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Comic Book / Darna

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Darna is a superhero from Philippine comic books, created in 1950 for Pilipino Komiks by writer Mars Ravelo and illustrator Nestor Redondo. One of the most popular Filipino superheroes, she has appeared in many movies and several television series through the decades which have far overshadowed her actual comics tenure.

After an ordinary girl named Narda swallows a magic white stone, she transforms into the mighty warrior Darna by shouting "DARNA!". As Darna, she stands up for those who cannot fend for themselves. She fights against both common criminals as well as greater forces of evil, most famously the snake-haired woman Valentina. She is often accompanied by her younger brother, Ding.

Darna has inspired Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah (The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah), a transgender superhero.

Tropes associated with Darna include:

  • Action Girl: Despite all the differences between the various adaptations, Darna being a badass hero who defeats the forces of evil using her powers is always a guarantee. Some even make her a formidable fighter even without the use of the white stone.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Darna movies introduced the now-standard elements of Narda being as old as Darna instead of Narda being a Kid Hero, Narda actually becoming Darna herself instead of channeling a separate entity (a la the original Captain Marvel, or Ultraman decades later), and the magic stone not staying in Narda's body once she changes back, so she has to swallow and regurgitate it every time.
  • Affectionate Parody:
    • The 1979 film Darna, Kuno? (literally "Darna, For Real?", "Darna, Pretender?", "Pretending as Darna?", "Playing Darna's Role?", or "Acting as Darna?") starred the comedian Dolphy as a male substitute Darna when the real one went on maternity leave.
    • The graphic novel Zsazsa Zaturnnah is a more recent one, first published in 2002. Whereas Darna is about a woman who gains superpowers, it is about a gay man who transforms into a superpowered woman.
  • Age Lift: Narda is a child in the original comics, while she's a young woman in all the live-action versions.
  • Alternate Continuity: Tons.
    • Not counting parody gags or cameo or guest appearances, there have been 13 Darna theatrical films since 1951 (with the latest planned to come out in the 2020s but currently stuck in Development Hell), 14 if one counts a full-on parody movie, with different actresses in the role - many playing the role multiple times in presumably their own continuities, with Negative Continuity sometimes affecting films starring the same lead actress. As for television, there have been Darna shows in 1977, 2005, 2009 and 2022 on three different networks (the 2005 and 2009 ones being on the same network), with each having a different lead actress as well.
    • Ravelo wrote Darna from the 1950s to the 1960s and other writers took over for later stories. After the once-flourishing Filipino comic book industry had all but died out in the 1990s, Darna received a short-lived revival in 2003 (the source of the page image).
  • Arch-Enemy: Valentina, the Queen of Snakes. More due to Pop-Cultural Osmosis through adaptations than the comics, because she died in her first story arc or comic serial, which was also the first Darna story arc.
  • Author Avatar: Ding, according to Ravelo.
  • Bowdlerise: Just like in more recent ABS-CBN teleseryes, the NLEA from the 2022 series is based on the real-life PNP.
  • Broad Strokes: The 1991 film started with Narda and Ding finding the stone as children like the original comic, but then has a Time Skip to when Narda is an adult and Ding is a high schooler. Ding mentions the past adventures they've had, naming several classic Darna foes.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In some adaptations, but she gets better.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: "DARNA!" To transform back, "NARDA!"
  • Clark Kenting: Her real name is Narda, seriously. Then the issue of her appearance is not so much an issue in the versions where she ages up to become Darna, but most versions have her and Darna be the same age, and Darna's face is in no way hidden, and so people not figuring out her secret identity tends to be glossed over.
  • Costume Evolution: In the first half 2022 adaption series, Valentina wears a green (with a hint of green-yellow) form-fitting full body suit that has snakeskin patterns and a cutout chest that shows cleavage. Later on, in the last few episodes, when Valentina is latter resurrected (after she was killed by the supervillains) by the Big Bad General Borgo, her costume evolves into a green strapless snakeskin leotard with yellow in the middle, with heels with the same patterns.
  • Crossover: Sometimes appears in Filipino superhero/fantasy films that aren't mainly about her.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: The 2009 TV series has Narda use a crutch, which she no longer needs as Darna. This is akin to one of the comic incarnations of Captain Barbell, also by Mars Ravelo - which in turn is akin to Captain Marvel Jr.
  • Driven to Suicide: Valentina in the original comics.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The original comics has Narda as a young girl instead of a young woman as in adaptations, and the first story has the transformed Darna refer to herself in the first person as Narda ("I am Narda") but also in the third person ("And now you will see her", before transforming back), indicating she is some sort of a separate entity with whom Narda ambiguously channels or merges with, instead of the adaptations where Darna is simply Narda's super-powered alter ego.
    • Darna's costume being red with yellow/gold details is her most common look by far but this only solidified by the 90s movies. The original comics magazine she appeared in seems to have been in black and white and her costume was inconsistently colored when she appeared on the covers. Some earlier costume versions in adaptations were blue with red details, gold with red details and even red and blue with gold details, making her look all the more similar to you-know-who.
  • Expy: Of "Varga", created and drawn by Ravelo in 1947 for Bulaklak Magazine until he left due to differences with editors. The name Varga was owned by the magazine. Like Darna, Varga's civilian identity is a girl named Narda.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Darna may go up against anyone and anything from normal crooks to creatures inspired by Philippine and foreign mythologies to space aliens.
