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. Furthermore, the popularisation of other Easter Island cultural artefacts are addressed, from rongorongo and tangata manu to moai kavakava and makemake. Significantly, this has occurred predominantly in the cultural economies of the USA, Japan, and Western Europe. Initially, this page will focus on considering animation, film, television, comic books, novels, novellas and plays, poetry, music, board games, computer games, magazine covers and advertising, with links made to the Education part of this website, where appropriate.


Ōgon Bat [Golden Bat]
'The Star of Polynesia'
(season 1, episode 18, 1967)

The Polynesian island is explored by Dr Steele and his companions

Maria deciphers the hieroglyphs

Dr Steele and his companions land on a volcanic island in Polynesia, where an extremely ancient, but advanced civilisation once lived. All that remains of this people is the Haua temple surrounded by several moai-shaped heads, which represent the Hapuhapu divinities. Dr Steele's mission is to find 'The Star of Polynesia', a diamond-like crystal that could advance humanity's technological and industrial progress.

Of course, Dr Steele is not the only one looking for the Star. Secretly following him is Gorgo, the evil but inept assistant to Dr Zero, a black-clad, four-eyed mad scientist who wants to rule the world. As Dr Steele's party walks towards the temple, a small spaceship emerges from the bowels of the earth carrying Titano, the king of the underground people, who also pursues the crystal to conquer the world. Titano's soldiers attack Dr Steele's team, but the latter are rescued by the superhero Ōgon Bat, a gold-armoured, skull-headed, reawakened divinity from Atlantis who fights evil and protects the weak and the righteous.

Titano points towards the volcano where the crystal is believed hidden

Dr Zero's men attack

52 episodes of the Ōgon Bat anime were originally broadcast on Japanese television in 1967 and 1968, with the stories developed from the popular manga which features in the title role the world's first superhero, a caped defender who was created in 1931. This is the earliest known animation to engage with Easter Island. Even though the location is a nameless island in Polynesia, the moai-like giant heads and the rongorongo-style inscriptions clearly identify Easter Island as the point of reference for the episode. These statues are giant stone figures sticking out of the ground with large ears, unusually elephantine and pointing outwards. They are presented as artefacts of a long-gone civilisation and function as curiosities to fill the frame. Several statues are easily destroyed in this episode, either at the hands of Titano, Dr Zero's soldiers, or Ōgon Bat, who crushes them to pieces to use as weapons against his opponents. Nonetheless, they retain some of their special qualities as they are depicted as the containers and protectors of the precious Star of Polynesia, a diamond that appears inspired by the immensely valuable Star of Africa, which was found in 1905.

What renders this animation especially significant is the presence of the glyphs in the Haua temple, where they are etched onto a wall. Unlike the rongorongo inscriptions, which remain undeciphered, Maria is able to interpret these temple hieroglyphs in a very short space of time. The glyphs do not faithfully reproduce the rongorongo symbols – but then Easter Island fiction rarely does. They do, however, display a certain degree of connection with the originals, indicating that the cartoonists may have had some visual knowledge of the actual inscriptions.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

GeGeGe No Kitarô
'The Strange Tale of Easter Island'
(season 2, episode 35, 1972)

Kitarô watches the crook scale a moai

Bats fly forth from a hollow moai

A crooked fortune-teller murders a competitor – a more successful teller from Peru, who had recently moved to the neighbourhood. He steals her fortune-telling crystal and inspired by the work of his adventurer father, he flees to Easter Island. His father had been able to summon the evil spirit of Aku-Aku, which the crook tries to recreate with guidance from the crystal and precisely at the point that the sun turns red.

Watched by Kitarô and his companion Nezumi, a rat-like human-monster hybrid, the crook climbs up a moai only to disturb a group of bats, which fly out of the moai from its hollow head. Aku-Aku appears and he is the harbinger of death, causing a moai to topple onto the crook and crush him completely. Aku-Aku picks up the dead crook and takes him down within a hole that has been exposed by the fallen moai, and deep into the underworld. Kitarô and Nezumi return to Japan, where they are surprised to hear that the crook is now in jail. They visit him, whereupon he crumbles and becomes a skeleton.

Aku-Aku, the harbinger of death

The dead crook is taken by Aku-Aku beneath a moai and deep into
the underworld

Along with the earliest known animation to engage with Easter Island – Ōgon Bat (1967; see review above) – GeGeGe No Kitarô shows that Japan was clearly ahead of other countries in exhibiting a creative fascination with the moai within the medium of television. Both are based on long-running manga; in fact Ōgon Bat is regarded as the first comic book superhero. Kitarô is a different type of hero and one that encounters in each episode ghouls and demons from the Japanese folklore of yōkai. The stories were initially considered too unsettling for children and they have consequently been adjusted through different versions. Originally titled Kitarô of the Graveyard, the GeGeGe in this series is the cackling sound made by a monster. Kitarô, who was born in a graveyard, is 350 years old, and the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe, although he carries around the living remnant of his father, a talking eyeball that resides in Kitarô's empty eye socket.

