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Industry News

Nostalgia licensing in the Philippines

Superheroes have always had a special place in Philippine pop culture, especially for the characters created by graphic novelist and writer Mars Ravelo, widely considered as the “King of Philippine Comics”. His superheroine Darna, who first appeared in the local publication Pinoy Komiks in 1950, has since then appeared in numerous films, television, and comic books. Joining her as cultural icons are other characters created by Mars Ravelo in the 1960s, such as Captain Barbell (1963) and Lastikman (1964). They too, have gone beyond the comic books, appearing on movies and TV shows and portrayed by various artists for many decades.

What makes these characters so popular to the Filipino masses is their relatability. Aside from protecting the innocent and harmless, Darna’s alter-ego, the rural village girl Narda, also has to deal with the struggles of coming from an underprivileged background. When not out saving the world, she is working hard to support and feed her close-knit family. Because of her pureness of heart, humility and dedication to her loved ones, she happens upon a magical stone that, when swallowed, transforms her into a superhero. To Filipinos, Darna is a beacon of hope and empowerment, and a reminder that one can make a difference in the world, despite one’s limitations. Darna’s inner strength, courage, compassion and resilience are values shared by most Filipinos---making her a symbol of the Filipino spirit and the ultimate Philippine superhero.



Darna’s popularity over the decades is evidenced by the many times her character has graced the big and small screen. Since her debut on comic books in 1950, she has been portrayed on television and cinema by more than fifteen (15) actresses. The iconic character has also graced the stage, with several runs of a “Darna” ballet staged by Ballet Philippines. Her character has also appeared on print and TV advertising. The character’s success in the box office, her reign in TV ratings, and her presence in other media make Darna one of the most bankable, licensable local entertainment properties in the Philippines.

In this age of the blockbuster superhero franchise, where cinemas, TV and store shelves are filled with western superheroes, ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ leading media and entertainment company, is putting the spotlight on homegrown heroes, by reintroducing the Mars Ravelo characters to the next generation. In 2013, the company acquired the rights to several properties under the Mars Ravelo estate, with plans to grow the brand into the first Filipino entertainment franchise through film, television, digital and licensing.



For Filipinos who have grown up seeing these characters on print, TV and cinema, the resurgence of their childhood superheroes brings about a sense of national pride and nostalgia. Through the years, Darna, Lastikman and Captain Barbell have become some of the most celebrated superheroes in Philippine pop culture. As a nod to these well-loved characters, ABS-CBN Licensing launched its first brand under the Mars Ravelo franchise, called the Ravelo Komiks Superheroes (RKS).

The brand uses graphic illustrations and artwork inspired by the characters created by Mars Ravelo during the Golden Age of Philippine Comics. To make the property appealing to those who have grown up with the characters, and to those who are experiencing them for the first time, ABS-CBN Licensing is working with local artists to develop style guides featuring vintage artwork from the comics, as well as new, fresh artwork that will catch the eye of the current generation.

The Ravelo Komiks Superheroes brand was received warmly by Filipino comic book fans and pop culture enthusiasts during the 16th Philippine Toys, Hobbies and Collectibles Convention (ToyCon) in June 2017. The brand launch coincided with the 100th year of Mars Ravelo, and followed the announcement of the artist who will portray Darna for this generation, Ms. Liza Soberano.

During the launch of the Ravelo Komiks Superheroes brand, ABS-CBN Licensing also revealed its first batch of licensed products. For the first time, fans of the Philippine comics could now buy official Darna, Lastikman and Captain Barbell shirts, pillows, and novelty items. Toy collectors were able to preview the official licensed Ravelo Komiks Superheroes statues, which were available for pre-order during the convention. Gaming enthusiasts were able to play-test the upcoming Darna card game.

As ABS-CBN prepares for Darna: The Movie, fans can already celebrate the return of these characters with an assortment of licensed products. Aside from the categories launched in June, ABS-CBN Licensing will also be rolling out a multitude of Ravelo Komiks Superheroes products---kids, teens’ and adults’ apparel, toys, sleepwear, innerwear, paper products, bags, and cosmetics are already under product development. A mobile game app and a new comic book series are slated for a Q1 2018 launch. In the promotional landscape, ABS-CBN is partnering with several large consumer brands for premium promotions and licensed retail activations. To make sure that the brand reaches Filipinos all over the world, ABS-CBN is working closely with its overseas arm, ABS-CBN Global, to develop licensed products, content and activations that will instill a sense of national pride among our countrymen abroad.  

Ravelo Komiks Superheroes is taking flight, with the support of generations of Filipinos who experienced the characters in comic books, film and television. The strength of these cultural icons and the nostalgia felt by those who grew up with them will definitely propel the brand to new heights.   

-    Darna Komiks images courtesy of the Ravelo Family
-    Photograph of Vilma Santos as Darna from PixGood

-    All other photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Licensing


(Source: Total Licensing)

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