  • Flying Brick: Her main powers are Flight, Super-Strength, and Nigh-Invulnerability.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Valentina is a beautiful woman with snakes for hair, though she doesn't have the associated stone-vision powers. She was originally a Mutant through implied supernatural causes, but becomes a Rubber-Forehead Alien in some later depictions.
  • Head Blast: In some versions Darna's helmet can fire laser blasts.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: In the original comics, Narda and Ding lived in poverty with their grandmother in a small rural village. They only got by through the kindness of their neighbors. More recent adaptations don't tend to put them in such dire financial straits (and set the story in the suburbs).
  • Henshin Hero: In the original comics, Narda and Darna are separate beings and Narda "channels" her. Later versions simply have Narda become Darna.
  • Homage: Basically Wonder Woman meets Captain Marvel.
    • In the 1991 movie, the adult Narda is employed as a reporter, is courted by another reporter, and has a comedy-relief photographer friend. Um...
  • Human Aliens: Darna's race in the original comics and some versions; in other versions she is just called a "warrior of light". In the original story, her planet was called Marte, which is just the Spanish name for Mars. Later versions have kept the name Marte but clearly established it as another planet.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Recent adaptations have used "Mars Ravelo's Darna" as part of the title and/or logo. This also appears in later comics even after Ravelo stopped working on Darna. Naturally and unfortunately this means that Darna's original illustrator Nestor Redondo has been overshadowed by Ravelo.
  • Kid Sidekick: Ding, being her kid brother.
  • Legacy Character:
    • In the 2009 TV series, the first or at least previous woman to become Darna becomes the "Guardian of the Stone" and Narda's Spirit Advisor of sorts.
    • In the 2022 TV series, the first or at least previous woman to become Darna mentors and trains Narda, her own daughter, to be her successor until she's being killed off,.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: From comic books. It also has numerous films and three television series in the last century.
  • Magic Meteor: The source of her powers.
  • Magical Girl Warrior: Predates the Japanese trope namers by about 30 years.
  • Most Common Superpower: Depending on the Artist and the actress. The traditionally-trained original artist Nestor Redondo gave her "classical beauty" proportions so her bust as drawn then would be modest by today's standards.
  • Older Alter Ego: Subverted. Word of God is that Narda and Darna are not the same person. Later incarnations would often have Darna's alter ego be someone closer to age to her.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Though never outright stated in the original comics, it's probable that "Narda" is likely a nickname for something like "Leonarda" or "Bernarda", just as "Ding" likely is a nickname for "Ricardo" (as in "Cardo" → "Carding" → "Ding").
  • Parental Abandonment: Narda and Ding are orphans.
  • Parental Substitute: Their grandmother raised them instead.
  • Primary-Color Champion: Her colors are most often red and yellow/gold.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Valentina has a viper named Vibora, Spanish for viper, in the original story and some adaptations.
  • Rogues Gallery: Including:
    • Valentina, the snake woman (Valentina, ang babaeng ahas)
    • The tree (stump) woman (Ang babaeng tuod)
    • The hawk woman (Ang babaeng lawin)
    • The ghoul woman (Ang babaeng impakta)
  • Secret-Keeper: The only people who know Narda is Darna tend to be Ding and their grandmother.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Valentina in the original comics, but later depictions had her parents murdered by fearful village people.
  • Status Quo Is God: The 1991 movie ages up Ding to high school age, but also introduces a much younger second brother named Dong, so that Darna will always have a kid brother for a sidekick.
  • Stripperific: Since her costume is normally Underwear of Power this is a given, but more modern versions tend to make her suit skimpier than previous versions (with the actresses being curvier and/or more toned as well).
  • Super Hero Origin: The first comic chapter has Narda finding the stone. The supervillain of the arc is introduced next chapter.
  • Superpower Lottery: Has Flight, Super-Speed, Super-Strength, and Nigh-Invulnerability. Retconned to be caused by her psionic background in the 2003 comic release.
  • Tagalong Kid: Ding gets to ride on Darna's back.
  • Transformation Trinket: The white stone. In the original comics it remains in her body, but in later versions she regurgitates it every time she changes back to Narda, so Narda has to swallow it to transform to Darna every time. Also, in the original story the word "Darna" is engraved on it (in Latin letters) and Narda first transforms accidentally while telling her family what happened. She swallows it in the first place because she had put it in her mouth to hide it from her playmates, then the stone seemed to jump down her throat. She has a vision of planets and galaxies and then faints, later waking up at her house.
  • Underwear of Power: Her classic costume is basically a bikini with a decorative loincloth.
  • Weaponized Headgear: In some versions Darna's winged helmet can fire laser blasts.
  • Wild Child: Valentina in the original story somewhat, as growing up running around in the jungle gave her a degree of Charles Atlas Superpowers.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Valentina is a mix of this, a Hammy Laughing Villain and a Tragic Villain in the original, rather melodramatic comics story arc, which is by far more about her than Darna. She grew up isolated from civilization due to her parents fearing the consequences of people seeing her freak hair, then they're creeped out by her talking to and controlling jungle snakes making her feel that they secretly hate her, then she's manipulated by a primordial snake person (a serpent with an old hag's head, named Kobra) into killing her parents, hating all humans, leading snake-kind as the "Queen of Snakes" in wiping out humanity and taking back the world as it was eons before, then she falls in love with a man and he with her, she's mistaken by villagers for an angel or the Virgin Mary due to her beauty with her snake hair covered, nearly has a change of heart but the villagers attack her as a monster after she reveals her hair, she takes it out on the guy and nearly kills him but can't do it because she loves him, she drags him along while she destroys some villages and he escapes to the house of his first love, she chases him down and ultimately gets rejected, and is Driven to Suicide by jumping off a cliff - despite Darna's pleas after they finally tussle - and her dead body is shown on panel.