In Appreciation of Mars Ravelo

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Mars Ravelo (born October 9, 1916 in Tanza, Cavite, Philippines – September 12, 1988) was a Filipino graphic novelist who created the characters Darna, Dyesebel, Captain Barbell, Lastikman, Bondying, Varga, Wanted: Perfect Mother, Hiwaga, Maruja, Mariposa, Roberta, Rita, Buhay Pilipino, Jack and Jill, Flash Bomba, Tiny Tony, and Dragonna among others. He started out as a cartoonist, then as a writer, and later on as editor -in- chief for two publications houses and for several film companies. He later established his own company, RAR. Ravelo created the characters of Darna the super heroine, Dyesebel the love-lorn mermaid, and Captain Barbel the super hero, Facifica Falayfay, and the duo of Jack & Jill. He also created the drama about a young orphaned girl named Roberta for Sampaguita Pictures. Ravelo wrote the movie adaptation of Alicia Vergel’s Basahang Ginto. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Style of Drawing – “…In my interviews, Ravelo revealed that “sa abot ng natatandaan ko” (as far as I can remember), his first published works were “Ponchong” and “Bemboy.” And had not Liwayway magazine turned him down on his Varga (Darna’s predecessor character), history would have put Darna’s origin inside Liwayway’s pages instead of Bulaklak, and she would have been the Philippines’ first komiks superhero (Yes, at least one-a-half years ahead of Wonder Woman’s first comics appearance!)…Varga is another casing point of Ravelo’s early style of drawing. True to his accounts, Varga’s illustration is a cross between McManus and Fleischer. And based on his story, the timeline of Varga should be put around 1939 and not 1947. To quote Ravelo: “Alam mo naisip kong gawin yung Varga para itapat kay Superman. Lalake yung sa mga Amerikano, babae yung sa atin. Di ba ayos?” (You know I thought of creating Varga as a counterpart of Superman. Male on the part of the Americans, female on our part. Isn’t that okay?). It can also be noted that Varga was a character archived twice. By some twist of circumstance, the name Varga became the ownership of Bulaklak magazine (during those times, intellectual property right is not yet in effect) and when Ravelo left the publication in 1949 after a falling out with its editor, Varga stayed behind. Ravelo took Varga’s personality, revised her costume, and brought her to Pilipino Komiks, and renamed the character Darna. For more than six decades the character Varga was lost, never again to be seen until ABS-CBN Channel 2 made it into a TV series which started on August 2, 2008. The character portrayed by Mariel Rodriguez, however, was very different from the original creation of Ravelo. The superheroine’s costume was change, as well as her origin and beginning. The name of her alter ego was also change – from Narda to Olga…” – Ernee Lawagan (READ MORE)

Number One Janitor – “…Only a very few know that Mars is Marcial, but 20,000,000 komiks readers will swear that Ravelo is one of the greatest things that ever happened to the local komiks industry. For his were the ideas and innovations that defied what were then regarded as “sacred institutions” in the profession and influenced the course of the komiks industry in the Philippines. Oddly enough, Ravelo’s initial foray into the local komiks field was for a man of lesser guts extremely discouraging. It would have been more than enough for the average neophyte to call it quits. But Ravelo is made of the stuff that makes champions. The young (33) Ravelo that confidently presented his first cartoon strip to a vernacular magazine editor that fine day in 1949 was already a “fighter”. He was then drifting from one low-paying menial job to another but even then, his innate desire to excel was evident. When he was a janitor, he says, he was “number one janitor”. He was also to say many years later in a magazine interview that he became “number one” in the komiks field because “I’ve always hated to be number two!” At that time, he already knew that he could write and draw well – as a matter of fact, “better than most of those already in the komiks profession.” But the magazine editor apparently did not think so; one quick glance at the comic strip presented by Ravelo and he pronounced the death sentence: “Hindi pa puwede!” (Not good enough)….” – Komiklopedia (READ MORE)

Mass Culture – “…To understand Darna is to understand Filipino mass culture. Created in 1949 by Mars Ravelo, Darna has zoomed in and out of the imagination of three generation of Filipinos. Darna, who is the local hybrid version of Wonder Woman and Supergirl first appeared in the Pilipino Komiks in the late 40’s. Nestor Redondo, considered by many in his profession as one of the unsung heroes of Filipino illustrations, gave graphic life to the original Filipina libber then named Varga. Over the years Darna has appeared and re-appeared in so many episodes, that Ravelo himself forgets the exact number, to do battle against a wide and weird array of baddies, from Valentina who sports a Medusa-like coiffure and the Babaeng Lawin to the impakta and engkantados, creatures unique to the Filipino’s supernatural hierarchy. Darna symbolizes the two principal characteristics of our mass culture: the supernatural powers that allows a great number of people to engage in never ending fights of fantasy and the dormant militance, the latent commitment to fight injustice wherever it can be found. But above all, Darna is the concrete expression of the cultural schizophrenia that besets us. The superheroine’s creater, Mars Ravelo, really admits that it was the prevalence of a colonial mentality among many readers that compelled him to create a comic strip hero that approximated the stature and powers of the then most popular American heroes, Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Ravelo says, “Naisip ko noon, gayong sikat sina Wonder Woman at Supergirl, bakit hindi ako gumawa ng isang karakter na may mga powers na katulad ng mga ito at ilagay sa situwasyong Pilipino.” Indeed this tendency to go along with trends set in America was and still is true for many comics strip writers. Ravelo, however, had more than mere imitation and lumping into the superhero bandwagon in mind. Ravelo goes on, “Naiisip ko kasi noon since nadito na rin lang yang colonial mentality why not work around it. Kaya naman kung mapapansin nin’yo I try to inject certain amount of relevance to Darna’s adventures. For one thing she talks, thinks, and feels in the vernacular. She exhibits idiosyncrasies that are distinctly Filipino and she fights characters that are unique to the Filipino milieu. Besides the kinds of conflict that she gets involved in and the caused she fights for are those that masses themselves can identify with.” Like all superheroes, however, Darna is one of the best examples of escapist entertainment. Even Ravelo admits to this when he says, “I don’t like writing fantasy. Pero anong magagawa ko? I personally would like to write about real, down-to-earth characters and situations. But the masses just won’t but that! Kasi, kahit na mataas nga ang literacy level ng mga Pilipino alam natin na functional literacy lang ito. Huwag lang masabing ‘no read no write…” – Bill Davidson, TV Times March 13 – 19 1977

