Sarmenta (with Rio Locsin);
• 1980: Darna at Ding, Niño Muhlach (with Vilma Santos);
• 1991: Darna, Atong Redillas (with Nanette Medved); and
• 1994: Darna, Ang Pagbabalik, Lester Llansang (with Anjanette Abayari).