Images of the moai have regularly appeared in popular culture, from comic books, computer games, cartoons, and advertising, to film, animation, children's toys, and household objects. This page is an attempt to record, review and understand the many rich instances in which the moai have been popularised. Significantly, this has occurred predominantly in the cultural economies of the USA, Japan, and Western Europe. Initially, this page will focus on considering comic books, novels, animation, film, computer games and advertising, with links made to the Education part of this website, where appropriate.
Ōgon Bat [Golden Bat] 'The Star of Polynesia' (season 1, episode 18, 1967)
The Polynesian island is explored by Dr Steele and his companions
Maria deciphers the hieroglyphs
Dr Steele and his companions land on a volcanic island in Polynesia, where an extremely ancient, but advanced civilisation once lived. All that remains of this people is the Haua temple surrounded by several moai-shaped heads, which represent the Hapuhapu divinities. Dr Steele's mission is to find 'The Star of Polynesia', a diamond-like crystal that could advance humanity's technological and industrial progress.
Of course, Dr Steele is not the only one looking for the Star. Secretly following him is Gorgo, the evil but inept assistant to Dr Zero, a black-clad, four-eyed mad scientist who wants to rule the world. As Dr Steele's party walks towards the temple, a small spaceship emerges from the bowels of the earth carrying Titano, the king of the underground people, who also pursues the crystal to conquer the world. Titano's soldiers attack Dr Steele's team, but the latter are rescued by the superhero Ōgon Bat, a gold-armoured, skull-headed, reawakened divinity from Atlantis who fights evil and protects the weak and the righteous.
Titano points towards the volcano where the crystal is believed hidden
Dr Zero's men attack
52 episodes of the Ōgon Bat anime were originally broadcast on Japanese television in 1967 and 1968, with the stories developed from the popular manga which features in the title role the world's first superhero, a caped defender who was created in 1931. This is the earliest known animation to engage with Easter Island. Even though the location is a nameless island in Polynesia, the moai-like giant heads and the rongorongo-style inscriptions clearly identify Easter Island as the point of reference for the episode. These statues are giant stone figures sticking out of the ground with large ears, unusually elephantine and pointing outwards. They are presented as artefacts of a long-gone civilisation and function as curiosities to fill the frame. Several statues are easily destroyed in this episode, either at the hands of Titano, Dr Zero's soldiers, or Ōgon Bat, who crushes them to pieces to use as weapons against his opponents. Nonetheless, they retain some of their special qualities as they are depicted as the containers and protectors of the precious Star of Polynesia, a diamond that appears inspired by the immensely valuable Star of Africa, which was found in 1905.
What renders this animation especially significant is the presence of the glyphs in the Haua temple, where they are etched onto a wall. Unlike the rongorongo inscriptions, which remain undeciphered, Maria is able to interpret these temple hieroglyphs in a very short space of time. The glyphs do not faithfully reproduce the rongorongo symbols – but then Easter Island fiction rarely does. They do, however, display a certain degree of connection with the originals, indicating that the cartoonists may have had some visual knowledge of the actual inscriptions.
GeGeGe No Kitarô 'The Strange Tale of Easter Island' (season 2, episode 35, 1972)
Kitarô watches the crook scale a moai
Bats fly forth from a hollow moai
A crooked fortune-teller murders a competitor – a more successful teller from Peru, who had recently moved to the neighbourhood. He steals her fortune-telling crystal and inspired by the work of his adventurer father, he flees to Easter Island. His father had been able to summon the evil spirit of Aku-Aku, which the crook tries to recreate with guidance from the crystal and precisely at the point that the sun turns red.
Watched by Kitarô and his companion Nezumi, a rat-like human-monster hybrid, the crook climbs up a moai only to disturb a group of bats, which fly out of the moai from its hollow head. Aku-Aku appears and he is the harbinger of death, causing a moai to topple onto the crook and crush him completely. Aku-Aku picks up the dead crook and takes him down within a hole that has been exposed by the fallen moai, and deep into the underworld. Kitarô and Nezumi return to Japan, where they are surprised to hear that the crook is now in jail. They visit him, whereupon he crumbles and becomes a skeleton.
Aku-Aku, the harbinger of death
The dead crook is taken by Aku-Aku beneath a moai and deep into the underworld
Along with the earliest known animation to engage with Easter Island – Ōgon Bat (1967; see review above) – GeGeGe No Kitarô shows that Japan was clearly ahead of other countries in exhibiting a creative fascination with the moai within the medium of television. Both are based on long-running manga; in fact Ōgon Bat is regarded as the first comic book superhero. Kitarô is a different type of hero and one that encounters in each episode ghouls and demons from the Japanese folklore of yōkai. The stories were initially considered too unsettling for children and they have consequently been adjusted through different versions. Originally titled Kitarô of the Graveyard, the GeGeGe in this series is the cackling sound made by a monster. Kitarô, who was born in a graveyard, is 350 years old, and the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe, although he carries around the living remnant of his father, a talking eyeball that resides in Kitarô's empty eye socket.
'The Strange Tale of Easter Island' is one of 65 episodes that appeared in a series that ran from 1968 to 1972, with stories often featuring monsters from foreign cultures. Aku-Aku in this episode is from Rapanui mythology (where it is the spirits of the dead). It first emerges as large glowing eyes on a rock not dissimilar to the Rapanui god Makemake, but which is revealed to be the sockets of a living skull. Here, Aku-Aku is depicted as a figure that is more Japanese in design: an old skeleton man with long grey hair and beard, carrying a crooked stick with a small skull on top. The horror narrative extends to bats flying out of a moai (there are in fact no bats on Easter Island) and a gooey dark liquid that secretes from a moai's eye. There are many examples in Easter Island fiction that imagine stairs or cavern entrances within/ beneath the moai, but this story is alone in seeing an opening to the underworld.
Super Friends 'Sinbad and the Space Pirates' (season 3, episode 7, 1978)
Sinbad's flying galleons steal the precious moai
From a flying boat, the space pirates watch the moai being lifted skywards
Captain Sinbad, an intergalactic pirate who commands three galleons that fly through outer space, comes to Earth. His aim is to plunder the treasures that have been buried by earlier space pirates and these are located at Earth's ancient monuments. The flying ships contain powerful cannons that can hypnotise people to be slaves, and rays that can lift cities and buildings to retrieve the treasure beneath, as well as activate forcefields and smoke screens.
At Easter Island, the moai are lifted into the air and into a galleon through a beam of energy. Apparently, hidden inside each moai is 50 tonnes of solid gold. Batman and Robin fly down to stop the pirates "before they dig up the whole island", but the plunderers manage to escape with their treasure. Eventually, and with help along the way from Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the pirates are caught and handed over to the Intergalactic Police Force. The Super Friends advise that they will return the treasures and stolen artefacts back to their original locations.
This episode was originally broadcast on 30 September 1978. Part of a long running series of 109 episodes spanning 14 years, the Super Friends were formed when Hanna-Barbera acquired the rights to characters from DC Comics and decided to rename the Justice League of America. Whilst many of the characters are recognisably from the DC universe, the voices and storylines are more Hanna-Barbera. Introducing pirates as the villains is designed to appeal to children who would seemingly appreciate a mix of buccaneers and space ships. Yet, the notion is made especially bizarre with the pirates depicted in historical attire and with ships and accessories that have barely evolved from centuries past and in the context of space travel are highly impractical. For they require no spacesuits – pirate clothing is sufficient – and galleons are shown anchored to the land below.
The moai are plundered as giant treasure chests with their enhanced value as hidden hordes of gold. Alas, within history, numerous moai have been stolen from Easter Island and taken to foreign museums and lands. This has been done with sailing ships that are akin to the pirate ships. The plundering in this animation is very imaginative and undertaken with greater ease than the actual thefts that have been recorded in the history of Rapanui. Significantly, in this fiction the moai are returned.
Landing on Easter Island, Spider-Man finds himself surrounded by a circle of moai
Spider-Man suddenly discovers that the moai have the power to move
Following a period of relative peace and quiet in New York City, a blackout on the East Coast reveals the country's satellite communications system has been taken over by Magneto. Masquerading as Mr M, he demands $100 million in gold in return for the re-activation of the communications and electricity. Spider-Man realises that Magneto aims to take over a major new satellite that is about to launch, and that would give him ultimate control of global communications. Attempting to thwart the plan, Spider-Man ends up trapped aboard the rocket heading into space.
Spider-Man reverse engineers the navigation system on the satellite, and returns to Earth. It leads him to Easter Island, where he lands manoeuvring the satellite between a series of stone heads and coming to rest within a circle of moai. Standing among the imposing carvings, Spider-Man is concerned: "I knew Easter Island was an odd place, but these ancient statues really give me the willies, it's almost as if they're alive". The moai then actually begin to move, controlled by Magneto, with one nearly falling on Spider-Man and two others colliding with each other. Spider-Man refers to the moai as "Magneto's toy soldiers", and he contains the threat by spinning his web around the stone figures preventing them as a group from moving any further.
Spider-Man defeats Magneto using a modified form of the villain's technology and sends the world's satellites back to their rightful orbit, allowing global communications to return to normal. Magneto escapes and Spider-Man goes home to New York, swapping crime fighting for academia.
By shooting a web around the moai the threat is contained
Under Magneto's control, a moai fires lasers from its eyes
This series was developed by Stan Lee, through the newly created Marvel Productions animation studio, and as a way to attract the attention of the major television companies. First aired in September 1981 the series ended in March 1982 after 26 episodes. It is less well-known than Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the NBC series that followed and which aired between 1981 and 1983.
In this episode, which was first broadcast on 17 October 1981, there is no logical reason as to how Magneto's power, which involves the manipulation of metal, would enable him to move stone statues. No attention is paid to the history of the island or its culture, with the action focused on one circle of moai. This depiction creates an uneasy collision with notable stone circles, like Stonehenge, which are familiar in western civilisation. On another level, it prefigures the ring of moai that would appear a year later in DC Comics Presents – Superman and the Global Guardians (see the review below). As in many other examples of Easter Island fiction, a moai has laser weapons in its eyes. Spider-Man uses a satellite dish to reflect the power back at the moai, blowing it apart in the process. The simplicity of the story, the ease with which the moai are appropriated and Spider-Man's typically flippant approach to crime fighting, means there is no second thought about the destruction of such cultural artefacts.
Special Armoured Battalion Dorvack 'When the Moai's Light Shined' (episode 22, 1984)
A moai weapon is transported into position
A moai empowered as it connects with a platform
Four spaceships carry a moai across a rocky wasteland in Japan as the Dorvack team try to stop the alien invaders from placing the statue onto a circular platform. When the statue and the platform meet, sparks fly and the earth begins to quake. Both sides of the battle react in shock as the stone head begins to rise into the air. The eyes of the Moai begin to emit blue beams of light whilst three other statues around the world – in Africa, North America and on Rapanui – begin to shoot similar rays. Their beams all converge to create a ball of blinding light. Before the process is continued, however, the Dorvack team use all their firepower to bring down the statue in Japan, destroying the platform it was on and causing it to plunge back down to the ground.
Dorvack is a Japanese anime that ran from 1983-1984 across 36 episodes, and alongside a toyline. It takes place in the future of 1999, as an alien race called the Idealians attack the Earth in order to make it their new home. A specialised battalion named Dorvack defend the planet against the invasion, using humanoid machines that contain human pilots.
From Africa, a moai fires its laser beams
As the battle builds, the main moai levitates
The moai are portrayed as sources of great power with the ability to create a doomsday-like event. It is unclear whether the moai were designed to be used as weapons or if their power is being manipulated by the Idealians. Their role, however, can also be seen to be a part of a trend of augmentation that is prevalent in Japanese culture. The blending of technology with the natural or historically symbolic reflects the country's own relationship with its advancements in machinery and their uses in society.
Kinnikuman: Justice Superman vs Ancient Superman (1985)
Kinnikuman plays the clown in front of the moai
Kinnikuman's foe, Stone Satan
Suguru Kinniku, aka Kinnikuman, is an idiotic superhero, from the planet Kinniku. He learns that he is the prince of Kinniku, a planet known for its great superheroes, but he must prove his worthiness for the throne through a series of wrestling bouts with brutish supermen, called Chojin.
In this film we learn that the evil Satan King, leader of the Kodai Chojin (Ancient Supermen), has long ago hidden his minion around the world where they have been lying in wait for the moment to attack. On vacation on Easter Island with a group of school children, Kinnikuman is the entertainer pulling faces at the moai and acrobatically prancing on their heads. But he is seriously challenged when faced with Stone Satan and his army, a group of moai that rise up from the ground, that Kinnikuman has to wrestle. Other superheroes, also on vacation, are faced with the Ancient Chojin at heritage monuments around the
world. Kinnikuman looks to have lost, but superhero Buffaloman (who partially resembles a minotaur) comes to the rescue and defeats the moai. Satan King, however, has kidnapped the school children, who now have to be rescued from Mount Everest.
Employing his wrestling moves, Kinnikuman fights with the moai army
Overwhelmed, Kinnikuman is beaten by Stone Satan
Kinnikuman is widely popular in Japan, where he began as a manga in 1979, developed into a made-for-television anime in 1983, and has generated an array of associated video games, action figures and merchandise. Kinnikuman: Justice Superman vs Ancient Superman was the third of seven theatrically released short-feature films first exhibited between 1984 and 1986. As with the other Kinnikuman stories, the world of the superhero is parodied and united with the fandom, mania and drama of pro-wrestling. The stories, which are obviously aimed at children, are basic and structured around a stream of wrestling bouts. Nearly 30 years later the WWE Superstars visited Easter Island for a wrestling match that did not see the moai come alive, but instead they were used as weapons for slamming and whacking an opponent (see the review below).
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero 'Operation: Mind Menace' (season 1, episode 2, 1985)
The G.I. Joes are chased by monolithic moai
Inside one moai Cobra have mounted laser weapons
Flash and Airborne fly over Easter Island while trying to rescue a hostage lashed to the railings of a Cobra FANG helicopter. They fly between moai statues, drawn here so large that they dwarf the helicopters. Cobra have mounted laser guns in the eyes of one statue. Meanwhile, the Joes’ scientists discover that Airborne’s little brother, Tommy, is telekinetic. Cobra agents break into the lab and kidnap Tommy, and it is revealed that Cobra have a secret training camp on Easter Island for psionically gifted individuals, its entrance marked with a moai. Cobra use Tommy to bring two of the moai to life - the statues haul themselves out of the earth and lumber towards the Joes. Flash refers to them as "stone bozos". Airborne and Flash are rescued by Duke and Lady Jaye as Easter Island explodes, sending the moai crashing into the sea. The action follows the Joes to Cobra's hideout in the Himalayas, and there the Joes thwart Cobra's plans regarding the psionically gifted individuals and rescue Tommy.
G.I. Joe is based upon the action figure first released by Hasbro in 1964 - his UK counterpart is known as Action Man. The line was relaunched in 1982 to provide vehicles and playsets, along with a story arc that followed the struggles between the G.I. Joe team and Cobra Command, a terrorist organisation seeking world domination. A cartoon began in 1983, consisting of two five-part mini series, until the regular series began in 1985. Created by Ron Friedman and produced by Sunbow Productions, series one consisted of 55 episodes, and episode 22, ‘Operation: Mind Menace’, first aired on 15 October 1985.
There is no single character named G.I. Joe, as the name refers instead to the team, described in each episode’s opening sequence as “America's daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force”. Each individual has special abilities that help them in their fight against Cobra. The series was primarily created in order to sell the toys, meaning that episodes often focused on particular characters and their individual adventures as they seek to end Cobra’s evil schemes. Every episode featured a public safety lesson at its conclusion, with the G. I. Joe characters giving tips to their young audience. These short scenarios gave birth to the catchphrase: "And knowing is half the battle".
Previous episodes in the first series include a cargo cult story, in which a military satellite crashes in the South Pacific and is then claimed by a primitive tribe as a god. The inclusion of the moai in the episode ‘Operation: Mind Menace’ is not surprising considering other storylines within the series. The moai are treated less as cultural artefacts in their own right, and more as monolithic props that can be moved around according to the story - even hosting weapons if it suits the needs of the plot. The island's history and culture is stripped back, becoming secondary to its existence as a location for a secret base. At no point is it considered that Easter Island may have its own local populace - the island provides more of an exotic location for the training base.
Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs ‘Legend of the Lost World’ (episode 45, 1987)
On a faraway frozen planet, a line of moai on an ahu
The elders idolise a moai
Moai appear briefly in two segments in this episode. It is revealed that moai means “sweetness of life, when there is no more war”. The stone heads here are ancient symbols of peace across different planets and dimensions, where they also act as beacons for a fleet of spaceships dispersed following a space storm. Built by a civilisation scattered across space and time, the moai are intergalactic figures that are meant to be seen by telescopes and by a race attempting to reunite. They are best understood by peace-promoting elders, who idolise the moai. These brown-hooded-robe elders bear a similarity to key Jedi in the Star Wars films, whilst the epic narrative of a lost in space civilisation and spaceships protecting settlers appears indebted to the original Battlestar Galactica (1978-9).
Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs is an American version of the 1984 Japanese anime series Star Musketeer Bismarck and is a space western in the style of the film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and the cartoon series BraveStarr (1987-8) and Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers (1986-9). At its core it displays many of the characteristics of mecha anime with giant robots, transformations, and teams of youthful fighters who combat aliens. The moai are depicted in a landscape that is not dissimilar to Easter Island, but also in the icy terrain of a faraway frozen planet. These beacons apparently appear throughout galaxies and act as symbols of hope.
The Three Eyed One 'The Easter Island Voyage' (episodes 40-43, 1991)
The first view of the moai of Easter Island
The monkeys of Easter Island attack
During a trip to the local zoo, Hosuke Sharaku is kidnapped by escaping monkeys – led by the human-like Pogo – and taken to a ship. There they are joined by Hegeoyagi and police detective Umei, who have climbed aboard to rescue Sharaku. As Sharaku, Hegeoyagi and Umei search the ship, a voice from the speaker system tells them that there is no way of escape and to come below deck for dinner. At the dinner table, a wall moves to reveal a mask with glowing eyes. It tells Sharaku that it instructed Pogo to bring him alone before zapping the monkey with a laser that is emitted from its mouth. Sharaku comforts Pogo, as the mask then fades away.
Pogo awakens at night and tells Sharaku that she was coerced into kidnapping him and the two play a game in which they choose a word that links to the one said before. In the morning, the ship arrives at an island and the passengers leave. During their exploration of the island, Sharaku and Pogo split up from the adults and are attacked by a swarm of flesh-eating dragonflies. This leads to the bandage that is covering Sharaku's third eye being devoured, causing him to turn into his alter ego. With his unleashed power, Sharaku defeats the swarm.
Pogo tells Sharaku that she was taken from her homeland, Rapanui, to this island via submarine. Sharaku finds the submarine below the island. They enter and encounter Wanfo, an antagonist in previous stories, and Miste Mali, who invite Sharaku to join their organisation, which is set on taking over the world. Sharaku refuses, mostly due to their treatment of Pogo. They leave the submarine and return to the island, as the ship moves on. Sharaku offers to take Pogo back to Rapanui and, after reuniting with Umei and Hegeoyagi, he uses his powers to push the island across the sea. During the voyage, Pogo reveals to the adults that she can speak, much to their bemusement, and tells them that she is the queen of the Naji family, the monkeys on Rapanui who did not evolve into humans.
Once they reach the deserted Rapanui, Umei and Hegeoyagi rush to admire the moai, discussing their beauty and the mystery of who built them. Sharaku follows Pogo to her tribe of monkeys and it is there that she attempts to marry him, placing a ceremonial crown on his head. This causes Sharaku's eye to close and he turns back into the childlike figure from the beginning of the story. Sharaku tells Pogo he cannot marry her before fleeing with the Naji monkeys in pursuit. Hiding from Pogo and her tribe, Sharaku once again comes across Wanfo who tells him he believes the third eye family created the moai. Wanfo shows Sharaku a rock with rongorongo carved upon its surface and tells him that, with his third eye, Sharaku could read it and reveal the mysteries of Rapanui. Sharaku refuses and draws the attention of Pogo and the monkeys, who chase Wanfo and Sharaku.
The moai glow as Pogo anguishes over Hosuke's plight
Hosuke Sharaku, the Three-Eyed One, wishes to read the rongorongo inscribed on a rock
Escaping the clutches of both Pogo's tribe and Sharaku's allies, Wanfo forcefully takes Sharaku back to the submarine to where Mali is waiting. Pogo sends her monkeys to attack the ship but they are halted by its electrified hull. In anguish, Pogo exclaims "Don't go!" and her tears splash across the stone face of a moai. The statues all begin to glow red and a pool of light appears at the surface above the submerged submarine. The ship is lifted into the air and then broken into pieces but a red aura surrounds the unconscious Sharaku, keeping him from harm and levitating him back to the island.
Pogo takes off Sharaku's crown, once again turning him into the evil genius. Sharaku leads Pogo, Umei and Hegeoyagi to the rongorongo text. He admits he cannot read it but asks Pogo to instead. Reading the rongorongo, Pogo explains that the Naji family built the moai to protect their descendants. Having read the writing, however, Pogo regresses back into a normal monkey so that she will not be able to reveal the secret to anyone else. She tearfully plays the word game with Sharaku one last time until she can no longer understand the words. Pogo leaves the others, not recognising them. Sharaku, Umei and Higeoyagi then return home.
The Three-Eyed One is a Japanese animated series that ran for 48 episodes between 1990 and 1991 and was adapted from a weekly manga (review forthcoming). The series follows Sharaku, a young boy and the last surviving member of the three-eyed family. When his third eye is open, he becomes a confident evil genius with special powers. With his group of companions, Sharaku investigates historical ruins in order to learn about their mysteries and his family's history. A number of the supporting characters are also frequently seen in other productions based on author Osamu Tezuka's drawings, such as Astro Boy and Black Jack.
The moai in The Three-Eyed One are a magical force that tap into the emotion of the monkeys they were built to protect. The fact that they simply glow red – rather than levitating and moving across the island in a path of destruction, as in the original manga – essentially lessens their impact. As in other stories, the translation of rongorongo reveals an origin narrative, and the source of the moai construction. In this fiction, not only is the Three-Eyed One's ancestors the constructors of the moai, thereby giving them a mysticism, but Easter Island is established as a site of primary evolution where monkeys became humans, an idea that also appears in the animation The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (see the review below).
Montana Jones 'Emergency! Landing on Easter Island' (episode 25, 1994)
Lord Zero employs one of his contraptions to lift up moai, in his search for treasure
A petroglyph (rock carving) of the birdman is discovered on Motu Nui
Montana Jones, a pilot and adventurer, is travelling on a seaplane to Easter Island with his relative, Professor Alfred Jones, who is an archaeologist, and Melissa Thorn, a wealthy and young reporter, who is multilingual. The trio have to make an emergency landing on Easter Island due to a tornado, and it is there that they hide in the basement of a home, a hare vaka (a traditional house in the shape of an upturned canoe), which is damaged by the storm. As the storm passes, the three protagonists meet at the home a boy (who later turns out to be a girl) and whose mother was abducted by the villains of the story: Lord Zero, a rich, and eccentric master thief/ lover of precious art who is constantly seeking treasures, Professor Nitro, an inventor who constructs the villains' unique contraptions, and their two helpers Slim and Slam, who usually do more harm than good because of their clumsiness. The villains are looking for the fabulous treasure of Hotu Matua, to the extent that they have been lifting moai up out of the ground with a special machine to see if anything has been buried underneath. The three protagonists are normally guided by instructions from their mentor and sponsor, the Boston-based Professor Gerrit, whose advice on this occasion has been provided on a record. The villains manage to listen to the record on a gramophone player, with the protagonists hiding in earshot; Professor Gerrit says they should search the rocky outcrop of Motu Nui.
The protagonists race to get to Motu Nui first, cycling over land and then rowing over the sea that separates the rock from Easter Island. It is there that the protagonists find the nesting sooty tern, whose eggs are a sacred part of the birdman competition. Nearby, they also discover a petroglyph (rock carving) of tangata manu/ the birdman. The villains suddenly emerge and attack the protagonists, destroying the rock featuring the petroglyph in the process and revealing underneath a secret hole, which the protagonists enter. The villains follow in their contraption, which burrows into the rock and then scuttles along the underground passageway, forcing its way along as the path narrows. It is revealed that the passageway leads back to Easter Island and to a ceremonial chamber directly under the crater-lake of Rano Kau, where the protagonists find a large cavern adorned with rock carvings of the birdman on the walls and floor. The centerpiece is a moai carved from whale bone. On examining its back, the protagonists discover it is covered in rongorongo glyphs.
Montana Jones walks within the underground chamber, with its floor marked by birdman carvings
Professor Alfred Jones explains the importance of rongorongo, found on the back of a moai
The villains try to steal the moai for Lord Zero's personal collection, but in doing so they trigger a magnetic mechanism that was beneath the statue. The mechanism attracts metal and the 'eggs' which are held in the 'hands' of each of the birdman carvings in the chamber. These combine to form an eye with a pupil, with the final 'egg' dropping from directly above, where it was acting as a plug keeping out the water from the lake. The vault under the lake subsequently breaks and everyone is close to drowning. At the last moment, they manage to escape, where back on the surface they watch this special moai re-emerge from a lake. The villains fly away but in the distance crash into the sea. The Rapanui woman decides that Professor Jones should record the glyphs of rongorongo in an attempt to have them deciphered. The conclusion is that the true treasure of Easter Island is its archaeological legacy.
Montana Jones is an anime television series, of 52 episodes, which was co-produced by the Italian studio Rever and the Japanese studio Junio. It is clearly inspired by Indiana Jones, from the name of the lead protagonist, the archaeologically-focused global adventures and the mechanisms that are triggered when treasures are stolen, through to the music and the period of the 1930s, in which it is all set. The series has also been conceived in the style of other animal-animation ¬– such as Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds (1981-1982) – where whole words are imagined with specific species or breeds anthropomorphised. It is a common feature of children's fiction, which has seen dogs and rabbits populating an Easter Island-set Hungarian novel (see the review below). In that novel, the moai were dog-shaped; in this story, the moai are in the form of lions, uniting with the characters who are all anthropomorphised big cats. The broad fantasy also imagines a large cavern under Rano Kau and, uniquely in moai fiction, a secret entrance to an underground passage on Motu Nui. As that rocky outcrop is some distance out to sea from Easter Island it is highly fanciful to conceive a story where the underground passage joins Motu Nui to the main island.
The rongorongo glyphs in detail
The villains attempt to steal the special moai
The moai in this story are more figures in the landscape and it is only the one discovered underground that is viewed as exceptional. Instead, the animation is drawn to the birdman, whose symbol is found at Motu Nui and on the floor and walls of the cave under Rano Kau; the undeciphered writing system of rongorongo; the eyes of the moai, that are recreated here in the pattern formed by the metal eggs; and the uniquely built homes of the Rapanui, which are boat-shaped as their vessels were used to form the rooves of their buildings, when they were not being used at sea. Both the depiction of the birdman petroglyph and rongorongo are largely faithful to the originals and show a degree of research. Although the birdman in this fiction has been given an added 'egg' to hold, to enable a particular moment of drama. It is therefore a shame that the island is imagined as near-deserted, with just a Rapanui mother and daughter present. However, it is worth mentioning that in this animation the Rapanui woman is portrayed as independent and both a skilled engineer and professional doctor who intervenes proactively in the plot.
Nokkar, an ancient sentinel from outer space, alongside one of the many moai carved in his honour.
Nokkar and Goliath the gargoyle: The mighty warriors meet.
Finding themselves on the shores of Rapa Nui, as part of their ongoing world quest, the travelling group of companions - living gargoyles Goliath, Angela, and the dog-like Bronx, along with New York City policewoman Elisa - investigate the dark and mysterious island. Though unbeknown to them, they are being watched by Nokkar, an alien with moai features, who resides in his spaceship buried within a hillside. The alien temporarily kidnaps Elisa and erases her memory. Later she is discovered by Goliath being cared for by two archaeologists. Goliath tries to remind Elisa of her identity, but he is captured by Nokkar and imprisoned along with Angela and Bronx in the hidden spaceship. It is revealed that Nokkar is an ancient soldier who had been sent to the strategic outpost of Easter Island, to defend Earth from an army of interstellar invaders that has never emerged.
The gargoyles fail to assure Nokkar that they are native to Earth, leading to a clash of mighty powers. Goliath destroys the vessel's controls, with the companions escaping the spaceship. Above ground, Nokkar re-emerges and is about to blast the gargoyles with his space cannon, until Elisa intervenes leaving Nokkar to trust the human’s judgement and leave the gargoyles unharmed as friends rather than foe.
The cult animation series Gargoyles, was first aired in 1994 and ran for three years over 78 episodes. Created by Greg Weisman for Disney, this American television programe depicts the adventures of a clan of stone creatures who were hauled from Scotland centuries after their creation and placed into New York City were they act as urban guardians. In this episode, two mythical stone forms meet, but the moai carvings play no significant role other than as eerie figures within the landscape. Much of this episode of the animated series is shot during the night, with daylight permitted only at the end of the story.
Nokkar is a sentinel, an intergalactic protector, and a warrior, not unlike the almost mythical Japanese soldiers in World War II, who were found resolutely defending isolated Pacific islands long after the conflict had ended. The actions of Nokkar were so revered by the Easter Islanders of centuries past that he was honoured with moai erected in his image. This fantasy of the moai is not uncommon within popular fiction, and comic books in particular.
Whilst this animation is firmly within the realm of science fiction, one of the more surprising concepts within the story is the idea of a vast nine-storey high hotel, The Islander, providing hospitality to tourists. It belongs to another island culture and it is a building that is more akin to those on Hawai'i's Waikiki beach than to Easter Island.
The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest ‘The Secret of the Moai’ (season 1, episode 21, 1996)
A moai skeleton, discovered on a spaceship
A metal rongorongo tablet beside the moai skeleton
An alien, with a distinctly moai-shaped head, is shown experimenting on an ape when a volcanic eruption seals the alien and the ape inside the alien’s spaceship on Easter Island. Years later, Dr Quest locates the spacecraft in a cave beneath the lava flow, and Jonny finds the skeleton of the ape and the alien inside. The alien bears a tablet covered in strange markings, and Dr Quest recognises it as a rongorongo tablet, although he has never seen a metal one before. The markings turn out to be music, instead of language, and they translate the characters into musical notes. The show’s villain, Surd, attempts to use the alien technology, which appears to be an evolution-device, to regress Dr Quest and his companion, Race Bannon, to an ape-like state. Another alien ship comes down and destroys both the rongorongo tablet and the skeleton, while returning Race and Dr Quest to normality. Surd and his cronies are transported to Peru.
The Jonny Quest franchise originally began with a series that aired in 1964 and 1965, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. By the mid-1980s, the show had become part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, and thirteen new episodes were made in 1986. Work began on new episodes in 1993, and the creative team were keen to utilise accurate depictions of physics and machinery for the series. Research was even conducted into child psychology to ensure that the action would not create adverse effects on young viewers, while sci-fi and fantasy themes were explored in each episode as they investigated mysteries. The show, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, premiered in 1996. 65 episodes were originally planned, but the creative team was changed in order to finish the first 26 episodes, loosely collected under the title of 'season one'. A new team created another 26 episodes, originally intended for a separate series, but later released as a second season. The show was cancelled after 52 episodes, and the series ended in 1999.
The moai space traveller commences his experiments
Jonny Quest, the tourist, on Easter Island
Keeping in line with its remit to provide fantasy and sci fi mysteries for children, previous episodes in the first season investigated ghost pirates in Bermuda, the lost city of El Dorado, sea monsters, quartz statues, the Philosopher's Stone and the Mary Celeste. Alongside such narratives, the variety of myths surrounding the moai make Easter Island a rich choice as a setting. The episode ‘The Secret of the Moai’ explores the origin myths that see the statues related in some way to aliens or space travel as well as addressing ideas surrounding the evolution of mankind. However, the decision to focus upon the rongorongo tablets and not the heads is an interesting one, as it engages with the mystery of the as-yet-untranslated language. The discovery within the story that the language of rongorongo is actually musical notation is novel and differs from the warnings of doom that can occur within other Easter Island narratives.
This episode is essentially an evolution narrative, which positions the moai as being of superior intelligence and their technology as coveted devices for altering the future of mankind. Typical with such narratives the Easter Islanders are absent. Though in this story, there are, inexplicably, apes on the island. Presenting these primates as subjects of alien moai experimentation for the apparent evolution of apes into humans, positions the island as central to world science, yet it also denigrates the history and image of the island’s actual human inhabitants.
Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer [The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer] Le secret de l'île de Pâques [The Secret of Easter Island] (episodes 21 and 22, 1997)
A Rapanui man from the past carves a statue of moai kavakava in the shadow of the giant alien moai
Blake and Maurata visit a Santiago antiques shop as they try to locate the stolen rongorongo tablets
General Cambon is travelling by car when suddenly he is ambushed and kidnapped by gunmen hiding in a hay lorry. The villain behind the plan is Colonel Olrik, who wears a mysterious helmet that helps him to force the General to tell him the location of a secret missile site. The General manages to write Olrik's name on the ground before he dies, giving Captain Francis Blake, a MI5 (British secret service) operative, and his associate Philip Mortimer, a leading Scottish nuclear physicist, a clue for their investigations.
While Blake and Mortimer attempt to capture Olrik, a man from Easter Island intervenes and manages to steal the helmet. He is shot by Olrik, but before he dies he tells Blake and Mortimer to return it to a man named Maurata, a Rapanui archaeologist based on Easter Island. Blake realises the helmet grants the wearer the ability to hear the thoughts of others and resolves to return it to Maurata. Having distracted Olrik's henchmen, Blake and Mortimer head to the airport and fly to Easter Island.
On arrival, Mortimer in particular (who carries a guide book) is deeply impressed with the island's history. As they drive to the archaeological site in search of Maurata, they pass many moai. They encounter half-finished statues at Rano Raraku, the volcano from which the moai are quarried. There, they find Olrik has somehow got there first, and he has persuaded the locals that Blake and Mortimer have profaned the island. Blake gives the locals the helmet to enable them to hear Olrik's thoughts, which reveals him as the true villain.
Olrik escapes, and Maurata leads Blake and Mortimer into a tunnel beneath the island. There, they discover "the real mystery of Easter Island". A giant moai stands in a cavern, and Maurata takes them inside the statue. He explains the helmet was originally found within the moai, along with ten rongorongo tablets. Olrik stole nine of them along with the helmet, leaving Maurata unable to complete his translations. He tells Blake and Mortimer that the great moai was already on the island when the early Rapanui first arrived. Back then, one of the villagers put on the helmet and communicated with aliens, known as Markabians. He and the Rapanui believed the Markabians to be benevolent, and erected their own moai in preparation of the aliens' arrival. Meanwhile, the helmet caused a power struggle, so both it and the giant moai were declared taboo and buried.
The Paris museum, with its extensive collection of Rapanui artefacts
Muarata hurriedly makes a rubbing of the rongorongo hieroglyphics
As Maurata is finishing the story, Olrik returns and steals the helmet again but as he flees he is trapped under a fallen moai. With the help of the helmet, Murata and Blake learn that Olrik sold the stolen rongorongo tablets to an antiques dealer in Santiago, Chile. They also learn that Olrik spoke with the Markabians, with the aid of the helmet. The aliens will therefore soon return to earth and Maurata insists he must decipher the remaining tablets to discover what happened to the earlier invading force of Markabians. He is convinced these aliens mean harm.
Maurata and Blake go in search of the tablets, leaving Mortimer on the island, where unbeknown the aliens have now arrived. A local girl, Maria, encounters tall beings with moai-like faces wearing helmets. Impervious to bullets, they stun Maria and take her as a specimen aboard their ship. Mortimer sneaks on to the ship where he is captured by Markabians and subjected to brain scans. They question Mortimer, intent upon finding out what happened to their invasion force 900 years earlier. Their quest to understand, mirrors Maurata's desire to translate the rongorongo tablets. In the process, Mortimer learns that the giant moai are in fact transmitters, scattered across the galaxy to allow the Markabians to communicate. These aliens travel through space, removing "inferior life forms" to enable the domination of their own species. Their plan involves defeating humanity using lethal psychic waves.
Meanwhile, Blake and Maurata have travelled to Paris in search of the tablets. The antiques dealer had sold them to a Parisian museum, where they are now on display. Unable to access them during opening hours, Blake and Maurata sneak into the museum at night so that Maurata can make rubbings of the hieroglyphs. They are not alone as two aliens arrive, but Maurata and Blake manage to escape in the aliens' spaceship. Suddenly there is a thunderstorm, and the noise of thunder causes the two moai aliens to disintegrate into sand on the museum floor.
The alien moai subject Mortimer to brain scans
Mortimer learns of the distant worlds where the moai have destroyed other life forms
Back on Rapanui, Maurata explains that according to the rongorongo, an earthquake caused the destruction of the aliens. Mortimer has noticed their vulnerability to low frequency noises, so they set off dynamite on the island, which causes the remaining aliens to disintegrate. Their abandoned spaceship becomes an ultra secret research facility; Blake and Mortimer note the potential for the Markabians to return, or threaten life elsewhere in the universe.
The original Blake and Mortimer comic, an action-adventure mixing the detective and science fiction genres, first appeared in the Belgian Tintin magazine in 1948. The subsequent television series in 1997 was produced in French (and made available dubbed in other languages) by Ellipse, with thirteen stories filmed, each divided into two episodes. Le secret de l'île de Pâques is the eleventh story, and whilst the first nine were based on the comic book by Edgar P. Jacobs, the last four – which includes Le secret de l'île de Pâques – were created especially for television. Part Bulldog Drummond and part Sherlock Holmes, of all the moai culture made-for-television animation this is probably the richest and most rewarding of the storylines, offering a wealth of material and ideas.
Most notable is how the Rapanui are represented. Where so much of moai fiction presents Easter Island as abandoned or uninhabited, this story actively populates the island with an indigenous community, moreover with contemporary representations of the Rapanui. They are generally shown to be proud people, interested in their ancestry and intent upon preserving their history and culture. Maria is a positive depiction of an independent and astute Rapanui woman, and the new ultra-secret research station, which the story shows being disguised at the end, is left in the hands of the Rapanui to manage. It is also significant that the rongorongo tablets are translated by Maurata, an indigenous scholar, and not the common figure of a visiting white man. Learning of Maurata's intent to urgently translate rongorongo, Mortimer declares "are you serious? So many scientists have struggled for years to discover their meaning!", to which Maurata responds, "yes, but remember I was born here".
Maurata's reverence for the tablets stands at odds with the position of both the antiques dealer and the museum, who treat them as a commodity to be exchanged and acquired. No other example of moai fiction has placed rongorongo so central to the story and whilst the tablets became the writings of the moai themselves in Jonny Quest (see the review above), here they are given a chance for the earlier Rapanui to communicate the evolution of their culture – which interestingly fictionalises a preference for revering moai kavakava before the giant alien moai acquired its importance – as well as providing clues for destroying the invading alien species. Here, the idea of something as basic as sound being able to destroy the mighty invaders appears inspired by H.G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds, where the aliens are defeated by the common cold. In reality, there are 26 existing rongorongo 'tablets', not the ten presented here, and all the known tablets are scattered across the world's museums and archives with none on Easter Island.
Rex the Runt 'Easter Island' (season 1, episode 3, 1998)
The Eddie Izzard voiced trio of moai from the planet Thribb, holidaying on Easter Island
To the rescue: Bad Bob, Vince, and Wendy arrive on the planet Thribb in their old tin can
Rex the Runt and his loyal gang - Bad Bob, Wendy, and Vince - get together once again, this time to go on holiday in New Zealand. Unfortunately, whilst flying their helicopter over the Pacific Ocean, they run out of fuel, crash-landing on the island of “people with big fat heads”, also known as Easter Island. Here, they are greeted by Moai and his travelling companions – brother-in-law Damien and old school friend Rick. Much like Rex and his gang, the moai state that they are on “a bit of an expedition, doing Earth type things”, caravanning on the Island as they do every few thousand years. The moai are from outer space and they abduct Rex and take him to planet Thribb, as a specimen and a mascot. Once there, Rex is put on display before a crowd of moai and treated as a “lower life form”. Not far behind, Bad Bob, Wendy, and Vince are travelling through space in a tin can they found on the beach. They crash on to planet Thribb, interrupting the proceedings, and rescue an ungrateful Rex.
This Aardman animation short, from their earliest television series, foregrounds their trademark plasticine animal escapades. The scenarios in which the gang find themselves are surreal, yet the charm of the animation invites the viewer to follow the fantasy and share in the adventure. The idea of four dogs travelling to New Zealand in a helicopter is absurd enough, but Aardman’s depiction of the moai as walking, talking aliens - voiced by Eddie Izzard - extends the bizarre nature of the narrative.
The moai begin as seemingly ominous characters, but soon emerge as talkative aliens on holiday. In this comedy, the moai are sophisticated pipe-smoking adventurers, which contrasts dramatically with the sausage-eating gang of dogs who are naïve and a bit dim. In particular, there is Bad Bob with his obsession with “meat derivatives” whose idiocy synchronises with Vince – "the one with the teeth". Crucially, the island is devoid of any local population, with the moai imagined as a foreign and unearthly presence.
Flint the Time Detective 'Moah' (season 1, episode 19, 1998)
Moah the friendly time shifter
Moah transformed into Moah Monster
Dr Goodman presents another adventurous assignment to Flint and the Time Team. They must retrieve Moah the time shifter who has been located on Easter Island. Flint and the team hop on to the time cycle, setting the co-ordinates for the year 1560 to the remote and “pretty” island of Rapa nui. Upon arrival, they are greeted by a cute looking Moah and the friendly islanders. But not all is as pretty as it seems following the arrival of Petra Fina and her cronies - the mischievous thieves of time itself.
Moah is turned by Petra Fina into a giant evil moai, which Flint and his team is initially unable to stop in his attempt to wreak destruction on the island. Eventually transformed back into the loving Moah, Petra Fina next sends a tsunami towards the island. Moah now transforms into Moah Monster and with a stamp of his mighty stone foot, he awakens the moai guardians who emerge from the sand and along the seafront, forming a huge seawall of statues. Proving their role as protectors, the large stone faces save the team and the islanders from the tsunami, enabling Flint, Moah and the time team to safely make it back to the Bureau of Time and Space.
This colourful anime, directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi, was first aired in Japan in 1998 as part of a series that ran for 39 episodes. The characters resemble those from Digimon and Pokemon in the way that they transform, fight, unite, and possess special powers. Moah, in particular, emphasises his shape shifting abilities as he transforms from the small stone face with big pink lips and large eyes, who is not dissimilar to a Mr Potato Head, to the ominous and indestructible giant Moah with a mighty stone fist for smashing and crushing, and molten lava gushing from the top of his head.
In popular culture the maoi are regularly represented as either aggressive or comic figures. Flint the Time Detective is no exception to this tradition as Moah, who is repeatedly referred to as the guardian of the island, portrays both character traits. Nevertheless, when the moai of the island emerge from the sand, they act as the final guardians forming a collective wall protecting the islanders from peril.
Although the moai are depicted facing out to sea when saving the islanders, they do in fact face inland, and this is a common misunderstanding in popular culture interpretations of Easter Island. However, there are references to Anakena beach and the sweet potato, which suggest a certain degree of basic research within the animation. At several points, the Time Team discuss the creation of the moai, and are advised that their origins remain a mystery. Drawn to the popular myth of creation, this programme ignores the fact that there is no ambiguity as to who created the moai.
Superman: The Animated Series 'Knight Time' (season 3, episode 2, 1998)
After an encounter with Roxy Rocket in Metropolis, Superman discovers that Batman has gone missing from Gotham City. In his absence, Robin has been battling criminals on his own. Superman investigates and suspects that Batman has been put under mind control. He dresses as Batman and, together with Robin, breaks into the Explorer's Club in Gotham, a museum-like space filled with relics and antiques, where masks evoking African art and stuffed animals crowd the edges of the room.
Bane, the Riddler and the Mad Hatter are using the Club as their criminal headquarters. Bane voices a desire to "break" anyone who stands in their way, also threatening to crush Batman's spine. Here, he references an iconic moment from the Knightfall storyline in the Batman comics, in which Bane breaks Batman's spine over his knee. Having thrown Superman (dressed as Batman) across the room, Bane picks up a moai and throws it at the superhero. The ease with which he does so underscores his incredible strength, which has been supplied by the Venom chemical which has been pumped directly into his body. The monolithic stone head appears to have crushed the Caped Crusader, but from underneath he suddenly kicks the moai free and launches it back across the room.
Robin imprisons the Riddler and Superman subdues Bane. The Mad Hatter provides a clue allowing Superman and Robin to track down Batman at an abandoned Wayne Aerospace facility. There, they discover Superman's old nemesis Brainiac is the villain behind Batman's mind control. Superman defeats Brainiac and Batman regains control of his mind, allowing Superman to return to Metropolis.
Superman: The Animated Series ran for three series between 1996 and 2000, following the success of Batman: The Animated Series, which aired originally between 1992 and 1995. An additional spinoff series, Justice League, allowed for the introduction of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern.
