Dec 19, 2017

Captain Barbell, the Filipino Superman

I never heard of Captain Barbell before, but in the Philippines he's as well-known as Superman.

Created by Mars Ravelo, he first appeared in Pinoy Komiks in 1963, and has been saving the world in Tagalog and English comics ever since.

His origin story resembles that of Captain Marvel: Tenteng (also called Teng and Eteng) is a weakling, bullied by the other kids/adults (depending on his age) and ignored by potential romantic partners.  One day he meets a genie who gives him a magic barbell (sometimes it's a mystical hermit, and sometimes it just appears by itself). 

When he lift the barbell, he is transformed into a superhero (but he doesn't have to keep holding it).

His costume consisted of a bare chest, purple pants, a belt with his initials and a cape.  Later, and in the movies, he wore a yellow shirt.

After a year of adventures (1963-64), Tenting tires of the responsibility of saving the world, and throws the barbell into the ocean.

Dario, a boy handicapped by polio, finds it and becomes the second Captain Barbell, for another year of adventures (1964-65).

Several other Captain Barbells have come and gone in Filipino comics.

There have been six movies, with the Captain played by Bob Soler, Willie Sotelo, the comedian Dolphy, Edu Manzano (pictured), and Bong Revilla.

The non-Captain form is often played by someone else.  In 2003, singer Ogie Alcasid.

More recently, the Captain has broken into television.  In 2006, Pinoy heartthrob Richard Gutierrez played Teng and Captain Barbell as a teenager (top photo)  In 2011, considerably bulked up, he reprised the roles as an adult (left).

You miss a lot when you don't speak Tagalog.

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