|Vilma Santos portrayed Darna in the 1973 film "Darna and the Giants." Image courtesy of film archive website Video48
MANILA -- The iconic characters created by Filipino "komiks" novelist Mars Ravelo, including Darna and Dyesebel, are now officially Kapamilya stars.
The family of the late comicbook writer, represented by his daughter Rita Ravelo-Dela Cruz and son Rex Ravelo, formalized the deal Wednesday with ABS-CBN executives led by Chairman Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, CEO Charo Santos-Concio and Channel Head Cory Vidanes.
"It feels great, because not all writers have this in the Philippines. I'm guessing my dad is very proud right now," Rex told reporters shortly after the contract-signing.
According to Rex, the deal grants the Kapamilya network rights to 13 titles or characters created by Ravelo, including the superheroine Darna, the love-lorn mermaid Dyesebel, and the everyman-superhero character Captain Barbell.
Rex surmised that ABS-CBN will prioritize production on a possible TV or film project based on the Darna character, which is seen as Ravelo's most popular and iconic "komiks" creation.
As early as last year, reports on ABS-CBN's acquisition of the rights to Ravelo characters had fans speculating on which Kapamilya actress will don Darna's two-piece battle gear.
Among those who expressed willingness to portray the superheroine are Cristine Reyes and Angel Locsin. The latter played Darna in a GMA-7 series centered on the character in 2005.
Since debuting on the big-screen in 1951, Darna has been played by over 15 different actresses in TV and film versions of the character's comicbook outing, with Vilma Santos' 1970s portrayal considered to be the most iconic take.
The most recent TV incarnation of Darna is actress Marian Rivera, who appeared in a 2009 series also by GMA-7.
In a possible retelling of the flying heroine's story by ABS-CBN, Rex said the Kapamilya network will get to choose the actress who will put on the superheroine's iconic headgear.
But when it comes to certain creative liberties in content, the network will have to seek the "blessing" of the Ravelo family, according to Rex.
"It's a collaboration, actually. More on their (ABS-CBN) decision 'yung artista. But the ideas and the stories, they have to have our blessings kung ano ang klaseng stories na gagawin," he said.
ABS-CBN is 'best option'
Like the Darna name, the formalized deal on Wednesday marked the first time Captain Barbell and Dyesebel became official contract properties of ABS-CBN, since their respective comicbook debuts in 1963 and 1952.
Aside from the three iconic Pinoy superheroes, Ravelo created other well-loved characters like Lastikman, Dragonna, Flash Bomba, Tiny Tony, Trudis Liit, Kapitan Boom, and Jack and Jill.
It has yet to be detailed which 10 other titles or characters are included in the contract between ABS-CBN and the Ravelos.
Asked why his family decided to entrust the rights to 13 of Mars Ravelo's creations to the Kapamilya network, Rex said, "ABS-CBN is an institution, and based on their products, I think mas maganda talaga na sa kanila mapunta 'yung projects."
"Hindi lang ABS-CBN ang option namin, but the best option is ABS-CBN," he said.
After decades of being part of Philippine pop culture, Rex hopes the creations of his father will enjoy the same support they have had since the '50s.
"We are hoping that the support of the Filipino people in the past will be the same as in the future," he said.