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The late Filipino komiks legend Mars Ravelo created Asia's first superheroine in 1947 named "Varga." She first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17 on July 23, 1947 and quickly became popular amongst its readers. Mars Ravelo wrote and illustrated the stories, and his artistic style were comprable to Max Fleischer Studios cartoons from the early 20th Century. As a human, Varga was known as the little girl named "Narda" (Mars Ravelo based this on the name of a boyhood playmate). In her superhuman form, she fought against common criminals, as well as greater forces of evil. Like the Darna of today, Varga stood up for those who could not fend for themselves.
Having differences with the the editors of Bulaklak Magazine in 1949, Mars Ravelo decided to take his creation elsewhere. Unfortunately, the superheroine's name, "Varga," belonged to Bulaklak Magazine. His creation's name was simply renamed to "Darna," which is simply "Narda" spelled backwards. (Many Darna fans mistakenly believe that the second name is based "Ibong Adarna," a bird of Philippine folklore) "Darna" relaunched under this name on May 13, 1950.
Since then, she has not only appeared as a comic book character, but also as a heroine on both television and film, the most recent of which is a 2009 TV series.
Her alter-ego is a girl named Narda, who was a child in her earlier incarnations, but eventually was Retconned to be an adult. In the earlier versions Narda found a stone, which she swallowed to become Darna. Later versions kept this, minus the "keeping the stone in the body" part.
Darna has inspired Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah, a transsexual superhero.
Some tropes associated with Darna include:
- Action Girl
- Arch Enemy: Valentina, the Queen of Snakes.
- Author Avatar: Ding
- Bare Your Midriff
- Brought Down to Normal: In some adaptations, but she gets better.
- By the Power of Greyskull: "DARNA!"
- Clark Kenting: Her real name is Narda, seriously.
- Flying Brick
- Henshin Hero: in the more recent series.
- Kid Sidekick: Ding
- Law of Chromatic Superiority
- Legacy Character: In the 2009 TV series.
- Magic Meteor: The source of her powers.
- Magical Girl Warrior: Predates the Japanese troper namers by about 30 years.
- Most Common Superpower: Given that she's based on American heroines...
- Parental Abandonment
- Parental Substitute
- Rogues Gallery
- Super-Hero Origin
- 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: Narda's brother Ding.
- Transformation Trinket
- Underwear of Power
- X Meets Y: Darna is Captain Marvel meets Wonder Woman. In fact, many non Filipino fans often call her the "Filipino Wonder Woman".