Like an episode of the Justice League cartoon, which saw Aquaman throw a moai at Wonder Woman (see the review below), this story reduces the moai to an object to be tossed freely at enemies. Yet, unlike the Justice League episode, this sequence divorces the moai from its Easter Island context, transforming it into a convenient prop found in a museum. The moai is not displayed at all, and is part of a seemingly private collection of an Explorer's Club, hinting at the institution's exclusivity and ability to acquire the rarest of artefacts. The cultural connotations of the moai are stripped away, and the sequence relies on its status as a monolithic stone object that is included purely to showcase the strength of both Bane and Superman.
Histeria! 'Really Oldies but Goodies' (season 1, episode 9, 1998)
A dancing egg helps to introduce Jacob Roggeveen
A chorus of singing moai
The episode begins with a series of skits focused upon the practices of ancient Egypt. An advert explains mummification practices while riffing on the techniques employed by used car salesmen, and a later segment uses a quiz show format to present facts about the ancient Egyptians and an infomercial explains the use of trephination. Each of the sketches is designed to present facts about ancient Egypt to educate young viewers.
A rousing musical number closes the episode, exploring the history of Easter Island from the moment of its "discovery" in 1722. Singing moai take centre stage covering aspects of the island's history. The moai even acknowledge the theories of "crackpots", such as the notion that aliens left the moai on the island – shown here in a spaceship literally dropping moai from above – advising young viewers to be skeptical of what they hear about the statues. In the closing credits, moai briefly reappear as happy pilots of a spaceship.
Histeria! aired on Kids' WB between 1998 and 2000. The show used a Saturday Night Live-style sketch format for its 52 episodes and it follows in the footsteps of the widely successful Horrible Histories, which also presents history and education through a mix of popular culture and humour. The Horrible Histories book, Awesome Egyptians, one of the first in the series, had been published in 1993. Histeria! was explicitly designed to comply with FCC regulations regarding the educational nature of children's programming. Each episode features a historical focus, such as the American Civil War, the Vikings, famous inventors, the Tudors, and women's history.
The Histeria! kids try to lift a moai
Moai from outer space fly past in their craft at the close of the episode
Much like Time Warp Trio, Doki and Go Jetters, Histeria! explores Easter Island in an educational context aimed at children. Its focus is commendable as is the engaging and entertaining manner in which information is relayed. Jacob Roggeveen is introduced and so that children can easily remember the date the year 1722 is emphasised on an egg that dances past the Dutch explorer.
Unfortunately, Roggeveen is said to have "discovered" Rapanui, which completely removes the islanders that were there before. In fact, they are nowhere to be seen in a western-centric musical number that even has the children of Histeria! demonstrating the construction of the moai as opposed to a foregrounding of the active skills of the indigenous population. There is an attempt at accuracy through the inclusion of the pukao (which they call "hats") in the song, but the volcanic crater, Rano Raraku, a major moai quarry, is bizarrely shown to be on a neighbouring island. The segment lasts for just ninety seconds at the episode's end, making it feel like a 'filler' in an animation otherwise dedicated to the ancient Egyptians.
The moai are displaced by large stone blue ducks in one episode of Dilbert, in which the office worker is given the task of manufacturing art. With the aim of exploiting the art world, Dilbert succeeds in creating an art phenomenon. In a scene which never made it to the final version of this episode, the moai are toppled over a cliff and lie on top of each other, as the blue ducks triumph. The episode is a satire demonstrating the fallacies of modern art. The supremacy and absurdity of the ducks is clear in which ancient stone wonders are pushed aside by false idols.
Cyborg 009: Conclusion God's War (parts 1–3, 2002)
The all-powerful moai, with its three eyes that glow red
A taxi driver, a token Rapanui depicted on Easter Island, takes Joe to the moai
This made for television anime of the concluding parts of the popular manga is a free adaptation that adds and alters much from the original source that was left unfinished following the sudden death of author Ishinomori Shotaro. See below for the two reviews of the manga, that was a later attempt at adapting the unfinished story and which differs in many ways. For instance, the television adaptation does not contain the crocodile men, the capture of Francoise or the giant female moai that all feature in the manga version.
The moai that is discovered in the undersea cave off Japan is in both versions, but in the television adaptation is depicted with a third eye in the middle of its forehead, with all three eyes glowing red when it comes alive. This adds to the appearance of power and superior ability/ control that the moai has over people. The three parts of the adaptation combined extend over slightly more than an hour and this permits in some places room for the story to be developed and have added context. So the transportation of the moai from the cave to mainland Japan is shown in a montage of images that includes it being carried first by helicopter and then by lorry. Though both the manga and anime conveniently avoid showing how the large moai is possibly removed from the undersea cave.
A group of birdmen stand ready to attack Joe
In his hallucination Joe is attacked by levitating moai
When Cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura, travels to Easter Island he is shown in the manga to be completely alone, driving to the moai by himself. Interestingly, the anime adds an islander, a Rapanui taxi driver, who drops Joe off at a site that appears near to ahu Tongariki. The driver says that he will pick Joe up later that evening. The appearance of a local driver connects the story to the island's contemporary society and an industry built around tourism, but it still fails to properly populate the location.
Amongst the archaeology, Joe experiences a hallucination of levitating moai that try to crush him and the birdman, which swoops down and attacks. In the manga, the birdman is singular; in the anime, there is a gathering of birdmen who stand atop of the moai heads, before attacking Joe with their piercing spears, beaks and talons. Finally, the anime adds a floating island at the end, upon which a titanic battle will take place. As the island emerges from the sea and rises into the sky its architecture is shown to be a combination of ancient and arcane designs consisting of pyramids, temples and moai. Floating islands in Japanese popular culture can be traced back to at least the anime Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which was inspired by Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.
Justice League ‘The Terror Beyond’ (season 2, episode 15, 2003)
Wonder Woman and Aquaman battle in a moai-filled arena
Aquaman employs a moai as a weapon against Wonder Woman
This episode sees erstwhile Justice League member Aquaman team up with Dr Fate and former gangster-turned-zombie Solomon Grundy to defeat an ancient evil. Superman, Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl track down Aquaman and Dr Fate, but to prevent anyone from further interfering with his plans, Dr Fate teleports everyone away from his headquarters. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are sent to Easter Island, where they engage in a battle among the moai. Here, the moai are depicted as silent monoliths. During the battle, Aquaman picks up one moai and drops it on Wonder Woman. She lifts it off herself and tosses it aside, demonstrating her Amazonian strength, before hurling Aquaman into a second statue, which leaves a crack in its forehead. Aquaman throws Wonder Woman into the ocean and their fight continues underwater. The rest of the episode is dedicated to the fight between the Justice League and the interdimensional creature that Dr Fate and Aquaman have been attempting to contain.
The Justice League series began in 2001 and ran for two seasons, becoming Justice League Unlimited after the end of season two in 2004. Both seasons consist of twenty-six episodes, with narratives that often span two or three episodes. 'The Terror Beyond' comprises episodes fifteen and sixteen, although the battle among the moai occurs in episode fifteen. The series is based on the Justice League of DC Comics, and is not dissimilar to Marvel Comics’ team The Defenders. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, most of the characters retain their origin stories from their individual story arcs.
While this episode engages with Lovecraftian mythology and the legends surrounding Atlantis, ‘The Terror Beyond’ ignores the rich mythology of Easter Island. Instead, the island is presented as desolate and devoid of life. Moreover, it does not engage with the moai, which are scattered in a very haphazard style and which function as little more than set dressing. The moai are used as visual shorthand to ground the battle between Wonder Woman and Aquaman in a location that is ancient and far away. As within other popular fictions of Easter Island, the moai aid a narrative that needs to emphasise isolation and distance. Neither superhero shows any regard for the status of the moai, which is problematic since both characters have origins in mythical places: Wonder Woman originates among the Amazons and Aquaman hails from Atlantis. The sequence in which the moai appear is less than 90 seconds long.
A group of moai standing in a line complain they are bored. Cut to a story involving three mafia-styled gangs who fight over who will be the leader of an island. The gangs and their associates end up killing each other leaving a last man standing, who declares he must therefore be the leader. Realising, however, he is now alone he is desperate for this all to have been a dream. The story suddenly moves back to Easter Island with one of the moai saying this had been his dream. The declaration frustrates the dreamt gangsters, dead and alive, and they demand "who the hell are you?".
Originally broadcast in February 2006, this short television anime is built around a simple joke with the moai bookending the story. Comic moai create humour either through an ability to move or through their immobility and fixed position. Like the moai in Night at The Museum, these stone figures are going nowhere, yet they do exhibit the myth of movement with their power of speech. The story of the mafia gangs also goes nowhere, as the gangsters are all 'alive' at the end. It is a circular narrative within a bigger circle that presents island life as repetitive.
Time Warp Trio ‘Birdman or Bird Brain?’ (episode 15, 2006)
The time-travelling trio arrive on the island at the foot of a moai, moments before it is toppled
Whilst trapped in a cave Samantha learns to read the language of rongorongo
Freddi, Samantha, and Fred arrive on Easter Island, where they discover a giant moai. The statue is pushed over by Maki Puhi, a hostile local, and it narrowly avoids hitting the children. They are rescued by another islander, Kai. It is revealed that the trio have ended up on the island after the text in their time travelling book morphed into rongorongo script.
Kai believes that the children have arrived on the island to help him win the birdman competition so that he can oust Hanga Ui, the current birdman. Hanga Ui has become tyrannical after four years in charge and seeks to destroy all of the other clans. Kai and his uncle aim to end his rule, and the kids offer to help. Freddi has to climb down the cliff and swim to the birdman island, Motu Nui, where she not only finds the required sooty tern's egg, but also the copy of the book that they need to send them back to their correct period in time.
Meanwhile, Kai's uncle teaches Samantha how to read the rongorongo tablets while recounting the history of the island. This new knowledge enables her to read the found book, allowing her to translate it back into English. The trio's involvement sees Hanga Ui ousted from power, and Fred crowned as birdman, although he passes these powers onto Kai's uncle so that he may return home.
Time Warp Trio is an American/Canadian animated series, based on the children's books of the same name by Jon Scieszka. The show was originally aired on Discovery Kids in the US. Its original run lasted from July 2005 until September 2006, with 26 episodes aired. The series followed the adventures of Joe, who receives a book from his magician uncle that allows him to travel through space and time with his friends. Other episodes in the series deal with journeys to twelfth-century Mongolia, ancient Egypt, nineteenth-century New York and mediaeval Scotland. The educational remit of the series extends to the availability of teaching resources online, which accompany the episodes and further explore the mythology and history of the locations visited by the children.
Unlike many other cartoons, Time Warp Trio actively considers the Rapanui, their language and belief systems. This episode is divided between the action typical of cartoon series aimed at children - in this case following Freddi's quest to bring back a tern's egg - and an exploration of Rapanui's history and culture, with some words and concepts emphasised. The customs of the island form the basis of the narrative, particularly surrounding the birdman cult and the rongorongo tablets, and while the moai are depicted they do not constitute a central part of the story. The extent to which the language of rongorongo is featured is exceptional and the episode is largely accurate in covering the birdman cult. Dates are, however, muddled, with the story set in 1765. The destruction of the rongorongo tablets is blamed, for instance, on competing tribes in the mid eighteenth century, approximately one hundred years before many of the tablets went missing.
Pokémon ‘Nosing 'Round the Mountain’ (season 11, episode 6, 2008)
The Pokémon series is known for presenting unusual characters and creatures who possess strange powers. A moai-like Pokémon made an appearance in the animation episode ‘Nosing ’round the mountain’. This rock-type Pokémon character is called Nosepass. In this episode, Turtwig, who belongs to the main character Ash, battles Alan who is the trainer of a Nosepass Pokémon. The battle takes place on Mt Coronet, the highest mountain in the Sinnoh region (a realm of the Pokémon world). The battle must take place on Mt Coronet otherwise Nosepass will not evolve into Probopass (an advanced form of Nosepass). The evolution into Probopass is successful, but then Team Rocket kidnap Probopass and take over his mind with their mind control machine. Alan, Ash and the rest of Ash’s friends join together to save Probopass.
This animation is part of the wider popular Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters) media franchise, which was created in Japan in 1996. In this episode Nosepass/Probobass have an electromagnetic energy force that they use to battle other Pokémon. Bizarrely, the main source of this power is located in the character’s big red nose. Combined with the hat, which Probopass wears and which resembles a pukao, this character would appear to have been influenced by the moai. Japanese popular culture has shown a significant interest in the moai and Easter Island and in a kid culture where power is acquired and employed, it is unsurprising that the moai have served as inspiration for such fantastic creatures.
The Simpsons, The Critic, Futurama, and American Dad
Sight gags and verbal references to Easter Island have occurred across a number of episodes of the popular television series The Simpsons, where the moai are used as easy references for an exotic and faraway holiday destination. In the episode ‘The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons’ (season 9, episode 7, 1997), Moe mentions Easter Island as a place that he has been planning to visit “for years”, and his attraction to the location is further emphasised by an Easter Island T-shirt that he wears whilst working behind the bar. The T-shirt commercialises the island in a fantasy image that depicts two moai kissing, but the joke is on Moe, who in conversation with Homer appears unaware that there are “giant heads” on the island. In contrast, the much travelled Selma and Patty Bouvier have visited the island and a holiday snap appears in the episode ‘The Black Widower’ (season 3, episode 21, 1992), and a framed picture in ‘Much Apu About Nothing’ (season 7, episode 23, 1996). In the episode ‘The Wettest Stories Ever Told’ (season 17, episode 18, 2006), Bligh and his crew on The Bounty, disembark in Tahiti, where crew members that include Bart observe Easter Island heads being carved. The moai here are yet again short-hand gags for the exoticism of Polynesia, with Tahiti in the Simpson’s world able to unite a variety of South Pacific references into one location.
The producers of The Simpsons, Gracie Films, also made The Critic, a short-lived animation that lasted for just two seasons and 23 episodes between 1994 and 1995. In the series, there is a repeated gag about a boy from Easter Island who attends the United Nations High School in New York. The show’s surrealism extended to an awkward imagining of this native Easter Islander having a large moai-like stone head, its monstrosity and abstract form isolating and marking the child out from a number of social situations.
The Simpsons-inspired Futurama, similarly drew freely on popular culture and a simplified history of the world, with brief gags involving the moai. In the Emmy-nominated episode ‘Jurassic Bark’ (season 4, episode 7, 2002) the robot Bender aims to impress and show he can be like a dog, by fetching a large moai. The supposed difficulties in moving the moai and the distant location of Easter Island, make this ‘fetch’ particularly surreal. And in the episode ‘When Aliens Attack’ (season 1, episode 12, 1999), a group of moai appear at the tourist site Monument Beach, where other great monuments, such as Mount Rushmore and Big Ben, have been relocated since the 27th century thanks to the efforts of a super-villain. These beach-sited monuments positioned out of context echo the famous Statue of Liberty scene at the end of The Planet of the Apes (1968). But as aliens then proceed to destroy each monument, the scene also evokes the destruction in Mars Attacks! (1996).
A super-villian is also connected to Easter Island in the ‘For Black Eyes Only’ episode of American Dad (season 8, episode 13, 2013). As the second part of the 2-part episode ‘The Tearjerker Saga’, this is heavily indebted to James Bond and has CIA agent Stan Smith visiting Roger the alien in an Easter Island maximum security prison. Roger has various lives throughout the series, and in this episode he plays a bond super-villian, Tearjerker, who is so depraved that he is held captive in a prison cell deep under the ocean under Easter Island. Some of the world’s greatest maximum security prisons, such as Alcatraz and Devil’s Island, have been on inaccessible rocky lands, surrounded by sharks. The isolation of Easter Island within the Pacific, in shark-infested waters, lends itself to the surreal imagination of American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane. Once again within popular culture, Easter Island is fantasised as a location for a super-villian.
Phineas and Ferb 'Candace Disconnected' (season 3, episode 10, 2011)
An alert on Perry's watch shows Candace in peril
Norm's old head transported to Easter Island feels at home amongst the moai
Having lost her fourth phone in four months, Candace is bereft after having her final replacement accidentally crushed. She asks Phineas and Ferb to build her a new one. Their version includes a voice activated transporter app, capable of moving the user to any location, providing they use the trigger phrase "go to...". While talking to her friend, who is watching a documentary about Easter Island, Candace asks her why anyone would want to go to Easter Island. The app translates her innocent question into a command and transports her to Rapanui. A shot of the island shows her standing atop a cliff, looking down at a range of heads looking out to sea.
Meanwhile, Dr Heinz Doofenshmirtz has invented a Pick'em up-inator to collect Vanessa from school in his stead. He also discovers Norm's prototype head in the basement, which he takes back to his lab. Back on Easter Island, a bird steals Candace's phone and takes it to her nest, forcing Candace to climb down a cliff in order for it to be retrieved.
Fortunately, a passing sea turtle is a secret agent and notifies Carl that Candace is in trouble. Carl alerts Perry the Platypus, who sends the Pick'em up-inator to the island. It grabs Candace just as she falls from a broken branch on the cliff face and returns her home, albeit without the phone. The Pick'em up-inator takes Norm's old head to Easter Island. There, deposited among the moai he exclaims, "finally, a place where a head can be a head".
Phineas and Ferb ran from August 2007 to June 2015, and was broadcast on the Disney Channel. It follows the adventures of stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher. A sub plot explores the attempts of Perry to foil the schemes of Doofenshmirtz, a mad scientist whose inventions often go awry. The show uses a 'gag of the week' format to frame their adventures.
This episode uses Easter Island as an inaccessible destination to underscore how far Candace is transported, since there is no other narrative reason for the choice. Timbuktu is used as a second far-flung destination at the close of the episode. As with many other depictions of Easter Island, the local population is removed, which aids in reinforcing its status as remote. Yet Rapanui's apparent isolation is contradicted by the speed with which the Pick'em up-inator reaches Candace and returns her home.
The relatively short episode does not engage with the moai but it does connect in an abstract way with the island's cult of the birdman (tangata manu), with the bird egg replaced by a mobile phone. Candace's scramble down the cliff face recalls that of warriors at the start of the birdman race, though the competition is not emphasised. Few viewers would be directly aware of the cult of the birdman, turning the sequence into a simple adventure for the unaware.
A book on Easter Island provides the young Doki with advice
Doki and Oto arrive on Easter Island near ahu Tongariki
Anabella has made a totem out of modelling clay which proves too heavy to move without assistance. While pondering the solution, Doki draws their attention to the moai, establishing parallels between moving the giant stone figures and their totem. Reading from a book on Easter Island, Doki notes the origins of the moai in a quarry and their movement down to the shore some 22km away. The gang decides to solve a "famous mystery" – how were the moai moved – in order to address their own problem.
Oto and Doki fly to Easter Island (as an "expedition team") looking for clues to solve the mystery while the rest of Team Doki try out suggestions to move their totem at the clubhouse. They discount the use of magic or dragging the statue using a rope. After standing on a pencil, Doki realises the statues could have been moved using rolling logs. The group combine the use of a pulley – demonstrated earlier in the episode while moving a heavy tyre – and a skateboard to move their statue.
Doki is a Canadian children's television programme aired on Discovery Kids. It made its debut in April 2013 in Latin America and 57 episodes have been screened so far across three seasons. The show follows the adventures of Doki, a dog, and his friends, which include Oto the aardvark. Other episodes see the gang explore underwater shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea and play musical instruments at a festival in Rio de Janeiro.
Doki ponders the mystery of how the moai were moved
Oto and Doki re-imagined as moai
The educational content of this episode is higher than that of other children's cartoons involving Easter Island, with it addressing environmental and historical issues and physics. The programme has clearly engaged in a degree of research and it is sensitive to some cultural issues. For instance, the group point out that the moai are protected by law, preventing anyone from now touching them. However, the islanders are talked about in the past tense and Rapanui is depicted as abandoned.
Doki repeats the ancient legends of the islanders that "the statues walked to the shore", though the point is undercut by the irreverent image of Doki and Oto in moai form walking. Meanwhile, their joke that a giant moved the statues is a simple fantasy. Both theories are ultimately disproven through the gang's use of physics, grounding the transportation of the moai in reasoning. That said, in reality how the moai were transported is yet to be proven conclusively, with there being a number of existing competing theories. One of these theories does give the appearance of the moai moving as if 'walking', as the upright carvings could have been toggled into position using a coordinated group of rope pulling movements.
Rick and Morty 'Something Ricked This Way Comes' (season 1, episode 9, 2014)
Summer starts working at a new shop, 'Needful Things', that is run by the Devil. Inside is an array of strange, exotic and special objects ranging from shrunken heads to aftershave that can make men irresistible to women. On one side of the shop is a moai, part of the collection of items that people apparently desire most. Scientist Rick refers to the goods as "Twilight Zone, Ray Bradbury, Friday the 13th the Series, voodoo crap magic". Bradbury is also referenced in the episode's title with a play on his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. The episode, however, borrows more from Stephen King's novel Needful Things, which is indebted to Bradbury's story.
A variation on the pukao, with a moai wearing a hat similar to the one worn by Inspector Gadget
Gadget, Penny and Brain arrive at Easter Island by flying car
With the use of dynamite, MADtana Dan who is working for the evil Dr Claw and the secret organisation M.A.D., reveals an ancient artifact that had been buried underground on Easter Island. Opening the casket he finds inside a helmet but he has no idea how it is activated, much to the frustration of Dr Claw, who desires its powers without delay. Inspector Gadget, a bumbling cyborg, is sent to Easter Island to investigate and intervene and flies in his car with his niece Penny and Brain, the dog.
Gadget arrives on Easter Island, which he foolishly believes is called "Easter Egg Land" and he is left wondering "where are all the eggs?". Admiring the moai he also wonders where "are their bodies…and their hats?", which he thinks have been stolen by Dr Claw. He wanders off to find their "hats…and chocolate eggs…and that Easter Bunny", but accidentally activates the helmet, which is being worn by MADtana Dan. Its activation awakens the moai, who rise up out of the ground. The movements of the moai are controlled by MADtana Dan, with the stone giants copying everything he does – this includes a moai being directed to grab Penny and Brain.
The evil Dr Claw watches from remote link the moai on the move
The moai echo Inspector Gadget's attempts to remove the powerful helmet
Completely oblivious to the moai threat, Gadget is not engaged until he receives his new car. This transforms at the push of a button into a giant robot (Transformers-style) and leaves him prepared to fight the moai. Unfortunately, in a simple blow a moai crushes the robot-car and then its fist pounds down repeatedly onto Gadget. Brain tries in vain to steal the helmet, though Penny successfully manages to infiltrate its frequency and she takes control of the moai before they can fly off to destroy a city. The helmet is dislodged and lands on the head of Inspector Gadget, who cannot see what is happening. The moai imitate Gadget's behavior, which includes flying high above Easter Island. As Gadget tugs at the helmet he pulls off his own head; the moai do likewise and consequently crash back down to earth, landing as detached heads on the island and narrowly missing a family of tourists. Dr Claw is defeated; he wonders how hard would it be to destroy Fiji.
Originally a popular children's television animation that began in 1983, and that was later made by Disney into a live-action film in 1999, the series was remade in 2015 using CGI. Alas, the quality of animation is poor and more akin to an inferior computer game, but Inspector Gadget remains the lovable fool who solves crimes by accident (and with the help of his assistants). He is a combination of the incompetence of Inspector Clouseau – from whom his fashion sense is borrowed – and the gadget enhanced James Bond.
The fact that he is a cyborg allows for a diversity of tools to appear from within his body and especially from his ever-present hat. It is this hat that is imitated in the opening credits, where a moai sports a new pukao (many foreigners see the pukao as a hat when it represents a topknot of hair) and which extends into a running joke with Gadget erroneously believing that the crime committed has been the theft of the hats for the moai. Much of the episode's humour is unoriginal, involving eggs and the Easter Bunny, as is the idea that the moai can be awoken and rise from the ground. Though the flying moai who pull off their own heads is a creative answer for how the stone heads appear dotted around the landscape.
Go Jetters 'Easter Island' (season 1, episode 34, 2016)
Tourists are drawn to the wondrous moai
Ubercron provides advice on Rapanui culture and history
The Go Jetter pilot, Xuli, is tasked with a quest to develop her navigational skills. Having requested "somewhere hard to find", she is given the coordinates to Easter Island, introducing young viewers to the concept of longitude and latitude. The point is repeated that there is "nothing there" at the location, underlining the remote nature of the island. The show's villain, Grandmaster Glitch, is also on Easter Island, ostensibly to enjoy its isolation. Instead, he finds himself overrun with tourists flocking to see the nearby moai. In frustration, he commands his robot helpers to build a new statue elsewhere on Easter Island to draw the tourists away.
They build a giant neon pink poodle which Glitch destroys in a fit of pique. The Go Jetters arrive, wishing to see the moai for themselves. Seeing parts of the broken poodle hurtling down the hill, they employ their skills and use futuristic technology to save both the tourists and the ancient moai. With disaster averted, the Go Jetters take a group selfie in front of the moai.
Go Jetters is an animated television series for young children, aired on the BBC's CBeebies platform. The programme was originally only shown on its website as a one-off but its popularity led to a more traditional series-based format. Go Jetters is aimed at the 4-6 age group, and focuses upon teaching children about the countries of the world and their history. The first episode was aired in 2015, while a second series began in 2017. Created by Barry Quinn and Katie Simmons and produced by Boulder Media and Giant Animation, series one consisted of 52 episodes, and episode 34, 'Easter Island', first aired on 22 September 2016.
In each episode, the Go Jetters mentor, Ubercron (a brightly coloured unicorn), passes on information about each new destination with three "funky facts". The four Go Jetters are a combination, in part, of the Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with their assembled powers and overseeing mentor. Each Go Jetter possesses different abilities, such as fixing things, gymnastics, or marked intelligence. The plots revolve around the Go Jetters thwarting the nefarious schemes of Grandmaster Glitch, a former Go Jetter cadet. Many of his plans involve locations associated with famous world landmarks, feeding into the educational remit of the show.
The moai in this episode are treated as cultural artefacts and represent the heritage of this remote island. Ubercron notes that the first settlers arrived on the island using their "amazing navigational skills", before telling the Go Jetters that the islanders built the moai to honour families and protect the island. Significantly, the educational nature of the programme aims to establish a number of facts, rather than the myths of Easter Island. That said, the island is depicted as largely barren and desolate, with no inclusion of the local Rapanui. Instead, the focus remains on the largely white horde of tourists that flock around the moai with cameras. The piece of modern art – the Jeff Koons inspired large pink poodle which Glitch's robots build – is quickly destroyed as worthless, with its broken remnants subsequently acting as a threat to the genuine works of wonder. As with the episode of the television animation Dilbert (see the review above), the existence of the ancient moai is threatened by absurd constructions of modernity.
Locating Easter Island as the site of a great scientific disaster
Snow-covered moai line a coastal road
This television adaptation exhibits striking animation and it sticks faithfully to the original story published a few years earlier (see below). Frames, situations and dialogue are repeatedly directly copied from the manga, with a notable difference being the slightly changed order in which it cross-cuts to particular narrative strands. On encountering the moai in the manga, Mira stops to admire them and poses alongside. In the anime, the car is still forced to stop due to boulders on the road that need moving, but Mira is no longer drawn to the moai, whose backs now face the protagonists. In this adaptation, the attraction of the moai has been removed; they are kept in the background and are of even less interest for the narrative.
Pokémon: Sun and Moon 'Mallow and the Forest Teacher!' (episode 39, 2017)
The twentieth season of the long-running Pokémon series was subtitled 'Sun and Moon'. The format followed previous seasons with the opportunity to introduce creatures, objects and devices with some ease. The tropical island location for Sun and Moon also allows for an engagement with images of exotica and is a strange mixture of Hawai'i – with "aloha" used as a greeting – Australia, Borneo and Sumatra with koalas and orangutans in the forest. With previous stories introducing moai-inspired images (see the review above) it is perhaps not a complete surprise to see a central character being suddenly replaced by a moai, with its frozen features helping to establish a protagonist's look of disappointment. The function of this occurrence can be understood through the myth of presence, where in popular culture moai can seemingly emerge anywhere.
The Rapanui problematically presented as a primitive make-do culture
The giant alien moai awakens
The perpetual racers are on Easter Island. With the race in progress the mouth of a moai opens up and the competitors find themselves within a large cavern. There in front of them is a giant alien moai seated on a throne. Muttley steals a precious idol from an altar, which awakens the giant moai. The giant subsequently turns to the moai dotted around the island and commands them to awaken: "arise my brothers, the Earth is finally ours!". With laser beams from the giant moai's eyes the moai awaken and pull themselves out of the ground. They in turn blast laser beams at the Rapanui, "the puny heads", whose heads increase in size, causing them to topple over. The beams continue across the world causing humans to fall over as a result of growing big heads. It is left to the Wacky Racers to save the day, with Muttley and Penelope Pitstop combining to return the idol to the giant. The heads of humans everywhere return to their normal size and the moai are fixed back in the ground around the island landscape.
The dominant army of moai
From an isolated position in the Pacific, a powerful beam is emitted out from Easter Island and across the world
With a number of racing computer games setting the action on Easter Island it is not surprising to find Wacky Races eventually drawn to the location. In this reboot of the popular children's animation, Hanna-Barbera incorporates the moai, where previously in its many cartoons and comics they had largely been ignored – unlike DC and Marvel who seem obsessed with Easter Island. The moai have multiple functions in this cartoon, from being the subject of puns and sight gags, such as a car pinging like a pinball against a collection of carvings, through to aliens that exhibit both the myth of power and the myth of movement, emerging from their slumber and having the ability to fire body-altering beams from their eyes.
Like other fiction before, the cartoon borrows from Indiana Jones with the theft of an idol, which commences a narrative strand of action and danger. It also borrows from tiki culture with Muttley, the committed tourist, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and lei flower garland. It extends to the depiction of the Rapanui, who are grass-skirt wearing natives. However, the representation of the Rapanui is extremely problematic, as it contains the locals within a Flintstone-like primitive make-do culture that includes a microphone consisting of a coconut on top of a bone, and an overweight male wearing a coconut bra.
There is a popular perception that a moai features in the episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants. The series draws repeatedly on cultural aspects of the Pacific, in particular Hawai’i. The references can be quite abstract and in this context both Squidward’s home and Mrs Tentacles’ home are more a fishtank version of a tiki than a moai. There are elements of a moai in these homes, such as the elongated head and high forehead, but not enough to make them a significant form within Moai Culture.
Ogú y Mampato en Rapa Nui [Ogú and Mampato in Easter Island] (2002)
An upright moai is carved out of the rock at Rano Raraku
Ogú and Mampato share a meal with Marama's tribe
A film adaptation of the popular comic by Themo Lobos, which was only Chile's second feature-length animation (and the first since 1921), Ogú y Mampato en Rapa Nui was also Chile's submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2002 Oscars. The film is also known as El Misterio en la Isla Encantada (The Mystery on the Enchanted Island) and Mampato: The Movie. For a plot synopsis, see the review of the comic below.
A proud Rapanui explains his culture
In the hall of the king, moai flank both sides of the room
Compared with other film adaptations this is very close to its source, yet there are important differences. The Rapanui men have been hyper-masculinised for the film and they now display broad and muscular chests. Consequently, they appear more heroic and noble and less comic, whilst the women in the film have been sexualised. The villain, the king/ Grand Chief is much darker – he now has pointy teeth and red skin, and resides in an imposing room with a line of moai flanking his throne. The film has added musical numbers ¬– which would be less successful in a comic – and a man who constantly carries a guitar, an instrument that is anachronistic in a film set in pre-European contact times. The pineapple that Ogú finds is also out of place, originating from South America.
Mampato learns about the birdman through the rock carvings at Orongo
With the moai erected, the eyes are added to the face
There is less of the detail to the range of cultural artifacts of Rapanui, that was found in the comic, with references to rongorongo removed. The film, however, does add a moment where eyes are added to a newly erected moai, a ceremony that the Rapanui believed brought the carving to life.
Superhero Mr Incredible attempts to infiltrate the inner realms of the island hideout of the villain Syndrome. In one room, he is faced with a giant curtain of molten lava, bookended by two monolithic moai. Mr Incredible picks up one of the moai with the aim of using it to split the lava curtain. Just as he is about to make his dramatic move, the curtain parts to allow a female assistant from the other side to casually enter the room.
The design of the space in this brief scene appears inspired by the post-war boom in tiki bars and restaurants that frequently combined volcanoes and moai. It is in keeping with the look of the rest of the film, which director-scriptwriter Brad Bird said was a homage to the popular culture of the 1960s. The immense size of the moai, which dwarfs the superhero, is necessary not only for the ominous task but to emphasise the strength of Mr Incredible, who just about manages to carry the carving.
Sergeant Frog imagines his army of mechanised moai
An adaptation of a Keroro Gunso (Sergeant Frog) manga, this feature length animation was shown widely at cinemas in Japan – its country of production. The fifth film in a highly popular animation franchise, it is up to a point a faithful adaptation – see below for the review of the original manga story.
A 75-minute film permits greater opportunity to expand and explore a story that was originally a relatively short manga. Half of this adaptation is devoted to an extended battle between Sergeant Frog (a harmless extra-terrestrial army-styled frog now living on Earth) – along with Fuyuki, a Japanese boy, and their companions – and a giant aku aku creature that threatens to destroy everything. The film, unlike the manga, has Sergeant Frog's special platoon of soldiers, each with their own unique skill, absorbed into the aku aku, giving it increased strength and power.
Io and Rana are told to respect the island's cultural heritage
Moai kavakava appears during an extra-sensory experience
Moreover, the film adds a monolithic moai-faced mountain (bearing carvings of tangata manu/ the birdman) that erupts out of the ground, and that acts as a form of transmitter. As it shoots a laser beam into the sky, it is encircled by a series of rongorongo hieroglyphs. This releases from far out in space an army of golden moai (made from star fragments), with each etched on their torsos tangata manu patterns. These moai hurtle to Earth and are stopped by Sergeant Frog with moments to spare.
Assisting Sergeant Frog and Fuyuki are two Rapanui children, a boy and girl, who look like twins and are called Io and Rana, which combined translates as "hello", in the indigenous language. These children are the ancient power of the island, its "mana", who have taken human form. In the original story there was just one child, a boy; the film creates a gender balance, but it also populates the island with a community, albeit one that appears for a small section of the film. Here, contemporary Rapanui women are seen in the island's town of Hanga Roa, with a group of children also engaged on their way to school. A problem with the manga was that it had shown just one Rapanaui on the island – the boy spirit – which was as good as suggesting the island was uninhabited. The manga had also made this Rapanui boy unintelligible; for much of the story he speaks in rongorongo that not even a special device, a translation badge, can decipher. Yet, in the film, the same badge now works and the Rapanui are therefore understood.
The moai mountain encircled by rongorongo begins to transmit
The outer space army of golden moai descend on Earth
Like the manga, the animators appear to have researched the moai and the geography of the island. In addition, the animators of the film have depicted with some accuracy aspects of buildings in Hanga Roa, including the main church. It is positive that a number of the bad mistakes in the manga have been addressed and corrected, with makemake no longer conflated with tangata manu. Both appear at various points in the film, with Io and Rana first appearing wearing moai kavakava masks. The character reappears in an extra-sensory experience, where he is re-interpreted by the story as a "mana" or power residing within a moai. That moai is levitated through the touch of Io and Rana and is a source of energy, with other moai realigned to acts as weapons to destroy the aku aku. Like the original manga there is some sensitivity to the heritage of the island, with Io and Rana told by Fuyuki that they should not touch the moai.
Creative additions made by the film to the manga include the miniature moai figure – which motivates the journey to Easter Island – now depicted in the shape of Sergeant Frog. And always looking for a new military opportunity, Sergeant Frog re-imagines Easter Island as a Thunderbirds-inspired island complete with launch sites that will be his new base of operations. Later on, he fantasises that within the crater of Rano Raraku he could build his own army of mechanised moai. These are clearly shown to be the foolish imaginings of a driven but lovable anime character.
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, The Adventures of Tintin, and Hop
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!
The Adventures of Tintin
The 2012 claymation comedy The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (in the US titled: The Pirates! Band of Misfits) continues an interest in Easter Island that was previously shown by the producers Aardman in an episode of the animation short Rex the Runt. This feature-length film includes two short scenes featuring moai, one of which also shows Easter Island’s location on a map. In this film, the Pirate Captain and his crew team up with Charles Darwin to try to win the Pirate of the Year Award, while attempting to avoid the pirate-hating Queen Victoria. During the opening credits sequence, the pirate ship is shown crossing the globe and visiting certain islands and continents. Upon arrival on Easter Island, the ship knocks over several moai as if they were bowling pins (a gag found previously in the film Mars Attacks!) and continues on its way. In a later scene at Darwin’s home filled with artefacts collected during his sea voyages, the pirates are chasing after the thief of the Captain’s dodo bird when they fall into a bathtub which then crashes through the floor and slides at speed down the staircase. A moai is in the corner of the landing into which the bathtub collides, causing it to tumble face-first down the stairs. As exotic figures in the home of the founder of the theory of evolution, the moai alongside the dodo is an unusual pairing that briefly unites two powerful island myths.
In The Adventures of Tintin (2011), the most well-known moai which is now in the British Museum, Hoa Hakananai’a, appears in the background of a scene which takes place at the palace of the wealthy merchant Omar ben Salaad, in the fictional city of Bagghar, Morocco. The opera singer Bianca Castafiore is performing for ben Salaad and his guests, and many of his prized possessions can be seen behind Bianca as she sings. Similar to The Pirates!, the appearance of the moai in The Adventures of Tintin is rather brief and merely illustrates the importance of the owner.
Easter Island, the home of the Easter Bunny's candy factory in Hop
E.B leaves home by climbing down a moai's nose
Using Easter Island as the location of the Easter Bunny’s home and workshop is a recurring theme in fiction. It is not surprising that the Easter-themed film Hop (2011) places the Easter Bunny’s candy factory on the island. The Easter Bunny and his son, E.B., are shown entering the underground factory through the mouth of a moai, which lowers its lips to reveal an elevator. Later, the young E.B. decides that he does not want to replace his father as the next Easter Bunny and runs away to Hollywood instead to pursue his dream of becoming a drummer. Climbing out of the moai’s nose using a rope, E.B. enters a circle of moai facing each other where he chooses his destination on a computer screen. The eyes of the moai begin to shine and a hole opens in the ground in the centre of the circle into which E.B. jumps in order to be transported to Hollywood. This circle of moai is shown again when the Pink Berets, the royal guards, are sent to Hollywood to bring E.B. back to Easter Island. The moai are employed in this fiction as objects of power and mystery able to create a portal to another land. They are also a part of a common fantasy that the moai are supposedly hollow and contain secret lairs.
Aloma of the South Seas
(1941, directed by Alfred Santell)
Aloma (on the right) relaxes at a pool surrounded by moai
As the volcano erupts the islanders flee
As children, Tanoa is betrothed to Aloma, by his father, the king of a Pacific island. Soon after, Tanoa travels to the USA to acquire an education. Fifteen years later, the king dies and Tanoa returns to take the throne, but Aloma has been having romantic meetings at a secret pool with Revo, Tanoa's cousin and childhood friend.
Revo is the film's villain and he casually murders a man, shooting him from distance, to maintain his control of Aloma. Tanoa learns of the crime and after a fight with Revo banishes him from the island. However, Revo returns for Tanoa's coronation and shoots dead the priest, who is conducting the service. Revo then begins firing on the islanders from above with a machine gun. The island's volcano erupts, spewing rock and molten lava, apparently angered by Revo's crimes. The islanders flee, Revo is killed by a rock fall, and Tanoa saves his wife, Aloma.
Released less than four months before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought America into a war in the Pacific, Aloma of the South Seas is the second time that LeRoy Clemens' Broadway play of 1925 had been filmed (the previous occasion was in 1926). The film betrays its theatrical origins and is very staged and constrained as a production. The island action and sets are clearly studio-based, with the landscape behind an obvious canvas. The studio setting was also the result of the film's aesthetic choices, with this being an early three-strip Technicolor film (the first feature, Becky Sharp, filmed entirely in this process had been only six years earlier; The Wizard of Oz, just two years earlier). Filming in a studio enabled the control of the colours in front of the camera and this is maximized through an array of Pacific island artifacts, not least the fabrics (including the sarongs) and flowers on display. The film was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
It was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, presumably for the scenes at the end where the volcano erupts. In retrospect these are poor and film critics at the time were not convinced, nor with the film as a whole. The two lead actors, Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall, were taken from another more successful Pacific island production, John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), and were recast for a film that was clearly looking to exploit that screen partnership and the increasing appeal of Technicolor (despite its expense). From the performance, musical numbers and design, the film feels forced and is unconvincing with the images of the Pacific an awful hash of cultures and myths from Hawai'i, French Polynesia, Samoa and Easter Island (with seemingly bits of Africa and Ancient Greece included). From Easter Island, the moai are borrowed and they first appear in the last third of the film dotted in and around a pool and a ceremonial space. Some are toppled and crushed when the volcano erupts and they largely function, like so much else, as set decoration.
In a ritual to awaken Mothra, the Polynesians perform in front of moai-like carvings
A Japanese scientist explores a cave of strange plants, where a moai is also positioned
A vessel near the Caroline Islands is caught in a typhoon and shipwrecked. Some of the crew are discovered on a Polynesian island that has been used for nuclear testing. It was believed that the island was uninhabited but natives remain and are immune to the high radiation due to a special juice drink. A Japanese expedition to the island is undertaken but many of the locals are shot at and killed. The natives turn to the revered Mothra, a giant caterpillar/moth, for protection. In a ritual involving chanting and dancing, Mothra is hatched from a huge egg.
Either the film's geography is very wayward or the typhoon must have been powerful as the ship is blown a vast distance from Micronesia to Polynesia. Whilst in reality the Japanese have never have been allowed to conduct nuclear testing, this fantasy borrows from the actions of the French and imagines islanders who were left behind despite planned evacuations prior to the tests. It is an original element of this film's fiction, but the other points of reference are an awful muddle. The Polynesians are poorly disguised Asians, who are depicted as primitive (almost stone age) islanders. Little if any research has been conducted for cultural accuracy with the ritual dancing unlike anything in Polynesia, or the wider Pacific islands. The giant man-attacking plants and two miniscule island women, who can fit into the palm of a hand, extend the fantasy's extremes.
During the ritual to awaken Mothra two large moai carvings are visible in the background, but they are nothing more than basic artefacts meant to signify a Polynesian culture. Reference is briefly made to a lost continent that apparently united Polynesia, which borrows from the legend of Mu. Furthermore, a Japanese expert discovers in a cave an unknown writing system, which loosely connects with rongorongo, and in this instance is deciphered using other Polynesian languages.
Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques [The Suns of Easter Island] (1972, directed by Pierre Kast)
The celestial encounter aligned with a row of moai
In different countries, seven people/ six strangers with extraordinary minds are undertaking areas of research attempting to understand celestial patterns and special phenomena. These include Norma, a Brazilian astronomer who has been studying the positioning of statues at a church, which she comes to realise present a map to the stars; Helvio, a Chilean entomologist; and Alexandra who borrows a plane to observe newly discovered Nazca lines. Each suddenly experiences an intense hallucination – rapid images of world civilization combined with brightly coloured shapes, ending with an image of a moai – which leaves them with a small shiny disc embedded in the palm of their left hand. Following the hallucination each feels compelled to journey to Easter Island.
The individuals become acquainted in Chile, where they realise they are not alone in their strange experience, and travel by ship together to Easter Island. On arrival, they explore the archaeology, and enter a cave where they meet in the darkness the "Guide", who has been expecting their arrival. Emerging from the cave they rest at the site of ahu Tahai, awaiting a visitation from outer space/ an "extreme elsewhere".
There, six of the group (three men and three women) stand in front of the six plinths/ five moai at ahu Tahai, with six glowing yellow circles hovering above each spot. The celestial visitors communicate telepathically with the six humans and learn of the state of the world. A rapid montage of images is conveyed, which emphasise conflict and death, and enough to deter the celestial visitors from establishing further contact on this occasion. It is time for the six chosen people to depart Earth and they say farewell to the seventh member, a psychologist, who is witness to this extraordinary event. He will wait in the cave for the next visitation in 500 years time.
There are surprisingly few fiction feature films that have been set on Easter Island. This French production was the first to be actually filmed there and is the only art-house example. It has a cult following for its esoteric quest, obsession with form and style, and an experimental synth soundtrack. The central characters are introduced separately and then joined in different combinations, most notably on board a ship, before becoming a group that walks and moves in unison. The film predates Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it belongs with the radical French cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and of Chris Marker's La Jetée, with its abstract science fiction. Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques is very much of a period of a fascination with cosmic intelligence, which was popularised in Erich von Däniken's best-selling Chariots of the Gods? . This was a book which promoted a theory that ancient sites, monuments and artifacts, such as those on Easter Island, are evidence of visitation a long time ago from extra-terrestrials.
In this fantasy, the moai function as beacons for unearthly telepathic communication. Easter Island dominates just the last third of the film, where the production becomes almost a tourist adventure/documentary exploring the island by foot and on horseback, whilst relaying archaeological details. Throughout, the group encounter on the island just one priest and a group of children, who are playing amongst a line of moai. The other islanders and the tourists are absent. The latter is perhaps understandable when in 1972 few had the opportunity to visit Easter Island.
The Godzilla series of films are Japan-centric, yet this should not disguise the fact that the narratives are fantasies born from the wider Pacific. Godzilla is a creation of nuclear testing in the Pacific and Pacific islands feature throughout the series. Godzilla vs Megalon emphasises the high impact of nuclear testing (by foreign powers) in the Pacific, with earthquakes at the start of the film. The testing is also destroying the ancient kingdom of Mu/Lemuria, referred to here also as Seatopia, which is located under the Pacific Ocean. A third of their three million year old peace-abiding kingdom has been destroyed, so they awaken Megalon to annihilate the human race (with the help of an old Godzilla foe, Gigan).
