Back when superheroes were a thrilling source of amusement, Filipinos couldn’t get enough of Darna. And let us not forget the likes of Captain Barbell, Lastikman, and Panday whose charismatic appeal reigned the local cinema for years.
But there’s more to our local fantasy genre than meets the eye. Let us take a trip down memory lane and remember the classic Pinoy superheroes who suddenly lost in obscurity.
10. Alyas Phantom
Alyas Phantom (1966) starring Bob Soler. Photo courtesy of Video48
Alyas Phantom (1966) is the Filipino counterpart of Lee Falk’s well-loved fictional hero, The Phantom. The title role was played by Bob Soler whose previous superhero film, Captain Barbell, marked his territory as an unforgettable screen legend.
Alyas Phantom, like its predecessor, relies on sheer strength and wit to outdo his enemies. In the original The Phantom, Christopher Walker swore to fight crimes after a group of pirates killed his father. He was later given the monikers “The Man Who Cannot Die”, “Guardian of the Eastern Dark”, and “The Ghost Who Walks” by people who assumed he’s immortal.
9. Atom Man
On February 12, 1986, Ramon G. Gimena of Sorsogon seized the first prize in Super Action Pocketkomiks’ Original Super-Hero Drawing Contest. His creation, Atom Man, made its way to an eight-page story originally appeared in Super Action #32 (March 26, 1986).
The story began when the main character, Ram, suddenly turned into a superhuman after swallowing a “wonder pill” containing highly active atomic energy. Atom Man possesses telescopic vision, unbelievable speed, the power of flight, and unbeatable strength.
8. Captain Karate
Captain Karate (1965) starring Bernard Bonnin. Photo courtesy of Video48
With impeccable moves and dashing charisma, Captain Karate (1965) has everything you could expect from a classic Pinoy crime-buster. Although it pales in comparison with “Alyas Palos” (1962) in terms of popularity, Captain Karate remains one of Bernard Bonnin’s endearing legacy.
Clad in a suit reminiscent of Lone Ranger and Zorro, Captain Karate was top-billed by Bonnin alongside Max Alvarado, Bessie Barredo, Tugak and Johnny Stuart. Bonnin’s magnetic appeal sealed the movie’s success all the way to its 1968 sequel, “Target: Captain Karate”.
7. Ang Babaeng Isputnik
Ang Babaing Isputnik (1963) starring Nida Blanca. Photo courtesy of Video48
This Nida Blanc-starrer came from an era when Darna movies were starting to dominate the silver screen. Although its presence is rarely felt these days, Ang Babaing Isputnik (1963) was equally entertaining during her heydays.
Purportedly named after a famous Soviet spacecraft, Ang Babaing Isputnik is a powerful outer space warrior who has the ability to fly (surprise, surprise!).
In addition to young Nida Blanca, the fantasy film also starred Tony Ferrer, Jess Lapid, and Max Alvarado. Nida also reprised her role in the same year not as the protagonist but as Darna’s nemesis in Isputnik vs. Darna.
6. Super Gee
Super Gee (1973) starring Nora Aunor. Photo courtesy of Pelikula Atbp.
During the height of Vilma-Nora rivalry, superhero movies were a huge hit. So when Ate V. graced the screen with her notable hits such as Wonder Vi, Phantom Lady, and Lipad, Darna, Lipad, our superstar Nora Aunor wanted to keep up.
Super Gee is a millionaire-turned-heroine originally authored by Zoila Meneses for the Darna Komiks from 1972 to 1973. After searching for the right superhero that would suit her style, Nora Aunor finally turned the all-black comics superhero into a full-blown movie icon.
Super Gee was released in 1973 under the superstar’s very own NV Productions. After a few years, the character was brought to life once again–thanks to Supergee II series published in the Super Action Komiks from 1987 to 1988.
5. Transformer Man
Transformer Man (Photo credit: Pinoy Superheroes Universe)
This shape-shifting superhero has the qualities that will make Optimus Prime cry in shame. First appeared in Superheroes Pocketkomiks #1 (November 28, 1985), Transformer Man possesses the ability to change into any object he desires–be it vehicles, people or even animals.
Surprisingly, Transformer Man changed its identity when it was published for Pilipino Superheroes Pocketkomiks. His new name, Magic Man, appeared in the magazine from 1985 to 1988. This lesser-known Pinoy superhero was the brainchild of writer Vic J. Poblete and artist Mar T. Santana.
4. Bertong Ipu-Ipo
Bertong Ipu-Ipo (1969) starring Roberto Gonzales. Photo courtesy of Video48.
Bertong Ipu-Ipo (1969) is a tornado-turned-superhero with a remarkable history to boot. The film was loosely based on another classic icon of Philippine comics, Ipo-Ipo. Historian and collector Dennis Villegas consider Ipo-Ipo as the country’s first ever costumed hero who displays superhuman qualities.
The brainchild of Lib Abrena and OS del Rosario, Ipo-Ipo first appeared in the April 1947 issue of “Magasin ng Pagsilang” (Magazine of Birth). Both Bertong Ipu-Ipo and his predecessor are indestructible, thanks to their “tornado” powers which can ruin anything that dares to approach.
3. Wonder Dabiana
Wonder Dabiana (1978) starring Cecille Iñigo. Photo courtesy of Video48.
Who said superheroes are all about the chiseled chest and voluptuous figure?
Enter Wonder Dabian, the heavyweight superhero that rocked the silver screen in 1978. Complete with fight scenes, blood-sucking villains, and other stuff that great fantasy movies are made of, Wonder Dabiana is an adorable work-of-art.
The title character was portrayed by plus-size actress Cecille Iñigo whose first portrayal of Dabiana in 1977 instantly catapulted her to stardom.
Wonder Dabiana is a spin-off of the original comics character, Dabiana, who first appeared in the Hiwaga Komiks in the 1970s. Fat but likable, Dabiana was penned by Ed Plaza and illustrated by Romy Gamboa.
2. Kisig Pinoy
Kisig Pinoy (1993). Photo credit: Pinoy Superheroes Universe.
Tall and beefy, Kisig Pinoy has the strength of a demigod. He first appeared in Wrestle Warriors Komiks published by Infinity Publishing, Inc. during the early ’90s.
Kisig Pinoy, who was loosely based on wrestling superstar Randy “Macho Man” Savage, came to the local scene when wrestling mania was on its peak.
Thanks to the powers bestowed by a mysterious hermit, Pikoy (the weak alter-ego) transformed into Kisig Pinoy who uses Herculean strength to beat the bad guys. Another classic superhero lost in the obscurity, Kisig Pinoy was created by writer Geraldo Jumawan and artist Louie A. Salvio.
1. Captain Philippines
Classic and modern Captain Philippines. Photo courtesy of Video48 and Chuckie Chan (DeviantArt)
Long before women drooled over Chris Evans’ Captain America, the local silver screen was already putting its creativity to test. End result? Captain Philippines, who, according to Marvel fanatics, is a vague rip-off of its American counterpart.
Released in 1965 under FPJ’s D’Lanor Productions, Captain Philippines was played by Bob Soler, also known in film history as the very first Captain Barbell.
The film also starred other familiar names in the industry such as Mary Walters, Nova Villa, Marion Douglas and Lou Salvador, Jr. who played Captain Philippines’ sidekick, Boy Pinoy.