Darna is Not a ‘Rip-off” of Wonder Woman – “…Because of the character’s immense popularity, several other studios would license the character and produce more Darna movies throughout the next several decades. After Rosa Del Rosario, Vilma Santos (who first played Darna in 1973’s “Lipad, Darna, Lipad”) would be the most well known and the most in demand to play the character. She starred in a total of 4 Darna movies. Her 4th and final one being in 1980. For years after that, no more Darna movies were produced…” – Raffy Arcega, Comic Book Movie (READ MORE)

Mars Ravelo and Vilma Santos

Ging is a poignant story of a poor gifted girl, trying to make both ends meet by singing and dancing in crowded streets and cafeterias. – Komiklopedia

“…Even at the early age, it was clear that she was already brimming with talent. Vilma, apparently, was born into this world to perform, entertain and make people happy. She was utterly convincing in the dramatic scenes and thoroughly graceful in her musical numbers. Listang-lista – as we’d say in the vernacular. Even then, she was already living up to her showbiz title of “Star for All Seasons” because her performance in “Ging” is not only brilliant, but timeless as well…” – Butch Francisco, People’s Journal 04 March 1999 (READ MORE)

Trudis Liit (lit. Little Trudis) is a Philippine drama produced by GMA Network, and part of that station’s Sine Novela series. Trudis Liit marks the 21st and final installment of the Sine Novela series based on the works by Mars Ravelo. Like all Sine Novela installments, Trudis Liit is based on a movie; this one made in 1963, starring Lolita Rodriguez, Luis Gonzales, Bella Flores and Vilma Santos. – Wikipedia

“…Makulit na ako no’ng time na ‘yon! So, anyway, tinawag ako ni Doc Perez [of Sampaguita Pictures] at that time. Pinaarte ako. Nag-adlib-adlib pa ako. Nakuha naman ako. So, when I started, dalawa kaagad ang pelikula ko—Trudis Liit at Anak, Ang Iyong Ina [1963]. Ang naaalala ko lang tungkol sa maaga kong pagpasok sa pag-aartista, parang laro lang sa akin iyon. Parang naglalaro lang ako noon kaya hindi trabaho sa akin iyon, e. So, very-very memorable sa akin iyon. At saka no’ng Trudis Liit, every lunch, lagi akong may apple. Lagi akong may chicken. Every lunch talaga ‘yon…” – Vilma Santos (READ MORE)

Darna is a fictional character and Filipino comics superheroine created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo. In her more popular incarnations, she is a deceased warrior from another planet manifesting herself through a girl from Earth, named Narda. She first appeared in Pilipino Komiks #77 (May 13, 1950). Darna is a retooling of Ravelo’s earlier character Varga, whose stories he wrote and illustrated himself. She first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17 (July 23, 1947). Ravelo left Bulaklak due to differences with the editors. – Wikipedia

“…Ding, ang bato!” yells Narda, the adolescent country lass, to her younger brother. Ding obligingly hands over a shiny pebble which Narda swallows to turn herself into the vivacious super-vixen, Darna. Mars Ravelo’s superheroine, clad in crimson bikinis and knee-high stiletto boots, may perhaps be the most famous local fantasy character given life on the silver screen. Though not actually considered a career-defining role, portraying Darna is, nonetheless, highly-coveted. Darna has been portrayed by no less than nine actress in 12 feature films. Rosa del Rosario first wore the scarlet two piece in May 1951. She reprised the role after three months. Liza Moreno, Eva Montes and Gina Pareno followed her. The inter-galactic pebble found its way to Vilma Santos’ throat in 1973 via the flick “Lipad, Darna, Lipad!” Santos, now a two-term mayor of Lipa City in Batangas, is probably the most popular Darna, with a total of four movies in a span of seven years…” – Armin Adina, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 06, 2003 (READ MORE)

Dyesebel is a popular mermaid character in the Philippines. The comic book character was originally conceived by the Filipino comic book illustrator, Mars Ravelo. Dyesebel is a prominent character in Philippine cinema and television. – Wikipedia

“…In the 1973 Dyesebel movie, Dyesebel lives in an undersea kingdom of mermaids far from the land of humans because the humans believe that the mermaids are the cause of misfortune. Dyesebel fell in love with a male human being. In order to be with the man that she likes, she swore to find a way to be transformed into a female human being. In the movie, “Si Dyesebel at Ang Mahiwagang Kabibe,” the role of Dyesebel was played by Vilma Santos and Fredo was played by Romeo Miranda…” (READ MORE)

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