Mu is a mythical kingdom, which was created by James Churchward in the 1890s (with his first such book published in 1926) in an attempt to convince people of a possibility of a lost continent of the Pacific, similar to Atlantis. Churchward presented Easter Island and the moai as remnants of Mu, and all that remains visible of the sunken continent. Godzilla vs Megalon continues the association with the citizens of Mu communicating with Easter Island, which is represented here by the line of moai at Tongariki. Mu itself is a futuristic vision very much design-dependent on the ideas of modernity of the early 1970s, with the sets and costumes all pure whites and silver. There is within this civilization a distinct cult of the moai, with a large silver moai standing over the citizens of Seatopia as they worship and dance at its feet. Such scenes are brief and appear to have been inspired in part by Beneath the Planet of the Apes, made three years earlier, with its hidden and evolved civilization who worship an atomic bomb.
Lieutenant Harris and Melanie in a publicity shot for the film
In ancient times, extra-terrestrials visited Earth and scattered artefacts across the globe, at Stonehenge, the great pyramids of Egypt, and the moai of Easter Island. Buried at the base of one moai was a sacred tablet that held a great energy, which if harnessed could be used for either good or evil. In 1886, a band of grave robbers dug up this tablet and split it into three pieces. Only when pieced back together, can the true power of this extra-terrestrial key be possessed.
Fast forward to 1945 and Lieutenant Harris (John Hargreaves) is assigned the duty of flying a plane from Australia to Washington D.C. to deliver a mysterious cargo. Among his crew are fellow military man Savage (Max Phipps), and the Reverend Mitchell (Simon Chilvers). Whilst in the air, a drunken crew member opens the cargo crate and, in doing so, forces their aircraft into a supernatural thunderstorm, crashing them into the ocean and leaving them stranded 5000 miles off course. They leave their sinking aircraft via a rubber dingy and head for what they believe to be Easter Island. As they get closer, the island vanishes as if it was a mirage. After drifting for days without food or water, Savage makes one last bid for survival and fires off a flare gun at a passing ocean liner.
Back in Australia, Harris finds himself court martialled for striking a superior officer and leading the plane off course. He explains what happened, but no one believes him. With the Reverend nowhere to be seen, Savage testifies against him and Harris is escorted out of the building to serve a sentence in a military prison. Eager to find out what really did happen, he steals a gun from one of his escorts and escapes. His exit is interrupted, however, when he comes across the Reverend’s daughter Melanie (Meredith Mitchell) trapped inside an elevator that is about to crash. Upon rescuing her, Melanie explains that it was Savage who trapped her and that he is chasing after the three pieces of the sacred tablet; one of which belonged to her father and was the content of the cargo that Harris was told to deliver. Melanie adds that her father believes that the ancient people of Easter Island had mystical powers to move mountains and levitate stone structures with their minds. She explains that when the three pieces are put together, there is a source of unbelievable power. Harris and Melanie proceed to hijack a plane from the base, and chase after Savage, eventually landing on Easter Island.
On Easter Island, Savage is found in a cave with the tablet pieces and stood in front of a toppled moai. As these parts of the tablet are united they glow bright with energy and the toppled moai rises into an upright position. The third segment of the tablet that was buried on Easter Island then unearths itself from the dirt. Such is the power of the complete tablet that the moai glows with a blinding light and the cave begins to shake. As Harris and Meanie flee, avisible force fires from the moai towards Savage, reducing him to dust and bone. Observing this, Harris repeats the curse “He who disturbs the sacred Moai meets death”.
The Australian produced Sky Pirates (also known as Dakota Harris) is a clear attempt at an Indiana Jones style film. The success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), led to imitations such as Savage Islands (1983), High Road to China (1983), King Solomon’s Mines (1985), Allan Quartermain and the City of Lost Gold (1986), and the TV series Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982-3). In fact, Indiana Jones managed to visit Easter Island twice, once in a novel for the English market,and then again in a separate adventure as Young Indy, published solely for German readers. Sky Pirates imagines Easter Island as part of a series of ancient alien landing sites (that includes places such as Uluru). Within the completely uninhabited island the film presents a large cave network with the now clichéd Indiana Jones collapsing cave floors and hidden chambers filled with snakes and gold. The moai around the island are exploited for basic moments - accompanied by a soundtrack suggesting mystery - in which the figures whilst presented in situ are removed from the island's culture. Other than the final scene when a fallen maoi is effortlessly raised with the power given by an ancient tablet, they are poorly mythologised to serve the film's fantasies.
Savage raises a fallen moai with the power received from an extra- terrestrial tablet
A secret cave of golden icons that includes golden moai kavakava
The film’s most interesting moment is at the end where Harris and Melanie confront Savage in an Easter Island cavern. In the preceding cave passages, golden icons are discovered and include, rather bizarrely, basic gold statues of moai kavakava and of tangata manu. Even more fantastic, the film positions the western idea of a library of ancient books stored in this cave. Whilst the idea of a hidden library is far-fetched and the islanders never had books before the arrival of Europeans, the idea appears to be inspired by the rongorongo tablets, the earliest form of Polynesian writing of which the majority of examples have been destroyed.
Two classes exist on Rapa Nui – the long ears and the short ears. The current reigning chief of the island, Ariki-mau (Eru Potaka Dewes), a long ear, requests that his grandson Noro (Jason Scott Lee) race for an egg in order for him to continue reigning as the birdman – Noro reluctantly agrees. In anticipation of the race, Ariki-mau asks the short ears to build an additional moai, even bigger than the last. They are given six moons to complete the carving; just in time for the race. Unknown to Ariki-mau, Noro is involved in a secret relationship with a girl he wishes to marry, a short ear by the name of Ramana (Sandrine Holt). Eventually, Noro asks his grandfather about the marriage, but upon hearing that the girl is a short ear he becomes outraged, claiming that an inter-marriage will anger the Gods. However, Ariki-mau agrees that if Noro wins the birdman race, he will allow the two to be wed. The only condition is that Ramana must remain in the 'cave of the white virgin' until the day of the competition. Despite the challenging nature of the cave, Ramana agrees. She is sent to the cave and Noro begins training for the race.
In the meantime, the short ears begin carving the larger moai. Tensions arise when the short ears are given less food than usual by the long ears. The short ears declare that they will stop work on the new moai, unless they receive a larger amount of food, as well as a chance to compete in the birdman race. Fearful that the Gods may be angered if the new moai is not constructed, Ariki-mau agrees to these demands. Noro's friend, Make (Esai Morales), stands forward as the short ear's race competitor. If he wins, he becomes the new birdman as well as acquiring the right to claim Ramana as his wife.
On the day of the race, Noro wins by a small margin, continuing the long ear rule. Ramana is released from the cave both pale and pregnant. Before celebrations can begin, an iceberg appears in the distance. Ariki-mau assumes this to be a white canoe sent from the Gods and departs to investigate. During this time, the Priest attempts to take rule of Rapa Nui and demands even more of the short ears. Angered at these demands and their loss, Make kills the Priest and the short ears begin a rebellion, killing many of the long ears. Baffled at the actions of those surrounding him, fearing for his life, Noro, Ramana and their newly born daughter depart the island on a canoe – a wedding gift from Ramana's father.
It is significant that this film was directed by Kevin Reynolds and produced by Kevin Costner. In the vein of their earlier films Dances with Wolves (1990), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and the later movies Waterworld (1995) and The Postman (1997), Rapa Nui is a fantasy that romanticises threatened folk cultures, and 'primitive' civilisations, and exploits cultural-histories of ingenuity, independence and isolation to explore geo-political eco-narratives. Various consultants were employed in making Rapa Nui, leading to a factual depth that is unusual for Rapa Nui fiction films. Moreover, the film was largely made on the island itself employing genuine locations. That said, the film was still unable to extricate itself from the demands of Hollywood and genre filmmaking, which dictated that the commercial value of the production lay in emphasising the drama, romance, and action of the film at the expense of sections of historical veracity.
The tribal divisions between the long ears (the rulers) and the short ears (the ruled) enable a convenient version of Romeo and Juliet, where the star-crossed lovers come from different clans. The central protaganist, played by Hollywood action star Jason Scott Lee (who in an earlier movie had played Bruce Lee), is given the opportunity to compete in the birdman (tangata manu) race, where his strength and athleticism can be foregrounded. The toppling of the moai - this film sees some of those, which have been broken, destroyed in a drive for perfectionism - provides moments of high drama and spectacle. Whilst the film's focus on the very last of the trees to be chopped down, which leads to a form of tree-hugging, reveals the narrative's Californiaised eco-politics and a subtext that employs the island as a parable of mankind's destructive nature.
Throughout this film the maoi loom large and are the production's most dominant image as can be observed from much of the marketing material. Here, whilst the maoi do not headline on the posters, they capture more of the promotional space and as the poster's narrative image are central to a promise of action and drama in which a monolithic stone figure is hauled into life.
Arguably the two most popular appearances of moai in film have been comic cameos in action-fantasy blockbusters. In the science fiction feature Mars Attacks! (1996), based on the trading cards and directed by Tim Burton, alien invasion includes the destruction of significant landmarks. In one brief sight-gag, the aliens treat a line of moai like skittles and bowl them over employing a giant bowling ball. The scene is short but for many is highly memorable.
More significantly, in the Night at the Museum films (2006, 2009 and 2014), a moai at New York’s Museum of Natural History comes alive after hours. This moai talks (but otherwise does not move) and repeatedly requests that he is given bubblegum. The humour is in the stupidity and in the simplicity and catchiness of the moai’s expressions: “dum-dum”,“gum-gum”, “fun-fun” and “son-son”. The nature of the statements, and the voice of this moai, suggests that this statue is devoid of intellect. Yet in most popular imaginings of the moai, in which they come alive, they are depicted as having a superior intelligence.
In one of the many musical numbers that were featured on The Muppet Show, a jazz-styled 'Hawaiian War Chant' is sung (in Hawaiian) by a variety of puppets. These include singing penguins, parrots and pigs in grass skirts in an animal melee that is overseen by a cliff top monkey that throws coconuts on the performers below. Predating the talking moai in Night at the Museum (see the review below) and the musical number in Histeria! (see the review above) is a singing moai, who not only speaks Hawaiian but says words such as "hubba hubba". Whenever moai speak or sing, they are given a deep voice, presumably as that matches their monolithic form. The guest star for this episode was Sylvester Stallone.
(no.28, September 1940, DC Comics)
Three fine pilots, Fog Fortune, Gunner Bill and Whistler Will are paid well to explore Easter Island, in an "attempt to discover who put those giant statues there". They fly to Easter Island in their three planes, but on arrival are warned by a resident foreigner to be careful of the Rapanui, as they "have grown resentful of white explorers".
The Three Aces establish a plan to chart the island by flying first over a mountain range and then into the "mysterious valley of the giants!", where on the ground they discover a row of monolithic stone carvings. Suddenly, the Three Aces are attacked by the Rapanui and, as the aviators retreat, Fog Fortune slips and falls off a cliff edge and on to a tree branch which functions as a lever causing a section of the cliff to open revealing a hidden tunnel. Deep inside they find a cave of fossilised giant men, and a chest of scrolls on which are written in Egyptian the secret of Easter Island.
The scrolls reveal that these giants tried to reach the moon, but their experiments unfortunately attracted a comet, which brought with it a deadly germ that turned the men into stone. As a smaller species of man, humans were unaffected and survived. The Three Aces find a way out of the cave, carrying the "precious scrolls" with them. Their delighted sponsor tells the Three Aces they will be given "full credit" for their discovery.
This is the earliest known comic to depict Easter Island. It is an action adventure that unites jungle fiction and fantasies of heroic pilots from an age in which the Pacific and aviation were very much associated with heroism, risk and exploration. The native Rapanui are referred to as "savages" and live within the jungle. They emerge from the dense vegetation and attack the Three Aces with bows and arrows, with one native depicted with a large ring through his nose. The geography of Easter Island is similarly of another land, with mountain ranges and a valley introduced that are more suited to a Tarzan adventure.
At a time when the perceived mysteries of the distant Easter Island fuelled myths related to a primary question of who could have created the monoliths, the Three Aces are tasked with solving the riddle and they do this easily, by accident and within a short 6-page story. The revelation that the moai are in fact fossilised giant men, make this comic the first fiction to reimagine the stone carvings as 'frozen' inhabitants of another time or place. The narrative that is established here indirectly equates the ancient race of giant men with the dinosaurs, who generally have been assumed to have been destroyed by an Earth-bound comet or meteor. The linking also of this race of giants to Egypt is brief (mentioned in just one sentence) but opens up fascinating questions as to why the comic felt the desire to work within the story this reference to another ancient civilisation.
Lance O'Casey is a "swashbuckling sailor of fortune" based in the South Sea port of Maloana. Looking for adventure he sails the seas in his schooner accompanied by his pet monkey, Mister Hogan. On this adventure, they are joined by Captain Doom, a pipe-smoking man with a big white beard. As they pass Easter Island, they realise that the beacon from the lighthouse is shining from the wrong place. They decide to investigate as there have been many ships wrecked recently in the region.
The wrecking of the ships has been planned by Weasel Wiggins, "one of the worst men in the South Pacific". He is based on Easter Island and aided by the subservient native islanders. Meanwhile, Lance, his monkey, and Captain Doom land on Easter Island and discover the moai and a tribe of small monkeys. Mister Hogan makes friends with these monkeys who help the simian scout the island. They find Wiggins and his gang, who shoot at the monkeys, alerting O'Casey and Doom to the danger, who then take refuge in a ruined altar.
A storm approaches and Wiggins sets the fake beacon to lure another ship on to the rocks. O'Casey, Doom and Mister Hogan manage to get the real lighthouse working and overpower a group of Rapanui who try to thwart their efforts. Mister Hogan is sent to destroy the fake beacon, whilst O'Casey and Doom fight with Weasel and more Rapanui on a nearby beach. This is two against many, with the odds stacked against O'Casey, but Mister Hogan and his fellow monkeys arrive to the rescue and help win the battle.
O'Casey and Doom help refloat the boat that has just been stranded on the rocks. At the same time Wiggins and his henchman try to escape on another boat, but that is wrecked on a sunken rock and they are killed by sharks. The heroes leave Easter Island and Mister Hogan bids a tearful farewell to his fellow monkeys. Later, it is revealed that Mister Hogan has sneaked on board the schooner a monkey girlfriend, a wife to be who will be named in the next issue.
At a time when popular culture had barely engaged with Easter Island and research/ studies had not be widely disseminated, this comic presents a fantasy that is far removed from reality. In essence, this is a pirate adventure, with Captain Doom speaking in pirate-talk, and Weasel Wiggins acting like a modern day wrecker, creating false beacons to lure ships to their demise. Precisely why, is never answered by the story. The manner in which Wiggins lords over the subservient Rapanui is out of tropical island fiction where a sole westerner creates a new lifestyle away from the city and as a figure superior to the natives.
The idea of a lighthouse on Easter Island is fanciful, bringing western technology to a story that otherwise presents the Rapanui as primitive. The lighthouse belongs to pirate fiction, whilst the 'native' monkeys have also been transplanted on to the island from another part of the world. Moreover, the Rapanui are of another continent, and are more African, or Afro-Caribbean, than anything else. They speak in pidgin, "what you tink?", says one; more worryingly, they are referred to as "blacks" at several points in the story. This is very much a boy's own adventure, with no men in the fiction and the only female being a monkey introduced in the final two frames of the story.
The moai appear on just page 3 of this 8-page story and are poor renditions of the carvings appearing here as just a few flat stones no taller than a human. As Captain Doom advises, nobody knows where they come from.
'Voyage of Mystery'
(no.12, May 1942, The Parents' Magazine Press)
1785, and French explorer La Pérouse is tasked by the King of France with a scientific expedition to the Pacific. La Pérouse's ship sails around the Pacific for three years including visits to Easter Island and Samoa. But then he disappeared and after 38 years the natives of a "tiny South Sea isle" gave the captain of a British ship a sword hilt bearing the initials of La Pérouse. Apparently, the French had been shipwrecked nearby in 1788, with some of the men leaving in a row boat never to be seen again, whilst those that remained "mistreated the natives" and died. The story ends with the question, "who will ever know the true end of La Pérouse and his voyage of mystery?".
This account of legendary sailor La Pérouse fills four pages of an educational comic that focused on illustrating true stories. This is the earliest known example of an educational Easter Island comic strip and it is revealing that the focus is on a white European as opposed to the Rapanui. In fact, the frames depicting La Pérouse on Easter Island (he had arrived on 9 April 1786) show no Rapanui, yet natives (as savages) appear in the frames devoted to Samoa, where La Pérouse's crew was attacked and twelve died. The title page for this story presents La Pérouse standing confidently in front of a moai with a sword in his left hand and a flag in his right hand as if the land has just been conquered.
As with other early comics attempting to illustrate the moai there is some distance between the drawings and the actual carvings. The mysterious moai serve to enhance the story of La Pérouse who disappeared somewhere in the Pacific. As La Pérouse declares, "those statues belong to a lost civilisation" and "what race of supermen carved these statues?". Unfortunately for a comic that aims to be educational it gives the impression that La Pérouse was the first European to sight Easter Island and that nothing was known in 1785, yet the Dutch, Spanish and British respectively had all visited the island earlier in 1722, 1770 and 1774 and had surveyed and documented aspects of the geography and culture.
The captain who was given the sword hilt was actually Irish and he captained the St Patrick. The anonymous "tiny South Sea isle" was in fact Tikopia, part of the Solomon Islands, with the ship wrecked on neighbouring Vanikoro. La Pérouse was the subject of a more extensive narrative in a 2013 French bande dessinées (see forthcoming review).
Super Magician Comics
'Blackstone Discovers the Lost Land of Lemuria'
(vol.2, no.5, September 1943, Street and Smith Publications)
Blackstone the magician is stranded on a floating island with his assistant, Rhoda, and their three native helpers, Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum. These three helpers are held enthralled by Rhoda, who wears a costume to make them believe that she is a sun goddess. With Blackstone's airplane fixed they plan to "hop" to Easter Island, which is "only a few hundred miles" from their current location. But they are jolted by a tremendous tidal wave, which picks up this small floating island with the team on board. They are transported by the wave to another, bigger island, which has suddenly been "lifted up from the ocean floor". Blackstone concludes that this is Davis Land (and Lemuria), a submerged continent, "which had disappeared a few centuries ago and was due to return".
A tribe, called the Kenawa, arrives by canoe on this resurfaced continent and they believe Blackstone is Hotu Matua, who has come from a land called Bolatu, "where nobody ever die". Blackstone performs a quick magic trick, using a seashell, to convince them of his power. Another tribe, called the Menehune, arrives by canoe and they are pacified by Rhoda, who makes them believe she is Namaka, "the great sea goddess". The two tribes are normally enemies, but Rhoda convinces them to be friends.
The team discover moai on the island and as Rhoda explores further she slips and falls into a volcanic crater containing a steaming asphalt lake; luckily she is rescued by Blackstone. The tribes are becoming uneasy, so Blackstone performs two more magic tricks to maintain his control. But the Kenawa chief discovers how one of the illusions was achieved, so Blackstone creates a further two magic tricks; unfortunately, this results in inter-tribal warfare. The tribes then turn on Blackstone and Rhoda as they think they are fakes. The magician and his assistant use a magic cabinet first to deflect the spears and then to enable their vanishing act.
The duo, chased by the angry tribes, arrives at a ring of moai. Astonishingly, the central moai comes alive and topples the other stone figures pushing over the natives. However, as this moai surges forward it stumbles on a rock, falls down and breaks open, revealing inside Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum. Blackstone says that he had earlier cased them in molded asphalt to make them look like a moai, and as part of another trick. The team runs for cover and a ship of passing whalers, "bound for the Antarctic", rescues Blackstone and Rhoda. Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum decide to stay on the island, and watch the two feuding tribes quickly annihilate each other. This leaves Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum as the new owners of Lemuria, as Blackstone and Rhoda sail off to their next adventure.
In terms of its racial depictions, this is without a doubt the most offensive of all moai culture comics. The cover image bears very little relation to the story inside, which stretches across an unusually long 34 pages. The native depicted on the cover is not featured within the story, there is no scene in which Blackstone hurls the skull of an ape-man, and there are no pygmies of Lemuria. There are, however, two Polynesian tribes who land on the resurfaced island of Lemuria and they are depicted as simpletons and savages, who either speak few words – a mixture of Hawaiian, Rapanui and a made-up language – or miraculously moments of English, where necessary for the story. Worse still, Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum are deeply racist thick-lipped black stereotypes. They are easily controlled buffoons who speak an awkward English and are designed to offer humour at their own expense. Blackstone is seen as Hotu Matua, who was actually Rapanui's legendary first leader and original settler, even though the magician is a white American. Here, the comic is probably borrowing from the voyages of Captain James Cook, who was apparently seen by the Hawaiians as their returning god, Lono.
Super Magician Comics began in 1941 and lasted for 56 issues until 1947, with Blackstone (based on the real-life magician, Harry Blackstone Sr.) appearing in many of the adventures where trickery helps to overcome threats and challenges. Yet the magic – the process for which is often explained to the reader – is crude and unconvincing and the situations full of holes. These include a barefoot Rhoda, surviving completely unharmed from a steaming volcanic crater and Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum manipulating a giant hollow moai made from asphalt. The story is more interested in emphasising racial stereotypes than exploring the moai and it is not until near the end that the stone figures have a narrative function.
The comic is, however, a very early and significant example of moai culture and is the first to imagine the moai coming alive, albeit as a trick. Such a fantasy would not be explored again for another twelve years, when it was then evolved into the idea of the moai as actual slumbering giants (see the review for House of Mystery below). The notion of a fake moai was also a first and was next explored in World's Finest Comics (1947), and more importantly in Laugh (1962; see the review below). Yet, the essential difference is that House of Mystery and Laugh introduced science fiction and alien encounters to their stories. In contrast, in the 1940s, moai fiction was focused on the natives as the unfamiliar beings in adventures that were closer to jungle narratives than anything conceived from outer space. In such stories, the mythical lost continent of Lemuria – a nineteenth century fantasy – serves as the basis for a repositioning of Easter Island and the moai as fictional remnants of this sunken civilisation. In Super Magician Comics, it is casually merged with the legendary land mass that English buccaneer, Edward Davis, supposedly found in 1687, whilst he was searching for a mythical new continent. To date just two other comics, Konga (review below) and Lion and Thunder (review below), have built into their story a Davis Land/ Davis Island.
World's Finest Comics
'The Boy Commandos – The Faces of History!'
(no.29, July 1947, DC Comics)
A freighter at sea is caught in a magnetic storm that renders the ship helpless, whereupon it is drawn up on to a reef around Easter Island and wrecked. In the morning, a gang of criminals emerge, headed by Rollo, introduced here as the "world's fattest man". They use machinery to offload the cargo and then set fire to the ship destroying all evidence, in an act of modern day piracy. The next day another ship is sailing through the Pacific with the Boy Commandos on board, which includes Rip, Andre, Brooklyn, from New York, and Texas, a Texan. They are on a mission to Easter Island, sponsored by a museum: "we promised the museum we'd bring back one of them!", states a team leader as they arrive on the island. The group stands in awe at the size and number of moai. They start to haul one of the moai ("weighing about 50 tons") towards their ship, employing a crane and ropes, but they are suddenly halted by Rollo's gun-carrying thugs.
The unseen Texas swings into action on his lasso and temporarily helps to stop the thugs, but he and Rip fall from a severed rope and onto the face of the moai they were trying to haul. They crash through the face of the moai, which is exposed as false and hollow, with inside a secret control room and look-out post. The rest of the team are outnumbered and overpowered. Rollo explains his "diabolical" operations and his underwater electromagnet that is switched on at night and is "powerful enough to attract any metal object two miles away!". The magnet is powered by steam from deep inside the island's volcano, where the captured members of the team are now taken and suspended over its edge from a rope on a crane's slowly descending winch.
They are left dangling as a cargo-laden ship is spotted, which distracts Rollo and his gang. Whilst they are gone, Rip and Tex rescue their colleagues. To stop the wrecking of the ship the team then start rolling boulders over the volcano's edge to block the steam. At the shore, the Boy Commandos attack Rollo's gang and this time win. Rollo escapes in a boat, free to appear in another story. Back on their own ship, the Boy Commandos have new cargo – Rollo's thugs as prisoners and a moai that they have taken from the island.
In only the second DC comic to visit Easter Island, a key question that persists for the writers is who built the moai and why. The story is dominated by the dastardly actions of Rollo, but the moai are also largely centralised, featuring prominently on the title page and opening the narrative with the statement, "mystery of the ages!": "why and when were the great stone heads placed in this remote isle, looking out to sea?". Removing the native islanders from the narrative allows the myth of creation to grow. At least the earliest-known comic depicting Easter Island – 'Three Aces' in Action Comics (see the review above) – had presented the Rapanui. That said, the 'Three Aces' story is so problematic/ offensive in its depictions of the Rapanui, that their absence entirely from that fiction would have been preferable.
Despite a cover with Batman, Robin and Superman, none of the DC superheroes were yet to visit Easter Island, a location that would later become popular for DC. This would have to wait until 1954 and a story involving Wonder Woman (see the review below). Instead, the Boy Commandos, none of whom have superpowers, are left to halt the criminal actions of Rollo, a mastermind who would not be out of place in a Batman adventure. Written in 1947, when political correctness was seemingly much less of an issue, Rollo's deviousness is partly defined by his obesity. For he is man so overweight that he has to be carried and moved around by machinery. This man is described as a "bizarre figure" and "a massive blob of flesh so immense that he cannot walk". Strangely, the fake and hollow moai that is hauled is described as weighing "50 tons", and the evil genius Rollo has a magnet that can attract metal ships from two miles away, which seems pointless when considering Easter Island's isolation and the lack of ships that would have sailed that close to the land (particularly one that is described here as abandoned).
Rollo and the leaders of the museum expedition wear pith helmets, suggesting the foreign (and perhaps tropical) challenges faced by these adventurers. The helmets also suggest a colonial presence on an island that is described as "lonely", and from which the expedition plans to take a moai – without, of course, any permission. The tragedy of such cultural plundering is unwittingly reinforced in the final frame of the story, which states that the team with its moai onboard sails for home "peacefully".
‘The Time Travelers’
(no.7, October 1951, Michel Publications/ American Comics Group)
Dr Tom Redfield owns a spaceship, which he uses for time-travelling adventures. Professor Brice of Central University asks Redfield to travel back to the year 750 to Easter Island to gather answers about the creation of the moai. Accompanied by his girlfriend Peggy, Tom lands on an island “swarming” with warriors. To blend in, Tom and Peggy change into Polynesian floral-patterned clothes. “It shoudn’t be hard to slip into the main camp now!”, says American Peggy. As an added advantage, the time machine allows Tom and Peggy “to understand the language of any place we visit”. As they approach the main camp they find a row of moai in a straight line, as Tom notes unlike the scattered moai in the photo shown to them by Professor Brice.
The warriors are not native to the island but invaders from Rotuma and they cannot sail home until they have made “a suitable sacrifice to our gods!”, who will give them the favourable winds they need for their voyage. The warriors start with a firewalk over hot coals, but within the frenzy Peggy is separated from Tom and her disguise is exposed. This is particularly dramatic as she is the only woman amongst men. Peggy is given a hypnotic drink by Tarako – the leader of the warriors and chief of the Rotuma Federation – who desires Peggy as his queen
Peggy exposes Tom as an outsider and he fights off the warriors by throwing at them the burning coals. But he is thwarted by Peggy and subsequently becomes the necessary sacrifice to the gods. Tom is strung between two moai with a fire lit beneath his dangling body. He is saved by using his remote control to turn on the turbo boosters of his spaceship which blasts a wall of air, “moving at two hundred miles an hour”, setting Tom free. The blast also scatters the moai, which are still upright but no longer in a straight line.
Meanwhile, Tarako and his war party have journeyed to Peru and the gold-laden city of Cuzco where, on the snowy slopes of the Andes, he and Peggy dream of enslaving one hundred thousand Incas. The Incas fear the Rotuman invasion but are saved by Tom’s spaceship, which zooms past and creates an avalanche that wipes out many of the Rotuman warriors. The grateful Inca princess, Lanura, rewards Tom with a passionate kiss. Tom proceeds to lead the Incas to triumph over what remains of the invading Rotumans. He also defeats Tarako and threatens to kill him unless he releases Peggy from the spell. She is restored to Tom by a powder and Tarako returns “peacefully” to his islands, whilst Tom and Peggy fly home.
One of the very earliest comics to fictionalise Easter Island, this adventure owes much to the popular weekly cinema serials of the time. These were noted for their impossible situations and last minute dramatic escapes, improbable technology, romance, resourceful heroes and stories of women needing to be saved. Popular culture’s fascination with Easter Island began to really emerge in the 1940s at a time when the islands of the Pacific were becoming increasingly important and less remote for American audiences. With Easter Island still very much an enigma for many foreign writers and readers, it is not surprising that this comic takes great freedom in its storytelling and imagines the small Polynesian island of Rotuma as being a mighty warrior nation. They are all-conquering across the Pacific – for them there are no more islands “left to conquer” – and even up to the Peruvian coast where their next assault is on the Inca Empire. This amalgamation of cultures into a single story includes firewalking, which has been practiced in parts of Fiji, feathered headbands, and Rotuman canoes with moai prows. The story can even be read as presenting the construction of the row of moai on the beach as part of Rotuman culture.
The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific and Pacific rim feature in most of the frames in this story, but yet again the Rapanui are marginalised and are entirely removed from Easter Island. They are not even mentioned in dialogue. Instead, there is one row of moai, which the story presents as positioned contrary to how they are scattered over the island today. As Tom declares after activating his spaceship’s rockets, “every one of the idols has been shoved out of position by the blast – exactly as they’ve been found by explorers in modern times!”. In fact, in reality, the moai are both “scattered” and in lines, but on ahu, or platforms. Moreover, the moai are not as old as the year 750, as this story posits.
'The Secret of Easter Island!'
(no.16, January 1952, DC Comics)
An archaeologist has a desire to solve the mystery of the moai. In order to fund his expedition to Easter Island he is accompanied by a friend's wealthy father and some of his rich business associates, who have little interest in the cultural and scientific aspects of the trip. On the island, the archaeologist blasts charges on a slope and uncovers a buried metal crypt. Behind its door the diverse group of four humans discover a "great hall of mysterious relics". They also find two extra-terrestrials, with faces resembling the moai, who awake from their slumber and through telepathy offer the men gifts of whatever they desire.
The archaeologist asks for knowledge so that he may understand who these visitors are, where they are from and the purpose of their visit to Earth. He is told, "Our civilisation on a planet of the star Sirius was a great one! We desired to civilise all other worlds in the universe". In a flashback, an exchange occurs between two aliens as the original spaceship approaches earth: "A beautiful world this third planet - but still barbaric", "Yes, but we can civilise its people – the science we teach them will bring them peace and plenty!".
The spacecraft subsequently lands not on the Easter Island as we know it today but on the mythical Pacific continent of Mu, of which Easter Island was the highest point. The inhabitants of Mu create moai statues resembling the extra-terrestrials which were located on the top of Mu's highest mountain. The islanders were offered advanced technology but did not use it wisely. As an alien informs, "we taught the people of Mu, giving them great scientific secrets...But they misused their powers to fight each other, and unchained a terrible disaster! […] They were not worthy of their knowledge!".
One aspect of the "terrible disaster" was the flooding of underground volcanoes and the sinking of Mu into the sea, leaving only the highest mountain still visible above the ocean. As Mu all but disappeared the indigenous population was wiped out leaving only the extra-terrestrials, who put themselves into a state of suspended animation in the hope that future generations would discover them and that these, hopefully, more advanced humans would be 'worthy' of the knowledge and powers that could be shared.
Two of the other men accompanying the archaeologist ask for wealth, which is given in the form of diamonds and strength, the latter provided via a 'Z-ray' that stimulates the growth of muscle tissue. The final man asks for the power to control others, which comes via a 'psycho-helmet' which would allow him to command anyone near him. The man with the 'psycho-helmet' attempts to gain all of the extra-terrestrials' powers and threatens to destroy them if they do not cooperate.
It transpires that the giving of the initial powers had been a test to see how humans would use, or misuse, them. Once again, the human race is seen to be not yet worthy and the extra-terrestrials return to their state of suspended animation, having erased the memories of the three men who failed their test. Only the archaeologist who simply asked for knowledge is praised by the extra-terrestrials. He is allowed to keep his knowledge of them and their mission, but only on the condition that he tells no-one else. In the final frame of this story the archaeologist asks himself, "How long before they wake again? How long before Earthmen are wise enough to receive the scientific powers of those who sleep beneath Easter Island?".
Oddly, the front cover illustration to this comic depicts humans being threatened by an aggressive-looking alien with moai features, who declares "You have betrayed the secret of Easter Island! Now – await your doom!". As with many other publishers of comics there is a perception that greater financial returns can be achieved from appealing to the stereotype of threatening, combative aliens rather than more peaceful and beneficial encounters. In fact, the visitors from outer space described in the pages inside are far from aggressive. Apart from being unusual in presenting extra-terrestrials in a more positive light this storyline goes further than most other comics of the time in providing a back-story for the origins of not only the moai but also Easter Island itself and the fate of the original human inhabitants.
This narrative can be read as a form of morality tale concerned more with the frailties of the human characters than the advanced abilities of the extra-terrestrials. Published just seven years after the end of World War II and during the early years of the Cold War it can also be read as a tale of unease and an inability to trust human intentions. For technology can equate to power, but as advances are made there are serious questions as to whether humankind exhibits sufficient responsibility to harness it appropriately. The story warns that any abuse of the technology will lead to destruction.
There is a brief mention of tablets containing "ideographic script" which the archaeologist has deciphered, but this early comic book reference to rongorongo is undeveloped. The opening page also presents the archaeologist within a San Francisco museum, where he stands staring at a moai on display. Comics up to this date had generally depicted the moai as distant objects. This is the first time in a comic that a moai is shown on display within a western institution, though the carvings continue to be regarded as mysterious: "the greatest secret of the past – I could solve it, but no one is willing to give me a chance", says the archaeologist. As popular culture was starting to discover Easter Island it was convenient for the moai to remain unfamiliar and devoid of their real cultural and historical context. In doing so, fiction could populate the void with its broad fantasies.
'Tommy Tomorrow – The Easter Island of Space!'
(no.180, May 1953, DC Comics)
The story begins with a reference to Easter Island, with its "weird, giant statues" existing as "one of the greatest mysteries of all time". Fast forward to the future and Colonel Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers, who "tries to solve the perilous puzzle of The Easter Island of Space!".
Astronomer Dr John Garrow observes through his telescope a strange new planet, a "cosmic mystery" and "a world such as no one ever dreamed could exist!". It lies in an "unexplored sector" and is considered inhabited or "was so once!". Believing it may contain "valuable scerets", Tommy and fellow Planeteer, Brent Wood, are assigned to fly Garrow and his assistant Kaimes to the new world. Garrow is hiding from the Planeteers the full details of what he saw through his telescope and Kaimes proposes that any secrets they may find should belong to them only.
Travelling through a meteor storm, they arrive at a "weirdly silent world" where in the sky above are three moons each bearing giant faces, which have been carved into their rock. Tommy says that they remind him of the moai on Easter Island. They discover an abandoned and destroyed city, whereupon a television screen is automatically activated.
The transmitted message warns the team of the evil of Tarnach, which had wrecked the metropolis. Tarnach was a great but evil scientist who desired power and was therefore exiled from the planet to the third moon. Promising revenge, Tarnach then set about carving his terrifying image into the rock of the third moon, which then in an attempt to gain control fired atomic bolts from its eyes at his home planet. The planet's remaining great scientists, Karrul and Dorn were sent to this moon and they managed to destroy Tarnach but they were mortally wounded in the fight. The inhabitants of the planet evacuated for another world, but first they carved the faces of Karrul and Dorn into the other two moons as monuments to the deceased heroes.
Kaimes imagines how powerful he could be in possession of Tarnach's weapons so that night he steals Tommy's rocketship to fly to the third moon. There he starts firing on his marooned comrades. Tommy realises they can use "space-sleds" left by the previous inhabitants and he and Brent fly these straight into the eyes of the moon's face. As the eyes explode, Tommy and Brent use hand-rockets to parachute to safety. They climb inside the mouth of the moon face where Kaimes is found inside. A hand-rocket thrown by the Planeteers brings a rock fall crashing down on to Kaimes. Tommy and Brent flee the cave-in and escape in their spaceship. Reflecting on their visit to the newly discovered world, the Planeteeers conclude that "those great faces will watch it forever, as they have watched it for ages!".
On the surface, Easter Island is a tangential reference point for this outer space fantasy. It is never depicted, and mentioned in just three separate frames, with the moon faces more reminiscent of Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon (1902). However, the writers of this comic clearly had Easter Island firmly in mind when constructing their story. The new world that is discovered is faraway and in a previously unexplored space sector. The vastness of the Pacific is swapped here for the vastness of the galaxy, with the new planet abandoned by its population who have left behind monumental giant faces carved into rock, that look across the silent terrain. By the early 1950s, the possibilities of Easter Island for popular fiction led to an opening up of new adventures, which saw this comic take an immediate broad turn to extend the fantasy far into outer space.
'The Girl of Steel'
(no.189, June 1953, DC Comics)
The father of one of Superboy's classmates, Lana Lang, is an archaeologist who has recently returned from Easter Island. Whilst there he uncovered a small belt made of strange metal, which Lana tries on and in doing so immediately acquires new powers. She now has the ability to fly and lift heavy objects (the device has "anti-gravitational powers") and be invulnerable to bullets (the device also has "anti-magnetic qualities"). The belt proves Lana's father's theory that the carvers of the moai were extra-terrestrials. As he tells a fellow archaeologist, "I believe these were carved by a race of superior people, who landed here many years ago from another planet". Alongside the belt they also discover a space helmet.
Lana discovers that her new powers make her almost like Superboy, so she fashions herself a costume and becomes a superhero, Sky Girl, saving Smallville from crime and danger. This provides competition for Superboy's heroism, but Sky Girl is vulnerable to heat and wood.
Superboy discovers that Lana is behind Sky Girl and speaks with her father who suggests the belt is destroyed. The belt is hurled by Superboy, "far out into space".
The storyline develops around the superpowers Lana Lang temporarily acquires as a result of wearing a special belt. The original owners, the extra-terrestrials, are never shown but are established to be a highly advanced race: "people thousands of years ahead of us in scientific development". The moai appear in a single frame but they are a poor rendition of the actual stone figures – a symptom of a time when popular culture's myths of Easter Island were primitive. Yet, as comics were beginning to incorporate Easter Island into their narratives the distant civilisation clearly functioned as an easy tool for introducing technology and powers that were found nowhere else on earth. In this story, the powers are comparable to those of Superboy, a refugee from another planet.
Like many of the comics of this period, romance is also a central element of the story with the belt briefly giving Lana equality alongside the young Clark Kent, whom she idolises. The independent young girl is soon, however, contained by masculinity with her father and Superboy agreeing to permanently remove the device that gave her the special powers.
'The Stone Slayer!'
(no.65, April 1954, DC Comics)
Important scientists have started to disappear – eleven so far – and if their knowledge fell into enemy hands it would be "catastrophic to America!". In a military intelligence projection room a film is screened that mysteriously shows there is a stone carving of Wonder Woman on Easter Island, despite the fact she has never been there before. Wonder Woman, accompanied by military man Steve, flies to Easter Island in her special jet, where en route they witness an ocean liner being lifted into the air in 4 severed parts, damaged as a result of quadruple lightning strikes. Wonder Woman lassos the parts together again and lowers the liner back to the ocean surface and to safety.
Once on Easter Island, Wonder Woman and Steve gaze upon the moai and question how and why they were built. But they are suddenly paralysed by rays shot from the eyes of the Wonder Woman statue. A door opens from within the statue and men with giant heads emerge taking the captive Wonder Woman and Steve down a staircase, deep inside and into "a huge underground chamber". There they discover the kidnapped scientists and Wonder Woman is told that she has been lured to the island through the statue of her, which was constructed as a decoy. These large-head men reveal they are from the planet Lapizuria and another solar system. They had come to Earth as an advance party to observe the planet before an invasion force arrives, but they crashed into the sea off Easter Island.
The moai were constructed in their likeness as a signal to fellow Lapizurians that they were marooned on Earth. Passing ships were attacked simply as target practice in preparation for the invasion, and the scientists were then kidnapped to help the aliens build a spaceship. The scientists did not possess the necessary knowledge, but through telepathy the aliens learnt from their captives that Wonder Woman was the sole person on Earth who did possess spaceship-building knowledge. Wonder Woman refuses to help and is told she must therefore die.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, a Lapizurian spaceship arrives, the aliens decide that as they depart they should destroy Wonder Woman by tying her between the spaceship lifting off and her stone carving. The effect actually awakens Wonder Woman from her paralysis and she hurls the carving of herself at the spaceship which is destroyed and prevented from blasting further rays at Easter Island and the prisoners.
This was the first time Wonder Woman visited Easter Island, but it was not the last. She later visited the island in the comic Super Powers (1985), where yet again a stone figure was carved in her likeness (see forthcoming review), in an issue of the comic JLA (2000; see the review below), and in a children's animation, Justice League, in 2003, where she fought Aquaman (see the review above). The four fantasies produced across different decades reveal much about the evolution of Wonder Woman, the ways in which she has been drawn, and the narratives in which she featured in American popular culture.
In a world of male scientists and soldiers, Wonder Woman's power and knowledge are supreme, but she still acts within their service. The story contains fragments of a cold war narrative/fear, with kidnapped scientists, captives forced into building a spaceship, decoys and mindreading for gaining information. The final frame has Wonder Woman issuing a warning to the men (and to readers): "we all have to be constantly alert for a treacherous blow – no matter from whence it may come!".
Significantly, this is the first comic to associate the moai with a fear of alien (or foreign) invasion. It therefore needs to be noted that the origins of the thread of alien invasion moai narratives that runs through so many later fictions, commenced here with a cold war fear. It is also the first story to bring secret moai doorways, stairs and underground passages to the fiction, as well as the first to imagine the carvings as weapons and therefore as active rather than passive figures. The aliens in this story are more human looking than those that were to follow in other fantasies, and these are funny-looking kilt and cap wearing men that seem part Scottish and part Egyptian, albeit with very large heads that would surely unbalance their bodies.
'Easter Island: Mystery Island of the Pacific'
(no.165, 31 March 1956, D.C. Thomson)
Topper was a British comic for children, printed on A3 tabloid size paper. Filling one complete page of this issue is a series of eight coloured stand-alone frames each detailing a specific fact about Easter Island. This is the earliest known British comic to engage with Easter Island and one of the earliest anywhere to relay educational information. By the time of this comic, celebrated Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl had been on Easter Island for five months and was attracting interest in his work, which is repeated in one panel that states "it is possible that the first natives to settle on the island came by rafts from South America". But with the associated best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, not published until 1957, the Topper comic freely fills in gaps, makes many mistakes and employs some artistic licence to illustrate points.
For a British comic it is rather strange that Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen is presented but there is no mention of Captain James Cook. The moai are bizarrely shown singular on small and short square plinths and not the ahu (platforms) that are rather different. It states that each moai had a pukao (topknot), which is incorrect and this is repeated in the drawing for the moai that was taken by the British in 1868. In fact, moai Hoa Hakananai'a, which the British stole aboard HMS Topaze, never had a pukao. The birdman race depicts the competitors racing ashore on a sandy beach with no sign at all of the reality of a steep rocky cliff. Here, a waiting elder is shown wearing a birdman hat, whilst the penultimate panel is wrong to say that "[t]he King and all his wise men died in captivity" following the Peruvian slave raids of 1862. Such narratives further romanticise a series of images that are designed to appeal to young readers.
Pepito 'L'Ile des Surprises' (no.43, 19 July 1956, Georges Lang)
Little pirate captain Pepito and his fellow buccaneers, Ventempoupe and Crochette, are stuck on an unknown island after their little boat sinks. They maintain a fire in the hope that they can be seen by their mother ship, the 'Peanut', and be rescued. A volcano on the island suddenly erupts resulting in earth tremors and lava flowing towards the sea. The trio hurriedly build a raft but Ventempoupe sees they are being watched by a native and gives chase. He soon discovers it is a trap: he is ambushed by a group of natives and tied to a stake whereupon he finds they have already captured Crochette, but not Captain Pepito.
The buccaneers, the "white men", are blamed for the volcanic eruption and will be sacrificed. From Pepito's hiding place he hatches a plan to rescue his companions. He discovers what he believes are cannonballs and has the idea of firing them from a volcanic vent. Alas, these are found to be balls of cheese that splat on impact. Meanwhile, a flow of lava has burnt through the ropes restraining Ventempoupe and Crochette, setting them free.
Pepito restarts his cheese ball cannon, but the first missile lands straight in the face of a fleeing Crochette. The natives are not far behind and Ventempoupe and Crochette turn to face them and fight. They are backed up by Pepito and his cheese ball cannon which fires missiles at the natives. The trio now spy their ship, the 'Peanut', and race to the sea. They swim to a rescue boat, just managing to escape a shark which a sailor bashes on the head with an oar. The sailor declares he does not want to be told anymore about unknown islands for they have far too many unwanted surprises.
