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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
(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!".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
‘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.
(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.
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.
‘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”.
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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
‘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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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 two early examples all of the known advertising is post 1989, 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 earliest 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.