Pepito is an Italian comic book that began in 1955 and lasted just two years, but it was more popular in France, where issues were published for twenty-eight years. This edition is one of the earliest known French comics (the first is Le Téméraire, 1943; review forthcoming) to engage with Easter Island, though the place is never mentioned by name – it is simply an unknown island, or an island of surprises. However, populating this volcanic island is a series of stone heads, some of which bear a pukao (or topknot) as can be seen on the front cover. These are stone carvings inspired by the moai and are drawn in a style of modernism that was popular in the 1950s. Also of the period are the heavily stereotyped islanders whose difference is exaggerated as spear-carrying nose-pierced toothy simpletons or as primitive stone-age brutes who believe in human sacrifices to placate a volcano god.
Mystery In Space
'Riddle of the Runaway Earth!' (no.40, October-November 1957, DC Comics)
Archeologist Joel Cobb discovers an unusual machine within a moai. It transmits a telepathic message to him revealing the history of a race of aliens, with facial features resembling the moai. Exploring the universe they found only lifeless planets until they reached Earth, which at this distant time was the ninth planet of the solar system. Discovering primitive ape-men the aliens constructed a “cosmic engine” within the planet to move it closer to the sun as “warmed by the sun … those primitive creatures will evolve”. Leaving behind the moai as representations of themselves they departed to outer space. As Cobb discovers this the earth suddenly leaves its orbit of the sun, seemingly returning to its position as the ninth planet in the solar system. Cobb suspects this is because the alien’s cosmic engine has somehow become reactivated. Digging beneath the moai he discovers a vast chamber containing the engine. He deciphers the controls and fixes the Earth’s course. As the Earth returns to its original orbit Cobb learns that it is about to collide with a white dwarf star and manages to stop the planet just in time. Earth returns to its position as the third planet from the sun and Cobb realises that the unexpected movement of the planet was designed to avoid a collision with this star. He hides the chamber the machine inhabits and destroys his research to prevent something of such power being abused in the future.
This highly fantastic story, published in 1957, can be seen as an example of the common portrayal of the moai in comic books and science fiction as being closely linked to extra-terrestrials. The story ignores entirely Easter Island’s native population and history, instead choosing to view the presence of the moai on the island as a complete mystery. Within the tale the moai were created by benevolent aliens in their own image in order to show that they had visited Earth and also as a marker of the site of their hugely powerful technology. Therefore, this is a story that can be seen to be engaging with both the myth of power and the myth of creation in its treatment of the moai.
The story follows the common trope that suggests that as the moai are such huge and weighty creations whoever created them must be in possession of a vast amount of power. In this instance, this power extends as far as being able to move the Earth itself. Whilst the aliens within the story are depicted as using this power for good it is important to note that the story takes a dimmer view of the human race. The lead character decides to conceal the presence of the earth-moving technology fearing that, if revealed, it will be used irresponsibly. The comic also engages with the myth of the Easter Island archaeologist as a great adventurer and with the idea that there may be a hollow moai concealing a secret to the island's activities.
(no.1042, 3 April 1958, Editions J. Dupuis)
It is Easter Sunday 1722 and Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen and the crew of his three captained ships spy previously uncharted land, which they decide to call Easter Island. As Roggeveen deliberates how best to engage with the islanders, a canoe comes alongside and a sole Rapanui boards a boat. They give this "savage" a meal and he mistakes the knife and spoon as pendants and sticks one in each extended ear lobe. And unsure what to do with a glass of wine he throws the liquid into his face.
As night falls, the canoe is sent back with gifts to show the good intentions of the Dutch visitors. At dawn, the Dutch approach the island with care and realise that the giants that they saw from a distance are not the islanders but in fact stone statues, which they understand are the gods of the Rapanui. One sailor declares Rapanui to be a "funny island", whilst another says he is scared. They note that there are no trees and cannot comprehend the great achievement of making, transporting and erecting the moai.
A high priest invites Roggeveen and his crew to follow him up a slope and into a cave, where inside a crater they witness the place where the moai are created. They also discover a large example of rongorongo, which they cannot decipher. Meanwhile, the high priest has climbed the high ridge of the crater, where he then pushes a moai that begins to wobble. Fearing this is a trap, one of the sailors shoots at the high priest, and without any orders from Roggeveen. The sailor is reprimanded by Roggeveen and told he will be put in irons.
As Roggeveen and his men leave the crater they encounter an angry population shouting for the Europeans to die. Roggeveen orders his crew to be careful and to not shed blood needlessly. Back on board their ships, Roggeveen realises that they left their rations behind on the island and they cannot sail without them. His officer warns that they cannot go back as the population is enraged. Roggeveen says they will fire their cannons at the moai with the aim of demolishing two or three. This quells the unrest and, to placate the Dutch, the Rapanui send them canoes of food. In return, the Dutch leave the islanders fabrics and glassware, and treat the wounded high priest.
Roggeveen departs pondering the unanswered history of the island and wishes rongorongo could be deciphered. The modern-day host, pipe-smoking Uncle Paul, who heads the story, concludes by telling the reader that Jean-François Champollion had deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics and he asks who will translate rongorongo. Uncle Paul advises the reader that they can observe a
moai – one taken from the island by Pierre Loti in 1872 – by visiting the Museum of Man in Paris.
For a story that gives the impression it is educational, there are a worryingly high number of mistakes and fabrications. This French comic says Roggeveen saw Easter Island on 6 April, when it was 5 April. A high priest is shot and survives, with nobody dying, when in reality the Dutch shot and killed ten or twelve Rapanui (according to Roggeveen's own account). Moreover, the Dutch cannons in this story fire at and demolish three moai, when that definitely never happened. The official log of Roggeveen records that a sole Rapanui did board a Dutch ship, but no meal, cutlery or wine was given though it was recorded that the man was startled by a mirror where he saw his own reflection and that he was gifted the mirror, a pair of scissors and two strings of blue beads. A chief showed Roggeveen the site of plantation and food production but not Rano Raraku, as the comic imagines. Much of the encounter in this comic is an embellishment of Roggeveen's visit and at worse a fiction. Certainly, Roggeveen makes no record of rongorongo (or rock carvings of the birdman, which appear in one frame), but the comic is particularly interested in this aspect of the island's culture as it connects with and promotes the work of the French scientist Champollion (for a French readership).
Finally, the comic encourages readers to see for themselves a moai in Paris. Admittedly, the illustrations in this publication manage to capture a reasonable likeness of the moai but a visit to Easter Island (or better research) would have added to the resemblance. In this comic the moai are positioned all wrong – one balanced on the crater edge of Rano Raraku is especially dramatic but completely detached from reality. Presenting the moai singularly on high-raised plinths also removes them from the truth.
House of Mystery
'The Stone Sentinels of Giant Island'
(no.85, April 1959, DC Comics)
A group of scientists are sailing across the Pacific studying ocean currents. It is a route that many ships have sailed previously so they are surprised to sight an uncharted island. They land on the island and discover three giant stone head carvings which they note are reminiscent of those on Easter Island. When they investigate inland they find pools of seawater and marine vegetation. This leads them to conclude that the island must have risen from the ocean relatively recently, which only deepens the mystery of who had carved the statues.
One of the scientists finds an inscription that he is starting to decipher when there is a rumbling sound and the group are astonished to see one of the statues coming to life with its full body emerging from the earth. The scientists run away and are pursued by the monolith. They manage to hide in a cave where Spears, who had been deciphering the inscription, tells the others what he has learned. Many centuries ago the island had been part of the mainland where a spacecraft had landed and the aliens on board had built a dome-covered base that was protected by giant sentinels. These sentinels were needed to protect the base from dinosaurs and were powered by a ray from a distant star. When the aliens departed the sentinels remained to continue their guarding duties. Since that time the island had sunk beneath the sea, and being disconnected from the controlling ray the sentinels became immobile with silt and sand covering the lower part of their bodies.
Exploring the cave system they have entered two of the scientists find the alien base. Meanwhile, the other sentinels are also awakening. Spears is able to read instructions in the base's control room and activates a mechanism which produces clouds of blue smoke on the surface of the island. This acts as a barrier to the ray that has been powering the sentinels and they become immobile again. The scientists take this opportunity to make their escape. As they sail away from the island they see it sinking below the surface of the sea.
Whilst Rapanui is not named, this isolated Pacific island is clearly inspired by Easter Island, of which one of the scientists is reminded when he sees the stone monoliths. A common storyline in moai fiction is the imagining of the stone figures as slumbering giants. Significantly, this is the progenitor of that fantasy and within five months rival company, Marvel Comics, had established their own version of the fiction in Tales to Astonish (see review below). The root of the fantasy would appear to be in Thor Heyerdahl's best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, which was published just two years earlier in 1957. That book presented Heyerdahl's studies of the island and the moai, which included the excavation of some of the figures revealing that they had significant bodies extending below ground.
In moai fiction, the moai were yet to talk – that did not come until Tales to Astonish (September 1959). There is therefore no verbal interaction between the humans and extra-terrestrials, but the communication void is filled by the deciphering of a carved inscription that is undoubtedly a reference to rongorongo. Popular culture has fantasised that the inscription would helpfully reveal the answers to the perceived mysteries of the moai, and unlike the researchers who have spent decades trying to unlock the writing system the scientist in this story has the wonderful ability to understand what it says within minutes
With the indigenous population absent the story allows the moai to have a history that extends back into prehistoric times, where they are shown forming a defence against attacking dinosaurs. Such Pacific islands neither had nor could possibly sustain these dinosaurs, but the introduction of a beached sperm whale into the story (referred to here as a blue whale) allows for a demonstration of the moai's strength and guardian duties which requires that all beasts are repelled from the site. A whale-tossing moai is arguably the story's most unique moment.
Tales to Astonish
‘I Was Trapped By The Things on Easter Island’
(no.5, September 1959, Marvel Comics Group)
The first of two issues of Tales to Astonish that were drawn to the myths of Easter Island, this story was later reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell no.24 (October 1973; see the review below). The cover image here was largely retained for the reprint, with the only differences in the colours employed. But they have led to a significant change for the image, with the blue sky of this cover changed to red for the reprint and the yellow daytime sun changed to a night-time moon. The alterations have the effect of making the cover more sinister for the reprinted story in Where Monsters Dwell.
Tales to Astonish
‘Here Comes Thorr the Unbelievable’
(no.16, February 1961, Marvel Comics Group)
Marvel returned to the moai of Easter Island for the second time in Tales to Astonish, in a story set on an unnamed Pacific island. The story was reprinted in Where Creatures Roam no.3 (November 1970; see the review below), which features a cover similar to this one but with some interesting differences. The stone giant in Tales to Astonish is called Thorr, but he is changed to Thorg in the reprint – possibly because that name sounds more threatening, or more likely it was to avoid confusion with the superhero Thor, who first appeared in a Marvel comic in August 1962. The name change is the only alteration to the story.
When Marvel re-used the cover of a similar moai fantasy from Tales to Astonish no.5 (1959) for the cover of Where Monsters Dwell no.24 (1973) they simply altered the blue sky of daytime to a more ominous red sky. The same approach has occurred here, with the bright blue of the Pacific darkened for the later reprint. However, the image here has undergone additional changes that are more notable with the reprinted cover redrawn and the borders altered. For the reprint cover, Marvel have either added detail and extended the borders of the original image, or they have returned to a drawing which could have been trimmed when it was first employed for Tales to Astonish.
The reprinted cover for Where Creatures Roam has added two rowboats to the bottom of the image, indicating both the party’s arrival and a route for their escape. Four additional figures – three in the bottom left corner around the boats and another falling off the top of Thorr/Thorg – appear on the cover of Where Creatures Roam, but are absent here. Meanwhile, Tales to Astonish has an additional figure of a man standing on the head of a second stone giant and firing a gun at Thorr/Thorg – which is missing from the cover for Where Creatures Roam. Removing this character renders the humans defenceless and without firepower. On the cover for Tales to Astonish, the character that tells the group that they had been warned not to awaken the giant is an intrepid female, but the responsibility for relaying that statement is switched on the cover of Where Creatures Roam to a fleeing man, and in doing so silences a previously vocal woman. The zoomed-out image on the cover of the later comic also adds a smoking volcano to the left side of the frame. An erupting volcano is part of the fiction, but the large group of companions has nothing to do with the story inside which features just an archaeologist and his wife who travel to the island alone.
Tales of Suspense
‘Back from the Dead!’
(no.28, April 1962, Marvel Comics Group)
Later republished in Chamber of Chills no.11 (July 1974; see the review below) and Tomb of Darkness no.16 (September 1975; reviewed below), the moai of Easter Island are featured on this cover in the top left corner of the 4 frames. The covers for the later reprints both take creative liberties and introduce a woman that is not present in the story. This cover image is the most faithful to the story and is the only one to feature the old man who commands the slumbering moai to rise. Marvel’s sister title Tales to Astonish, which also ran between 1959 and 1968, published two further moai-inspired fantasies that saw the stone figures come alive.
'The Lost Worlds'
(no.7, July 1962, Charlton Comics)
Professor Trams relays the legends of lost continents: of Mu, Lemuria and Atlantis. Focusing on Atlantis, Trams says that some believe that it existed and that "people of the lost land survived!". Trams takes the reader next to Central America and the mighty Mayan civilisation to present evidence of the survival of the Atlanteans. The Spanish conquistadors had destroyed much of ancient Mayan culture, but in 1930 a Brazilian scholar translated a rare preserved Mayan manuscript. The text revealed that the Mayan's ancestors had long ago survived the sinking of their homeland. Professor Smart turns to the Olmec heads of Mexico and the moai on Easter Island as further proof of a once formidable lost world. He concludes by stating, "some feel that Easter Island was the burial ground for a chain of lost islands that vanished soon after being discovered by Captain John Davis in 1687. And so we leave the answers to you. Did the lost worlds really exist?".
Drawn by Steve Ditko, who was later to join Marvel Comics and help create Spider-Man, this short 3-page story is presented as a fact-based history lesson that is designed to create more questions (the final image ends with a giant question mark) than answers and to raise the fascination of its readership in an unfamiliar part of the world. Professor Trams (which is 'Smart' written backwards), smoking his pipe, standing next to a globe and appearing in various headshots at points in the story, is a man of knowledge and a figure of authority who guides the reader through the 'facts' much like the narrator or guide in a documentary film.
Mu is mentioned, but surprisingly is abandoned for Atlantis as the story's focus for the legends of lost Pacific lands. The buccaneer Edward Davis, appears here as John Davis and he is credited with discovering "a chain of lost islands", which mixes some fact with plenty of fiction. Davis was searching for a mythical new continent and seemed to have discovered a new island, which he called Davis Island in 1687. It is that discovery that inspired the voyage of Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who was then acknowledged as the first European to encounter Easter Island in 1722. The fantasies that Davis Island opens up are rarely developed in moai culture and the possibilities have occurred on just two other occasions, in Super Magician Comics (see the review above) and the British comic Lion and Thunder (see the review below).
Justice League of America
'The Challenge of the Untouchable Aliens!'
(no.15, November 1962, DC Comics)
Phantom stone creatures emerge and disappear out of nowhere. They can touch objects on Earth, but earthlings cannot connect back leaving the Justice League of America (JLA), with their assembled superpowers, unable to fight effectively. The JLA in this comic are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, J'onn J'onzz, the Atom and Green Arrow.
High above the Earth in a Sky Fortress, a new American defence system is being tested which can rapid-fire nuclear shells thereby intercepting and destroying incoming missiles. Before, however, the test can begin it comes under attack from an unseen force, leaving the people inside falling out of the sky. Superman and Wonder Woman are on hand to help catch the hurtling humans who are placed back on board the fortress whilst it is gently brought back to earth. But neither can stop the atomic cannon from being stolen by the invisible force. The cannon is now turned on a skyscraper, leaving Flash to evacuate the entire building in quick time. Wonder Woman and Superman next focus on the missile from the failed test, which is lassoed and thrown into outer space, and then on the cannon, which is crumpled beyond use.
An emergency meeting of the JLA is called where they learn that the USA, the Soviet Union and "England" have had their "most destructive weapons" stolen. The message also alerts them to sightings of stone giants in three global cities. The JLA split into three teams to investigate.
J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern and Aquaman arrive in Tokyo, where they see a stone giant staring skywards. He has been waiting for a nuclear missile to arrive. The JLA attempt to send the missile away from harm and into outer space but they are initially stopped by the giant. Another giant is found under the sea firing nuclear missiles and is attacked by Aquaman. The trio succeed in containing the threat, but all are now in the clutches of the two giants. Then suddenly the giants disappear, releasing the trio.
Next, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Atom arrive in Brasilia, Brazil, where they find two stone giants waiting. Strange lightning follows, commencing a defence system that coats the city with a material that protects it from foreign attack. The system has been activated, as a weapon within the clouds is causing a rain to fall that would otherwise dissolve the city. The JLA intervenes to try and halt the rain, but they are hindered again by the giants. The Atom manages to switch off the rain machine but as he falls back to earth he is caught in a giant's fist. Wonder Woman and Superman are held too by a stone fist before all three superheroes are abruptly released as the giants disappear.
At Central City, Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern find the giants using another stolen device, pushing this one into the ground and causing an earthquake. Green Lantern grows multiple hands, which manage to hold the shaking city buildings together. Batman and Flash go after the giants but they are caught in the stone fists unable to fight back. Green Lantern is powerless too as the giants go after him with the aim of stealing his magic ring. He lets them have his ring but he has willed it inert and as part of his plan the giants now disappear to their own dimension. There, the ring probes the giants' minds allowing Green Lantern to understand the situation.
A few days before, the giants had exploded a cobalt bomb at the same time and place as Earth had detonated a nuclear bomb. The giants live in another dimension alongside Earth, separated by just a single minute. The simultaneous exploding of the two bombs created a shift in the time continuum. The giants are scientists (six of them), who have now been able to peer into the human dimension of Earth for the first time. The minute that separates the two worlds is narrowing and the three cities of impact that would lead to an immense nuclear holocaust are where the giants have appeared and intervened, trying to destroy the human cities first.
Batman, Flash and the Green Lantern, with the help of Lantern's ring now enter the dimension of the giants where they try to move these alien cities out of the way, whilst also battling the monoliths. The giants plead with the JLA to stop fighting and listen, because if they manage to move the cities everything will be destroyed in both worlds. Quick-thinking Green Lantern realises that he can save both worlds if he simply resets Earth back to the one minute that separates the two dimensions. All is saved and the grateful giants thank the JLA.
By late 1962, there had been a small rush of Marvel comics depicting the moai in fantasies where they come alive and as stone giants threaten helpless humans. Whilst Easter Island is not directly referenced in this comic, the depiction of these stone giants bears sufficient connection to the moai, who act here as figures trying to warn the Earth about the unfolding global crisis as a result of nuclear testing. 1961-1962 was a particularly acute period in the Cold War with the arms race and strategic missile deployment creating an increased fear of permanent and catastrophic world damage, that this comic reflects. In a tale of nuclear destruction it is no coincidence that one of the cities of concern in this story is Tokyo.
'The Jaguar – The Immortal Alien'
(no.141, December 1962, Close-Up, Inc.)
Archaeologists digging on Easter Island believe they may have found the answer to the origins of the moai. Major Kress's theory is that the statues had been built by aliens in their own image. Unfortunately, Kress died in a shark attack off Easter Island. Excavating beneath a moai the team find a sarcophagus made from volcanic rock, from which suddenly emerges alive an alien whose head resembles the stone carvings.
The creature of curiosity is taken to the USA, where scientists test and examine it "before we take him on a world tour!". The alien's body is made of "indestructible metal", which survives experiments in which a hand grenade is exploded and flames are introduced to a testing chamber. Superhero The Jaguar, has been watching these experiments and decides to introduce his own – poison gas. This makes the moai panic and run, as it speaks for the first time "no!". The Jaguar grabs the moai and rips open its metal 'body', revealing inside Major Kress. His plan, along with two associates, had been to collect "millions" from being exhibited globally and then to disappear.
In the decade since 1952, when a comic had become the first to visualise the fanciful idea that the moai and aliens are connected, there had been a handful of stories that had explored the possibilities of extra-terrestrials within moai culture fiction. Despite its simplicity, this comic takes an original alternative approach and counters those stories presenting the notion that such thoughts of aliens is hokum. Of the countless comics that have since followed, the revelation that an archaeologist/ scientist is responsible for enhancing or manufacturing the mysteries of Easter Island has been rarely repeated and can be found in a much later adventure involving Scooby-Doo (see the review below).
The fake alien moai in the Jaguar story chalks a series of hieroglyphics onto a blackboard; an early comic book depiction of rongorongo. Under the watchful gaze of a group of white male experts, who are not "able to decipher his hieroglyphic language", there is talk of taking this wonder on a world tour. It evokes the way that first encounters saw inhabitants of new lands taken on western ships, whereupon their cultural and biological difference was exhibited on foreign stages.
'Ile de Pâques: Mystérieuse et Sauvage'
(no.209, October 1963, Dargaud)
Appearing in a French comic that was best known for introducing popular characters such as Astérix, this double page centre spread presents a full colour illustrated education map of Easter Island. Post publication of Thor Heyerdahl's best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, in 1957, there was greater knowledge available for comics that wished to be educational, as opposed to fictional, in their narratives. This is clear in one side image in this double spread that shows a moai head consisting of a much larger body below ground, a fact established through Heyerdahl's excavations of a number of the carvings. Furthermore, it is clear in a series of images on the right side of the page that illustrate one of the theories tested by Heyerdahl as to how the moai were raised into position.
Much of this comic is accurately drawn and labelled and includes good illustrations of rongorongo, moai kavakava and even Makemake, though the carvings of the birdman at Orongo have erroneously been given an extra leg. Further errors include a pukao being moved by just two men, and many of the moai depicted facing out to sea, albeit they function here as simple icons showing specific locations. Tellingly, the map and images are historical and show the Rapanui and its culture in the past. It is frustrating that the people and culture of contemporary Rapanui are apparently of no interest for a text that was aiming high in its educational value.
Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 'How Lois Lane Fell in Love with Superman!' (no.53, November 1964, DC Comics)
Lois Lane is assigned to cover earthquakes on a remote jungle island and her editor arranges for Superman to fly her there. Upon arriving, Superman loses his powers due to a discovered piece of kryptonite. The island features large moai-like statues and is populated by oversized plants and creatures. Superman is required to use ingenuity rather than his powers to protect Lois. This impresses Lois and they kiss, but as they do a snake attacks them. Superman manages to defend Lois, but is bitten by the snake. The bite has no harmful effect though and Superman discovers his powers have returned.
In this comic book, the moai feature in a single panel of artwork. For the purposes of the story they are situated on the fictional Bamboo Island. Unlike many comic book stories featuring the moai this one offers no thoughts on their presence, and nor does it depict them as living creatures or of extra-terrestrial origin. Instead, they function purely to demonstrate the foreign, mysterious and, therefore, threatening nature of the island. This is reflected in Lois Lane’s remark “I want to film them!”, which positions the statues as objects of curiosity. This comic is therefore a clear example of how the moai became shorthand for denoting the exotic and the mysterious in Western Culture.
‘The Island of Buried Warriors’
(no.13, January 1965, Dell Publishing)
An earthquake strikes near the deserted Stonehead Island in the Pacific. Fearing the “famed statues” may be destroyed before their secret has been solved, an ultra modern hydrofoil, called ‘Explorer’, rushes to the location. On board are Dr Henry Dodd, his daughter, two grandchildren, and Kona, ‘Monarch of Monster Isle’. The hydrofoil’s rudder is damaged in a tidal wave and as the gang attempts to steer the craft they are attacked by a giant tentacled sea creature that pulls Kona under the water. Kona breaks free and climbs back on board the hydrofoil, just before a second tidal wave strikes that pushes the helpless craft up on to the shores of Stonehead Island, where they encounter many moai figures. As a pre-planned mechanism, water flows from behind resting moai and in doing so pushes them upwards forming a circle of stone heads that appear to be protecting a volcanic crater.
Suddenly from within the crater a group of giant kiwi birds surge forth. But they are called back to the crater by a native blowing on a conch shell. He commands the kiwi and they start to remove a water-proof covering that has been placed over many warriors: “long ear Polynesians […] considered extinct for five hundred years!”. They are the “mighty Akuns”, conquerors of all neighbouring islands who had the moai built by slaves. The warriors have since been under the covering inside the crater in suspended animation waiting their time to return to rule. Henry tries to rationalise with the Akuns that the world has moved on and the are no longer rulers, but they refuse to listen.
The kiwi birds attack Henry, his family and Kona and the Akuns throw a net over these foreigners. The leader of the Akuns blows again on his conch and giant albatrosses arrive. These are harnessed to the Akun’s outriggers and pull them at speed through the ocean, with Henry’s grandchildren on board as captives. Henry, his daughter and Kona give pursuit in their hovercar, a hexagonal-shaped airplane. The giant albatrosses attack the hovercar forcing it to crash.
Meanwhile, the Akuns arrive ashore startling the “pygmies of a primitive Pacific island”, who thought the Akuns were only legend. The Akuns tell them to submit or die. The pygmies quickly yield and the Akuns declare a tribute to the war gods and start to sacrifice Henry’s grandchildren. Shoved into an “escape-proof pit”, the helpless children see a wooden panel raised in a side wall, releasing into the arena a giant crab. Just in time, the hovercar arrives with Kona leaning down to grab the trapped children. The giant crab attacks the hovercar, but Kona fights back and delivers a fatal stab to the crustacean.
The Akuns, with the pygmies under their command, launch their outriggers for another island to conquer. Realising the power of the conch, Kona jumps from the pursuing hovercar into an outrigger and grabs the prized shell. Kona blows on the conch and directs the albatrosses to pull the outriggers back to Stonehead Island. There, the giant kiwi birds now under Kona’s control re-emerge and pierce the arms of the warriors with their long beaks injecting them with a fluid. This sends the warriors into a trance that directs them back into the crater where they will sleep for another seven thousand moons. The kiwi birds cover the warriors with the waterproof sheet and the albatrosses topple the moai.
Arguably the most creative and imaginative of all moai fiction, this fantasy seems inspired by the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in particular his prehistoric tale The Land That Time Forgot and his jungle adventures starring Tarzan. For Kona is a loincloth-wearing hero who leaps and swings from heights, controls animals (in this story birds) and fights giant creatures without hesitation. He is encountered by the Dodds family in the early Kona comics, when in a story that is indebted to Jules Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island, their blimp crashes on a lost prehistoric Pacific island of giant creatures. In later comics, like this one, Kona travels with the Dodds family to faraway lands.
This is a wondrous story of a giant squid-like creature attacking a hydrofoil and a giant crab attacking a flying car. The giant kiwi birds are particularly fanciful with their long beaks being re-imagined as giant needles for injecting drugs. In reality, the harmless kiwi bird is a small and rare semi-nocturnal animal native to New Zealand that has external nostrils on its beak for sniffing out food. In this story they are the guardians of an island that is clearly meant to be Easter Island.
The Easter Islanders could be viewed as being represented by the Akuns, long-eared warriors who had the moai constructed by slaves. These are, however, blue-skinned warrior people with no redeeming qualities, who seek to conquer and rule over a wide expanse of Pacific islands, whilst offering human sacrifices to their gods. This is in a manner similar to the mighty warrior Rotumans depicted in a 1951 Operation Peril comic also involving Easter Island (see review above). In these stories, the moai are associated with a powerful race of Pacific island warriors, but crucially there is a refusal to recognise the Rapanui people as the true creators of these impressive stone carvings. For the sake of popular fiction, Easter Island functions in this comic and many others as an abstract space. As this comic advises on its opening page this is a “silent, sinister island, populated only by huge stone faces of some alien people”.
Captain Marvel 'The Invisible Aliens' (no.1, April 1966, M.F. Enterprises)
On board a plane, Captain Marvel along with fifty passengers is caught in an electro-magnetic storm that forces them to land on a paradisiacal island. There, he discovers giant footprints and a colossal computer in the middle of a jungle. After deciphering an ancient tablet, he finds that the advanced civilisation that used to inhabit the island discovered the fourth dimension and was subsequently destroyed by ‘creatures’. A door opens and Captain Marvel enters the giant computer, where he meets these creatures who are shaped like giant stone heads, and battles them using his superpowers. The creatures are too strong and he is forced to escape through an underground tunnel. He makes his way back to the plane only to find the giant stone heads have encircled it and are asking the crew and passengers for help. Suspicious of their intentions, he follows them back to the computer where the giants ask the plane’s crew to seal a hatch, but when they become suspicious, the heads threaten to take them hostage in exchange for Captain Marvel. When the crew fight back, the heads beg for Marvel’s help as he is the only one who can help them get back to their own dimension. Captain Marvel agrees and helps to send them back home by using his body as a lightning conductor; in return, the giants help to teleport him back onto the plane.
M.F. Enterprises, who published this comic, were a minor outfit who began with this particular edition and had collapsed by the end of the following year. Captain Marvel was originally the name given to Fawcett Comics’ character between 1940 and 1953; M.F. Enterprises took the name and conceived a different superhero, most notably one who is capable of splitting his body into different parts. Although this particular story does not make a direct reference to Easter Island and the moai, the comic book clearly depicts moai-inspired stone figures as Captain Marvel’s ‘Invisible Aliens’. The ‘heads’, as Captain Marvel calls them, walk, talk and have superpowers, but they appear rather strange as they are shown as having a head, arms and legs but no body. Another aspect which hints at Easter Island is the mysterious ancient tablet written in a forgotten language, which is reminiscent of the rongorongo tablets. Today’s linguists and anthropologists are some way from understanding rongorongo, but the superhero that is Captain Marvel takes only seconds to decipher his tablet using his “computer-like brain”. The tablet is an oddity within the story and even Captain Marvel remarks on its anachronism: “Strange such an advanced civilization used tablets to write on…when they built a giant computer!”.
The presence of the computer, like the message left by the ancient civilisation which was destroyed by the heads, remain unexplored in the text, as the reader is given no developed explanation about the people and their ancient knowledge. Similar to other such texts, these natives are quickly put aside as the island becomes a mystery devoid of people, but inhabited by giant stone statues. The presence of the moai in this comic book is a simple way of exploiting the myths behind Easter Island in an attempt to create new adventures and villains for Captain Marvel to battle. This is understandable due to the period when the comic was released, 1966, when interest in Easter Island had risen significantly, due not least to the publication of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1958 book Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island.
Where Creatures Roam
‘Here Comes Thorg the Unbelievable’
(no.3, November 1970, Marvel Comics Group)
An archaeologist, Linus, and his wife Helen fly to a newly discovered South Pacific island, which has been “reported to contain strange stone statues”. Linus and Helen meet the friendly natives who inform them that they have no idea who created the giant stone heads, which have been there “before our ancestors first came to this island!”. Linus is given permission to dig around the statues and soon he discovers a door made of metal that is superior to steel. Behind the door is a room of electronic equipment but when Linus explores inside he accidentally sets off a trigger which awakens one of the giant stone creatures called Thorg. Initially angry at having been awakened, Thorg reveals through flashback that he has waited for a million years, and since he was sent out by his leaders as part of an advance expedition force. These warriors were instructed to lie dormant across many planets waiting for the moment to be awakened whereupon they would conquer the universe.
Thorg plans to awaken the other stone giants, but fearing the annihilation of the world, Linus convinces Thorg that planet Earth is simply the extent of the Pacific island and that he could destroy it alone and take the glory for himself. The stone giant duly crushes the huts and homes of the natives who flee in terror. Having conquered the island, Thorg sends a message to his leaders in the far reaches of the universe. They arrive the next day but, whilst they are distracted, the heroic Linus throws dynamite into a volcano which causes it to erupt and send a sea of molten lava across the island. The heavy stone giants, who cannot swim, sink into the sea. Linus has saved the Universe and he is rescued by canoe by Helen and the native chief.
The story does not mention the name of the Pacific island, but there are enough references present to read Easter Island as the inspiration for another Marvel story that has been drawn to the moai. This is a reprint of the story that appeared in Tales to Astonish no.16 (1961) and it is quite similar to the one that originally appeared in Tales to Astonish no.5 (1959), which was reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell no.24 (1973), as well as the story in Tales of Darkness no.28 (April 1962), which was reprinted in Chamber of Chills no.11 (1974) and Tomb of Darkness no.16 (1975). These all fantasised that the stone creatures are slumbering aliens from long ago, awaiting the moment upon which they will be awakened by their space-travelling leaders in order to conquer or depart Earth.
Thorg is actually a robot with a secret doorway leading inside this slumbering giant – concepts which often appear in other moai fiction. Unlike many other comics that tend to depict a vacant island, a community of natives is present but whilst it is encouraging to see them depicted, and as friendly people, they are shown to be primitive (despite the contemporary setting of the story) and they function largely as a culture that is crushed by the giant with ease in images that evoke the film King Kong (1933). Thorg and his warriors are threatening figures, even when asleep. They are described as “grotesque” and giving Helen “the creeps”. Yet, rather strangely, when the spaceship of the leaders arrives they are drawn as harmless-looking characters filing off their craft with a friendly little wave of a hand. As Thorg rises from the ground the story emphasizes that there was so much of this giant beneath the surface. It is possibly a reference to the work of Thor Heyerdahl who whilst excavating around moai on Easter Island had revealed that they had bodies that extended far down into the ground.
'The Rot Expedition'
(vol.1, no.2, 1972, Kitchen Sink Enterprises/ Krupp Comic Works)
Mickey Rat wishes to escape the routine and stresses of life so he distances himself from everyone on a barge tied up near a warehouse. Whilst asleep, the shoring for his boat snaps; when Mickey awakes he finds himself drifting out at sea. An octopus attacks the boat and snaps it in two. Now floating at sea on just a piece of wood Mickey Rat begins to hallucinate and imagines he is in hell. There, pitchfork carrying imps force him off a cliff and into the mouths of hungry crocodiles that bite him in half. The two halves become two rolling balls that tumble skittle-like into a row of moai. These moai bring the two Mickey halves to their leader, a giant seated moai, who orders them to fix the rat. Now whole again, Mickey is tied to a string and like a necklace is dangled from the giant moai's neck. The moai think the necklace looks "rotten" and that it smells. The moai leader orders for the rat to be destroyed and he is fed down a conveyer belt, into a deep chute and straight into a meat grinder, where he becomes a dollop of meat in a frying pan cooked over a fire.
Cut to a shipwrecked Mickey exhausted, lying on a beach, where he has been cooking and hallucinating in the sun. As he stumbles up a hill he finds he is on Easter Island. The Rapanui nurse him back to health, but he is desperate for sex and he forces himself on a local woman. He is consequently chased by a group of Rapanui men carrying spears and falls into a pit. Calling for help, he is heard by a large-built local woman who rescues him and carries him back to her isolated hut. There he enjoys his idea of a perfect life, relaxing in a hammock, whilst the woman cooks, laughs at his jokes and tends the land.
Mickey Rat was conceived by the artist Robert Armstrong, a friend and contemporary of the more famous cartoonist Robert Crumb. It is drawn in the same crude style as Crumb's more celebrated work, which includes Mr Natural and Fritz the Cat. Like Crumb, Armstrong's alternative comic is for an adult readership and is obsessed with drugs, the sexualised body and the experience of the surreal. Both artists also exhibit problematic depictions of race and women.
The anti-hero Mickey Rat is a counter-cultural expression against the corporate power of Disney's Mickey Mouse and is everything the latter is not: sleazy, hedonistic, perverted, vulgar, exploitative, self-centred, abusive and extremely lazy. In fact, it was Armstrong in his comics who is credited with having popularised the term 'couch potato'. Most challenging is Armstrong's treatment of the Rapanui, which is deliberately offensive. These are primitive, grass-skirted, bare breasted islanders who are viewed as sex objects, and who speak gibberish. The comic should be placed in its context of the early 1970s and the underground scene in America from which such cultural expressions emerged. The richest part of the story is the surrealism in the hallucinations of the Rat and these are a rudimentary mixture of Salvador Dalí and Hieronymous Bosch.
‘Mr Magellan – Le réveil des géants’
(no.1231, 1 June 1972, Dargaud Editeur)
Part 3 of a 4-part French-language story, which was originally published in 1972 as the French market version of the original tintin Belgian comic. This was the only issue to feature the Mr Magellan story on the cover. It significantly foregrounds the moai in an image that is both a composite and an adjustment of the actual story. The cool Mr Magellan, the hero who seems to forever be smoking a cigar and wearing sunglasses, does drive a motorbike off a cliff edge, but the cover supplies added skill with Magellan performing more of a dramatic stunt bike manoeuvre. The villain that he appears to be leaping afterwards is an imagined scene for the sake of the cover and curiously the villain here appears older than the character depicted within the comic. In the story it is Magellan’s companion, the intrepid Capella, who displays greater heroism by following Magellan off the cliff on her own motorbike and then hurling it and herself at the villains. Unfortunately, Capella’s heroism is removed from the cover in favour of Magellan acting solo. His individualism is further promoted on the cover of Mr Magellan – L’Île des Colosses (see forthcoming review), the 1986 bandes dessinées that collected the four stories into one volume.
Lion and Thunder
‘Adam Eterno: The Weird Menace Under the Waves!’ (Part 1)
(27 January 1973, IPC Magazines)
Adam Eterno, an Alchemist’s apprentice from 1580 who is cursed to live forever, wanders through time and history after having drunk an Elixir of Life. Practically immortal, he can only be destroyed by a weapon of solid gold. In the first part of this new 4-part adventure, he finds himself on Easter Island, which has been abandoned by the terrified islanders. There, Adam helps rescue a seaman, Martin, whose drifting ship has been attacked by a strange power from beneath the seas around Easter Island. From a glowing whirlpool emerges a giant plant. Its petals open out emitting a strong light, which strikes the moai and makes them come alive. The moai turn towards Adam and Martin, who start to flee.
Long before the immortal Highlander and Ivar the Timewalker (see the review below) there was Adam Eterno, a wanderer through time who talks in an old-English style of speech not dissimilar to Marvel’s character Thor. Appearing in British comics between 1970 and 1976, this apprentice from the medieval times is a near-immortal hero with rock-star long blond hair and a cloak, which at times appears like a cape as he dashes to the rescue. Moai controlled by extraordinary forces is a recurring theme in Easter Island fiction, though the idea of powerful marine vegetation being the transmitter of the energy is original.
Lion and Thunder
‘Adam Eterno: The Weird Menace Under the Waves!’ (Part 2)
(3 February 1973, IPC Magazines)
Adam and Martin flee the moai, which have been brought alive by a light projected from “weird marine vegetation”. The moai monoliths are unstoppable, as they crunch through trees and wooden buildings, but the “fiendish brutes” stop once they think they have killed Adam and Martin. Unscathed, the companions row back to Martin’s abandoned ship, which had been conducting oceanographic tests. One of their depth charges has awakened an undersea power. Martin relays that some say “Easter Island was the cemetery of a bigger island – Davis Land – which long ago sank beneath the sea…!”. Adam and Martin ride a sea-scooter to the seabed where they discover a large glowing dome surrounded by the glowing vegetation.
This action story that functions as a serial with cliff-hanger endings has a look and feel that is both of its time in the early 1970s and of its culture of British produced weekly comics. Adam Eterno is a combination of an immortal action superhero with super-human powers and a movie-styled hero from the weekly kids’ serials. Unusually for such fiction, the moai that come alive have no feet but move at some speed on a neck stump. The “weird marine vegetation” are a fascinating addition to the moai myths, especially as this alien plant-life is not too distant from John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the Triffids.
Most interesting, is the comic's mention of Davis Land, which is a reference to a forgotten aspect of early European engagement with Easter Island, and one that does not appear anywhere else in moai popular culture. Edward Davis was an English buccaneer, who attacked mainly Spanish ships and settlements around the Caribbean, Central and South America. He encountered a new land mass on December 1687, which was subsequently called Davis Island. It inspired Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on a voyage that led him in 1722 to a land mass that he called Easter Island. It is possible that Easter Island was Davis Island, and in this comic the fantasy joins the two and mythologises the age of discovery with a sunken civilisation.
Lion and Thunder
'Adam Eterno - Monsters in the Weird City on the Sea-Bed!' (Part 3)
(10 February 1973, IPC Magazines)
'Adam Eterno – 'Zaal the Destroyer versus the Golden Colossus!' (Part 4)
(17 February 1973, IPC Magazines)
In part 3 of this story, Adam Eterno and his companion, Martin, are enveloped by an undersea bubble, which sweeps them through a metal hatch. Inside, they discover a kingdom beneath the sea, of which Easter Island was once a part. They are chased by robots and a giant man made of gold and take refuge in a building from which erupts a giant snake from beneath the sand. The snake, called Zaal the Destroyer, thwarts the robots but Adam and Martin cannot escape the giant man of gold.
In the final instalment, the escaped snake coils around the colossus and brings it crashing down. Adam and Martin dash back to their sea-scooter, but are held back by the glowing vegetation, one of which forms into a shark and attacks Adam. By now the giant has defeated the snake but Adam and Martin flee through the metal hatch just in time leaving the colossus locked within the undersea kingdom. A rockslide buries the hatch and, back on the surface, where the threat has now been removed, the native population begins to return.
Much of parts 3 and 4 of this rather undeveloped story take place in an undersea kingdom, which like the myth of the lost continent of Mu (itself inspired by Atlantis), is said to have been joined once to Easter Island. There is just a brief mention of what exactly this undersea kingdom is in part 2, where Adam refers to a "bigger island" called Davis Island. Who or what is Davis the story never explains. It operates simply to provide an underwater adventure for the heroes with further ominous figures for them to defeat or escape.
The robots have moai-like features, but there is no link explained between them and the moai above ground. The un-original colossus, meanwhile, is perhaps too close in design to the Amazing Colossal Man (1957), even down to the trunks that he wears. He and the robots are made of gold, with the reason being that the sole thing that can destroy Eterno is this precious metal. This fact, which is part of Eterno's stated character within the comics, is unfortunately repeated often throughout this adventure. The story is a boy's own fantasy of heroism, camaraderie, voyaging, foreign lands and 'history', that was typical of many British children's comics.
Where Monsters Dwell 'I Was Trapped By the Things on Easter Island' (no.24, October 1973, Marvel Comics Group)
While flying over the South Pacific, a plane develops engine problems forcing its pilot to crash-land on Easter Island. In his quest to find some means of communication, the pilot stumbles upon a few moai heads. To his surprise, the moai begin to move and rise, pushing themselves out of the ground. The pilot hides near the statues so that he can learn more. He discovers that they are from outer space, and they are lying in wait for their orders to begin an invasion of Earth. Eventually discovered by the “things”, the pilot hides in a cave where he finds a native boat which he boards in order to escape. Back in the civilised world, he tells his story to the authorities, but he is met with disbelief and derision. Defeated, he returns to his home on a remote island in the Pacific. There, whilst falling asleep in his bed, he tries to convince himself that he imagined everything. Outside, the moai are gathered at his bedroom window, and now assured that the earthling believes this was all part of his imagination, the statues return to Easter Island to continue their wait for the signal to invade.
This story is an exact reprint of the publication that appeared in the Marvel comic, Tales to Astonish (September 1959). Clearly promoting the myths of movement and creation, the story imagines the moai statues as alien invaders who have been waiting for centuries to hear from their home planet. Their intention is to enslave earthlings and turn Earth into a colony of their mother-planet Lithodia Rex (which can be roughly translated into Kingdom of Stones). The myth of movement reveals the ability of the statues to walk, talk, see and hear. Apart from the obvious movement of the statues when they rise from the ground and chase the pilot, there is also the question of communication between these monoliths. The pilot is amazed at their ability to talk to each other and hides “within earshot” of the statues. Supporting the myth of creation, the pilot initially remarks that Easter Island has giant statues of unknown origins. Furthermore, the comic extends the popular notion that the island is devoid of people. However, the pilot does manage to find a native boat, which interestingly for the context in this story suggests the island once supported an indigenous culture.
To contain the broad fantasy, the narrative explores basic ideas of hallucination and delusion. The pilot’s entire experience takes place after a forced landing on the island. It is made clear from the beginning that he has hurt himself and that he suffers from a severe headache. This is re-enforced later on in the comic when he tries to relate his story to the authorities, who advise "you must've hurt your head real bad! It's given you hallucinations!". His story is considered so "fantastic" that in a self-reflexive approach, someone even suggests to the pilot that he sells his story to a science fiction magazine.
(vol.2, no.9, December 1973, DC Comics)
Supergirl removes herself from the world and all men, after bad experiences with her boyfriend, a pilot and a rock star. "Men – they're nothing but trouble!", she declares. Flying over the Pacific she saves a boat from attack by half-human half-shark creatures. The grateful passengers are Nubia and Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman's sister and mother. They travel together to Paradise Island, the home of Wonder Woman and the Amazonians in urgent need of a medical support for the injured Nubia. Queen Hippolyta tries to convince Supergirl to join their ranks and be her "adopted daughter". Supergirl accepts the invitation as it will mean she will not have to see another man again, with men forbidden on Paradise Island. A more than capable warrior she passes the Amazonian's tests and is crowned Kara, The Amazon Princess.
Nubia's injuries have left her in a coma and the serum is found in the root of the wild cologi, a rare plant that grows only an a "small unchartered island two thousand miles away in the South Pacific!". Despite the dangers, Supergirl offers to help and flies there at speed. She finds and collects the plant but just as she is about to leave she is attacked with magical beams blasted from the mouths of three stone heads. It is revealed that the heads are hollow and out of each one clambers a "trio of menacing witch-doctor types". Helpless, as a result of their magic, Supergirl is saved by Sugua, a giant white gorilla, which scares away the witch-doctors. The gorilla is revealed to be a costume, worn by Fong, a Chinese man whose ancestors were stranded on the island. He is their sole survivor.
The witch-doctors have stolen Supergirl's powers leaving her unable to fly away. Without her female powers, she discovers that Fong is another aggressive and dominating male. He desires her submission as his "golden-haired captive". Supergirl escapes and attacks the witch-doctors whilst dressed in the white gorilla costume. In their panic, the witch-doctors leave behind their magical instruments, which allow Supergirl to regain her powers. She hurriedly flies back to Paradise Island with the cologi plant and saves Nubia's life. Despite Fong's aggression, Supergirl believes he meant no harm and his isolation has shown that she should not exile herself from mankind and the rest of the world. She departs Paradise Island happy again.
The muddled politics of this comic are a symptom of the time in which it was produced. On one hand the comic is progressive, presenting a sisterhood of super-women (Supergirl is described as becoming a "sister Amazon"), with men absent from the harmonious middle third of the story. Where men are shown, they are depicted as bullies, lotharios, rude, aggressive, ungrateful and villainous – and in almost all instances in behaviour that is directed towards women. Women easily understand each other, whilst the encounters with men are full of misunderstandings and dangerous surprises. On the other hand, the comic is unable to allow Supergirl complete freedom and the final frame has her stating with delight that it is great to be herself again and "guess I'll give men another chance after all!". Ultimately, Supergirl rejects a collective of women, where she would be embraced, for a society in which she is forgiving of men's abuse of power. She is shown here to be a mighty and independent woman whose weakness appears to be a need for ordinary (and flawed) men.
The story is further problematic in its racism, with the Chinese man, Fong, both a saviour and an aggressor: "Oww! Fong's grip is hurting my arm!", Supergirl says, "without my super-powers, I'm no match for his strength". Arriving first within a white gorilla costume, Fong is introduced initially as a primitive creature, creating the fascinating scenario of an Asian, dressed within the costume of a great African mammal, rescuing a newly-crowned Amazonian, from witch-doctors who are dressed in Mayan/Aztec-like clothing and headdresses, on a South Pacific island. Moreover, the story borrows here from the jungle narratives of popular fiction and films such as White Pongo (1945) and The White Gorilla (1947), in which an albino gorilla captures a helpless woman. In these stories of race and skin colour there are questions of inter-racial relationships and this Supergirl story moves between a fear of miscegenation – where Fong and his desires are a threat – to acceptance, with Supergirl saying "I think Fong means well".
Easter Island is never mentioned in the story but it is clear that it is represented by the isolated South Pacific island with its moai-like heads. These are actually quite small, compact enough to contain just a single man inside who can hop around and sneak up on the unsuspecting Supergirl. The island is yet again a fantasy far removed from the world (and reality) described here as "unchartered", "deserted" and "overrun with nightmarish dangers!".
Chamber of Chills
‘The Man Who Melted’
(no.10, May 1974, Marvel Comics Group)
A moai features on the cover of this issue but does not appear inside. The cover image sensationalises the featured story that it promotes, making the thawing caveman a more fearsome figure. In adding a moai to the gallery space depicted on the cover, the museum appears as an exceptional institution with artefacts both esteemed and arcane. The moai also presages the following issue of Chamber of Chills (no.11), and its featured story ‘Back from the Dead!’, in which the moai rise up and ‘Live Again!’.
Chamber of Chills
‘Back From the Dead!’
(no.11, July 1974, Marvel Comics Group)
Harry Dawes escapes South American police by jumping into a small, motorised boat and heading to Easter Island. After one day at sea he runs out of fuel but is near enough to Easter Island to swim the remaining distance. There he finds the moai and declares “the famous stone heads […] no one knows who built them – or how they got here!”. But he is not alone on this island. He soon encounters a strange-looking old man with an enlarged head who tells him the moai are “not statues! They are slumbering creatures from another world!”. This strange man insists that what he says is “true” and that he has long been searching on the island for a “hidden parchment” that will awaken the moai. He adds that they will forever serve the one who has freed them from their slumber.
The old man promises Dawes a handsome reward if he helps him find the parchment. Dawes dreams of buried gold and begins scouring the island – including digging in the sand, swimming underwater and climbing up trees. The parchment is eventually found by Dawes in a remote cave. To a disbelieving Dawes, the old man reads from the parchment, commanding the moai “to awake from your centuries old sleep”. The moai duly rise up out of the ground. “We…have…been…summoned”, they announce as they lurch forward. Dawes tries to take control seeing great power in commanding the moai: “I’ll be able to commit the greatest crimes of all time”, he says.
The moai call Dawes a “fool”. They say they are from outer space and will not be commanded by a “puny earthling”. They recount how they arrived on Easter Island, a story which is told in a series of flashbacks. They were flying past Earth when their spaceship developed engine trouble. They bailed out and landed on Easter Island where they placed themselves in suspended animation to conserve energy and await their captain who had planned to return and rescue them. When the captain arrived he had unfortunately forgotten the words to revive them and the back-up parchment had been hidden too well by the moai.
Dawes is told he will be taken with the moai to their planet as he “will make an interesting specimen” for their “intergalactic zoo”. Terrified, he runs towards the old man for protection and use of his nearby canoe. But Dawes is rejected by the old man for having turned on him in his desire for power. In the final twist, the old man peels the skin from his face to reveal that he is the alien captain of the spaceship.
One of the most striking comics to imagine the moai as slumbering giants and visitors from outer space, this Chamber of Chills story written by Jack Kirby follows the formula of many other related stories that appeared in sister comics of the period. It was originally published in Tales of Suspense no.28 (April 1962). Typically, these stories of horror and mystery established a moral, with crimes punished and the tale ending in retribution, even if it was particularly cruel. Dawes will spend the rest of his life in an intergalactic zoo, but the moai tell him “don’t worry! You will be given a clean cage and be well taken care of!”. The sensational front cover of his comic is deceiving, as there is no woman on the island; employing stereotypes, this prone woman is established as vulnerable and in need of help from a shirtless man.
As certain questions about the moai and Rapanui culture remained unanswered and unknown, the mysterious moai were fantasised from afar and most often in American comics. Alternative theories were put forward for the existence and creation of the moai and in an age of rocket-fuelled fiction and a desire to be the first to land a man on the moon there was an obsession with science fiction and intergalactic visitors that saw a popular reimagining of the moai as slumbering giant aliens. Interestingly, the treasured parchment, buried on the island, and with its words to be incanted, is not too dissimilar to the rongorongo tablets, with their hieroglyphics that were chanted aloud.
Weird War Tales 'The Common Enemy' (no.34, February 1975, DC Comics)
Spring 1942. Chief Petty Officer Phil Randel is washed onto a deserted island when the Japanese destroy his U.S. Navy boat. He finds a giant moai and assumes it represents a god and that he is on a “ceremonial island” that is seldom visited. Over the next two years, he builds a hut and survives by foraging. One day, he hears shots and sees that a Japanese soldier has also been washed ashore. They immediately engage in a gun battle. Neither is wounded and the Japanese soldier runs away. For the next few months, they continue to shoot at each other with neither man gaining the upper hand.
On one occasion Phil uses the top of the large moai as a lookout point, but when a grenade is then tossed by the Japanese soldier it causes a chain reaction to be unleashed in the statue. It rises up from the ground revealing hands, a torso, legs, and feet. Both men abandon their battle and turn their guns on this perceived new threat. Suddenly, a spaceship arrives and lands just out to sea. The moai walks out to meet it, climbs aboard, and departs. The two soldiers celebrate their survival together but suddenly the Japanese soldier resumes his attack on Phil. The comic ends with the two continuing their endless battle. A final caption states: “The war between the United States and Japan has been over for 29 years – except here, on this far-off battleground of – The Weird War!”.
Taking clear inspiration from the 1968 John Boorman film Hell in the Pacific, this comic book tale moves the basic narrative set-up of that film into the realm of science fiction with the addition of the moving moai. The island in this comic book is far from being the actual Easter Island as it is uninhabited and contains only one moai. Therefore, it is apparent that the moai is being used here as a marker of exoticism and mystery. Despite being published thirty years after the end of World War II the comic book employs very negative stereotyping in its depiction of the Japanese soldier. He is drawn with clichéd slanted eyes, is shown as the aggressor when he and the American soldier first meet, and he is the one to initiate conflict again at the story’s conclusion. This negative attitude towards the Japanese is reflected in the speech of the American soldier (and reader point of identification). He refers to the Japanese soldier as a “jap” and a “glory-hungry son of the Emperor” and the comic's depiction of the Japanese soldier suggests that it is not inappropriate for him to do so.
In contrast to the depiction of the human characters, the moai is presented as a peaceful being, beyond earthly concerns and generally uninterested in the way that it is attacked. Its only goal is to reach the spacecraft and return to its home in the stars. This contrasts with many depictions of the moai that engage with the myth of movement where the moai’s animation is shown in order to convey either threat or humour. The soldiers’ immediate response upon the revelation that the moai can move is to turn their weapons on it, which is followed by their quick return to fighting each other once it has departed. Within the story this indicates a negative view of the human race as a predominantly aggressive species.
Tomb of Darkness
‘Back from the Dead!’
(no.16, September 1975, Marvel Comics Group)
This is the second and last of Marvel’s reprints of a story that had first appeared in Tales of Suspense no.28, (April 1962). The fiction was first reprinted in Chamber of Chills no.11 (July 1974; see the review above). Of the three versions, this cover is the most distant from the actual story. Not only does it a feature a woman, when there is no woman in the story, but the man on the cover declares they had come to “study” the moai, when in the comic he is a man who has fled to the island having escaped South American police. The cover presents a manmade jetty when the island is actually deserted but for an old man and there is no evidence within the story of island civilisation. Furthermore, the protagonist is depicted on the cover aboard a motorised boat seemingly ready to depart in a hurry, yet in the story his boat had run out of fuel before reaching the shore and he had to swim the remaining distance. Once on the island, the story certainly does not present him with any manmade craft for mounting an escape. The changes made to the story within this cover image are significant and they fundamentally alter the actions of the protagonist. Echoing the man on the Chamber of Chills cover the protagonist declares the stone figures “are alive” but whilst they had been referred to on the cover of the former as “statues”, they are now elevated on the cover of Tomb of Darkness to “gods”.
‘Death is the Symbionic Man’
(no.27, April 1976, Marvel Comics Group)
Sub-Mariner is Namor, prince of Atlantis. He stands on the shores of Easter Island and declares vengeance for the way his people have been treated over time, from the submarines of World War II and their depth charges to his unhealthy alliances with other superheroes and characters of the Marvel universe, who ultimately betrayed his trust. Sub-Mariner says that the moai have forever been looking out to sea, but the story says they have actually been staring skywards. Unbeknown to Sub-Mariner a spaceship emerges, piloted by Captain Simon Ryker, with a cyborg super-solider on board designed to destroy the aquatic prince. This cyborg is the Symbionic Man, who draws great power from the ocean world in which he now swims. Symbionic Man latches his tendrils on to Sub-Mariner and begins to extract from him the power that is needed to control the planet. As the fight continues, Symbionic Man takes control of a giant squid to attack the weakened Sub-Mariner. Finding his inner strength Sub-Mariner fights back and after a long struggle defeats both the Symbionic Man and the squid, which is hurled out of the ocean. The giant squid slams into the spacecraft, which crashes into the sea below.
Easter Island appears on four of the first six pages and serves as both an initial establishing shot and the only land in a story that is predominantly set underwater. Easter Island was established in the fiction of James Churchward as the remnants of Mu, a great continent of the Pacific that like Atlantis had disappeared into the seas. This comic establishes a connection between the moai and Atlantis, with Sub-Mariner saying that the ancestors of the moai came from the sea and it was the sea to which his ancestors departed.
Many fictions of Easter Island wrongfully depict the moai looking out to sea. This comic takes that misunderstanding further and weaves it into Sub-Mariner’s rhetoric about heritage. Moreover, to emphasise the connection with the sea, many of the moai are wrongfully depicted dotted around the coastline right up against the incoming waves. Such is Sub-Mariner’s anger that he punches out against a moai smashing it into pieces. The moai here are both silent statues watching outwards and beyond the island, and icons that can be destroyed as quick demonstrations of immense strength.
Sparky Book 1977
'The Stone Men!'
(1976, D.C. Thomson)
A tribe of weary outcasts arrive by canoe at Easter Island. Their persecutors, the ‘Savage Tribe’, follow them in their war canoes. The outcasts flee uphill and come across the giant stone men. These moai attack the Savage Tribe, hurling boulders at them that make them flee, never to return. The stone men, who live on the mountain, protect the outcasts and help them build homes. Then one day there is a huge volcanic eruption, which results in a flood of lava spreading over the island. The outcasts manage to get to their canoes and safety but the lumbering moai become stuck in the flow of molten lava. The story explains that this is why today the moai remain embedded in the mountainside.
Featuring in a British comic annual that would have been produced for the Christmas season in 1976, this is a rather poorly drawn but quaint six-page fantasy imagining how the moai came to be the stone figures that are known today. The introductory page foregrounds a photo of the moai as if to fix the story in some reality. That first page says, “[n]o man knows how the giant stone heads came to stand on Easter Island in the Pacific. If only they could speak… would they tell this story?”. What follows goes beyond speculation and is best described as a highly fanciful, almost childlike narrative that is innocent but riddled with mistakes.
Moai fiction often presents the stone figures as having the power of movement. In this fantasy they walk, albeit with poorly conceived legs, hurl rocks, and chop down trees with their rigid arms. The moai in this story are depicted as active protectors, which occurs rarely in moai fiction, but uniquely they are shown in this story helping to construct a community by collecting wood for building material and raising homes. The Savage Tribe are unlike any in Polynesian culture and appear as a possible amalgamation of foreign imaginings of Western Pacific and African tribes. In reality, Easter Island has more than one volcano and their eruption was long before the moai existed.
Deadman and Spectre were placed in the clutches of a rising moai monolith for the October page of comic art for a 1977 calendar. This all-powerful moai, more fearsome than the static moai that surrounds him, has a bright green glow around its body. This is from an unearthly ray that an alien vessel has fired to bring the moai alive. The calendar also advises that only these two superheroes fighting side-by-side can stop the moai and the alien invasion. The calendar refers to the moai as “bizarre heads” in an outline for a story that was never advanced into an actual comic.
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes
'A World Born Anew!'
(vol.30, no.236, February 1978, DC Comics)
On the planet Braal, in the thirtieth century, the geography is changing suddenly and dramatically with new seas forming, mountains becoming plains and mountains now in city centres. The Legion of Super-Heroes arrives to help and they discover an evil planetary architect, Worldsmith, remodelling the planet from his spacecraft for an unseen client. The superheroes try repeatedly to halt the destruction and finally Worldsmith leaves in a space warp, defeated. He leaves behind a world part altered that features a landscape of moai which Superboy recognises as similar to those on Earth.
Moai appear in just the final frame of this comic and are a strange and abstract conclusion to a story that employs the myth of creation. Worldsmith is an obsese alien who smokes fat cigars and wears a pin-stripe suit. He also has devil horns, snorts and resembles a wild boar. Undoubtedly, in this simple allegory he is intended to be an intergalactic version of a property developer, who alters landscapes on an industrial scale with no concern for community or local authority. Yet, the story implies that the unique landscapes of Earth are related to his powers of creation, which permits another reading of this despicable figure from beyond as a god, and the moai as ancient carvings from the beginning of time.
Mortadelo y Filemón – Mundial 78 [Mortadelo and Filemón – World Cup 78]
(text and drawings: Francisco Ibanez; Barcelona: Editorial Bruguera, 1978)
The President of the African republic of Mondongo is angry that FIFA has not granted him the opportunity to host the 1978 football World Cup. He plans to
sabotage the World Cup, so special agents Mortadelo and Filemón are sent to intervene, disguising themselves as players within the Spanish football squad. Whilst at the World Cup, Mortadelo and Filemón foolishly light a match in a truck packed with explosives. It sends Filemón, in the burnt remnants of the truck's driver's seat, all the way across the North Pole. Mortadelo is catapulted to Galicia in the north-west of Spain, from where he returns with one of its famous octopuses on his head. To his surprise, Filemón's journey has continued further still to Easter Island. Seeing Filemón returning with a moai stuck on his head, Mortadelo does not need to be informed as to where his colleague has come from; "Don't tell me anything! I can guess!", he declares.
Mortadelo and Filemón is a much read Spanish comic, which creator Francisco Ibáñez populated at times with cartoon images of Easter Island. Other issues will be reviewed here over time; see below for a review of an issue where Easter Island features on the cover. As with that cover, the humour in this issue is centred around Easter Island's remoteness (and uniqueness), with the distance travelled by the exploding truck sufficient to send one of the spies beyond the North Pole and all the way to distant Rapanui. Furthermore, there is humour in the myth of presence, in which a monolithic moai carving, which would be so difficult to transport, has somehow been brought all the way to the World Cup as a remnant of an unexpected visit. The comedy in fetching an actual moai and bringing it 'home' was repeated in an issue of Futurama (see the review above).
Easter Island appears on the cover only of this summer special bumper edition comic. It connects with a football World Cup special of Mortadelo for 1978 (see review above), in which the cover characters, Mort (aka Mortadelo) and Phil (aka Filemón), experience an adventure on Easter Island. Mort and Phil first appeared in 1958 and are hugely popular characters in Spain (who have also been translated into numerous other languages). They are secret agents (originally private detectives) and for many of their adventures they travel the globe; in this issue they are in Egypt.
Many of the summer specials of Mortadelo have a water theme and, on this cover, Mort the master of disguise has gone ashore on Easter Island, holding in his hand a dodgy compass. Phil, his boss, shouts at him from their yacht, irate that they had bought a cheap compass that should have guided them to Mallorca, part of Spain's Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. The compass is so poor that they have veered widely off course and rather unlikely (considering also the small size of their boat) ended up on a remote island in the Pacific. Mort and Phil are a bumbling duo who repeatedly make mistakes.
The artist Francisco Ibáñez often inserted 'whimsies' into his cover art – bits of detail which add another level of visual humour. Here, that detail is focused on the moai, which are humanised, with one given a sticking plaster on his chin, another given warts on his nose and a tear in his eye. A third moai has a gecko crawling up the side of his face, which he appears to be observing. The large Italian pork sausage, mortadela, from which Mortadelo's name derives, lies on the ground at the foot of a moai.
Featuring only on the front cover of this French comic, the artwork of an extra-terrestrial spaceship hovering above the moai is one that has been echoed by other publications both before and since. The common message is Rapanui as a land associated with the strange, mysterious and the unearthly.
The artwork would appear to be by Jean-Louis Morelle, who has illustrated many of the book covers for prolific French science-fiction writer Jimmy Guieu. The 1990 edition of Guieu's novel Les sphères de Rapa-Nui (review forthcoming), features a front cover illustration that is very
similar to the one used for Big Boss. The moai that is lying prone on the cover of Big Boss was removed for the cover of Les sphères de Rapa-Nui, but the other four moai are identical. The cliff behind the moai was reduced in size for the later publication; the nighttime sky became a red sky; and an exploding spaceship and floating giant spheres replaced the flying saucer. The cover of Big Boss suggests alien visitation to Easter Island, whilst the later image appears to move the location to another planet.
Jerom 'De Stenen God' [The Stone God]
(no.90; text and images: Willy Vandersteen; Antwerp & Amsterdam: Standard Uitgeverij, 1981)
Whilst on a beach holiday, Odilon finds in the ocean waves close to shore a bottle containing a message inside. He writes another message on a piece of paper, puts it into the bottle and tosses it back into the sea. Some time later, Professor Barabas organises an expedition to Easter Island for his friends: the extremely strong Jerom, Aunt Sidonia and Odilon. The three of them have already experienced many adventures together.
Upon arrival, Jerom is immediately recognised and revered as a god by the Easter Island locals. Jerom and Odilon study the stone moai, one of which they decide to carry away on a raft. They are watched by the long-haired Rapan, the sorcerer of Easter Island, and his followers. Rapan takes Odilon hostage and demands that all three leave the island within 24 hours so that the true God can be worshiped again, instead of Jerom.
Meanwhile, Aunt Sidonia has been able to talk to other locals using Professor Barabas's language translation device, and she learns of a stone portrait of a white man that resembles Jerom. The captive Odilon speaks to this statue and unfortunately learns that he has to be sacrificed on an altar. The sacrifice is prevented by a ball of lightning, which interrupts the ceremony, and allows Odilon to escape and alert his two friends.
The friends load their plane with coconuts, which they fly over the locals and drop on them like bombs as they attempt to help Odilon flee his captors by boat. But they find themselves stranded on the nearby island of Teopi, which they now begin to defend from the angry natives, by building giant coconut-filled catapults. Jerom has an idea to secretly steal the statue that looks like him from the sorcerer and position it in the place where the three friends are making their defense. As the attackers approach they cease fighting and pay homage to the statue.
The statue speaks and informs the Easter Islanders that the sorcerer Rapan is a fraud. He escapes in a canoe leaving the Easter Islanders to celebrate with the three visitors, before they depart for home. They wonder why Jerom was worshipped as a god and why the stone statue looked like him, with the mystery solved by Odilon. He advises that the message which he had placed in the bottle had been written on a photograph of Jerom, which must have then reached Easter Island.
Most of the main characters also appear in the Suske en Wiske [Suske and Wiske] comic strip, by Willy Vandersteen, who had already been inspired by Rapanui for a story originally published in 1980 (see the review below). Unfortunately, the images of the native population in this Belgian produced fiction are very problematic. They are shown to be black-skinned primitive islanders with the front cover of the comic exaggerating their image further giving them large bottoms and adding thick lips and afro hair to their features. This renders them as racist figures that are seen more often in the old stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans. Less problematic, but also wrong, is the appearance of the locals using spears and machetes made with metal parts, when such raw material was not traditionally found on Easter Island.
There are images of the South Sea, but these are also clichés, as seen at the farewell party where there are scenes more commonly associated with the festive culture of Hawai'i. The natives in this story are portrayed as extremes – either violent (with karate skills) or simple-minded. The liberties taken in the story continue in the geography of Easter Island with it split into two neighboring islands called Wahoe and Teopi. The story is essentially one of cargo cults. Such stories and accounts have circulated around the Pacific (Melanesia, in particular) in which islanders removed from the wider world worship foreign objects that are washed ashore or have fallen from passing airplanes.
Weird War Tales
'The God Heads of Death!'
(no.95, January 1981, DC Comics)
The Rapanui are introduced as "peaceful inhabitants" who worship giant stone statues, that "only stared skywards" and whose lips "were sealed in a terrible silence". Offerings of jewels and pearls are made to the monoliths, with festivities and marriage ceremonies performed at their feet. Then one day a war party of "Polynesians" arrives on the island and they viciously attack and murder many of the peaceful islanders. The Rapanui plead to the stone giants to "avenge us".
The survivors flee to the "caves in the hills". Meanwhile, the warriors celebrate their easy victory. Ultimately, they have come to the island in search of its legendary treasures. They believe the treasures are hidden within the statues and use their weapons in an attempt to break open the stone legs. The monoliths awake in anger and step on the invaders "crushing them as if they were mere insects". With the enemy defeated, the surviving islanders come out of hiding and thank the giants: "We will ask no more questions of you, o' strange ones. We know now that when the time comes, you will answer in your own terrible swift way!".
Yet another Steve Ditko drawn story that features the moai, and this was the second time that Weird War Tales was focused on fictionalising Easter Island (see the review above). The story is rather simple and is stretched out over seven pages, with little to visually connect the fiction directly to Easter Island, though the text makes it clear that this is Rapanui. The moai are not named as such and bizarrely their entire full-length bodies are above ground and include legs, feet and toes, unlike most moai fiction which views the monoliths as buried in the ground. In fact, the appearance of these moai is very different to those that exist, with these giants exhibiting bullet shaped heads, sticking-out ears and muscular torsos.
The war party are simply called "Polynesians", which opens the possibility that the story regards the Rapanui (who in reality are Polynesian) as belonging to an unnamed foreign race. Both the invaders and the inhabitants are drawn with an artistic licence similar to the depiction of the moai. These Pacific people wear toga-like clothes and all the men have big muscular chests. Facially, they seem European with their general appearance placing them somewhere more like Sparta as opposed to the middle of the Pacific. The spiked club weapons that they wield are also out of place; perhaps the 'closest' comparable examples are found in Tonga or Fiji.
The Incredible Hulk
‘Encounter on Easter Island!’
(no.261, July 1981, Marvel Comics Group)
The mighty hulk swims from Japan to Easter Island. He arrives exhausted and as he sleeps he turns back into Dr Bruce Banner. Hiding amidst the moai is the Absorbing Man, an ex-boxer with the power to transform into the property of anything he touches, having been given a drink conjured by the Asgardian god, Loki. The Absorbing Man had tried to escape the powerful Avengers by turning himself into the waters of the ocean, but he too ended up on the beaches of Easter Island exhausted from his journey. Meanwhile, a Teen Brigade has been formed to locate and help Dr Banner/ The Hulk.
The Absorbing Man carries the unconscious Banner to a moai quarry. Inside, Banner awakens and he and the Absorbing man tumble to the quarry floor. The Absorbing man is insane with fear of the Avengers finding him and now an angry man of stone he forces Banner into a tiny cave opening. With the Absorbing Man pushing Banner from behind further through the small passage, Banner starts to panic as the tight space that is also flooded at the bottom becomes almost too much. Swimming up from the pool of water, Banner finds himself alone with the Absorbing Man in a deep cave. Banner tries to think of a way out and realises that the moai he saw in the quarry means he must be on Easter island, which he had read about in Thor Heyerdahl’s “classic book”, Aku Aku.
Banner tries to remember what he had read in Heyerdahl’s book and the story recounts apparent ‘extracts’, such as Heyerdahl’s belief that the original islanders had come from South America. Added to this narrative in flashback is the construction of the moai being halted by an attack from an invading war-party; the islanders thrown screaming into a fiery pit; a few women and children surviving in the underground volcanic tunnels; but then they succumb to diseases brought by Spanish missionaries.
Banner realises there is a small community on the other side of the island, but he first has to escape his captor whilst he is sleeping and even then “Easter Island is only visited by ship once a year”. With the Absorbing man fast asleep Banner climbs back through a narrow lava tube, but near the top he becomes stuck, with the Absorbing Man now behind him grabbing onto his ankles. Banner can no longer control himself and he erupts through the earth’s surface as an angry Hulk.
The two giants fight each other in a battlefield surrounded by silent stone moai, with the Absorbing Man seemingly unstoppable. But then the Hulk jumps on the forehead of a toppled moai, which is lying across the fulcrum of another rock. The moai acts as a huge see-saw with the opposite end smacking into the face of the Absorbing Man who is sent hurtling out to sea. Comatosed by the knockout the defeated Absorbing Man comes to rest as a giant man-island that has absorbed parts of Easter Island’s qualities. A victorious Hulk is left alone on the island with the time to think and not be bothered.
The Absorbing Man lies dormant for 13 months before he re-emerges in the August 1982 issue of The Dazzler (reviewed below). There, this man-island awakens before lording over the terrified islanders, and then heading back to the USA. In this Hulk story, the islanders are either absent or present as skeletons, remnants of tribal warfare. Of the many Marvel comics to fictionalise Easter Island and the moai this is the only one to reference Heyerdahl. True, Heyerdahl had argued that Easter Island had been settled from South America (a theory that has now been proven wrong), but the comic takes the opportunity to embellish Heyerdahl’s work with tales of fiery pits and helpless Rapanui.
Often when superheroes and super-villains treat Easter Island as an extended fighting arena, the moai are silent onlookers that are brought into action as weapons for smashing an opponent (see, for instance, the reviews for Justice League and WWE Superstars). Yet this Hulk comic is alone in trying to incorporate into the fighting some of the actual archaeological studies of Easter Island. At one point, the Hulk employs a large tree trunk to clobber the Absorbing Man, with the accompanying text informing the reader that the log had “once been used to lever the Easter Island statues into an upright position”. The island’s features of lava tubes and volcanic cave systems are also incorporated into the moments of action and tension.
The story is contemporaneous to the year of the comic’s publication, yet the isolation of Easter Island, which was actually experiencing commercial airplane flights, is over-emphasised, with incorrect information that it is reached by just one ship a year. Moreover, when the Rapanui are finally presented in the sequel in The Dazzler, they too are of a distant imagined culture that does not permit the existence of a modern Easter Island.
The Mighty Thor 'A Kingdom Lost!' (no.318, April 1982, Marvel Comics Group)
Thor’s evil brother Loki borrows "five norn stones" from the evil queen Karnilla. He then travels to Earth with the evil king Fafnir (a dragon) to gain vengeance on Thor. Loki deposits the norn stones on Easter Island and sets out to lure Thor there by creating a tidal wave. Thor flies to Easter Island and, upon his arrival, the evacuation of islanders is ongoing. An American rescue worker asks Thor to protect the island's town. He does this by throwing his hammer Mjolnir into the ground to create a huge earth and rock wall separating the town from the moai and the beach. The evacuation is completed by helicopter and Thor is left on the island alone. The tsunami arrives and uproots the moai but the wall created by Thor prevents it reaching the town.
When the wave recedes, Thor realises that the moai actually have bodies that were buried in the ground, leaving only the heads visible. Thor attempts to return the moai to their original positions, but the norn stones bring them to life. They try to attack Thor but they are slow and not particularly strong. Thor drives them further and further from the norn stones causing them to become even slower and weaker. This enables Thor to hammer them back into the ground with Mjolnir. Thor then confronts Loki in a cave on a neighbouring island. Fafnir appears and attacks Thor but Thor is able to defeat him. Thor and Loki's father Odin then appears and prevents Thor attacking Loki and Fafnir further. He banishes Fafnir back to his destroyed former kingdom of Nastrond, and returns Loki to Asgard to await punishment. The story ends with a group of men on the island puzzled by how the moai have been returned to their original positions. Thor, in his secret identity of Dr Donald Blake, overhears them and smiles.
This issue of The Mighty Thor was published twenty years after the character's first appearance and by this point the narrative of Loki attempting to defeat his brother Thor, through the use of trickery, was firmly established. This particular edition is a clear example of it and the use of Easter Island can be seen to be as an attempt to bring freshness to a somewhat familiar narrative through transposing it to an unfamiliar landscape. In contrast to many other comic stories that make use of an Easter Island setting, this particular issue does make a limited attempt to reflect the reality of the place. The acknowledgement that Easter Island is an inhabited island containing a modern day society is rare in Western popular culture. However, no interest is taken in the lives of this community, instead they are depicted as an anonymous group with no characteristics other than their need to be rescued. Moreover, the comic declares that the island has "91 permanent residents", a figure manageable to rescue quickly by helicopter within the fiction of the story, but one that was far short of the actual population in 1982, which was closer to 2000.
The story does not imbue the moai with any original mystical powers. It is only through the magical norn stones that they gain the ability to move and fire lasers from their eyes. This depiction does share with other comic books the tendency to have a moai as not just a "brooding" head, but actually a full stone body with the head the only part visible above ground. Unusually within popular fiction, there is a heritage message within this comic with the stated need to preserve the unique culture of the island and to protect it as much as possible from the tsunami. The moai are correctly regarded as highly significant carvings, whilst the island's town is protected by tidal destruction by Thor, as "the last vestige of an ancient kingdom".
DC Comics Presents – Superman and the Global Guardians
‘The Wizard Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead’
(vol.5, no.46, June 1982, DC Comics)
Superman is urgently called to the East African retreat of Dr Mist. Planet Earth faces a grave threat from the 12,000-year-old Thaumar Dhai, “the mightiest of sorcerers in Atlantis”. He had six powerful talismans – a breastplate, buckle, armlet, necklace, scepter and crown – made of precious metals, minerals and matter, but he lost the first when he fled a sinking Atlantis. He lost another in a fight with Dr Mist and over time the other talismans were lost across the world: in Israel, Greece, Japan, Ireland and a “pre-Inca city”. Thaumar Dhai can be revived if all six talismans are brought back together and evil sorcerers are already working to achieve this resurrection.
Superman dashes first to Israel, where alongside the biblically-empowered superhero, Seraph, they fight evil Babylonians at an archaeological dig near the Red Sea, but unfortunately they lose the powerful breastplate. Next, Superman dashes to Greece where alongside superhero Olympian, they lose the armlet to a hydra. Denmark is Superman’s third country, where he teams up with superhero Little Mermaid (a mutant born in Atlantis), and they lose the belt to a sea-troll and an army of skeletons of long-dead Atlantis inhabitants. Not giving up, Superman flies to County Cork but loses the necklace to a wolf and imps despite having the help of Irish superhero, Jack O’Lantern. On another continent Superman connects with Green Fury, a Brazilian superhero, who helps him fight the villain El Dorado in Venezuela. But they lose the crown to one of El Dorado’s spirit jaguars. That leaves the scepter, which is buried under lava on Mt Fujiyama in Japan. Flying there with superhero Rising Sun, Superman loses to a snow sorcerer and her giant demons.
These villains now gather on Easter Island, each with their captured talismans. Standing in a circle of moai they combine the talismans to bring forth Thaumar Dhai. Superman and his international gang of superheroes emerge to fight the villains, but Thaumar Dhai brings the moai alive, “that they may crush our foes!”. Thaumar Dhai has some magic but not enough as his talismans are revealed by Superman to be fakes. With all the villains successfully defeated, Dr Mist congratulates the team and gives them the new name of the Global Guardians.
Despite featuring on the cover of this highly imaginative comic, Easter Island and the moai appear on just the last few pages of the story. The giant moai on the front cover is all-powerful, able to withstand an assault from seven superheroes. Yet inside the comic the awakened moai are a group of much smaller stone figures that appear easily punched into submission. “The harder they fall! And these stoneheads should fall very hard!”, declares Seraph.
The ring of moai that surrounds the resurrection has the appearance of an occult ceremony, with an ancient evil could forth with offerings. Easter Island is presumably employed as the last destination as it is viewed by the writers as the most isolated and foreign place. The moai connect with the other archaeological and ancient sites within the story, but also with mythical locations such as Atlantis. Each of the previous global locations had their own local superhero with culturally specific identities and powers. It is therefore a shame that no superhero emerges that is associated with Easter Island. Instead, the moai are once again aggressors and a dormant threat waiting to be awakened.
‘Tharg’s Future-Shocks. No Picnic!’
(no.272, 10 July 1982, IPC Magazines)
A family of three – mother, father and son – travel by boat to Easter Island to relax and have a picnic. The mother, Raquel, is only concerned about the contents of the picnic and the fact that her husband, Oswald, forgot the potato salad and the mayonnaise. Oswald is the sole member of the family to be interested in the wondrous moai: “No-one knows what they are or how they got here! Doesn’t that sorta do something for you, Raquel? Don’t you have any poetry in your soul?”. Their son, Byron, is easily bored and he decides to bury his father up to his neck in sand whilst he is taking a nap. Oswald wakes to discover that he is literally stuck on the island with his wife and son having departed without him – “I keep thinking I forgot something…”, Raquel says as she leaves the island. Suddenly, Oswald discovers he is not alone as the moai come alive and begin a conversation.
A double-page story that fills the centre spread of this comic, it is the only part of the internal pages to be published in colour. A long-running feature of 2000AD, the Future Shock feature began in 1977 and often presented stories and artwork from new/emerging artists, one of whom was a young Alan Moore, the author of this Easter Island fantasy. This was one of more than fifty Future Shock stories that Moore wrote for 2000AD and it appears inspired both by the Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror EC comics of the 1950s and the popular British television series Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1988).
For this ‘No Picnic’ story is of a dysfunctional family, selfishness and abandonment and it includes a dramatic twist of horror and torment. The bored only child, Byron, is a demanding brat who appears spoilt. Rather cruelly, Oswald, the only family member to show any reverence for the island is the one that is punished. And whilst the story borrows from contemporary culture it is also a science-fiction narrative with both the private boat and the father’s clothes of the future. Within Easter Island fiction the myth of creation has offered a variety of inventive reasons for the existence of the moai. Of these fantasies, this is the only one to have connected the moai to a forgotten father buried in the sand.
‘The Absorbing Man wants You!
(no.18, August 1982, Marvel Comics Group)
The Absorbing Man checks into a flophouse, a cheap hotel in New York’s Bowery, where he plans his revenge on The Avengers. The plan involves absorbing the power of The Dazzler, a superhero and rockstar who emits blinding white light that she has transduced from sonic energy. Whilst sitting on his hotel bed the Absorbing Man reflects on how he got there having been in an almighty fight with the Hulk on Easter Island. Despite absorbing the properties of the island and transforming into a giant stone man, the Absorbing Man is punched so hard by the Hulk that he falls into a coma. Left lying on his back just off the coast, the local Rapanui believe he is a newly formed island but when he wakes this giant is revered as a god. The Rapanui call him the ‘Island Spirit’ and give him all he desires. Those who refuse are broken into submission by this brute that can turn into a man of stone.
The Absorbing Man’s flashback to his time on Easter Island lasts for two pages of this comic and continues a story that had begun and ended with a typically epic fight on Easter Island in The Incredible Hulk no.261 (July 1981). The story left the Absorbing Man in a coma, slumbering as a giant-man-island. The idea is clearly inspired by the popular myths of the moai, who are often viewed as sleeping colossi, awaiting their moment to rise up.
The Absorbing Man is Carl ‘Crusher’ Creel, a large, bald and bullet-headed thug of a man. As a boxer, he was jailed for a crime, but then managed to escape after consuming a drink laced with a potion administered by the Asgardian god, Loki. Now, as the Absorbing man, he can transform into any property that he touches. On Easter Island, the property is stone and this rock-like strongman becomes moai-like. The encounter with the Rapanui is reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels and the shipwrecked Gulliver’s experiences of meeting the inhabitants of the island of Lilliput. For they are tiny, compared to this giant who has suddenly appeared. Both the Absorbing man and Gulliver are found by the islanders whilst lying unconscious, and they both awaken from a supine position with the miniature islanders dotted on and around their torso, arms and legs. Like Gulliver, the Absorbing Man later tires of the natives and moves on.
The difference with the Marvel Comics fantasy is that the islanders are a basic part of a backstory, have no speaking role and in almost every frame are drawn ‘faceless’ their backs to the reader or their heads bowed down to the ground in servitude. It is suggested that the Rapanui are unintelligent (“dumb enough” and “stupid move” says the Absorbing Man). They are certainly depicted as insignificant and primitive – their dress strangely of a time pre-European contact despite the story being set in the early 1980s.
Orient Express 'Ivan Timbrovic nell'Isola di Pasqua' [Ivan Timbrovic on Easter Island]
(no.6, December 1982, Gruppo Editoriale L'Isola Trovata)
Russian secret agent Ivan Timbrovic is summoned to the Kremlin where His Excellence Leonida Leonidievic orders him onto a new, dangerous mission: Timbrovic will have to pose as archaeologist Marcello Maccaroni and take part in an expedition to Easter Island in order to discover its many mysteries. Thanks to Timbrovic, the Kremlin will be the first to know the origin of the moai and the purpose of the many caves scattered throughout the island. Ivan reluctantly leaves for Easter Island together with three other real archaeologists, Dr Uriah Seller, Professor Kakalosino and Professor Martyn.
Once on the Island, Timbrovic and the three experts begin their exploration in search of answers. The four spend the first day walking around the island, but find nothing that can help. During this time, Seller is bitten by a mysterious insect, which was thought to have been extinct for 5000 years. At night, a sleepless and scared Timbrovic hears a noise coming from outside his tent. Peering out, Timbrovic sees Kakalosino leaving the camp and decides to follow him. While walking, the Professor starts to call out to the sky to an extra-terrestrial civilisation that he believes has inhabited Easter Island and built the moai. The aliens are bound to return to the island that night as they do every thousand years. Kakalosino jumps off a cliff believing that he will be drawn into the spaceship's anti-gravitational field but instead he falls to the bottom and dies.
Timbrovic goes back to the camp, where he finds Martyn staring at the decomposing body of Seller. Apparently the insect that had bitten Seller had injected the archaeologist with a larvae that has been eating his body from within. The two surviving expeditioners split up. Timbrovic goes east and roams endlessly for ten hours. Suddenly, he discovers a number of stone birds perched on a tree. As he rushes back to the camp to tell Martyn, he runs into a pool of blood next to which are the Professor's glasses. Believing Martyn dead, Timbrovic seeks refuge in a cave, where he finds a young blonde woman welcoming him to the Easter Island Holiday Resort. The woman tells Timbrovic that the mysterious phenomena, for years associated with the island, were in fact all staged for the sake of the tourists who stay in underground accommodation.
Dispirited by this discovery, Timbrovic runs away from the cave to escape the attentions of the woman, only to find Martyn, who had staged his death to force Maccaroni and Timbrovic underground in a search for the truth. While Timbrovic tries to explain that there is no mystery, a huge rock falls from the sky killing Martyn. Back at the Kremlin, Timbrovic tells Leonidievic a story about a mysterious population that had constructed the enormous moai in order to venerate their great chief Hotu-Matua. He also presents His Excellence with a fake statuette of this leader represented as a fertility god, which is supposed to have lain hidden for centuries in a cave. Unconvinced by his story, Leonidievic sends Timbrovic away with the statuette.
Published in Italian, Ivan Timbrovic's stories are a parody of the secret agents and Cold War stories best epitomised by James Bond. Easter Island seems to only serve as a setting for another improbable adventure of this unlikely Russian spy. For this reason, the mystery of Easter Island is only loosely constructed around the presence of the moai, which actually appear only once in the story. The comic exploits the most common myths surrounding Easter Island, such as the notion that aliens from outer space had erected the giant statues, and shows them to be false – manufactured, or the result of delusion.
What is relatively original is the fiction's extensive re-imagining of Easter Island as a giant tourist resort. Whilst there was a tourism industry on Easter Island in 1982, it was lacking development and the huge crowds of visitors that it attracts nowadays and which the authors of this story seem to anticipate. Certainly tourists do not live in underground accommodation and nor are the mysteries staged, but within the humour of this fiction there is possibly a critique of the island's commodification and its transformation as a result of tourism.
The Legion of Super-Heroes
'A Shared Destiny'
(no.311, May 1984, DC Comics)
Wildfire, a member of the Legion, arrives at Starhaven, a planet of lush vegetation and with a large stone figure – the site of a temple – rising from the land. On the surface, Wildfire encounters winged people dressed in the clothes and culture of Native American Indians, who say they have been on the planet undisturbed "in the seven hundred years since we settled here". One of their kind, Dawnstar, who is also a member of the Legion, is being sought by Wildfire, a super-hero with whom she had become close. Unfortunately, Wildfire is a superhero in a suit, without a body – and therefore someone Dawnstar cannot touch.
Dawnstar has been roaming the galaxy searching for meaning and the man with whom she will settle, in a rite of passage that is called a "grand tour". Wildfire catches up with dawnstar near the planet of Venus, but just at the moment of her sacred revelation which he unwittingly disturbs. Wildfire reveals his true feelings and he and Dawnstar embrace. She flies back to Starhaven, her home planet, with her quest fulfilled and destiny realised. There within the temple of the stone giant the silent vigil can now end.
The giant stone figure that appears within two frames of this story (including the title page) is a site of community worship connected to ancient spirits. The hard, angular features of this idol were perhaps inspired by the moai of Easter Island even though Rapanui is not directly referenced in the story. Found on a planet of winged Native American Indians places the stone carving within a fantasised and romanticisied Indigenous culture whose origins are not of Oceania but crucially of a remote civilisation, long left undisturbed, and that is strongly connected to the land.
'Special Rock Issue'
(no.254, April 1985, E.C. Publications)
Appearing on just the cover of this special issue, which is focused on rock music, a row of moai are presented wearing headphones which barely cover their long ears. The joke which recognises the human features of the moai and suggests they can hear, appeared to inspire the advertising campaign employed by Sony for its range of headphones that it promoted in 1989 (see below).
'Seeds of Doom!'; 'When Past and Present Meet!'
(vol.2, no.1 and no.2, September and October 1985, DC Comics)
Darkseid escapes a revolt against his tyrannical rule on the evil distant planet of Akropolis. He is joined by the last of his loyal forces, and together they are transported to the moon through the inter-dimensional boom tube. Darkseid is now looking for a new world to rule and he targets nearby Earth.
Many of the superheroes from the DC Universe gather for an emergency meeting. Five UFOs have been spotted crash-landing around the world – at Stonehenge, the Colosseum in Rome, New York, Arizona and Easter Island. At each site, giant seeds are taking root and burrowing deep towards Earth's core. The superheroes decide to split into teams to tackle the threat.
Aquaman and J'onn J'onzz travel to Stonehenge where Darkseid's evil helper Desaad transports them back in time to the age of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Desaad manufactures a battle between King Arthur, his knights and the two superheroes, who are captured but then manage to show Desaad is the true villain. Desaad escapes and the superheroes arrive back at Stonehenge in the present day.
In New York, Red Tornado, Hawkman and Green Arrow arrive to tackle another seed of doom, but they are transported back to prehistoric times and an age of dinosaurs. Simultaneously, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Dr Fate travel to Easter Island, "to a place shrouded in mystery". Dr Fate advises that for some the moai are "grounded in dark magic".
Easter Island appears in just one image in issue no.1 and on one page in issue no.2 as part of the comic's basic exposition in this six-part story, that moves to a focus on Easter Island in issue no.3. Having a group of superheroes divide into teams to tackle a series of related threats in different global locations, that include Easter Island, had been presented as a narrative structure just a few years prior in DC Comics Presents (see the review above).
'Time Upon Time Upon Time'
(vol.2, no 3, November 1985, DC Comics)
On Easter Island a team of superheroes comment on the moai they find there, but assume they are inanimate statues. Yet the reader can see one of the moai thinking 'At last! They have arrived!'. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Dr Fate move away from the moai in search of one of Darkseid's seeds of doom. When they locate the seed it begins to glow and, with a blast of energy, Darkseid's faithful minion Mantis appears. In turn each of the superheroes attempts to subdue Mantis but he is able to absorb their powers, reflect them back and make his escape. The superheroes then attempt to destroy the seed of doom, but Green Lantern is pulled inside. As Wonder Woman and Dr Fate try to rescue him, they are attacked from behind by Mantis, who pushes all three superheroes into the seed.
When the superheroes recover their faculties they find themselves still on Easter Island, but in the year 1087AD. They find the island is inhabited by natives "in primitive garb", and they also discover giant alien beings that look like the moai. These beings describe themselves as the M'mtnek, hailing "from a planet afar", and declare their intent to rule over Earth. The Rapanui have been enslaved and with Easter Island conquered the rest of the world will
The superheroes battle the aliens but are initially defeated and held captive with the natives. The aliens trap the superheroes using a force field but, once rested, Dr Fate is able to break through this barrier and they escape to continue the battle. He is also able to gain entry to the alien's spacecraft where he finds Mantis is working with the aliens to further their plans to conquer the Earth. Green Lantern creates special sponges that soak up the energy Mantis
directs at him and returns it in a manner similar to how Mantis had previously battled the superheroes. More aliens emerge from the spacecraft and Mantis believes they will defeat the superheroes so he returns to the future. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are floored and seemingly about to be killed when Dr Fate uses his power to immobilize the aliens. He also destroys the alien spaceship, but salvages a time/ space warp device that enables the superheroes to return to the present.
In honour of the superheroes, who have freed the Rapanui, three moai-like giant heads are carved of the crime-fighting trio at the story's end, but they are immediately obliterated by Green Lantern, who wishes to keep their activities on the island secret. However, this was not the first comic to show Wonder Woman on Easter Island, and it was also not the first to depict her likeness in a moai – that was 30 years earlier in another DC comic (see the review above). Green lantern's freezing of the aliens apparently explains how the moai, fixed in time, came to exist. The story conveniently ignores, though, the issue that these alien moai wear uniforms and helmets – which somehow disappear when the creatures become the stone monoliths. In one frame set in the contemporary period, the island is bizarrely shown crammed with giant bulbous moai heads that are packed together.
So much of this comic is a series of fights, with the Rapanui innocent bystanders whose island has become a staging post for an invasion and now a battlefield involving superheroes. Easter Island may be remote, which could aid an assault on Earth that does not wish to be noticed, but so many similar stories position the island as the unlikely start of a successful invasion when the territory is relatively tiny compared to the world's continents and metropoles. The culture of the Rapanui is presented as simple, and the men are drawn with muscular bodies yet they still kowtow and cower in fear. "Hello. Don't be afraid. We're friends", says Green Lantern reassuringly.
The New Teen Titans Annual
‘Revenge of the Rusting Reptiles From Outer Space (!)
(no.2, 1986, DC Comics)
Mechanised robot dinosaurs are rampaging through parts of North and South America. Buried for thousands of years in an underground chamber they have been reactivated and released following drilling along the San Andreas Fault in Northern California. Drawn to Easter Island the Teen Titans trace a light to inside the volcano of Rano Raraku (written here as Rand Rakaku), where a long-buried spaceship is found containing the dead and petrified bodies of aliens resembling moai. It is deduced that the indigenous population of Easter Island, which seems to have long disappeared, “sculpted the statues in their honor. They must have been thought of as gods!”. Wonder Girl destroys the still-active control panel, thereby halting the robo-dinosaurs in their tracks. At the story’s end the reader is informed that the aliens were dying when they crash-landed on earth. Images were relayed back to their planet of the dinosaurs that then roamed the land and these were used to construct the robots that were sent to earth as emissaries to connect with what was believed to be the dominant species. Both the spaceship with the moai-looking aliens and the robo-dinosaurs crash-landed and had been long-buried underground.
Republished a year later in Tales of the Teen Titans (no.81, September 1987), the robot dinosaurs in this comic were following a popular trend that had begun in Japan and by the mid 1980s had produced the Dinotrons or Dinobots of the Transformers universe. Just a year before this annual, the Dinobots had been named one of the highest selling toys of 1985. Forcing such creatures into this Teen Titans story leads to a convoluted and hurried tale of aliens, moai and dinosaurs, with a repetition of the creation myth that the Rapanui had carved the moai as a likeness of the outerspace travellers whom they worshipped as gods. The remoteness of Easter Island, with its caverns and volcanoes and a population removed, provides a land of mystery and the unknown where ancient spaceships are waiting to be discovered.
A year after its 'Special Rock issue' and the placement of moai humour on its front cover, Mad published the first of two cartoons (see below for the second) that imagined what lies beneath the moai heads. The work of archaeologists such as Thor Heyerdahl has revealed that the bodies of many of the moai extend far underground. Unlike the second Mad cartoon, where a team of archaeologists use industrial equipment to excavate, the two adventurers in this comic dig furiously with simple shovels. These colonial figures with their pith helmets, shorts and surnames such as Faversham, are presumably British, and their theory that the moai are ancient ice-age carvings is proved correct when they reveal that the heads are joined to the bodies of ice-hockey players, complete with skates and sticks.
The Doom Patrol
(no.25, 1989, DC Comics)
A machine called a Materioptikon, a relic from the days of the Justice League, is found in a storage space called the Souvenir Room. It gives increased physical force to the image-making powers of the psychic Dorothy Spinner, who can bring imaginary and hallucinatory monsters and creations to life. It is left to Joshua Clay, aka Tempest, to destroy the machine, but not before he is dislocated into a realm of abstract space and time. To represent the surreal nature of this realm, Clay is depicted in a swamp surrounded by a grandfather clock, sand-timers and a moai.
Lais und Ben 1 [Lais and Ben 1] 'Anamarama' (text: Joachim Friedmann; drawings: Henk Wyniger;
Hamburg: Carlsen, Edition Comic Art, 1990)
Lais and Ben are close friends and German students in Frankfurt am Main. While Ben is fervently pursuing his studies, Lais is unhappy with his life and is in search of new hedonistic pleasures. To this end he experiments with mind-expanding drugs and shamanic rituals. So when he comes across a book called ‘Anamarama’ (the cave of light), written by an English ship’s doctor who had landed on Easter Island on a slave traders’ ship in the nineteenth century, and reads about a secret Easter Island cult, he spontaneously decides to travel to Easter Island. In his report, the doctor mentions a mind-expanding drug called Anamarama, which Lais hopes to find and experience.
Ben finds some clues to Lais’s plans and follows him to Easter Island. There, Ben is warned by a native Rapanui of the caves, but he is determined to enter them whereupon he manages to find Lais. The two friends are now captives of the Rapanui who feed them the Anamarama drug during a secret ceremony. Consequently, they are to be prevented from ever leaving the island. In their drugged state the two protagonists have an intense mind-altering psychedelic experience, of which they remember little upon awakening. A native helps them to escape whilst the rest of the Rapanui are still under the effects of the drug. They just manage to leave Easter Island by airplane, and back in Germany they have only vague recollections of their adventure.
This 48-page comic is, surprisingly, one of the very few illustrated German attempts to deal with Easter Island and its culture. And it is drawn using the classical style of the ‘ligne claire’ (clear line) of the Franco-Belgian comics, that began with the illustrated adventures of Tintin by Hergé (Georges Remi). The comparatively simple plot depicts the topography of the island, the volcano Rano Raraku, the moai and the ceremonial village of Orongo in a relatively realistic manner, though the row of moai at Anakena are incorrectly depicted as looking out to sea. Unfortunately, the depiction of the Rapanui, who drink the drug during a ceremony inspired by the birdman cult, is very problematic, as they appear primitive, barely clothed, and almost entirely depicted as unwelcoming and hostile, whilst the atmosphere on the island is rather depressive.
Unusual for a comic, the depiction of the island’s petroglyphs, and the carvings of Makemake, Moai kavakava and a Rapa ceremonial paddle, appear often within the individual frames of the story. The German flat shared by Lais and Ben even contains several Moai kavakava figures with one maltreated with a bra flung over its body when Lais brings a woman home from a club on a one-night stand. The ceremonial interiors of the caves on the island are a distinct fantasy and are reminiscent of Inca architecture and it is a leap of imagination to depict giant moai within these cavernous underground spaces and to have an exit as leading out through a secret opening in the head of a hollow moai above ground. That said, it is remarkable that the moai are allotted only a minor role in the story.
Most interestingly in this comic, the language of the Rapanui within the cave ceremony is presented in speech bubbles as rongorongo hieroglyphs. And as rongorongo remains undeciphered the reader can only wonder what is being said at these points in the story. Appearing to be set sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s the colourful psychedelic drawings of the effect of taking drugs and their association with adventure suggests a lack of criticism of drugs in general. The renderings of the two main protagonists, Lais and Ben, have a likeness to the authors of this comic, Joachim Friedmann and the cartoonist Henk Wyniger, whose photos appear on the inside cover of this volume.
Mū begins with Corto Maltese and his companions' initial quest for the lost continent of Atlantis and its ancient race. According to legend, the people of Atlantis came from the west and colonised Europe. Corto's quest eventually leads him to search for the lost race of Mū, an ancient continent in the Pacific destroyed by fire and water. The story begins in 1925 on a ship that is sailing across the Atlantic, where Corto seems to have located Atlantis off the coast of an island in the Caribbean.
When some Carib tribesmen, who inhabit the island, kidnap the woman Soledad believing her to be the incarnation of Kukulcan, the Sun Head God, Corto and his friends go ashore to find and liberate her. There, in the middle of the jungle they reach an ancient Mayan temple which leads to the Sacred Labyrinth. Once inside, Corto must go through a series of ordeals to reach the lost dimension and find the ancient sonic vibrations, sound reverberations of the long-gone centuries. In the Labyrinth, Corto encounters a Sardana warrior who has travelled across time and space from Atlantis in search of Mū, reaching the Americas long before the Phoenicians, the Celts and the Vikings. The Sardana warrior invites Corto to find Mū before reaching the Maya Elder, but as he crosses the Labyrinth, he and his companion Rasputin must fight against the Guardian Warriors.
This instalment of the story opens with Corto fleeing the Guardian Warriors by jumping into the water where, whilst swimming, he comes across a giant turtle that leads him ashore towards the end of the Sacred Labyrinth. Once there, Corto finds an ancient Mayan Stone Head that invites him to eat the magic mushrooms that he collected in the Valley of Butterflies. Only by eating the mushrooms will Corto be able to find the lost days of the ancient civilisation of Mū, the island continent that was once the Navel of the World.
As soon as Corto eats the mushrooms, he is transported to an island where he finds himself amongst giant moai who look up towards the sky. In their brief encounter, the moai reveal that they are all that remains of the realm of Mū, which was destroyed from the stars, and of the Chosen Race which was exterminated by fire and water. The survivors found refuge on Aztla, the island from which the Aztec civilisation is believed to have originated. For thousands of years the moai have been looking at the stars waiting for some mysterious entity to return from outer space.
Suddenly, the Moai disappear and Corto is back on the Caribbean island where he finally reaches Soledad, who is in the process of getting married to a man named Hugues. She consequently decides to remain with the Carib tribe. Corto returns to the labyrinth where he comes across a series of paintings representing the Sacred Dance: the figures on the wall invite him to follow them into the dream dimension where Mū still exists.
Corto decides to move forward and finally arrives before the Maya Elder, the descendant of Kukulcan, the Mayan God also known as Quetzalcoatl by the Aztec and as Cuchulain by the Irish. The Elder inhabits the subterranean realm of Tezcla uniting Aztla and Mū, hidden to the men living on the surface of the Earth. The Elder shows Corto the exit of the Labyrinth. Corto leaves, only to flee the Spider Men by jumping into an ocean of fire. He emerges from the fire to find the Amazons who have been holding his friends as prisoners. This episode of the story ends up with Corto following the women warriors inside their citadel.
Published in instalments in Italian between 1988 and 1991, Mū was the last Corto Maltese story written by Hugo Pratt before his death. Here, the author builds on the genre of the 'Lost World' utopia and, specifically, on the myth of the lost continent of Mū and its identification with Easter Island, which was popularised by James Churchward in his 1926 work, The Lost Continent of Mu.
In Corto Maltese: Mū, Easter Island is never directly mentioned, but only alluded to when Mū is referred to as 'the Navel of the World', which was another early name of Easter Island. However, the association is easily made by the presence of the moai, which appear only briefly. In the story, they are the vestiges of the very first civilisation to have inhabited the world, a race of chosen, superior people possessing almost magical skills at the very dawn of time, from whom all the other civilisations have descended. As a result, through the identification between Mū and Easter Island, Rapanui is presented as the birthplace of all civilisations.
The moai appear as melancholic figures, the last inhabitants of a forgotten land, and the custodians of the origins of the civilised world, forever caught in the act of looking up at the sky in search of a sign, extricated from both time and space. In reality, the moai are associated with the words mata ki te rangi (eyes to the sky) and this comic advances the idea. The story also employs a common trope used in the popular representation of the moai, that is, their association with outer space. However, unlike other representations whereby the moai are the product of an alien civilisation, outer space here appears as the source of destruction rather than creation.
Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures
'A Tuft Luck tale'
(no.15, August 1991, W.D. Publications)
Donald Duck and his nephews find a bargain book for sale with a curious note inside of "squiggles and wiggles". They are being watched by a suspicious looking man, wearing a long coat and tall hat, who desires the note for himself as it presents a formula. The villain pulls out a gun and Donald and his nephews flee. They bump into another stranger, the villain's associate, who manages to grab half of the formula. The ducks hide in a crate of oranges, which is then hauled onto a waiting ship that is heading for Easter Island.
Two weeks later the ducks arrive at Easter Island and as stowaways are found and charged by an islander who holds multiple roles: police officer, mayor, barber and customs agent. The two villains arrive and offer to pay the ducks' bail, but they also want the other half of the formula. The villains attack the policeman and the ducks "head for the hills". In the nighttime darkness, Donald falls into a hole that is discovered to be at the base of a moai.
The villains have now caught up with the ducks and with the document rejoined and after hours of mixing the formula, a special ointment is held aloft. It is revealed it is an ancient treatment for baldness and the villain not only wishes to cure his own ailment but he sees global power in controlling the cure. The captive Donald lashes out and the ointment is kicked into the air, landing on the heads of both villains. Some also lands on Donald's head and on the chin of a moai. All develop rapid hair growth including the moai who grows a beard. The villains are sent to prison for assaulting a police officer and the same officer as the local barber says he will give Donald a haircut.
Disney comics have turned to Easter Island on five occasions and whilst more than half of this story is set there, very little is seen of its culture with the moai appearing in the latter stages of the story. Moai have been excavated to assess the extent of their bodies beneath the ground, but unlike the hole into which Donald falls, these pits have been filled in afterwards. The hairless moai watch silently as the ancient potion is mixed, which is so effective that hair growth occurs immediately on stone. The tuft of hair that this moai now sports on its chin references Tukuturi, the only moai that has a beard.
The sole islander depicted multi-tasks with numerous professional jobs to fulfill. It emphasises the smallness of the island, which the comic states "is a lonely speck" far from mainland Chile.
Danger Unlimited: The Phoenix Agenda
(story and art: John Byrne; Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics, 1995)
Hardback editions of this comic book, which collects together the 4 issues of Danger Unlimited, feature this artwork on its signature page. The four superheroes gather around a fallen moai whilst behind them other moai begin to rise up from the ground. The Legend imprint of Dark Horse Comics ran from 1994 to 1998 and featured a moai as its logo. This has seemingly inspired the artwork, where the myth of movement sees the moai brought alive as menacing figures with spindly arms.
‘Ivar and the Ten Commandments’
(no.5, April 1995, Valiant)
Ivar is a timewalker, an immortal with the ability to journey through time. His adventures are regulated by psychedelic coloured time arcs, through which he enters into other realms. As Ivar explains, ‘time arcs are attracted to strange places: the Bermuda Triangle, Easter Island, Cleveland…”. As this is being relayed to the reader, Ivar is depicted sitting on top of a head of a moai, in the year 1998. “Heads up! Maybe I’ll see you guys in another millennium”, as he hopes for a passage back in time to ancient Egypt and Nefertiti, the woman he loved. The time arc instead takes him to 1920s Hollywood where he becomes involved in the making of a film version of The Ten Commandments.
Part Indiana Jones, part Highlander, Ivar is an adventurer drawn to mysteries and antiquities. The moai appear in just one frame and serve as an easy image for the distant and the arcane. Easter Island is depicted as a desolate and unpopulated land with the moai providing an opportunity for a quick ‘head’ quip. With Ivar leaping through the time arc to Egypt, the story provides yet another connection – albeit casual – in the many myths of Easter Island that sees a link between the Rapanui and the erection of the moai and ancient Egyptian culture.
(no.1, December 1995, Image Comics)
An ancient man, who had attempted to protect the Earth, is imprisoned on Easter Island by insidious space gods. He is strapped to the back of a moai and contained beneath the ground, but he erupts from his prison during a nighttime rainstorm and whilst a production crew is making a film. This ancient guardian flies off to Hollywood, where he locates the “chosen one”, a young woman, a gang member and thief, who is destined to be MaxiMage, the Earth’s powerful guardian. She is needed to defend the planet from the return of the space gods.
Few fiction films have travelled to Easter Island for their productions. In this comic, the story begins with a film crew on the island who are employing the moai as part of a backdrop . Four moai on a rocky outcrop with eyes that appear to glow (due to either the storm or the production lighting) are ominous figures in the landscape. The story provides no explanation as to why Easter Island was chosen for the warrior’s imprisonment, but it is implied that this faraway land is ideal for holding someone captive and unseen for a long time. It would also appear that the moai contain their own forces that seemingly negate the warrior’s power.
Jonny Quest 'The Eyes Of Rapa Nui' (no.12, September 1997, Dark Horse Comics)
Jonny Quest, his father, and their friends fly to Easter Island to investigate the origins of the moai. On landing, Quest’s father goes off to work with the already resident Professor Fuentes, whilst Quest and his friends attend a tour given by a local youth. Quest’s father is suddenly taken captive by Fuentes, who reveals that his real name is Barnard, that he is on the island to find buried gold, and that the real Fuentes has been killed. Johnny befriends a local boy named Miguel who offers to show him a cave of treasure. Miguel leads Jonny to the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku, teaching him about the island as they go. They bump into Jonny’s friends who join them on their trip to the treasure. On their way they also encounter Barnard’s German henchman, Kurt, who takes them captive. Jonny tells Barnard about the treasure cave to save his father’s life, but to get there involves descending a cliff face by rope. Kurt goes first and confirms the presence of the cave. Upon hearing this Barnard shoots him, with Quest then setting his dog on Barnard. However, Kurt is not dead and emerges from the cliff face. He tries to throw a grenade at the group but it is deflected before exploding and instead topples a pukao (topknot) from a moai. The pukao from the moai falls on to Kurt and kills him. Later, Miguel shows the group his treasure cave and reveals that the treasure is in fact the sacred eyes that used to be a part of the moai.
This comic book is somewhat unique in that it demonstrates a willingness to establish a story that in part engages with the reality of contemporary Easter Island as well as acknowledging the island’s supposed history. The island is shown as a modern society populated by intelligent and rational human beings. This contrasts greatly with many other depictions where the island is either deserted or has a population of tribesmen or savages. Clearly, the main appeal of comic books such as these is the characters and narratives. However, through the character of Jonny Quest (the reader’s primary point of identification), and his interactions with Miguel, an educational quality is introduced to the comic that does not feel forced and nor does it distract from the plot. The comic book’s depiction of the moai is natural in that they are not assigned any fantastical powers or qualities. Moreover, they are positioned within an archaeological context that recognises contemporary challenges. In one scene, an ‘imager’ is discussed, which would be “an important breakthrough for archaeology…a device that translates subsurface radar impulses into 3-D holographic images”. As one character correctly asserts, “excavation is rarely allowed on this island”. It was the archaeological work of Sergio Rapu Haoa and his team who, in 1979, realised that the moai eye sockets held eyes of white coral, and red scoria or black obsidian for the pupils. These sacred carvings were believed to be the last addition to selected moai, and were positioned once the stone figures were in place. The mata (eyes) helped to transform the moai into an aringa ora (living face) and for something so precious they are a worthy treasure within the Jonny Quest adventure.
'Approach Nine: Lara'
(vol.2, chapter 15, November 1997, Viz Media)
In the future, the world is a vast barren land with constant war and fighting between 'Towns'. 'Citizens' join the army to increase their status and earn credits for missions and kills, whereupon enough points allow them to migrate to the idyllic 'City'. Grey becomes a soldier and is very successful on the battlefield fighting in a range of combats and encounters with advanced hardware, which includes humanoids.
In this chapter, a flying gunship in the shape of a moai attacks. Moai as weapons is a common theme in popular culture where they fire guns or emit lasers from their eyes, mouth or body. Japanese popular culture has a particular obsession with moai and this is apparent most in computer games where they appear mutated and as assaultive figures to be avoided, dodged or destroyed. The flying moai gunship in this manga is from a gaming culture in which conflict and weaponry dominates. This manga was originally published as a series of titles in Japan between 1985 and 1987, with the English translation released in the USA in 1997. A feature length anime film adaptation, Grey: Digital Target, was produced in 1986, but the moai flying gunship was absent.
This full-page cartoon which has since been much imitated re-imagines a moai as a Pez dispenser. It emerged on the back of an earlier moai cartoon that Mad published in 1986 (see above) and culturally its references are two-fold. The highly popular and collectable Pez sweet dispensers emphasise the head of a known person or character, and it is surprising that the company is yet to manufacture one based on a moai. The work of archaeologists, and in particular Thor Heyerdahl, has revealed that beneath the surface many of the buried moai heads have extensive bodies. It has led to a never-ending flow of popular culture images and cartoons that have imagined just what exactly may be discovered under the moai heads, and what may therefore resolve the perceived mysteries regarding their creation. In this cartoon, the archaeologists clearly lack care and patience for they employ a large digger and truck to mass excavate the soil.
Las Aventuras de Ogú, Mampato y Rena [The Adventures of Ogu, Mampato and Rena]
'Mata-ki-te-Rangui' [Eyes to the Sky]
(text and drawings: Themo Lobos; Santiago: J.C. Sáez, December 1998)
A Chilean boy, Mampato, is given a book about Easter Island, by his father. Earlier that evening the father had brought home a carving of moai kavakava. From the book, Mampato learns all about the culture of Easter Island, so much so that he desires to travel there. At night, he puts on his special time-travel belt and first journeys back to prehistoric times to visit his caveman friend, Ogú. Together, they journey forward in time to Easter Island to a period pre-European contact.
On Easter Island they meet a little Rapanui girl, called Marama. She is initially fearful of Ogú, believing him to be the spirit Aku-Aku. Marama takes Ogú and Mampato to the moai quarry site of Rano Raraku, where her father is part of a group of men carving out a new statue from the volcanic rock. Ogú believes he can help, but his heavy stone-age club smashes the moai into pieces with one blow. The locals are angry but a man of importance, their "tangata rongorongo" (a leader for reading/interpreting rongorongo) intervenes. He says that in the morning, the "foreigners", Ogú and Mampato, will be presented to the ariki/ chiefs. Meanwhile, they go with Marama to her village, where they eat, are shown and told about the local cuture, and then sleep.
In the morning, a man declares that the sooty tern has arrived, which signals the start of the annual birdman competition. Marama shows Ogú and Mampato around the rock carvings and dwellings of Orongo. As the race begins, Ogú and Marama, who are watching from a cliff edge, are pushed into the sea below by a vengeful tangata rongorongo. Ogú is a bad swimmer and he is initially saved by Marama and then by a turtle. Both Ogú and Marama reach safety on Motu Nui, an island outcrop that is the site of the nesting sooty terns, where Ogú accidentally acquires a coveted bird's egg.
With Marama's help they return to the main island of Rapanui, with Ogú declared winner in the birdman competition. Unfortunately, as the new tangata manu/ birdman, Ogú's head is shaved, so he rejects the honour and tosses away the egg. Ogú is therefore no longer birdman, and he, Mampato and Marama are chosen to die. As Ogú fights back and defends them from warriors, Mampato activates his special belt and the three companions are transported to another part of the island. Marama thinks this is magic, and as they take refuge, the three hide out over night in a cave.
The next morning they awake to see the Great Ariki/ King installing a new moai on an ahu/ platform. This he does with his special telekinetic powers, which make the moai fly into position. Marama notes that there is a belief that the blocks of stone used to build the pyramids of Egypt, were moved in the same manner. There is a lack of equal food distribution on the island. Most food is reserved for the ariki and the birdman; it is forbidden for it to be touched by others. Ogú, who is hungry, does not care and steals a basket of food reserved for the birdman, which creates anger from the ariki. The result, however, is a rebellion, led by Marama, with Ogú especially effective in combat. The Great Ariki/ King uses his powers to raise and hurtle large boulders at the rebels, but this leads the sea to retreat and then crash down upon the island as a huge tsunami wave.
The king dies, with his fellow chiefs trying to continue their control over the islanders. Marama again intervenes, with the islanders rejecting the ariki and declaring war. The island is divided with the ariki defending themselves in a zone near Anakena. The ditch that separates the zone from the rest of the island is set on fire. The ariki/ long ears are massacred, and with the Rapanui freed from the orders of the ariki, they topple the moai, despite Marama's attempts to stop them. Marama believes there is nothing more that he can do for the island. He says goodbye to Marama and he departs, first dropping off Ogú back in the prehistoric age. He then returns to his twentieth century home. Before he sleeps he reflects on the poor Rapanui, who were later to become trafficked by slave traders and decimated by the diseases of the white man. He happily concludes, though, that the remaining islanders are now a community with dignity and they are free.
Chileans hold Mampato and Ogú, and the work of their creator, Themo Lobos, with great affection. Mampato was introduced in 1971 with Lobos' cartoons first collected into comic albums/ books in 1996. A few years later, Ogú and Mampato's Rapanui adventure was made into a 2002 feature-length animation (see the review above). This Spanish-language comic, 'Mata-ki-te-Rangui', tries hard to be educational with the first few pages detailing the culture and ethnography of the Rapanui, such as a wooden fish carving, known as an ika, which is rarely depicted in moai fiction. Many of the subsequent frames are filled with cultural artefacts and knowledge, such as rongorongo tablets, a ceremonial rapa (paddle), reimiro (breastplate), tangata manu/ birdman wooden carvings and rock petroglyphs, and even a tahonga (an egg carving showing a bird emerging from the top). This continues throughout the comic, with the king speaking in rongorongo glyphs when he invokes his power (something only a few other comics have done). More significantly, at the story's end there is a debate in a building at Orongo and inside is moai Hoa Hakananai'a – its back shown complete with detailed carvings – with the reader told in a side note that this moai is now held in the British Museum. A few other comics have included this unique moai but this one is alone in correctly positioning it indoors at Orongo, where it was originally kept before it was stolen by a British ship.
In contrast, the comic is wrong to show large moai being carved from the volcanic rock whilst completely upright. The skeletal moai kavakava carving was not created following the arrival of the first Rapanui, who supposedly had been starving onboard their boats. Instead, according to legend, this carved figure emerged following a king's dream. Historical timelines in the comic are condensed to create more drama, with so much Rapanui cultural practice packed into the comic, seemingly to showcase the rich heritage of the island during Mampato's visit. It is clear that the comic wishes to be both informed and highly imaginative. In a story about a boy with a time-travelling belt it is perhaps not surprising to see fantasy seep into the actions of the islanders, with the mystery of how the moai were transported solved in the final pages with a king capable of moving stones through telekinesis. It is also not surprising to see a Chilean comic refuse to challenge Chile's continuing colonisation of Easter Island, where in reality the Rapanui have been demanding greater autonomy in their affairs. But it is a very problematic way to end the comic with Mampato saying that the Rapanui today are free. Just how much this statement would jar with a Chilean readership is not known.
(no.4, no.5, no.6, March-June 1999, Top Cow Productions)
The Blue are a race of powerful water-based humanoids, who are now surfacing as they prepare for their assault on mankind. Led by Killian, they locate themselves initially on Easter Island. As Killian declares in issue number 4, against a backdrop of moai (that resemble Ahu Tongariki), “so many centuries they have endured, weathered the worst Pacific storms could throw at them. It is fitting that we chose this island, for the statues symbolize our endurance and patience”.
Easter Island appears in three issues of the first volume of a long-running comic series. In each instance, the moai appear on just one page where they represent the island and act as an easy identifier for the isolated location. The Blue are rising up as their oceanic worlds are being destroyed by mankind. Killian states in a lengthy speech in issue number 5, “many human activities now threaten our way of life. They [humans] wage war and test weapons, they pollute, they treat the water – our home and our lifeblood – as their wastebasket […] Because of this, we of the water can no longer remain idle in the face of human threat. We intend to reveal ourselves, and in doing so we will ascend to an active, dominant role as the planet’s primary species”.
The story bears some similarity to the 1973 film Godzilla vs Megalon (see the review above) in which the inhabitants of an underwater kingdom, Seatopia, plan to destroy the human race due to their destruction of the ocean. In the film, Seatopia is also called Mu/Lemuria, and extends the mythical undersea Pacific continent/kingdom created by Atlantis-inspired author James Churchward in the nineteenth century. Mu/Lemuria has been referenced or used as inspiration for a number of Easter Island myths which see the island and the moai as the remnants of the lost civilisation. Whilst Killian’s speech in Blue connects the “endurance and patience” of his race to the moai, there is a potential association between these aquatic people and the world of Lemuria. The statement of “endurance and patience” refers to the moai and unfortunately not to the islanders, with the people of Rapanui removed from this fiction. Once again, the moai have managed to displace the island’s population within the imagination of popular culture.
Easter Island has also often served as a popular location for making statements about ecological disaster and mankind’s destruction of the Earth. The creator of Fathom, Michael Turner, says he was inspired to create the story after reading National Geographic and he clearly wishes to address environmental concerns within the comics. Easter Island appears to have been selected by Killian as a base due to its remoteness from mankind, but it is also employed for establishing a strong message about how Earth has been spoiled by humans.
Sonic the Comic
‘The Terra Connection’
(no.172, January 2000, Egmont Fleetway)
Planet Mobius is under attack from an unknown virus that is creating environmental collapse. Sonic and his friends, the Freedom Fighters, jump through the Ring of Eternity, which allows them to move between worlds and zones. They arrive at planet Earth and Easter Island, where they discover that an energy force in combination with Mobius is sucking the life out of this environment and destroying the world’s ecosystem. Suddenly the moai come alive, announcing “defence program activated!”, and surround Sonic and his friends.
The Moai attack and Sonic and his companion Shortfuse fight back, but as one stone giant is destroyed it is quickly able to reassemble. Meanwhile, the mighty fist of a moai, which had slammed down into the ground, has opened up a crack in the land. There, underground, a machine built by “some ancient alien race” is discovered which is controlling the moai and transferring Earth’s energy. Once it is destroyed, the moai crumble to reveal they were robots, “made up of millions of tiny micro-bots!”. Sonic and his friends return to Planet Mobius through the Ring of Eternity to continue the fight.
With moai that walk, talk and fight, robots, ecological disaster, secret underground technology, aliens and time gates, this relatively short comic story has seemingly ticked off the majority of the Easter Island myths and fantasies. Here, the moai are fierce stone defenders with crushing hammer-like fists and glowing red eyes that can fire lasers. Easter Island is an easy location for comic book narratives that wish to emphasise global environmental disaster at the hands of an evil super-power. The absent islanders are replaced by moai that come alive, with once again the apparent enigma of these stone figures explained by alien forces. In reality, the moai functioned in part as protectors of the islanders, but the myths of Easter Island have often re-imagined them as a defence system that is activated when intruders are detected. Sonic the Hedgehog began life as a computer game character created by the Japanese company Sega. An obsession within Japanese popular culture with the moai, robots and with battles against daikaiju, or giant monsters, has seemingly inspired a British produced story and comic.
‘World War Three Part Six: Mageddon’
(no.41, May 2000, DC Comics)
The living ancient cosmic weapon Mageddon, created by the Old Gods and described as “the ultimate warbringer”, is destroying planet earth having induced conflict in humans and started a new and apocalyptic World War III. Needing to muster everyone to defeat this formidable foe, the JLA unite with other DC superheroes and a population of humans who have been given temporary superpowers to aid in the struggle. This evolutionary jump that comes from awakening the “dormant potential in everyone” creates a world of superhumans, which Wonder Woman declares are the “Justice League Reserves”. The superhumans emerge following a blast of high-energy from an Anti-War ray device which Wonder Woman and a band of superheroes were tasked with building on Easter Island. The powerful rays of the device are transmitted around the world through the mouths and eyes of the moai.
An uninhabited Easter Island serves as a stage for primal power on a global scale in this final instalment in a 6-part story. The moai function as ancient wonders through which immense rays are blasted forth to help “summon the armies of man”. Yet again, Easter Island becomes the focus for a global struggle between good and evil, an arena upon which the destruction of the world can be solved. It is also not the first time that the moai exhibit the myth of power this time channelling a force necessary for defeating a great intergalactic foe.
Sir Pyle S. Culape Vol.1
(text: Morvan; drawings: Munuera; Toulon: Soleil Productions, 2000)
Sir Pyle travels across time and place as a mythecin, a doctor whose patients are usually mythological creatures such as a vampire, a yeti and a minotaur. In episode 4 he is summoned to Easter Island because the moai are suffering from eye infections. Upon his arrival, Sir Pyle asks the humans to leave so that he may speak with the moai undisturbed. He quickly determines that the moai are suffering from myxomatosis, a disease that normally only affects rabbits. Unsurprisingly, the culprit spreading the myxoma virus is the Easter Bunny, who lives on Easter Island and who is depicted as a crude and vulgar cigar-smoking animal.
Sir Pyle decides that killing the Easter Bunny is the only solution to the problem, and he hits him on the head with a bell insisting that it is the bunny’s “worst nightmare” as it is a “direct competitor for the world domination of Easter!”. This is a reference to the Franco-Belgian tradition of the Easter Bell bringing chocolate to children on Easter morning instead of the Easter Bunny, which belongs to Germanic traditions.
This bandes dessinées written in French illustrates the animate qualities of the moai as they not only talk and whistle but they are susceptible to animal diseases. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 4-page adventure in this bandes dessinées is its culturally specific ideas. Translating the story into English is problematic both for the name of Sir Pyle’s profession and the use of the bell to conquer the Easter Bunny. This story would not be as effective for English speakers who have little to no knowledge of French language or culture.
‘The Old Brit’ and the Sea’
(no.23, May 2001, Antarctic Press)
Whilst relaxing on a boat in the middle of the ocean, Britanny ‘Gia (aka Brit), the last of Earth’s full-blooded were-Cheetahs, is attacked by a tuna fish – that she calls Scarface – which swallows her wedding ring. Now Brit is determined to find the fish and retrieve the ring but inadvertently fishes up a giant moai, called the Mau Tai Colossus. This moai had been constructed by an “ancient civilization […] to protect the Earth” and will soon be brought into action to be a defender from a deadly solar ray, “The Eye of Death”, projected during an eclipse from a giant lens on Mercury. Brit has minutes remaining before the destructive ray hits, but first she wishes to rise to the top of the surfaced moai, where Scarface the fish is floundering.
This comic appears to be Japanese in design but it is entirely US produced. The creator, Fred Perry, has acknowledged the influence of manga and Indiana Jones for his stories that centre mainly around Gina Diggers, an adventurer and history-hunter. Perry served in the U.S. Marine Corps and it is not a coincidence that stories like this one feature an aquatic theme. The moai in this story has been abstracted from Easter Island, where there is no mention or depiction of the Pacific island location. Instead, this colossus is encountered far out to sea and it is so huge that its feet touch the ocean bed. Rather unusually, this is a benevolent moai that surfaces in a story that concludes in issue number 24, and in which the colossus defends the Earth. Here, the moai is simply depicted as a monstrosity that is soon to be awakened. That said, it dominates most of the frames in which it appears.
‘Make Mine a Mau Tai’
(no.24, June 2001, Antarctic Press)
With three minutes remaining before the Mercurian eclipse sends down a blast of almighty nuclear magnitude, Brit is flown by her winged companion Charlotte (aka Charlie) to the top of the head of the Mau Tai Colossus. There she finds Scarface the tuna and wrestles with it to free her lost wedding ring. Meanwhile, Mau Tai awakens energising itself in preparation for the solar ray blast. This moai with its own fusion reactors takes in water and oxygen and transforms them into energy to create a protective shield for the Earth. The top of its head opens up to begin the process but in doing so Charlie is sucked downwards into the moai. Brit and Charlie escape just in time, with the moai performing its Earth defender role admirably before returning back into the depths of the ocean.
This colossus of a moai that emerges from the ocean bed is in part reminiscent of the gigantic Jaeger defenders of Earth in the film Pacific Rim (2013). The moai is silent but immensely powerful and acts as a form of Earth defense mechanism with a specific job of deflecting an almighty solar ray that would otherwise destroy the planet. Many of the frames in this story are designed to emphasise the scale of this moai and therefore the magnitude of the job that it has been designed to perform. As the moai stands up tall holding its shield aloft to deflect the solar ray, it resembles a nuclear explosion, and the countless tests that were conducted in the Pacific.
Joker: Last Laugh
‘Lunatic Fringe’ and ‘Everyone Knows this is Nowhere’
(no.3 and no.4, December 2001, DC Comics)
Believing he is going to die soon, the Joker decides to go out in style. He takes refuge on Easter Island where he coordinates from afar a horde of villains to wreak havoc on the world. The army are ‘Jokerised’ escaped prison inmates, who have all been transformed through a toxin into crazed green-haired wide-grinned joker ‘clones’: “an army of super-powered murderous clowns”. The JLA struggle to contain the chaos, with Batman and Nightwing searching for the Joker in Gotham city in vain. On Easter Island, a bored joker ‘holidays’, whilst trying to conceive the most fantastic heinous crimes. This includes creating a deadly storm cloud that will spread “crazy rain” and his toxin across the world. But he also realises that when he is gone there will be no real legacy and he decides he must have an heir of his own flesh and blood. He plans to kidnap and impregnate Harley Quinn so she can give him a baby.
This is a stand-alone 6-part story, in which Easter Island appears in the 3rd and 4th instalments (and features on the cover of issue no.3). Easter Island appears across multiple frames, but mainly as fragmented moments and only whenever the story turns to Joker’s hideout. The remoteness (and abandonment) of Easter Island allows the Joker to be free from the chaos he is enacting on the world and it also means he is unable to be found. Yet considering the many instances that DC comics and members of the JLA have turned to Easter Island in previous stories it seems surprising that nobody ever considers looking there for the Joker.
The moai in this story are predominantly a backdrop to Joker’s madness, posed with their stern stony faces as a contrast to the manic grin of the Joker, who smiles permanently through his time away. The joker has a penchant for defacing works of art and heritage and his minions spend their time in issue no.3 altering the mouths of the moai, in homage to their master. “Do you realize how long it took the Easter Islanders to sculpt the moai?”, an unimpressed Joker tells his clowns, who he instructs to “think bigger”. In issue no.4, Joker, the ultimate clown, squirts liquid from the trick flower on his lapel and sprays acid onto the nose of a moai which rapidly dissolves.
As a tourist destination, this exclusive island accommodates just Joker and his super-thugs. It not only serves as a hideout, but it is a Pacific island that is simultaneously an escape from the madness of the world, whilst acting as its locus. Joker’s thugs are shown in surf-wear carrying surf boards, in a landscape dotted with tiki torches. Conducting everything is Joker who sports a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, or shorts, socks and flip-flops. In reality, Easter Island is part of a tiki culture, that can include the moai-shaped cocktail mugs (known as tiki mugs) that Joker grasps on the front cover of issue no.3. In the imagined worlds in which Easter Island is fictionalised it is often historical, but when contemporary-set it is repeatedly removed of modern culture. Bringing tiki culture to Easter Island for Joker’s last resort is a refreshingly original move by the creators of this comic.
‘Edie and Guy Finally Do It’
(no.124, March 2002, Marvel Comics Group)
An origin issue that explains the early years of the mutant Edie Sawyer (aka U-Go Girl), who has the powers of teleportation. A member of the mutant strike force, Edie is depicted teleporting her daughter, Katie, and the mutant Orphan, on a trip around the world to famous monuments and exotic and far-away places. The moai serve as just one of several iconic images on a single one-page spread that represent a whirlwind journey through space and time.
Featuring on the front cover only, this cartoon borrows from many previous examples of Easter Island humour, which takes ideas from the island's name and the exaggerated features of the moai. The Rapanui man that sits for a carver to copy his likeness has a large chin and nose which demonstrates the extremely odd appearance of anyone who could ever resemble a moai. The carving in this joke becomes a work of art modelled on a local so distinctive that the task is proving a challenge. The model has been trying to sit still for a very long time (as evidenced by the many discarded cigarettes) and the carver insists that he stops moving. In the background is another common joke of a large Easter egg that has also been carved out of stone.
Batman Adventures 'The Balance' (no.4, September 2003, DC Comics)
On Easter Island, Batman realisies there is an underground chamber beneath a hollow moai. Suspecting his enemy Ra’s Al Ghul is inside the chamber, he enters the hollow moai, and descends a long series of steps. Once at the bottom, it is revealed that the moai are not just stone heads, but beneath the earth they have extended full bodies complete with legs and raised hands. Batman is attacked by four men and as he battles them is struck by a tranquilizer dart fired by Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter Talia. Waking up, Batman discovers there is a Lazarus pit (which has given immortality to Ra’s Al Ghul) in the underground chamber. He is lectured by Ra’s Al Ghul, who reveals he has been a regular visitor to Easter Island, ever since he was part of Captain Cook’s eighteenth century voyage to the Pacific. Batman is able to break free and attack Ra’s Al Ghul, who orders his henchmen to kill Batman. Talia is struck by their bullets and falls into the lazarus pit. Ra’s Al Ghul pulls her out and finds the pit has driven her mad. She attacks her father, and Batman stops her by firing at her one of her own tranquiliser darts. Batman ties up Ra’s Al Ghul and takes him away. Upon waking up, her sanity returned, Tania emerges from the chamber to find she has been left been behind. The final panel depicts her stood beside the moai, abandoned.
A very early panel, and a strong establishing shot for this comic book story, features Batman stood beside a cliff-top moai looking inland. Many of the comic book superheroes have visited Easter Island, and often in such fiction it is to find a master criminal or demonic alien whose lair is hidden within the arcane landscape. The Lazarus pit adds to the fantasy and the supposed power of this land of the moai, and evokes the lost world narratives of immortality that are found in H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887), and James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (1933). There actually is an extensive cave network on the volcanic Easter Island, but nothing as cavernous as the story’s depiction of a vast chamber. Moreover, the bodies of many of the moai have been found to be buried beneath the earth, but none are such hollow monoliths as revealed in this story.
Crucially, the comic’s narrative does not have any real relationship to the location of Easter Island. The story’s events could quite easily have taken place in an underground chamber anywhere else in the world. The character of Ra’s Al Ghul makes a small but very interesting reference to Captain Cook’s Pacific voyages, but this one brief moment does not offer any insight into either the psychology of the character or the events taking place within the comic. Batman Adventures no. 4 can be seen as another example of Easter Island being used in popular culture purely to provide an exotic or unusual location in order to give a new sheen to the generic events of the narrative.
'Return of the Warrior'
(2004, Dark Horse Books)
In the year 2049, Earth comes under a new wave of attacks from kaiju eiga (colossal creatures) from space beyond. An international coalition defence force based in Japan is tasked with tackling these creatures, with the first appearing in Outer Mongolia and the second near Easter Island. The latter is identified as Melba, a winged creature which picks up a ship in its talons off the island's coast, before crashing it down amongst a group of moai. Ultraman Tiga comes to the rescue as the all-powerful 100-foot tall superhero that will save Earth from destruction.
Collecting together into one book in English a four-part comic, the front cover presents images of the moai, despite the fact Easter Island appears on just two inside pages. The popular appeal of Easter Island apparently lends itself to sensational covers featuring giants and mighty alien invaders. Ultraman is highly popular in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong, and especially with younger children, but it has never managed to match the global success of the more internationally known Godzilla. First produced in 1966 as a Japanese television series, with Ultraman Tiga appearing in 1996, this superhero has gone through different character types with versions allowing him to harness energy from fellow combatants and to grow in size in a style that predates the Power Rangers.
‘The Wasps of Atlantis’
(no.2, August 2004, Vertigo/ DC Comics)
Seaguy and his companion Chubby, a floating tuna fish who hates water, have escaped by boat from the Mickey Eye theme park, chased by agents with giant eyeball heads. Xoo cola is a new drink and Seaguy had drunk from a can from which a frightened living product emerged. Called Xoo, this bio-engineered pink food and drink product, which has been designed to control consumers and make them happy, has become sentient and is now a wanted creature. At the start of issue number 2, Seaguy, Chubby and Xoo arrive at Easter Island and attempt to disguise themselves from the special agents who have arrived in eyeball-shaped helicopters. Dotted around Easter Island are moai heads actively smoking cigarettes, with discarded fags littering the landscape. The moai can talk and are not happy to have their peaceful existence disturbed. After the agents leave, it turns out Seaguy had provided the cigarettes to buy the moai’s support in hiding out.
Three issues make up this first series of Seaguy, which was created as a reaction to the style and direction, design and domination of contemporary comics. The Disney empire is also within the sights of Seaguy’s creators, with Mickey Eye a big-brother styled omnipotent corporate power, represented by giant eyeballs, that operates a theme park and produces television animation that seduces, terrifies and captures its consumers.
Seaguy is an unlikely looking superhero in a wetsuit and snorkel mask. He craves adventures, beyond his Venice Beach home where he plays chess against Death. From Easter Island to Atlantis and finally the Moon, where Seaguy encounters an ancient Egyptian lunar civilisation ruled by a mummy, the stories are bizarre and surreal, where anything is possible. Here, the moai are anthropomorphised by not only giving them speech but also the desire to smoke. They are characterised across the first four pages of this issue as chain-smokers, casually relaxing upon the hilly landscape of Easter Island looking out to sea. “We’re trying to have a quiet smoke here”, one declares, “bothering nobody till you came along”.
'Savage Freaks of Cannibal Island'
(2005, Untamed Comics/ Golly Gee Records)
Mr C accompanied by his "faithful manservant", Big Tiki Dude, has been traveling everywhere trying to find the Hexxers, a legendary band of musicians that disappeared when their plane went missing in Polynesia. In a desire to sign the band and become a great music promoter, Mr C's journeying has become an obsession. They travel to Cannibal Island following reports of unearthly music, where they learn from two talking shrunken heads, the former managers of the Hexxers, that the band were eaten by the cannibals.
Mr C and Big Tiki Dude decide to stay the night to secretly watch the cannibal leader Dambala and his band perform the 'Ritual of the Savage', a cult rock concert embellished with bones and skulls. Dambala and his band is persuaded by an impressed Mr C to travel to the USA to perform as the Hexxers. They first cut a studio album, which is "greeted by rave reviews", leading to stardom and Hexxermania.
A rival music promoter, Omar, who had been searching for the lost band in the Himalayas is angry and envious of the success of the Hexxers. He circulates to the press the fact that the band members are actually cannibals, which creates a moral backlash, a loss of endorsements and an investigation by the FBI, but it also further fuels Hexxermania. So, Omar manufactures a fake competition for a lucky fan to meet the band. Teenager Tammy wins the chance to meet her heroes but instead Omar kills her, with the blame put on the Hexxers, who are arrested by the police. In an attempt to get to the truth Mr C and Big Tiki Dude use strong-arm tactics and eventually find Omar with Tammy still alive but captive. Whilst performing a concert to the prisoners in the state penitentiary the Hexxers are told they are innocent and free to leave. Omar is sent to the electric chair and the Hexxers record their second studio album.
A promotional comic issued by Golly Gee Records in support of the actual band the Hexxers and their 2005 album "Buried Alive!, the story functions within a union of garage punk and tiki culture. From the latter it borrows shrunken heads, a Polynesian island and a walking talking moai: a heavy in a sharp suit and a "reject from Easter Island", who accompanies the driven businessman Mr C. Unsurprisingly, this moai has a bone-crushing handshake, is good with his fists and is employed to kick down doors (and dig graves).
It is unfortunate that the Polynesian island is explicitly associated with cannibalism and its natives depicted as savages and freaks. The design of the comic is deliberately crude and heavy in a black pen and ink style that is reminiscent of the adult comics of Robert Crumb.
The Horrible Histories Collection
'The Terrific Pacific'
(no.56, 2005, Eaglemoss Publications)
Horrible Histories, which began as a book series in 1993, and was an animated television series by 2001, combines education and humour for a young audience. The title for this issue is the Pacific but Polynesia would be more accurate as the vast majority of its content addresses that region. In particular, the comic focuses on the Maori of New Zealand and the moai and Rapanui of Easter Island, which features on the front cover where the simple humour centres on the extended heads.
As expected of the Horrible Histories franchise the ideas are creative and colourful and the British-styled humour an endless stream of silly puns (and some of it quite political) that fills practically every frame – for instance, the moai heads are a "headache" and another is described as "stone hearted". There are, however, some horrendous mistakes with a map indicating New Zealand as part of Micronesia, and another frame stating that the Europeans took the islanders as slaves. In fact, the research for this comic is sloppy and lacking in the educational strengths that the franchise has exhibited elsewhere. Easter Island dominates three pages with one a double-spread that seems more interested in the social collapse, inter-tribal warfare and the supposed cannibalism that followed. Some statements are deeply problematic such as "[t]he ordinary islanders were so hungry that they killed and ate all the fat folks!" and that the "thinnies" crushed the "fatties" under toppled moai.
Mickey Mouse and Friends
(no.275, March 2005, Gemstone)
This is the fourth of five comics that Gemstone devoted to placing Disney characters on Easter Island. Seemingly still inspired by the stone carvings, the creators of this comic feature the moai on the cover for the second time (after Uncle $crooge Adventures no.3; January 1988). Whereas that cover presented the moai as monolithic figures of wonder, Mickey Mouse and Friends has a more humorous take, akin to single frame cartoons, with a moai re-imagined as a proud carving of Mickey’s dim-witted friend Goofy. His elongated chin protrudes far more than the impressive chin of a facing moai, and he glows in a golden light that suggests he is of greater importance. Mickey the tourist with camera ready is startled to discover this island honour in a fiction that does not venture beyond the cover, with no supporting story inside.
Donald Duck and Friends
'The Easter Mystery'
(no. 326, April 2005, Gemstone)
It is Easter time, and Donald Duck's nephews anticipate the Easter bunny bringing coloured eggs to their garden. They realise that no one has ever seen the Easter bunny, question if it is a rabbit at all and together with Donald Duck decide to hide at night under the garden bushes to figure out who is behind this character. Once the Easter bunny shows up, Donald Duck initiates the plan to grab him, but instead collides with Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge is more interested in selling Easter eggs and therefore perceives the free-giving bunny as unhealthy competition. He also aspires to catch the Easter bunny, but it flies away on its cart pulled by geese. Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck and the nephews hop on Scrooge's new plane to give chase.
The protagonists see the Easter bunny landing and discover they are at Rapanui. "Heh! Now where else would the Easter bunny live but… Easter Island!", says one of the nephews, adding "I think we can be pretty sure we've come to the right place! Heh, heh!". Down below, the moai are surrounded by coloured eggs, and the protagonists assess the isolated environment with its silent stone carvings to be "a spooky place".
Donald Duck suddenly falls into an underground mine, and the rest of the gang join him, whereupon they learn the reason why the bunny hides eggs in people's yards: Henrietta, his over-productive hen, lays millions of eggs once a year, which the bunny cannot make use of alone /eat all by himself. Scrooge buys the hen from the Easter bunny, but fails to fly it off the island as all the eggs that are still being laid by the hen have overwhelmed the plane. Realising the impracticalities of his acquisition, Scrooge gives the hen back to the bunny. Under the gaze of the moai, the Easter bunny dashes off to finish his Easter errands, whilst the protagonists fly back to Duckburg.
In this comic, the association of Easter Island with the Easter holidays and the receiving of Easter eggs is at the core of one long running gag that structures the story. Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen encountered Rapanui on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1722, and renamed the place Easter Island. This has led to popular culture, and especially cartoons, reimagining the island as the home of the Easter bunny and the location of a horde of Easter eggs. The impact is such that Easter Island has almost become the home of the Easter bunny in much the same way that Santa Claus is believed to reside at the North Pole.
The focus of the story is on the bunny, his hen and his eggs, leaving the moai to appear in several frames as background images looking out to sea. However, for a children's comic, it is noteworthy that one frame includes a rock carving of tangata manu/ the birdman as can be seen on the island at Orongo.
Scooby-Doo! World of Mystery: Chile - Easter Island
'Who's a Big-Head?!' (no.26, 2005, De Agostini)
The gang are invited to Easter Island to investigate the apparition of a ‘birdman’, who appears to be interfering with the research of Professors Smith and Jones. Together with Professor Smith, the gang set off to explore a cave but the birdman halts them at the entrance. Soon after, they discover nearby a rongorongo tablet featuring a lost language, which back at the centre becomes the subject of an argument between the two professors about research methodologies. The gang return to where they last saw the birdman and discover that the moai on which he was standing is hollow, has a trapdoor, and is made of fibreglass. The birdman suddenly appears again at the site where Professor Smith discovers another rongorongo tablet. The birdman then disappears, but the gang suspect he is inside the moai, and tip it over, exposing Professor Jones as the villain. He had planted fake rongorongo tablets on the island with the aim of simplifying the decipherment of the language, and he had dressed as the birdman to draw attention to their placement. Leaving the two researchers to argue about their scientific abilities, the gang drive off to their next adventure.
Intended to educate young readers about different global cultures, this comic is part of a series that each issue is focused on specific heritage sites and famous places around the world. To a degree, it is accurate, mentioning most noticeably the existence of a birdman - although this figure remains undeveloped, and he appears largely as a man in a bird costume that is a fantasy of the original. The comic has also clearly done some basic research into rongorongo, emphasising the intense research world of the few specialists of this undeciphered language, who are all desperately trying to crack the writing system. Within the story, there is the correct assertion that "natives never had metal tools", and that Ana Kai Tangata means the "cave where men are eaten".
In contrast to its educational aims, there are other parts to the comic that reveal its entertainment value. In a style similar to the successful Horrible Histories, the comic connects with the unique environment of Easter Island with rongorongo inspired puns such as "Rightorighto!", and moai humour that includes "talking heads", "big-headed", "head start", "headache", and "two heads are better than one".
Of the Myths of Easter Island the moai are most dominant. Few comic books have engaged with the myths of the rongorongo tablets and fewer still with the birdman cult. For those reasons this comic is rather exceptional. However, it is a shame that the birdman, in particular, is so exploited within this Scooby story. Later in the comic there is a 'Velma's Fab Facts' page that establishes some information about the birdman and the annual race for the egg of the sooty tern, providing a useful mini context. That said, for the purposes of this comic, the birdman is little more than an excuse to establish another Scooby mystery in which a villain in a costume needs to be exposed.
Les Voyages d'Anna [The Voyages of Anna]
(Emmanuel Lepage; text: Sophie Michel; conception drawings: Vincent Odin; Paris: Galerie Daniel Maghen, 2005)
Young Anna, a solo female traveller voyages around the world from Egypt to Antarctica across a series of adventures spanning seventeen years. She spends three years on Easter Island, arriving from Peru in March 1894, with this part of the book covering 10 pages. Anna recounts her travels to Jules Toulet, a famous painter who had accompanied her for part of the trip. During her time on Easter Island, Anna becomes closely involved with the Rapanui. She tells Jules that she fell in love with an islander and became pregnant, though the child does not survive. In a letter dated March 1894, she writes, “I had my longest experience of family life. Orongo and its inhabitants became everything to me. Love gave me the space that was missing on this little piece of land”.
A French language bandes dessinées, this sumptuous publication is dominated by illustrations, many spreading across double A4 sized pages. Its design is part diary, part scrapbook with postcards included, part sketchbook and part collection of completed artworks/ watercolours. The images offer a romanticised view of the moai in addition to the description of the Rapanui that Anna came to consider her family. One painting in particular shows a moai part submerged in the sea, from which a woman is diving into the serene water. This portrayal of the island and Rapanui people is in stark contrast to the other examples of representations found in many comic books. Instead of being erased or reduced to minor roles, the Rapanui are integral to Anna’s experience and the focus is very much on the human element of the island rather than the moai.
In depicting a woman travelling to Easter Island, Anna’s journey recalls that of Katherine Routledge. Although Routledge travelled to the island with her husband, she is often solely credited as beginning the first survey of Easter Island, for which she interviewed the Rapanui people and excavated the moai. During her seventeenth months on the island, Routledge developed a close relationship with her interpreter, Juan Tepano, as well as his mother who was her closest female informant on the island.
The illustrations accompanying Anna’s entries are filled with ships and boats that emphasise a golden age of travel to places of wonder. Many of the images also foreground the faces of local people and the book is populated with sketches of portraits and ethnographic detail. Celebrated artist Emmanuel Lepage, who is an avid traveller, devised the book, with his wife Sophie Michel providing the text.
Gli enigmi di Topolino [Mickey Mouse Mysteries]
'Zio Paperone e il tesoro di Pasqua' [Scrooge McDuck and the Easter Treasure] (no.1, April 2007, The Walt Disney Company Italia)
It is the Easter holidays. Scrooge McDuck has bought a map to a treasure buried on an Easter egg-shaped island, aptly called Easter Island. Accompanied by Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie, he promptly departs in search of this mysterious treasure. According to the lore, the treasure belonged to Kon Tiki, the son of the Aztec Sun God, who reached Rapanui after many days at sea.
As they land on the island, they are welcomed by a number of big-nosed, moai-like statues. While exploring the island, they come across Professor Kappellus, an archaeologist and glottologist who is trying to decipher some mysterious signs and glyphs which he terms "rongo rongo". After carefully looking close at each statue, the three little ducks notice a trap-door right under the shadow cast by the nose of one of the moai. However, as they open it they fall into a tunnel, landing several meters underground.
Here, they are taken prisoner by some big-nosed men who speak an apparently incomprehensible language, which is assumed to be the rongorongo language Kappellus was trying to decipher. The men take Scrooge and Donald prisoners, but the latter are soon freed by Huey, Dewey and Louie. The fugitives manage to return to the surface but are chased by the big-nosed men. Once more, they run into Professor Kappellus who explains to them that the Pasquini (Easter Men or Pascuan), as the inhabitants of the Island are called, are by no means dangerous but love to play harmless pranks on unknowing visitors. Kappellus also informs Scrooge that the treasure is buried at the bottom of a 3-kilometre deep well which ends in an ocean full of sharks. Despite the unpleasant news, the three little ducks venture forth and manage to decipher the mysterious language of the Pasquini and of the inscriptions on the statues, which amounts to nothing more than simple, ordinary words spelt backwards. The story ends with the three young ducks being awarded a medal and an Easter egg of solid gold, by the Academy of Sciences in Duckburg.
This is one of several stories in a volume that deals with perceived historical mysteries. A brief introduction precedes each adventure providing some factual information about the story setting and the mystery explored. In the case of Easter Island, information is given on the discovery of Easter Island, on the story of the Rapanui people, and on the rongorongo glyphs. It also presents a link to the mythical Lost Continent of Mu and the imagined relationships between the moai and alien civilisation, which is illustrated.
The story, however, does not make the most of extending the history and is more interested in humour and puns. Many other Disney comics have turned to Easter Island at Easter time to exploit the ideas of eggs (and bunnies) and this publication is no exception with its egg-shaped island and the award of a solid gold egg. There is a brief reference to Kon Tiki, which rewrites the expedition of Thor Heyerdahl within the legends of the Aztec, but it is the engagement with rongorongo which is most valuable, playfully introducing the glyphs to a young readership. The glyphs are presented as silly drawings and meaningless sounds, or as backward spelt words such as etrom (read as morte, which means death) or itturb (read as brutti, which translates as ugly), giving children access to a puzzle which in reality remains unsolved but within popular culture is within reach. These Disney stories are repeatedly drawn to holes, tunnels, secret doors and secret caves around Easter Island, with the idea appearing also in Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge Adventures (review forthcoming), Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (see the review above), and Donald Duck and Friends (see the review above).
John Woo's 7 Brothers
(vol.1, June 2007, Virgin Comics)
Seven men from different countries, who are the descendants of a benevolent sorcerer, are brought together in modern-day Los Angeles. There, in a skyscraper boardroom, they are compelled to band together to help save the world from an ancient prophecy that spans seven centuries. Long before the explorers of accepted history books, a great fleet of Chinese ships travelled the world in search of treasure and managed to reach every continent. Travelling with them was a powerful Chinese sorcerer, called Son of Hell, and the explorers inadvertently created an opportunity for him for future world domination. Criss-crossing the world are ‘dragon lines’; the elemental energies of the Earth contained along lines of power. Wherever the great fleet stopped they placed control stones at each intersection of the dragon lines. It is through these lines of immense natural power and the controlling stones that the now awakened sorcerer will be able to possess the world. In order to complete this power, the Son of Hell organises teams to place the final stones at the intersections. These include teams travelling under the sea, to snowy mountain peaks, the North Pole and Easter Island.
The five issues of this comic, which began in 2006, were collected into one volume published in 2007. Issue three takes the story briefly to Easter Island in panels that stretch across two pages. The comic draws heavily on Chinese legends and the tale of Seven Brothers with superpowers who defended the ordinary citizens of ancient China. The myths of Rapanui are absorbed into this fantasy with Easter Island established as lying at the intersection of powerful dragon lines. As in other stories, the island is a necessary component in a power-crazed evil entity’s plans for world domination. In a terrain of stone icons that have mesmerised popular fiction, the placing of a controlling Chinese stone here and at far-reaching locations across the world presents interesting ideas of Asian globalisation. The hieroglyphics on the stones are of Chinese origin, but they also resonate with rongorongo.
Kapitän Starbuck [Captain Starbuck], Vol. 3
‘Das Rätsel der Osterinsel’ [‘The Mystery of Easter Island’] (text & drawings: Philippe Forester; Hamburg: Carlsen Comics, 2008)
Captain Starbuck is responsible for looking after a lad called Kichererbse (Chickpea), and forbids him to sign up to a ship in Lobster Harbor, in the State of Maine, USA. In spite of this, Chickpea signs up and shortly afterwards mysteriously disappears together with the vessel. Rumours of a sea-monster circulate and Starbuck soon becomes acquainted with the French archaeologist Euphrasius Foulard, who confirms that strange things lie dormant in the sea. Starbuck and his friends, seahorse Ralphie and the former seal Othello venture out in search of the missing boy. In the course of this they discover a ship in the Pacific Ocean, completely engulfed by algae, and when they try to come to her assistance they are attacked by fish-men who assault through electric shocks. Starbuck and his friends are able to escape but are swallowed up by a giant octopus which, as it turns out, is Foulard’s flying submarine. They are now his captives and are taken to an island on which Foulard has forced slaves that have been made submissive with the aid of drugs, to work in a mountain to find the sacred priest-birds.
The search is successful and a priest-bird enclosed in a crystal is aroused by a tune played by a flute. The bird lays an egg, from which a small creature hatches that resembles a mini moai. The moai grows ever so fast and develops into an all-engulfing, destructive giant. Ralphie knows a magic spell, which, when called out, makes the giant freeze and half sink into the ground. One of the priest-birds flies back into the mountain cave and with its song awakens many more priest-birds, which in turn now bombard the fish-men with eggs. From these, hundreds of moai hatch, which grow very quickly and trample down everything. In an attempt to defend himself, Foulard awakens all the drugged captives but cannot prevent his giant octopus submarine from being destroyed by a moai, and he himself is ultimately devoured by one of the giants. In a wholesale massacre the fish-men are killed, the moai are petrified by Ralphie’s magic, and an earthquake and the ensuing sea wave destroy and kill many of the characters involved in the story. Captain Starbuck and his friends, Ralphie, Othello and the young boy Chickpea, whom they had been able to retrieve, along with some of the captives, manage to survive on board a small vessel which Foulard had kept hidden away. With the tsunami, this ship ends up bang in the middle of Easter Island, surrounded by hundreds of petrified stone moai statues.
This volume first appeared in Belgium in 1991 under the title of ‘Le Réveil des Oiseaux-Prêtres’ (The Awakening of the Bird-Priests’), published by Editions Dupuis. The story is the third in a series of three, and it has packed in many elements which appear inspired by other fiction and legends. The sea adventures of East Coast American sailors and the fearsome sea monsters they encountered were famously dramatised by Herman Melville in his novel Moby-Dick, in which the whaling ship’s first mate is called Starbuck. Some elements are strikingly reminiscent of Jules Verne, such as the crazed adventurist and his submarine in the form of a giant octopus, which is able to destroy ships and aeroplanes with its tentacles. Further nineteenth-century fiction can be identified in Starbuck’s half-man half-beast companions that could have been taken from H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. The electrocuting fish-men appear to be the descendants of a past Atlantis/Mu-like continent, whilst the priest-birds may be associated with the birdman cult of Easter Island but they also seem to be drawn in part from the deities of Mesoamerica. The story engages significantly with the myth of creation offering a highly original fantasy that sees the moai being birthed and hatched through birds’ eggs. It ‘explains’ both their emergence and their presence as static stone figures that have been magically frozen in time across the island landscape.
Sgt Frog [Keroro Gunso], Vol. 15
'Encounter 84: Fuyuki's Stone Figure' and 'Encounter 85: A Bitter Battle on a Lonely Island in a Distant Sea'
(Los Angeles: Tokyopop, 2008)
Whilst reading a book about Easter Island, a miniature moai figure (with carvings on its back similar to moai hoa hakananai'a, held in the British Museum) lands out of nowhere on Fuyuki's bed. Placing the figure into a special machine the moai is located as having come from a very specific point on Easter Island. Fuyuki is mystified by the moai, particularly its small size and says it could be "some sort of souvenir". Fuyuki believes it should be returned to the island; Sgt Frog, an army-styled frog from outer space, thinks the small Easter Island would be "a cinch to invade". Together, these two friends fly on a supersonic jet-bike to Easter Island.
En route, they encounter challenging weather conditions, which send them crashing into the sea. Fuyuki wakes up on Easter Island and not far from the site of the three moai platforms ahu Tahai, ahu Vai Uri and ahu Kote Riku. Fearing they will be caught, as he is an intruder and Sgt Frog is "an alien!", Fuyuki hurriedly searches for his green-skinned friend. But he is too late as an unconscious Sgt Frog has already been found by a native Rapanui child.
This islander speaks in a language so foreign that Fuyuki's special badge is unable to translate. The islander holds Sgt Frog over an open fire and chants "kai, kai", the Polynesian for 'food'. By the morning the islander has disappeared. Fuyuki, carrying a sleepy Sgt Frog, traverses the island until they arrive at ahu Akivi. Suddenly, a monstrous one-eyed creature emerges looming over the moai. Sgt Frog is without his weapons and defenceless, but the duo's helplessness attracts humanoid Alisa Southerncross who battles the giant creature despite their differences in size. Alisa loses and Sgt Frog stops trying to run away to face the creature using his martial arts. Thankfully, Sgt Frog's KRR (Keroro Special Tactics Platoon) arrives in support. They establish that the creature is a "bacterial invasion organism" and attack it with laser fire.
Fuyuki and Sgt Frog follow the Rapanui child to Rano Raraku, whereupon the miniature moai starts to glow. Meanwhile, unable to defeat the creature the special platoon turns to using napalm bombs, which break the organism into many small pieces. A revived Alisa skewers the main piece on one of her devil-wings for eating: "perfectly bite-sized chunks", she declares.
The Rapanui child starts to speak in English. "The moai on this island all exist to seal the aku aku", the child explains, "I am the mana that sealed that aku aku away. I'm part of your moai". The child adds that moai taken from the island lose their power, and an aku aku subsequently is free to destroy the island. The child is revealed to be a "mana", a power with previously no shape. With the creature, or aku aku, defeated, and the miniature moai returned to the island, the mana returns to the stone figure, which glows and walks and turns towards the volcano where it disappears into the rock. As Alisa flies off, a tourist believes he has just seen tangata manu, the birdman.
This Japanese manga from 2007, featuring the popular Keroro Gunso, was first published in English in this 2008 edition. The comic book collects together a number of Sgt Frog's 'Encounters', or adventures, with numbers 84 and 85 set on Easter Island. Compared to many other comics the story reaches some way into the culture and facts of Easter Island but worryingly many are distorted, either for the sake of the fantasy or because of the flawed research of the creators. Despite adding at the end of the story a map of Easter Island, together with many 'facts' and locations marked, it would appear that this comic was created far from Easter Island, with research dependent on printed images and published knowledge – the island's only kneeling moai, Tukuturi, is captured particularly well. The unfortunate result is a jumble of well-drawn but often misunderstood aspects of Easter Island's identity. The birdman is conflated with makemake; the theft of moai hoa hakananai'a by the British in 1868, is attributed here to the Americans; Te Pito o Te Henua, is written here as Te Pito O Te Whenua, with these stones described as "monuments" and the comic asking "maybe they are the birdman's eggs?".
Despite being told the island is populated, just one islander is seen, and this is a child dressed in primitive clothes far removed from the contemporary Rapanui. The later explanation, however, that this is an ancient energy force in human form may explain its depiction from the past. This Rapanui child speaks almost entirely in a form of hieroglyphics, a very loose version of rongorongo. Only a few other comics – Bob Morane: Les tours de cristal (1962) and Anamarama (1990) – have done this before and the effect is to render the Rapanui as foreign to the point of being completely unintelligible to any reader. Even Fuyuki's advanced translation device fails to assist. Interestingly, at one point the Rapanui child says "kai", a Polynesian word, which would be beyond most readers. Why this word is introduced and not others is curious.
Beyond Fuyuki, Sgt Frog and their team, there are just two other people on the island, tourists, one of who rightly tells Alisa off for sitting on top of a sacred moai – "they're not for climbing on!", he declares. Fuyuki is himself a tourist, in awe of an island that he had always wanted to visit. During the battle he asks the platoon of frog soldiers to "please be careful of the island's artefacts". The map at the end also acknowledges Japan's support in preserving Easter Island's heritage with the fact that a Japanese company helped with the re-erection of the toppled moai at ahu Tongariki.
Lurking within this comic is a political message, which promotes cultural heritage and preservation. The moai are not to be removed from the island, for their power would be lost, and ultimately those that have been taken need to be returned.
Teen Titans Year One
‘In the Beginning Part Two’
(no.2, April 2008, DC Comics)
With members of the JLA – Batman, Flash, Aquaman and Green Arrow – going rogue, it is left to the very young Teen Titans in this Origins story to come together to save the day. In a series of frames, Flash is shown speeding around the world, from a city, to a beach, to Easter Island and beyond. A young Kid Flash tries to keep up with his uncle, advising Flash that “Batman’s gone bonkers!”. Flash is uninterested and declares “beat it kid!”.
Both DC and Marvel comics appear obsessed with Easter Island and seemingly insert it in narratives wherever possible. Here, Easter Island appears on one page and acts as a backdrop to Flash’s mad dash. The island is depicted as empty – except, of course, for the moai – with the implication that Flash is so wide-ranging in his global journeying that he can even reach the most ‘unreachable’ of destinations.
The Simpsons have returned to Easter Island and the moai many times for sight gags and humorous references (see the review above). In this comic, the moai appear only on the cover and do not feature within a story inside. The cover is a joke that has appeared often before in cartoons, with a moai remodelled to promote a new icon, one that is often the carved face of a famous figure from history or popular culture. In this instance, Bart is the remodelled moai to be idolised, a "rock star" as the comic puns. Homer Simpson's reaction to his son's vandalism shows that the effort or creativity has certainly not been appreciated.
A reprinting of the story, 'The Easter Mystery', that had originally appeared in Donald Duck and Friends (April 2005; see the review above). Unlike that issue, this reprint for the Greek market featured a representation of the story on the front cover.
(writer: Peter Milligan; artist: Jamie Hewlett; Oxford: Rebellion, November 2010)
Anything is possible in a world that has become insane or "untuned". Hewligan, a young man with an incredible upright haircut that has a hole in the middle, has been declared sane by a crazed doctor and released from an asylum. Committed to the asylum for hearing voices and for his haunting "visions of huge stone faces" he sees a poster promoting Easter Island in a travel agency and realises he must travel there immediately. With his new travelling companion, Scarlet, they board a number 8 ½ London red bus "going all the way" to Easter Island, which miraculously and fortunately floats on water. Attacked by fighter planes the bus sinks a few hundred miles from Rapanui, leaving Hewligan and Scarlet to swim the rest of the way. The chasing planes then drop nuclear bombs on Easter Island which change into giant mushroom stools growing out of the hillsides.
The slumbering moai are now awake and begin to speak to Hewligan. He notices that in the centre of the main moai's forehead is a glowing outline of his crazy haircut; "how does the shape of the most ludicrous haircut in all creation find its way onto the third eye of the giant heads of Easter Island?", asks Hewligan. The moai invites Hewligan to step inside its mouth in order to learn everything. "Come on, I won't eat you", the moai says reassuringly. Hewligan and Scarlet step inside the open mouth and find themselves falling deep down into a void.
There at the bottom they discover they are between dimensions on a blue-sand landscape in front of endless moai, who advise that they each wait patiently until assigned a dimension or zone to look after. They have a responsibility to make sure the dimensions or zones remain in tune, otherwise "all sense of reasonable reality goes out of the window". And they further reveal that Hewligan's weird haircut is a symbol that shuts down the modulators for a dimension. The haircut is therefore the cause of the madness in the dimension called Earth. Hewligan and Scarlet are faced with the decision of either going back through a moai's mouth and returning to the world, or becoming adventurers exploring other dimensions through the gateways presented by the heads. Scarlet insists that Hewligan returns to the world, whilst she will go exploring. Before they part she cuts off Hewligan's striking haircut.
Hewligan goes back through the moai's mouth and finds himself at Trafalgar Square in central London. The moai starts retuning Earth and stopping the madness. But Hewligan finds a punk nearby with an identical version of his once unique haircut. He urgently tells the punk the haircut will need to be changed, and then starts to alter it himself, which leads to him being arrested and put back into the asylum. He tells the asylum doctors his story in the hope they will believe him, but there is no such luck. Suddenly, a wall of his padded cell transforms into a moai. Its mouth opens wide and out pops Scarlet, who embraces Hewligan and says they should travel. The moai's mouth closes shut.
A highly inventive comic that builds an adventure so drenched in the bizarre and the impossible that it leaves the reader wondering whether everything experienced in the story is within Hewligan's head or the haircut indeed has special powers. The story was originally published over eight instalments or "partings" in the British comic 2000 AD in 1990 and was collected into a book in 2010. The creators, Peter Milligan (a prolific writer for cult comics) and Jamie Hewlett (the co-creator of Tank Girl and the artist behind the virtual band Gorillaz), lend their names to the protagonist, Hewligan (that sounds like 'Hooligan'), an anarchic individual whose presence is threatening order and normality. They exhibit an artistic style of collages, cut-outs and pop art, that is rich in popular culture references and faithful to the subcultural look of independent fanzines.
Having a protagonist around whom the world appears insane allows the story to engage with endless narrative possibilities of which the moai are central. They are the voices in Hewligan's head and the source of endless journeying. For they facilitate inter-dimensional travel and act as regulators keeping zones tuned and not unbalanced. The all-powerful moai, with the haircut symbol glowing like a "third eye", follows a vein of popular culture in which the stone carvings are imagined possessing immense knowledge of life and the universe (see for instance Papa Moai in the comic strip Red Meat by Max Cannon). This is far from being the first comic to combine the moai with time travel. Furthermore, others have imagined the opened mouth of the moai as an entrance (see, for instance, the review below for The Adventures of Basil and Moebius, and the forthcoming review of Les Aventures de Neron et Cie), but in Hewligan's Haircut the oral cavity is given greater human qualities such as teeth. Scarlet even questions the idea of entering the life-like moai mouth: "but what if he's got bad breath?", she asks.
(no.1, no.3 and no.4, May, June and July 2010, Marvel Comics Group)
The government of Wakanda is in turmoil, following a coup backed by Doctor Doom. He is focused on cracking open a vault containing its precious metal, vibranium. Doom is found to have spread the vibranium around the world in at least sixteen different locations, with the largest concentration on Easter Island. Located there is The Broker, general manager of Doom’s global network, who is in control of an army of Doombots, that are waiting to be activated and empowered by the vibranium.
A group of superheroes that includes the Fantastic Four, Storm of the X-Men and warriors from Wakanda, fly to Easter Island where they battle the hyper-strong Doombots, which includes armed and mechanised giant flying hounds, that are “Hulk-class in strength”. The superheroes fight back with vibranium-based weapons but the powerful new army of Doctor Doom, which has been programmed with adaptive intelligence, runs rampant and the battle spreads across the world drawing in a team of superheroes from the Marvel universe.
Easter Island is depicted or referenced across just four pages of this 6-part epic story. It serves as a battleground within which the moai watch silently as the superheroes fight super-monsters. In the worlds of comic fiction, Easter Island is frequently viewed as an exotic and distant location that harbours great power. As in other stories, the protagonists have to travel there to secure or collect an item of unique qualities, that may also be part of a jigsaw of other pieces to gather or destroy globally. Significantly, within these stories, Easter Island has a central position within a global narrative.
The Invincible Iron Man
(no.515, June 2012, Marvel Comics)
One of two variant covers released by Marvel, this is for an issue that contains no Easter Island images or story inside. Variant covers are often limited edition collectibles with some scarcer than others. The idea has been much repeated by fan publications, with DC Comics producing a moai variant cover of their own in February 2015 (see the review below).
As well as a moai carved in the image of Iron Man, the cover for this Marvel comic presents moai remodeled as other members of the Avengers: Thor (foregrounded), Captain America, Hawkeye, the Hulk and Black Widow. Such idolising had already been done before by DC, in their Wonder Woman comic in 1954 (see review above) and in an issue of Super Powers (1985; see the review above). The effect is to deify these superheroes and to fix them in stone as figures beyond human. In this barren landscape, presumably any worshipping will be done by fans of the comics.
‘A Dark Place Part 5’
(no.5, December 2012, Dark Horse Comics)
Rejected by Buffy, a depressed Spike takes his Steampunk spaceship, manned by loyal giant alien cockroaches, to the dark side of the moon. In part two of the story, he returns to the US town of Sunnydale and encounters a female demon, Morgan, who is missing some of her powers and is trying to return to her dimension. Drawn to this demon, vampire Spike offers to help and they travel in this fifth and final part of the story to Easter Island.
In front of a circle of moai, Morgan recites ancient words and commands these stone guardians to open a “hellmouth”. The moai rise up and out from the ground and attack Spike and Morgan. The cockroaches in their spaceship help out, firing pulse cannons at the moai. In response, these fearsome stone figures combine themselves into a single giant moai that swats the spaceship causing it to lose power and the engines to overheat. In a suicide mission, the cockroach spaceship is deliberately smashed into the moai, obliterating the giant.
The surviving cockroaches say they have “already discovered a cave away from the tourist areas and we will make a home” on Easter Island. Morgan and Spike reflect on their inability to form a lasting relationship, with Spike left alone as Morgan flies off into the distance.
Despite filling an entire issue of a comic, this story is rather minimal and consists mainly of a battle with awakened moai over a series of large and strikingly drawn frames. Spike is not the first vampire to visit Easter Island (the Italian comics Jacula and Sukia, where there before in 1979). The ring of moai, forming a gateway to another dimension in an occult ceremony, had also been drawn before in DC Comics Presents – Superman and the Global Guardians (1982; see the review above). That said, a spaceship manned by giant cockroaches attacking monstrous moai is original, if not a surreal concept.
These out of control moai are suitably demonic for a comic in the Buffy vein, with their eyes that glow red, ancient symbols carved on the centre of their foreheads and muscular bodies that enable them to punch, smash and run with brute strength. The story ends with Spike all alone on the faraway Easter Island, though its contemporary appeal as a tourist destination and heritage site is referenced in dialogue. Post battle, Morgan says to Spike, "I’d like to see the faces of the anthropologists who wonder what happened here".
De Belevenissen van Jommeke [The Adventures of Jommeke]
‘De Wens van Amma-Moai’ [The Wish of Amma-Moai] (no.264; text and drawings: Gerd van Loock; colouring: Agnes Nys; Antwerpen: Ballon Comics, 2013)
Jommeke and his friends are busy hiding Easter eggs in Professor Gobelijn’s garden, when all of a sudden Peter Roggeveen appears. He is a descendant of the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, the first European to discover Easter Island in 1722. Peter tells them a family legend that an egg is said to be buried next to the northernmost moai, and that it contains the very last message – a legacy to the world – by Amma-Moai. The adventurous young boy Jommeke, his friend Filiberke, the parrot Flip and Professor Gobelijn together with Peter Roggeveen set out for Easter Island, flying there in a futuristic egg-shaped vehicle. On Easter Island at Orongo they become acquainted with the last descendant of the Long Ears, Rapalango, who wants to assist them. However, two arch-enemies overhear their conversation: the Short Ear Rapakoto and his son, who then try to sabotage the protagonists’ efforts to find the precious egg. Rapakoto’s son hopes to find the egg on Motu Kao Kao, a rocky island not far from Easter Island. He canoes there and retrieves an egg-shaped stone, upon which a bird is resting, but back on Easter Island the group learn that this object is worthless.
Roggeveen realises that the northernmost moai actually might not be on Easter Island but instead it could be the stone moai headstone marking the grave of Jacob Roggeveen in Middelburg in the Netherlands. Together with Rapalango the gang fly back to the Netherlands, where they find the egg in Roggeveen’s grave. A rongorongo text is inscribed on the egg’s shell, which Professor Gobelijn enters into a special computer. The translation gives a message directed at both the Long Ears and the Short Ears, promising them prosperity. Rapalango and his friends now open the egg and in it they find some seeds. By way of an experiment Gobelijn plants one seed and waters it with a very special growth serum which he himself has created. The next day they find it has grown into an immense palm tree. It becomes clear to everyone that it had been the wish of Amma-Moai to replant Easter Island with palm trees and that his legacy was the seeds of these palms. Once again, the group of friends returns to Easter Island and there they plant the seeds and add the serum, leading quickly to the growth of a forest. With the help of some of the logs of wood that are now available again in abundance, and together with their egg-shaped flight vehicle, Rapalango and Rapakoto unite to erect a moai that Rapalango had completed but which had been left lying on its back. It is this moai which now commemorates Amma-Moai.
This 48-page comic, published in Dutch, is in the tradition of the ligne claire (clear line), which has a long tradition in Franco-Belgian comics. They are characterised by the fact that characters cast no shadows, their eyes are just dots and there is a minimum range of colour shades employed. Most of the well-known sites on Easter Island can be found in this comic, such as the stone houses of Orongo around Rano Kau and the quarry of Rano Raraku and, unusually for popular fiction, the offshore island of Motu Kao Kao. The traditional conflicts between the Long Ears and the Short Ears are featured but the extent of the Rapanui are reduced to a few men wearing primitive costumes. The rongorongo glyphs found on the stone egg are yet again established as a source of mystery and discovery leading to a moment of translation and historical revelation. Considering the importance of Jacob Roggeveen to Dutch exploration, it is surprising that not more Dutch comics have been drawn to Easter Island. Here, Roggeveen’s grave provides the buried treasure and the literal ‘seeds’ for Easter Island’s regeneration. There is, however, in reality no moai serving as the grave marker for Roggeveen. In a story that mixes science-fiction, alternate history fiction and eco-narratives, the present-day Dutch discover a solution for reversing the island’s deforestation with assistance from beyond the grave of a European explorer who in 1722 had actually fired upon and killed a group of Rapanui.
La Boussole & L'Astrolabe. L'Expédition de La Pérouse
(Grenoble: Éditions Glénat, 2013)
April 1786 and La Pérouse, in charge of the ships Boussole and Astrolabe, sights Easter Island and its "funny rocks"/ "intriguing statues". They remind the crew of the prehistoric Carnac stones in Brittany. La Pérouse says he had read the earlier accounts of Captain James Cook, but he did not "expect such a spectacle". Reference is further made to Jacob Roggeveen's visit in 1722.
La Pérouse lands on a beach with scientific equipment and says the study will not take more than four days: "our mission here is limited", and designed to check the findings of Cook. He also says that the ships' crew will not set up camp on the island, despite the statements of his assistant that the boats are "horrible buckets". La Pérouse is afraid the men would scatter across the island, to which a sailor jokes "especially if there are females".
Part of a series of French published bandes dessinées devoted to famous ships and voyages (that includes the Bounty and the Hermione), this is not the first time that La Pérouse's visit to Easter Island has been the subject of a comic (see also the 1942 True Comics depiction – review above). Of the 46 pages of illustrations, 6 are devoted to La Pérouse's visit to Easter Island, and are bookended by a framing narrative that depicts the French revolution with the guillotine in full operation. Across a story told in a series of flashbacks, the narrative covers La Pérouse's extended expedition that included Alaska, Samoa (where some of La Pérouse's men are graphically shown being killed by native warriors) and Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia, but it does not aim to imagine what happened after the Boussole and Astrolabe vanished in 1789. Nothing was known about these missing vessels for 38 years until it was established by an Irish captain that they had been shipwrecked in the Solomon Islands.
For a modern comic that is depicting history there is a surprising amount of artistic licence in the drawing of the moai, which are shown on singular plinths looking out to sea, or with excessively large pukao, and in one image buried in the ground up to the brow of the head. Disappointingly, there is also little engagement with the moai, which are referred to often as simply strange or impressive. The crew is shown setting up a theodolite to record the height of a moai, but almost all of the discussion whilst on the island is about the poor conditions on board the ships, a hatred of nobility and the sailors' feelings for loved ones left back in France. Presumably this is to add realism to the story. At least reference is made to the previous voyages by Cook and Roggeveen, unlike in the 1942 comic. But again, the Rapanui are not seen or depicted, despite being clearly mentioned in the journals of La Pérouse; instead there is one reference to a desire for "women".
Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
‘Secret Weapon Against the Rot!’
(no.14, January 2013, DC Comics)
This is the second instalment in a 3-part story that sees Frankenstein fighting The Rot, an all-devouring force of decay and death that is rapidly destroying the natural world. First, Frankenstein has to defeat gargantuan creatures of anti-vegetation, the Colossi, with the last one (the biggest of all) found on Easter Island. Frankenstein and his vampiric companion Velcoro, a member of the Creature Commandos, fly to Easter Island in a monoplane where in the last pages of the issue Frankenstein crash-lands at the foot of a moai.
Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
‘Last Stand Against the Rot!’
(no.15, February 2013, DC Comics)
In the third instalment of a 3-part story, Frankenstein finds the immense size of the last of the Colossi overwhelming. Fortunately, a band of women warriors emerge who are living on Easter Island and have been reborn of nanotechnology. They transform themselves into burning swords and sacrifice themselves to enable the beast to be defeated. In several places Easter Island is referred to as a “utopia” and an “Eden” and with the warrior women living on a remote island the story appears to borrow part of the myth of Wonder Woman and her idyllic archipelago Themyscira, a nation also known as The Paradise Islands.
In this story, Easter Island is both an idyll – a remote land removed from the rot and decay of the natural world, which serves as an interesting inversion of the environmental collapse myth – and a monstrous land which at its core unknowingly hides a chimera born of the earth. As the story states “unfortunately, their island housed the last of Victor’s colossi. They had unknowingly built their utopia on the spine of the colossi”. The creature is a hybrid of Lovecraftian wonders, with giant centipede-like legs, a lizard-like tongue, immense razor-sharp teeth and a moai on top. Whilst the moai is associated with the land above it gives an eerie ‘face’ to a creature from beneath.
(no.1, October 2013, Boom! Studios)
Special I.M.A.G.I.N.E. agents Dave and Terry work to contain the imaginary creatures that children conjure up and release. The story begins with the agents called out to the suburban home and neighbourhood of a young Dylan, that has been smashed by a “kinda freaky Easter-Island-meets-millipede thing”. The creature called Moog of Mog is a hybrid borne of childhood imagination that has emerged “probably due to Dylan’s interest in bugs and giant statues”. The creature is declared to be in “violation of Section 1 of the Imaginary Friend Agreement” and is duly zapped by an energy baton and captured in a handheld device.
Moog features across four early pages of the first comic in this 4-part story and is the monster which introduces the reader to this fantasy’s potential for absurdity and surrealism. The setting is mundane suburbia and a family home, where a creature such as Moog would be most unexpected. On the surface, this brightly-coloured adventure where anything is seemingly possible and generated by the imagination of children, offers unlimited scope for fantasy. However, the special agents – their work, attire, and tools – are very similar to the Men in Black, whilst Moog is reminiscent of the highly original monster that Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. had fought in a DC comic just eight months earlier in February 2013. Moog’s speech – simplistic and child-like – is also probably drawn from the moai in Night at the Museum.
Cyborg 009: Conclusion – God's War
'Conspiracy of the Goddess'
(Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2013)
A group of explorers that includes archaeology professor Kagariya Toube, Kagariya's daughter, Hisui, and cyborg Joe Shimamura, search the underwater ancient manmade monoliths off the coast of Yonaguni Island, Japan. There, they discover in a sea cave a large moai, with the surrounding pottery similar to examples that have been discovered in North and South America.
Travelling to Easter Island, Joe wanders amongst the moai taking pictures. Suddenly, the birdman swoops down from above and grabs Joe by the hair and then hurls him back to the ground, whilst the moai begin to levitate. A week later, whilst still on the island, Joe is awoken from his sleep by a naked Hisui who visits and seduces him in his bedroom. Meanwhile, Hisui, who is now possessed by the moai and calls herself Himiko (Queen Himiko of the Yayoi), has acquired immense fortune-telling powers which she demonstrates on television, leading to rapid global fame. Her mind control powers also force leading figures – such as prime ministers and presidents of large companies – to confess to a range of truths, resulting in resignations, suicides and riots. Himiko is worshipped by the public and revered as a god.
Joe is haunted by the dreams and hallucinations he has been experiencing and is now a broken man. The moai discovered off Yonaguni has been erected on Okinawa Island, but it appears that it had only recently been moved to the underwater cave. A young archaeologist who questions the nature of the discovery is destroyed by Hisui, who blows her head to pieces employing her supernatural powers. Joe is about to commit suicide on Easter Island but is visited by Hisui in a vision who declares her love for him, pleads for his help and asks that he returns to Japan. As Joe reaches out to the vision of Hisui, he falls off a cliff. He is next seen on Okinawa Island alongside the moai, with his energy regained.
Hisui/ Himiko reveals to Joe her powers and he questions her true identity. Kagariya tries to destroy the moai with a large hammer, as he believes it is the source of the chaos, but he is attacked by Himiko. Joe tries to intervene but his head and body are blown apart by Himiko's telekinesis. No ordinary man, Joe also has special powers and returns as a celestial force who manages to push Himiko back and into the raised hands of the moai, whereupon she is absorbed into its body. Both the moai and Himiko disappear.
This long-running manga series which dates back to 1964, concluded in 2002 with a special additional story arc, that for this chapter, 'Conspiracy of the Goddess', ran for 3 issues. It was the unfinished manga of the celebrated artist Ishinomori Shotaro, completed by his son Onodera Joe, which was first broadcast as a television animation in 2002 (translated in 2004). In 2012-2013 it was published in Japan as a manga comic and subsequently translated.
The story has a multitude of character and plot strands that stretch across the series. Other elements are left unexplained making this manga fascinating but at times an abstract reading experience. The sudden emergence of the birdman, an assaultive figure, and the levitation of the moai on Easter Island are never explained. Nor how the moai off Yonaguni arrived there. Though the comic says the moai on Easter Island were moved/ lifted into the air by the birdman who is compared to a wizard. The moai are depicted as sources of great power, that are associated with devastation and chaos, with the possession of Hisui leading to a global crisis that is extended in the dramatic final manga, 'The Stronghold's Destruction' (chapter 15).
Cyborg 009: Conclusion – God's War 'The Stronghold's Destruction'
(Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2014)
With the world facing apocalyptic destruction from an evil force, the assembled Cyborgs target the power's nest, where they encounter and battle hordes of crocodile-men and flying demons. The monsters are taking orders from an unseen leader, so Cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura, travels to the heart of the nest where he finds a giant female moai with large breasts and tentacles, that is part Hisui/ Himiko, who was absorbed into the body of the stone monster in a previous instalment. The Cyborgs take it in turns to attack the moai with their specific super powers, but each is defeated.
Joe harnesses the little energy that he has left. However, the moai tells him, "you cannot match the power of us gods". The moai challenges Joe's feelings of love, whilst holding the woman he desires, Francoise, another Cyborg, captive. Japan is this moai's domain with other gods found and battled in other parts of the world. The moai explains that it is part of the ancient Jomon people, who sailed to the Americas and spread out and settled across South America and Polynesia: "the Native Americans, the Mayan people, and the Incan people all share the same DNA. And of course, those of Polynesia and Easter Island as well". Joe notices that the moai's protective shield is now down and shoots his gun straight through both of its eyes. As the moai fights Joe it is challenged by its feelings, as Hisui trapped inside starts to assert herself over the captive force. Ultimately, she manages to make the moai self-destruct in a nuclear-style explosion.
Female moai are few in the popular fiction of Easter Island. Mixing in the Japanese obsession with kaiju (giant monsters), that are often sexualised when girls/ young women are introduced, has resulted here in a moai with highly exaggerated feminine proportions. Moreover, of the gods and adversaries faced by the Cyborgs in this cult series it is a giant moai and a monster in female form that is presented as the most apocalyptic. This manga, like some fiction, continues to maintain the myth that the Easter Islanders were historically biologically related to the South Americans. It was a belief/ theory of the archaeologist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, that has since been proven wrong through DNA testing that shows Polynesians had migrated Eastwards.
(Season 2, episodes 13-22; November 2013-February 2014)
Alicia is held captive in an underwater cave beneath Easter Island. Reached only by submarine, she is transferred to the surface, to the foot of ahu Tongariki, and tied to a pole. On one side are her captors (who believe she is Canman) and on the other is a
shaman, who performs a ceremony whilst chanting. Hidden within a wooden cup of "traditional drink" is a can of energy drink, which the shaman says will help him "invoke the forces of ahu Tongarik" and give him Canman's powers.
Canman is in fact Matt, an ordinary guy who acquires enhanced powers when he consumes a can of energy drink. It is dramatically revealed that Matt has dressed up as the shaman. He drinks the can becoming Canman, ties up the villains and rescues
This is a series of installments in an extended comic book adventure, that has been circulated free online as an advertising campaign promoting Dark Dog energy drink (which originated in Austria). Whenever Matt drinks Dark Dog he becomes superhero Canman, a bright yellow can with arms and legs. The comic has been employed to suggest consumers will also acquire enhanced powers by purchasing the drink.
Consumer products, including drinks such as Heineken, have appeared on or next to the moai before. As part of a myth of presence, it would seem that companies perceive an increased value or prestige in being placed alongside these monolithic wonders. The nighttime isolated setting, swirling fire and a long row of watching moai, is intended to add to an atmosphere of unease.
Suske en Wiske [Suske and Wiske] 'De Windbrekers' [The Windbreakers]
(no. 179; text and images: Willy Vandersteen; Antwerp and Amsterdam: Standard Uitgeverij, 2014)
Lambik, a detective, is blown over by a heavy storm on his way back home from a pub. At the same time, a piece of rock falls into the garden of Aunt Sidonia. When Lambik, Aunt Sidonia and the two children Suske and Wiske are digging for the stone that has created a hole in the garden, they find a stone statue that resembles a baby. They bring the statue to Professor Barabas, who discovers that it is trying to signal. Barabas is able to decode the signals with a special device and learns that the baby comes from a Polynesian island called Foetsij, where an evil sorcerer with the name Or-Ka-Han wants to destroy the existing statues out of revenge. It turns out, that this small statue is a royal child, and the sorcerer initially wanted to marry her mother but was rejected.
The sorcerer appears as a cat, searching for the small royal statue, but he is unsuccessful in his quest. Lambik, Aunt Sidonia, Suske and Wiske, together with their friend Jerom, decide to go to Foetsij island to take the royal child back and save the people and their statues. With a futuristic machine, called a 'terranef', they are able to dig themselves through the earth to the other side of the world arriving safely in Polynesia. There, they observe the statues on the island of Foetsij, with the sorcerer living on a nearby island called Stormolulu.
The friends build a shelter under which they place the statue of the royal child and they ask it questions using the translation machine of Barabas. The sorcerer, together with his companion Donderoko, tries to stop the friends by altering the weather. He sees that Suske and Wiske are on their way to Foetsji by raft and he creates a great storm. Jerom successfully prevents the statues on Foetsij island from falling down, whilst Lambik thwarts the sorcerer thereby forcing the storm to cease. Suske and Wiske are now able to bring the statue of the royal child to the other statues and they are reunited as a family, which results in their hearts beating again. Or-Ka-Han is suddenly also transformed into a stone statue. He realises that he was wrong and says that he wishes to now protect the island. The friends say goodbye to the stone statues and return home using their terranef.
This story – whose key protagonists appear in another comic series by the same Belgian author (see the review above for Jerom) – was first published in 1980. To date the entire series of Suske and Wiske adventures consists of more than 300 volumes, with the comics – which are especially popular in French and Dutch – reprinted over several editions.
The two Polynesian islands are sparsely populated with the inhabitants rather inexplicably appearing solely in the form of the sorcerer and his companion. They are drawn as figures that are possibly part Polynesian and part South American, with their island of Stormalulu seemingly inspired in name by Honolulu. In contrast, at the centre of the story is the royal family of stone statues. Their image appears inspired by the moai of Easter Island, as foregrounded on the comic's cover. The statues in this fiction are associated with nobility and exist as embodiments of living beings. In its own way the story connects with issues of man-made natural disasters and climate change in the Pacific, with the statues, like the moai, exposed to being knocked over by extreme conditions. Within the fantasy there are also elements of science-fiction, with the terranef part of a history of adventures of drilling through the centre of the earth that can be found in the work of writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and his novel At the Earth's Core.
Mr Peabody & Sherman
‘Sea You Later!
(no.2, December 2013, IDW Publishing)
The story begins on Easter Island, and prior to Peabody (a Harvard educated/ Nobel Prize winning dog that is the smartest being on the planet) and Sherman (his adopted human son) adventuring in their WABAC (pronounced way-back) time-travelling machine to Venice in 1645, and then to the West Indies in 1715, where they meet Blackbeard and his band of pirates. The duo would appear to be on Easter Island prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, which was 1722. Peabody and Sherman explore the wonders of the moai, which they also help to carve.
The Easter Island part of this comic appears on the first two pages and acts as both a prologue and an opportunity to parade a number of ‘stone’ and ‘head’ puns – “you’re a chip off the old block”, “I’ve always wanted to get ahead” – that are actually quite common amongst moai-directed humour. This section is essentially a colourful and extended cartoon strip of the variety that is often found in newspapers. As in such humour-filled cartoon strips obsessed with the moai, there is a narrative presented as to their origins – in this version, a Rapanui man who facially resembles the stone-carvings is shown to be an inspiration: “It’s not a bad likeness”, he says.
Mr Peabody and Sherman, who began life as a 1959 television animation series, are perpetual adventurers and enthusiastic tourists, who are forever wishing to secure unique experiences where they are actively part of a cultural-historical event. As they board their time machine and wave farewell to the smiling Rapanui, Peabody and Sherman concur that their visit was “fun”, with Peabody stating “more importantly, it fulfilled a life-long ambition of mine as well”.
(no.20, February 2014, Marvel Comics Group)
Deadpool is given a task by the Ruler of the Earth of uniting four cosmic puzzle pieces. The first piece was easily acquired at the start of the story in the fictional Wakanda, Africa, home to the superhero Black Panther. To help Deadpool in this challenge he is given a “cosmic device” which brings forth a transporter – which Deadpool calls Sledpool – that enables him to travel through time and space. The transporter takes him back in time to a prehistoric Earth, where he battles dinosaurs. Chased by the giant Mangog, who also desires the puzzle pieces, Deadpool heads for the next location – the Negative Zone – where he grabs the second item. From there, he travels to China, where in a cavern he encounters a large dragon, Fin Fang Foom, and the final piece of the puzzle. As Deadpool unites the pieces and completes the puzzle, a cosmic baby emerges who congratulates him on his success.
Suddenly, the baby transports himself and Deadpool, along with Mangog and Fin Fang Foom, to Easter Island. On arrival, the moai erupt from the ground and attempt to grab the travellers and the Sledpool. In the sixth chapter of the story, Deadpool flies Sledpool through the mouth and into the body of Fin Fang Foom, where stuck inside they encounter Odin who transports Deadpool and the cosmic baby to Asgard. A cosmic discharge from the baby helps to power Asgard for 1000 years and, with the challenge finally completed, Odin sends Deadpool back to Earth, “and the worst place I could think of” – the 1990s.
In the lunatic adventures of Deadpool, where anything is possible and the story is highly self-reflexive, Easter Island is introduced without any reason. It is arrived at and left in a frenetic chase that is similar to a computer game with its puzzles, pieces to collect and levels of difficulty. The moai glow with energy from their mouths and eyes, with no explanation given also for their ability to come alive and rise up. After the dinosaurs of the prehistoric world and the dragon in a Chinese cavern, in this story the moai act as simply more giants to overcome in another faraway land.
God is Dead
(no.9 and no.11, February and March 2014, Avatar Press)
In what is termed the Second Coming, a long list of gods and goddesses from different mythologies and cultures arrive on Earth to take possession. The gods start fighting amongst each other, dragging the humans into a mighty global war.
The many powerful gods that lay waste to Earth include those from the Greek, Egyptian, Japanese, Norse, Slavic, Arabic, Celtic, Aztec, Hindu and Native American pantheons. From the Oceania pantheon, there is Maui and the moai from Polynesia, and the Adaro from the Solomon Islands of Melanesia. The comics are graphic in their depiction of violence with the bodies of humans brutalised and ripped apart. The gods are depicted here as vicious figures from mythology and the Adaro sea creatures are especially violent with their razor-sharp fish teeth and claw-like hands. The moai appear fleetingly and always alongside the Adaro. Whilst the Adaro speak, the moai are more hulking brutes who tear the rooftops off homes and hurl objects.
(no.9, October 2014, Super Genius)
WWE wrestlers of the present and past find themselves involved in continuous competitive matches scattered across different locations and periods in time. These include Ancient Rome and the gladiatorial arena of the colosseum, Tombstone and the O.K. Corral, and a pirate ship. It is left to a 1984 version of Rowdy Roddy Piper to journey to these realms to collect and unite wrestlers that include Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan and the tag team champions The Wild Samoans. Piper had first woken up on Easter Island, where he had been transported to fight Bad News Barrett. Their clash involves a series of wrestling moves, with Piper eventually slamming Barrett against a row of moai on an ahu (platform). The moai topple and reveal underneath a secret doorway and steps leading down to a chamber of tunnels, monitors and doors that lead to other fight realms. Also discovered in this underground lair is a containment room with countless WWE legends in suspended animation.
In the first of a 4-part story, created by ex WWE legend Mick Foley, and written by WWE fighter Shane Riches, the seemingly boundless narrative allows for a rich combination of wrestlers in foreign locations. Easter Island as a battlefield for heroes of super strength is not a novel idea with, for instance, Wonder Woman fighting Aquaman there in a 2003 animation (see the review above). In these fantasies, the moai become weapons with which to whack an opponent or against which a foe is to be slammed. The enormous stone statues are employed to emphasise the power of fighters. For the idea that an individual can lift or move a moai alone, or to be hit by one, suggests great strength or pain. The moai have also been imagined in previous fiction as presenting access to a secret passageway that leads to an underground control room and a lair of high technology.
Justice League Dark
(no.37, February 2015, DC Comics)
In late 2014/ early 2015, DC released across its titles 23 variant covers in a widescreen format by regular DC artist Darwyn Cooke. These imagined situations from the DC universe as one-off events/ singular images. The cover for this issue of Justice League Dark does not relate to the content inside but as with many other DC comics it exploits the location of Easter Island, and its perceived mysteries, for a gathering of comic book characters.
Earth 2: World’s End
(no.22, May 2015, DC Comics)
Together, the superheroes of Earth 2 (part of DC’s Multiverse and its alternative Earths) unite to defend humankind from the forces of Darkseid and Apokolips. They are “tearing the earth apart” and this is represented in a montage of images, the first of which shows a powerful force ripping through a row of moai. The image contrasts with those beneath showing a city flooded by molten lava from an almighty erupting volcano and a natural landscape of tent rocks billowing red-hot smoke. The moai represent here the creations of mankind and appear as ancient wonders against the modernity of an urban sprawl. These stone carvings have also stood for a very long time and the manner in which they are suddenly obliterated encapsulates the enormity of the all-powerful destructive force which reaches across the world.
The Adventures of Basil and Moebius, Vol. 11
‘Secret of the Ancients’
(Illustrator: Novo Malgapo; text: Ryan Schifrin and Larry Hama; Chicago: Magnetic Press, December 2015)
Cursed adventurers Basil and Moebius scour the world for ancient treasures and antiquities to steal in order to satisfy the desires of ‘The Collector’. It is later revealed that this mysterious figure, who is a Lovecraftian tentacled alien in human disguise, has been banished to Earth. The antiquities are needed for a powerful machine, that can warp time and space, and that The Collector is building in his basement. The new hunt is on for the missing half of a sixteenth-century Ottoman map that reveals the location of a secret temple. Long ago, twelve Ottoman sailors were shipwrecked and marooned on Easter Island, “the most remote island in the world”, and it is there where Basil and Moebius hope to find the missing map piece.
Helped by the Israeli secret service, Basil and Moebius arrive at Easter Island by plane and drive up to Ahu Tongariki, where one of the moai is misaligned and is discovered to be facing Mecca. Searching this moai for clues left by the Ottomans they find there is a small hole in its side. Upon pressing a finger in this hole it collapses the mouth of the moai, revealing a secret entrance. Inside the moai is a ladder that takes the companions deep underground and into a cave where they discover an Ottoman skeleton clutching the missing map piece. Unfortunately, the old map crumbles upon being touched, but the adventurers are amazed to see that the map has been reproduced in large scale on the cave ceiling. It shows that the secret underwater temple, which is an inverted ziggurat, is located off the coast of Crete.
This is the third part in a 4-part story, featuring a new instalment in the perpetual adventures of the Oxford-educated Moebius and Basil, an accomplished thief and former SAS soldier. The characters are clearly inspired by Indiana Jones – there is even a quip about a possible giant boulder being released in a secret chamber. There is also a sense of Blake and Mortimer about this comic, which blends a 1930s touch of adventure, spies and gunfights, into a modern setting. The design of the comic – with its science fiction, voyaging, ancient civilisations and new technology – also seems inspired by the bandes dessinées of Jean Giraud, who worked under the name Moebius.
The idea that Ottoman sailors visited Easter Island is unique within popular culture, as is the incorporation of Muslim beliefs. Whilst the depiction of Ahu Tongariki in this comic is quite close to how it appears in reality, re-imagining a moai as having been misaligned to face Mecca is highly fanciful. Rare amongst comics this story also briefly references the Peruvian traders who enslaved the Rapanui. Here, knowledge of the marooned Ottoman sailors had apparently been passed along by a Rapanui domestic servant, working in Peru. These Ottomans, we are told, had been the first outsiders to make contact with the Rapanui, more than a century before Dutch captain Jacob Roggeveen, who was actually the first outsider to land in 1722. Less original is the idea that a moai is hollow and hides a secret entrance to an underground chamber of much sought after clues and treasure.
Time-traveller Kang the Conqueror, desires the Quantum Controller, an ancient device that helped create the Universe. The device was broken into four parts and hidden on Earth by the Eternals, with one piece within a moai on Easter Island. Kang is controlling four Avengers, taking them out of their timelines to help with his evil plans. For Easter Island he has taken Black Widow, prior to the time that she joined the Avengers. Hawkeye is sent to intervene and he quickly becomes involved in a fight with Black Widow. She manages to attach a device to the side of a moai's neck, which tilts its head up and to one side revealing the glowing piece of the Quantum Controller inside. Before she can retrieve it, an arrow from Hawkeye leaves Black Widow stunned. The moai closes back up with the piece of the Quantum Controller locked within. Black Widow disappears and Kang warns Hawkeye that there are three other pieces he can still obtain.
One of four special comics that were produced as a movie tie-in for Captain America: Civil War (2016), this was only available to view online with a special code found on packets of Pop Secret popcorn. The four Marvel heroes controlled by Kang are Black Widow, Captain America, Falcon and Winter Soldier, and each one is the focus of these special edition comics. The storyline is rather similar to DC's 2017 film Justice League and associates an ancient Universe-creating device with the arcane moai. The stone carvings have often been imagined as portals with the mouth or body of the moai opening to reveal a passage or cavern; a tilted head is, however, original. Much of the 6 page comic is a fight between Hawkeye and Black Widow – other than the first and last frames in which Kang appears there is nobody else drawn in the story. The focus is on collecting one of four pieces of the Quantum Controller and it is echoed in the aims of the consumer who will need to find and collect the codes on four different packets of popcorn in order to have all four comics.
‘Civil War II’
(no.8, August 2016, Marvel Worldwide)
A variety of superheroes – Black Panther, Ms America, Blue Marvel, Spectrum – are united by Captain Marvel, with the aim of becoming the Ultimates and being prepared to defend Earth from visitations of extreme power and destruction. Spectrum is first located by Captain Marvel in the South Pacific and with their combined forces they defeat Xarggu, “the mystery that walks like a man”.
Xarggu is a warrior moai that features on a single page of the comic. A mighty moai that erupts from the land, and with a desire to be worshipped by humans, he is despatched by the two superheroes with some ease. His rapid destruction is used to convey both the power possessed by the Ultimates and the scale of the enemy forces that they are expecting to encounter in the near future.
Dimension W, Vol. 6 and 7
(New York: Yen Press, 2017)
It is the year 2072, and 36 years have now passed since the discovery of a fourth dimensional axis, Dimension W, that offers immense and unlimited power. In order to exploit and control the electricity that it can provide for all of the world's energy, New Tesla Energy has created electromagnetic induction devices, called coils, and helped to build 60 giant supply towers which are strategically placed around the globe. Illegal coils are collected by bounty hunters with a small group of them having now gathered on Easter Island, after being set a challenge. They are separately joined by the protagonist, Kyouma, a former special-ops soldier, turned illegal coil collector, and his new companion, Mira, a humanoid robot. Kyouma has been hired for a particular task and he arrives on the island with his favoured Toyota sports car.
New Tesla Energy is revealed to be a corrupt mega corporation and its base at Easter Island is ground zero for a huge scientific disaster. The corporation built a vast underground complex, a top-secret research facility and an additional 61st tower hidden beneath the island. The complex then experienced a scientists' revolt, failed technology and "the biggest dimensional breakdown in history", which "deformed the land" doubling the surface and covering it in dagger-like jagged rocks. Subsequently, Easter Island has become a forbidden zone and a "lost island", a brutal wasteland populated over and underground with weaponised robots, zombies and giant monsters, where there also exists the "nothingness", a realm where absolutely nothing can exist.
Originally published in Japan between 2012 and 2017 over 13 manga books that collected together series installments, this tech noir fantasy has been republished in English language versions since 2016. The story is reminiscent of both Andrei Tarkovsky's cult film Stalker (1979), with its forbidden zone, and the Resident Evil franchise, with its catastrophic experiments, corrupt corporation, vast underground research facilities and levels of different threats/monsters. This is all enhanced with elements that belong to the tech noir worlds of Blade Runner (1982) and Ghost in the Shell. The sophisticated story also carries a political message about the unchecked global powers of new technology businesses, with their masses of research scientists – here, where there is Easter Island and New Tesla, read Silicon Valley and its tech giants.
Much of the story takes place on Easter Island but it is barely seen as the action occurs predominantly underground. There are a number of establishing shots at briefing sessions and from approaching aircraft locating Easter Island's geographical remoteness, and emphasising its deformation and damage. This is an island of extreme terrains and weather (snow and tornadoes) which forces one plane to crash into the sea and the protagonist to drive the long way around the coastline as the most direct route is "rough terrain" and full of obstacles. The moai appear on just a few pages and are quickly ignored. "These are Easter Island's famous moai statues…", says Mira, "we ain't here for sightseeing!" is Kyouma's response.
Post dimensional collapse, Easter Island is "like something out of a nightmare". It is "the ultimate man-made disaster", with the land so barren "it cannot support even a single piece of vegetation". Easter Island's remoteness and its association in popular culture with secrecy and criminal activity makes it an ideal location for this story. Given the often-repeated accounts of social collapse it is unsurprising that Easter Island was also chosen as the location for a narrative of ecological disaster. This manga was faithfully adapted into an anime television series first broadcast in 2016 (see above)
Of All Possible Worlds – William Tenn (London: Mayflower, 1963)
A collection of eight stories – originally written by Tenn and published in magazines between 1947 and 1954 – is contained within a book whose cover has nothing really to do with the stories within. The collection was first published in 1955 with this Mayflower print being the first release for the British paperback edition. The fiction does include stories of alien visitation, but the cover image functions more as a sensational sell that draws on the fantasies that align the 'mysterious' moai with distant worlds and extra-terrestrials. Many covers before and since have united moai with science-fiction – spaceships, space shuttles and UFOs. One of the more striking designs for a cover of Amazing Stories (review forthcoming) also appeared in 1963 and it bears a similarity with the image for this book. The large moai to the right of the cover is close to the one for Amazing Stories, with the perspective for the rest of the cover also similar. High in the sky, a slim rocketship shoots into space, and it could be seen as related to the Amazing Storiess narrative image where another spaceship of a parallel design is at rest on the ground near a moai. The connections are such that the question remains as to whether one inspired the other and if so which came first.
Tom Swift and His Subocean Geotron – Victor Appleton II (London: Collins, 1969)
The Tom Swift Science Adventures is a 1960s young adult science fiction series following young scientist-adventurer Tom Swift. In this instalment, Tom receives a message from friendly aliens that they are looking for a cache of information on earth. The aliens ask the Swifts to retrieve the capsule from the Pacific Ocean, 150 miles south of Easter Island. Tom and his pilot friend Bud begin searching the ocean floor with their submarine, but unable to find the cache they visit Easter Island to question the locals. Here, an American archaeologist offers to take the boys to visit Rano Raraku. Returning to their ship, they are stopped by three horsemen wearing masks who ask Tom if he is the Birdman. The men then force Tom and Bud into a canoe and drop them at a small islet (Motu Nui). They leave the boys, telling them that if they bring back a bird egg, they can have the sacred stone. The boys build rafts out of reeds, and Tom takes a tern’s egg back to the mainland, unintentionally completing the birdman challenge. The native men drop to their knees and call Tom ‘Ariki’ (chief), before giving him a stone tablet. The boys realise that the etchings on the stone are the same as the language that the friendly aliens used in their messages. The stone tells of a land that sank beneath the ocean. Tom realises that the space cache is where they had originally thought, buried under the ancient sunken island of Lemuria. Tom creates what he calls the Geotron, and the boys use it to drill into the bedrock, finding the glowing space cache within a subocean cavern and returning it to the friendly aliens.
In Tom Swift and his Subocean Geotron, Easter Island is described as “strange” and the Moai as “eerie ruins”. However, the novel also includes credible descriptions of the island, including reference to the island’s town of Hanga Roa. Furthermore, Tom and Bud are instructed to greet the locals with “Ia-o-rana korua” which they are told is a traditional greeting meaning “Good day, everyone!”. An archaeologist also tells them the legend of Chief Hotu Matu’a and explains the tangata manu (birdman) competition to the boys, as well as the rongorongo tablets.
The birdman features as a plot device for Tom to gain the tablet and link the lost language with the aliens. However, the significance of Tom becoming the birdman is only mentioned when Bud jokes about him being a King, and later when the three horsemen tell Tom they watched over his camp as he is their ‘Ariki’.
As is common, Easter Island is associated in this novel with the myth of creation and outer space, but this is through the hieroglyphs of the birdman tablet, which is linked to rongorongo. Interestingly, the moai are not a part of the myth and attention is subsequently moved to the mythical sunken island of Lemuria, where the cache is hidden. This link between Lemuria, Easter Island and the aliens is not further explored in the book.
Considering this young adult novel was published in 1969, and Easter Island only features in three chapters, it is unexpectedly engaged and educational in relation to the island.
La Isla La Misteriosa [The Mysterious Island] – Jules Verne, illustrated by Franco Caprioli (Madrid: Editorial Ediciones Paulinas, 1979)
Jules Verne wrote The Mysterious Island in 1874, and set quite a number of his stories of fantasy and adventure in the South Pacific. None were set on Easter Island, yet this Spanish edition borrows its rock carvings, or petroglyphs, to adorn its cover. A stone head has been placed in the foreground and it is sufficiently distorted/ slumped to bear no connection to the moai. Significantly, on its side (and the left of the cover) is a distinct carving of Makemake and below it half of a carving of tangata manu/ birdman. Rapanui has repeatedly been viewed as a land of mystery, with its petroglyphs capable of providing sufficient curiosity to appeal to a book that is set on an uncharted and distant isle, but one that is crucially not Easter Island.
Inside UFO 54-40 - Edward Packard (New York: Bantam Books, 1983)
Edward Packard’s Inside UFO 54-40 is what is known as a ‘choose your own adventure book’. Novels such as these engage the reader on an interactive level; they present questions and choices and the reader decides their own story path by skipping back and forth between specific pages. As a result, Inside UFO 54-40 does not have a single narrative. Instead, it features an overarching plotline with numerous narrative pathways and multiple endings.
The story begins with an unnamed protagonist (presumably left unnamed for reader immersion) aboard Concorde. Before long, the reader is teleported into a huge white UFO – the galactic ship of Rakma. “You have been chosen to be a specimen in the galactic zoo on the imperial planet of Ra”, the book reads. Many of the narrative pathways revolve around an escape from the ship and a return to Earth. Some of these paths allow the reader to encounter other trapped ‘”Earth people” and some allow the reader to destroy the U-TY Masters who are in charge, and take control of the ship. The moai elements are present in the “idol” pathway, in which the reader is presented with an idol shaped like a moai, by an unknown inhabitant of the ship. The U-TY Masters inform the reader that the idol has power and can lead them to Ultima – the planet of paradise. During this narrative pathway, the reader is given the option to land on the “Island of the Gods”. Doing so takes the reader to Easter Island.
Inside UFO 54-40 is a book aimed at young readers, as acknowledged by the simple (and sometimes short) pathways, as well as the illustrations that adorn many of the pages. Due to the nature of ‘choose your own adventure books’, the moai element is not prominent in many of the pathways, and not present at all in some. However, when it is, the author draws on two myths: the myth of power and the myth of presence. It is the moai-shaped idol given to the protagonist that holds the greatest power and the key to Ultima. Moreover, in order to access Ultima, the idol must be presented in the presence of the actual moai on Easter Island. Combining the moai with sci-fi narratives is a common approach in popular culture. Similarly, other fiction has drawn on the idea of a precious object – an idol, tablet, or stone – which will unlock the forces or mysteries of Easter Island.
The Easter Island Incident – Terrance Dicks (London: Piccadilly, 1999)
When an archaeologist is crushed by a moving moai on Easter Island, narrator Matthew and his father—paranormal researchers who work with British intelligence services—are sent to investigate. With help from local driver Carlos, Matthew and his father arrive at the site of the accident to find that the statue has gone. After questioning the archaeological team at the site about the accident, they are chased by a moai which subsequently rolls straight off the edge of the island. Matthew begins to believe that something is guiding the statues rather than them moving by their own volition. He believes the mana (power) that is said to have helped the natives originally create and move the moai must be a form of telekinesis.
Matthew starts to suspect Professor Abernathy, the leader of the archaeological dig. However, Anna, one of the archaeology students, tells the pair that the site was discovered by graduate student Mike Fallon, and that he had persuaded Abernathy to open a mound in the dig site at moonrise. When they arrive at the site, Professor Abernathy is chased by a gliding moai, and he is rescued just in time by Matthew.
The group then makes their way to the centre of the dig site to find Fallon dressed in traditional native costume. Fallon summons a figure from the mound. The figure is an alien on which the moai was modelled. Fallon tries to make the alien give him power but Matthew interjects, telling the alien of Fallon’s selfish and evil intentions. The alien then disappears and three moai glide toward Fallon, crushing him.
Matthew and his father conclude that Fallon must have stumbled upon an alien communication device at the dig site, and that the moai must originally have been created to try to bring the aliens back to the island. With Fallon dead and the site cordoned off, they believe the island is safe again.
This novel focuses significantly on the myth of movement, as the moai can roll, hover and glide to chase and kill people. Interestingly, however, is the focus on the fact that the moai are not alive but are controlled by a high priest. When Fallon tries to use this power for his own gain, he is thwarted, as mana should only be harnessed to move the moai for their original intention – to call the aliens back. With the moai associated with outer space, the novel also establishes a myth of creation. In this story the moai are said to be modeled on alien beings that gave the natives on the island power to create and move the huge statues.
This is an informative young adult novel, featuring facts about Easter Island. For example, when Matthew recommends traveling to Easter Island to investigate the moai, his father mentions Thor Heyerdahl’s research, stating it provides “perfectly rational explanations for the creation and transportation of those statues” . His father continues by saying that Matthewmust prefer Erich von Daniken’s writings which state, “that the statues were constructed by shipwrecked alien astronauts who set them up as a signal to any passing spaceships”.
The story focuses on the moai but it also approaches Easter Island as a whole, with Matthew and his father sight-seeing when they first arrive on the island. They travel to Rano Raraku to see where many of the moai were carved (although it is misspelled as Ranu Raraku) as well as visiting the fifteen moai at Tongariki and those at Anakena. Matthew also mentions that archaeologists restored of the moai at Tongariki that had been destroyed ‘by the sea”.There is also mention of the birdman as Fallon tells the group that he is ‘”Tangata Manu, the sacred birdman, ruler of the Rapanui” before he summons a figure from the mound. These facts as well as accurate descriptions of Easter Island’s climate, location and political system make The Easter Island Incident an informative and adventurous young adult novel.
The novel is part of a group of 12 children’s books of mystery, fantasy and adventure in a series titled ‘The Unexplained’. Titles include The Bermuda Triangle Incident, The Inca Alien Incident, The Transylvanian Incident, and The Pyramid Incident. All of these books are written by Dicks, who is most known for his work in relation to the Doctor Who television series.
Racing for the Birdman – Katrina O' Neill, illustrated by Brenda Cantell (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005)
Experienced archaeologist, 'Uncle' Earl, travels to Easter Island, at the request of the mayor, to observe the recent outbreak of red rain. The mayor explains that the rain has the Rapanui people very concerned for the island. Accompanying Earl on his journey are his niece Mia and her friend Ricky. After the initial meeting with the mayor, Earl discovers that the islanders believe it is Makemake, the God of creation, that is the cause of the red rain. They think that the God has become upset and vengeful.
The following day, Mia and Ricky go for a bicycle ride around the island and visit the moai. Whilst standing next to one, Ricky receives what feels like an electric shock, and is left with a burn mark on his arm in the shape of the birdman. Ricky and Mia head to the local medicine woman, and she advises that the electric shock was a warning from Makemake about the upcoming birdman race. The medicine woman explains that Tameki, one of the islanders who plans to run for the birdman, has an older brother Rano, who intends to cheat in the race by employing an egg that has been obtained in advance. She believes that this has made Makemake angry and he has therefore brought about the red rain. She insists that Ricky must place the egg back on Motu Nui, the small rocky island, near to Easter Island, where the sooty tern nests. Ricky reluctantly agrees.
On the day of the race, Ricky is given the egg and wished good luck as he climbs down the steep cliff and he dives into the shark-infested ocean waters, for the swim to Motu Nui. There, he places the egg next to a rock carving of Makemake, for protection, before hastily leaving the area. After a struggle with Rano, Tameki captures the egg and is declared the birdman, accompanied by a cessation in the red rain. Mia and Ricky are both congratulated for their efforts and are presented with stone talismans as a reward, as the island celebrates.
This children's novel features many observations about Easter Island and it reveals a depth of research that is quite unusual for popular fiction drawn to this region of the Pacific. Yet, most notably, the moai are not a dominant focus within the book. Instead, the main focal point of the narrative is the birdman cult. The moai are not completely ignored, however, and they are referenced at various points and appear in several illustrations, whilst the electrical charge that Ricky receives from one statue establishes them as powerful constructs within the novel and conduits for the force and energy of Makemake.
The last birdman was proclaimed in either 1866 or 1867, with the details of this cult recorded in a way that is absent for the moai. Consequently, the book treats the birdman and the race for the egg very factually. The accurate cultural descriptions highlight the educational value of the book as a text for young children. The book presents a very clear and vivid image of Rapa Nui; indigenous names of places are used as well as descriptive passages that relate to the weather and climate of the island and the surrounding waters. Building upon this, the book contains a post-narrative section which discusses some of the customs of Easter Island, as well as providing a glossary for specific terms that had been used throughout the book.
The Day the Stones Walked – T. A. Barron, illustrated by William Low (New York: Philomel Books, 2007)
The Day the Stones Walked presents the story of the young Rapanui boy Pico, and his encounter with a 'Great Wave', which strikes the island. Pico's mother warns of the coming of the wave and instructs him to inform his father of this and for both of them to head for higher ground. Pico finds his father near the island's edge, carving the final touches into a moai. Whilst adding these carvings the father speaks of the power of the moai and how, one day, when the people are in trouble, the figures will begin to move on their own to protect the people and the island. Pico finds his father's words to be foolish and insists that the moai are stone and nothing more. As Pico is gazing out to the surrounding waters the wave hits; submerging both him and the shoreline. As he reaches drowning point, Pico feels something at his feet; a force that seems to be pushing him upwards. It is the moai – it is as if they are walking, he thinks to himself. Once he is washed ashore, Pico's thoughts about the moai are changed because of this incident. He comments that he will never forget the day the stones walked.
T. A. Barron's book is one of few words and appears to be aimed at younger audiences. In place of a longer word count are hand painted illustrations provided by William Low, which adorn each page. These illustrations depict the island, its inhabitants and the moai. In specific places in the text Rapanui words are used such as mana (powerful) and hami (loin cloth). These words appear in such a way that suggest a cultural sensitivity and signals that there is an educational side to the fiction.
The story itself works with existing myths surrounding the moai, most notably, the myths of movement and power. Of course, even in the story the moai do not move on their own nor possess a power which saves Pico, it is simply the force of the wave and the levels of water. Nonetheless, the two myths are addressed and the boy's father and eventually Pico himself are convinced they are genuine. The idea that the moai can be moved by a flood of water is not a far-fetched notion and in the past at least one tsunami has struck Easter Island, pushing the moai in-land. A further myth, the myth of creation, is disregarded in the book as we see the boy's father actually working on a moai. This explains that they were created by the islanders and dispels other, quite fantastic creation theories.
In addition to the story featuring the moai and related myths, there is also a focus on the island's inhabitants. This aspect has often been disregarded altogether in other outlets of popular culture in order to make the island seem like a lost or fallen civilisation. Through both the written narrative and the illustrated pages, the islanders are presented performing everyday tasks such as hunting and preparing food. This creates a more accurate depiction of the indigenous islanders and one which is much less derogatory than many other publications.
A hosszúfülűek kincse [The Treasure of the Long-Ears] Péter Nyulász and Ottó Ritter
(Budapest: Berger Kiadó Kft, 2017)
Two thieves steal the tomb sculpture of the pirate Black Dog from a museum in Budapest. According to legend, the statue leads its owner to an incredibly precious treasure: the eye of the moai. If you place the statue on the pirate's grave, at midnight on Easter Sunday, Black Dog begins to sing showing the way to the treasure.
Detective agency BerGer is tasked with traveling to Australia by the Pointerpol task force that operates secretly in Budapest. It is believed that Black Dog's grave lies at a desert oasis in Australia, where it is hoped the thieves will be intercepted. Detective Bugac Pongrác (a Mudi dog), secretary Juli Puli (a Poodle) and the Pumi twins Maxi and Trixi are scheduled to travel there disguised as a family. The records of the South Sea researcher Professor Lord Osis should help them on their journey.
Arriving in Australia, the detectives board a hot-air balloon to locate the grave. However, due to bad weather they crash and land in the Pacific ocean where they are rescued by a military submarine and taken to Easter Island. To their surprise, they find Professor Osis on Easter Island, who reveals to them the true story.
Black Dog hid the treasure, a red-eyed moai figure, in a cave that Lord Osis had managed to discover many years later on Easter Island. To keep treasure hunters out and in the hope that no one would rob the grave, he and the long-eared natives of the island, invented and spread the legend of the singing statue.
It is expected that the thieves will come to the island that evening for the big festival of Tango Manu. The four detectives dress as long-eared natives and participate in the traditional dance at ahu Tongariki, so as not to be recognised. The thieves arrive disguised as ice cream sellers with the stolen sculpture in their ice cream cart. They are subsequently arrested, with the statue returned to the museum and the detectives praised for their great work.
This well illustrated children's book – which is the only known original piece of fiction about Easter Island in Hungarian – is populated by a series of anthropomorphised characters that are either dogs or rabbits. All the characters except the natives of Easter Island are dogs and they range across a diversity of breeds (each detailed and explained at the end of the book), with their universe filled with a canine culture that includes posters advertising 'He-Dog and the Masters of the Universe', and cocktails served in doggie bowls. The dog protagonists are part of a series of Hungarian children's books that feature them in different adventures.
The drawings are highly creative and contain a number of in jokes, some of which are surely aimed at knowing adults. In one full-page image, set in the home of Professor Osis, a number of items of the esoteric can be seen. These include on a shelf at the back of the room a copy of the unique and very distinct Necronomicon, an anthropodermic book that would otherwise be found only in the world and mythology of the controversial Evil Dead horror films.
In contrast to the canine world, the natives of Easter Island are represented by rabbits, which in the context of the fiction creates a rather interesting exotic other to the dog protagonists, who are associated with the city and modernity. This is not the first time that the name Easter Island has inspired drawings of rabbits and eggs in popular fiction for reimagining the local inhabitants and culture (see, for instance, the review above for Sir Pyle S. Culape and the forthcoming review for Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!). The fiction in this novel is, however, the first to combine images of rabbits with Polynesian culture, which also draw on the fact that the long ears (seen here as bunny ears) were one of the Easter Island tribes. These rabbits wear feathers in their hair, carry spears, display facial tattoos and wear necklaces of stone and jade with koru patterns, albeit more influenced by the culture of the Māori of New Zealand.
In reality, it was discovered in 1978 that the moai of Easter Island featured eyes made of white coral and red scoria that were the final part of the carving. Once inserted, they brought the icon alive. In this children's book, the precious eye of the moai is the treasure that is also made of coral. As Professor Osis explains at the end of the book: "The eye of the moai is made of red coral, from which the Long-Ears use a secret procedure to make the red dye for their Easter eggs".
Super Mario Land Year: 1989
Platform: Nintendo Game Boy
Super Mario Land was the first handheld version of Nintendo’s renowned Super Mario franchise. This is a platformer game in which the player must help Mario traverse various levels, avoiding pitfalls, traps and enemies before fighting a boss at the end of the third level of each world. Mario must make it to the end of the final world in order to save the kidnapped Princess Daisy.
Moai appear in World 3 of the game as an enemy. The first form is a Moai with arms and legs that throws projectiles at Mario. The second form is a Moai with just legs, who rushes towards Mario with the aim of creating damage. The third form is a Moai with wings, which bounces around the screen. Mario must dodge all of these; in order to defeat them he must jump on their heads.
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft is the third instalment of the vastly successful Tomb Raider franchise. It is an action adventure game in which the player takes control of the protagonist Lara Croft as she globetrots in search of ancient artefacts. The player must navigate obstacles, fight enemies and solve an array of increasingly complex puzzles.
Moai are present in the opening scene of the game, which provides exposition to the narrative. Here, the statues are simply discovered in a snowy landscape by a group of research scientists.
Konami Krazy Racers Year: 2001
Platform: Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Genre: Kart Racer
Konami Krazy Racers is a kart racing game in the same vein as Mario Kart, featuring characters from a variety of other Konami franchises. The aim of the game is simply for the player to win the race. As well as racing skill, each character can also utilise a set of attacks to assist them in winning. Each racer has a different set of attacks based upon their character type and the game in which they originally appeared. This moai character originally appeared in the Konami shooter Gradius.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf Year: 2012
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fourth instalment of the popular Animal Crossing series. The game is a life simulator in which the player must take control of characters and items within the game and help develop the village they live in as well as assist the other villagers.
Moai in the game are present as furniture that can be purchased with game currency. The moai statue can be used to decorate a garden or included in an exhibition. In some ways the game is copying real life in which moai statues can be acquired to adorn private gardens.
The myths that circulate around Easter Island have led to a range of magazine and television adverts that have used the moai to sell anything from cars and airlines to headphones, alcohol, hair care products, toothpaste and washing-up liquid. Despite the commercial diversity, the ways in which the moai have been employed within the adverts remains quite consistent and engages with all four of the moai myths: the myth of creation, myth of movement, myth of power and the myth of presence.
With the exception of three early examples all of the known advertising is post 1985, and covers more than twenty-five ads. Within them, Easter Island is populated foremost by the moai with only an important Chilean advert for Quix washing-up liquid presenting the Rapanui, the people of the island. The adverts can be divided between 1) commercials for domestic and consumable products targeting a specific foreign market, and 2) commercials for service industries often addressing an international market.
Moai are frequently humanised, or given movement within the adverts – significantly within a comic context. Sony headphones, Iodosan toothpaste, Smirnoff vodka, Qantas airlines, EDF energy and Elations dietary supplements re-imagine the static rock monoliths as agile, energised and animated, and with the ability to smile, hear, dress hip, perform handstands and become pregnant.
The moai are so iconic there is a powerful effect in remodelling them or placing products next to the real thing. The effect suggests that the products are of equal wonder, strength, quality or longevity, as can be observed in the British television advert for Organics hair care, and a later Sony advert that emphasises the ‘monumental range’ of their headphones.
The second earliest known advert for Easter Island, for Canadian Club Whisky, in 1939, appeared long before the remote island became more accessible with organised tourism starting in the late 1960s. This whiskey advert perceives a visit to Easter Island as a great adventure, a unique experience of male bonding and camaraderie that is aided by a “ship’s store of Canadian Club”; “we had the time of our lives”.
Easter Island’s geographical isolation is worked into adverts for packaging, couriering and travel, with promotionals for the Container Corporation of America, DHL and Suva travel insurance, making it clear that these companies are not thwarted by distance and that they cover all parts of the globe.
The immense size and weight of the colossal moai is also exploited in adverts that are designed to convey capacity. Commercials for the Fiat Ducato, DHL and Emirates are clearly designed with the moai as immobile statues that have somehow managed to be removed from the island thanks to the generous space and carriage offered by a van, a courier, and an airline.
As ancient or prehistoric carvings, the moai are imagined within popular culture myths as silent observers of time and markers of history. In a 1999 television advert for the UK’s Millennium Dome, and a French advert (television and magazine) for EDF energy, the moai point to both the past and the future.