'The Strange Tale of Easter Island' is one of 65 episodes that appeared in a series that ran from 1968 to 1972, with stories often featuring monsters from foreign cultures. Aku-Aku in this episode is from Rapanui mythology (where it is the spirits of the dead). It first emerges as large glowing eyes on a rock not dissimilar to the Rapanui god Makemake, but which is revealed to be the sockets of a living skull. Here, Aku-Aku is depicted as a figure that is more Japanese in design: an old skeleton man with long grey hair and beard, carrying a crooked stick with a small skull on top. The horror narrative extends to bats flying out of a moai (there are in fact no bats on Easter Island) and a gooey dark liquid that secretes from a moai's eye. There are many examples in Easter Island fiction that imagine stairs or cavern entrances within/ beneath the moai, but this story is alone in seeing an opening to the underworld.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Italian broadcast title: 'Gli Dei dell'Isola di Pasqua' ['The Gods of Easter Island']
(episode 24, 1976)

Running moai give chase to a plane of escaping tourists

The moai prepare to attack with their axes and spears

A couple of tourists stop to admire a giant moai on Easter Island. As the man is about to take a picture of the woman with one of the statues, the moai comes alive. Other moai rise up and as they emerge from the ground, revealing full bodies complete with arms and legs, they start chasing the tourists. The humans try to flee on an airplane but it is hit by laser beams fired from a moai's eyes, which causes it to crash into the ocean.

Employing their flying armoured vehicle, Great Space Dragon, Dr Daimoni and his team (Sanshiro, Pete, Sakan, Midori, Fan Lee, Yamatake and Bunta) travel towards Easter Island to investigate the event. According to the local lore, the statues can be animated by a witch. As soon as the Dragon lands, it is attacked by the moai, who as well as firing lasers from their eyes, are now armed with stone axes and spears (which appear primitive in comparison). The Space Dragon fights back with its powerful weapons, destroying all the statues. The remains of the statues reveal a robotised skeleton beneath their stone shell.

Dr Daimoni and his crew suspect that the Island may be the hiding place of the Dark Horror Army, an alien and extremely advanced civilisation from planet Zela in the Cignus galaxy, which had been swallowed by a black hole. Pete, one of the team's pilots, asks permission to explore the extinct volcano on Easter Island which they know is linked to the ancient cult of the birdman. Accompanied by Midori, the two discover across the island rock carvings of birdmen and turtles. Suddenly the two are attacked by masked men, who were the inhabitants of Zela, but have been brainwashed and turned into cyborg birdmen enslaved by the evil sentient robot Black Darius and his four generals. While Pete manages to escape, Midori is taken prisoner and taken beneath a sliding boulder to the underground lair of the birdmen. The plan is to offer her as a sacrifice to the goddess Olongar in order to bring the deity back to life.

An axe-wielding moai attacks the Great Space Dragon

The Great Space Dragon turns its weapons on the fleeing moai

Sanshiro, Pete and Fan Lee, save Midori from the sacrificial ceremony, with the birdmen dancing around a pyre invoking the divinity. Suddenly, from the erupting volcano, Olongar emerges in the form of a monstrous fire-breathing turtle-shaped robot. A battle between the monster and the Space Dragon ensues, but the Dragon falls back pretending to be defeated. While the four generals celebrate, the Space Dragon goes in search of Pete and Sanshiro – who were about to be killed by a firing squad of birdmen – and sets them free. In the final confrontation with Olongar (aptly called 'Operation Turtle') the Gaiking robot appears, formed by detachable parts of the Great Space Dragon in the style of the Transformers. Gaiking is assisted by the Space Dragon, which tunnels from underneath the turtle and flips it over revealing its weaker belly and then slices off its head. Together, they destroy Olongar and defeat the four Generals.

Produced by Toei Animation, Gaiking is one of the less famous robots created by the celebrated Japanese mangaka Go Nagai (aka Kiyoshi Nagai), the author of renowned manga and animation series such as Grendizer, Mazinger, Devilman and Getter Robot. Belonging to the mecha genre, Gaiking is a human-controlled robot, fighting against an evil alien civilisation that has been trying to dominate the world and destroy mankind with terrifying mechanical monsters. While most of the mecha animation series take place in Japan, and numerous battles are fought at the feet of Mount Fuji, in this episode Easter Island offers an alternative setting – albeit at the base of another volcano – for the confrontation between the forces of good and evil.

Despite being an early example of Easter Island animation, the episode reveals a degree of interest in Rapanui culture with some accuracy in its depiction. Throughout the episode several characters offer viewers bits of historical information about the island, its discovery, its lore and its mythology. A central reference in the story is the figure of the birdman, an evident source of inspiration for the warriors from Zela. These fantasised warriors, who hide underground, carry out their ceremony inside the extinct volcano of Rano Kau, near Orongo, the ceremonial village and centre of the birdman cult. The name of the turtle-shaped divinity Olongar is a transliteration of the name Orongo, with petroglyphs of the turtle (that do exist on Rapanui) included alongside the birdman carvings that can be seen at the ceremonial site. And whilst this sea creature does have mythical powers within Polynesian culture they are not those represented in this story which shows its real origins in Japanese kaiju eiga (colossal creatures) and where there already existed the giant flying turtle, Gamera.

The episode also makes considerable use of popular tropes and myths about Easter Island. One is the reference to the alleged outer space origins of the Rapanui people, with the Zela people functioning as the ancient settlers of the island and as the creators of the moai thanks to their advanced scientific knowledge. The actual ecological history of Rapanui and of its people may also have functioned as a source of inspiration for the people of the planet Zela. Indeed, the Zela people are faced with an ecological disaster caused by the nuclear explosions on the surface of their sun which gradually destroyed their ecosystem, forced them to move underground, and on the verge of extinction flee to planet Earth. The figure of Black Darius who commands the Dark Army and was initially created to help save the Zelans, eventually enslaves many of them. Such an idea may have been inspired by the intestine wars among the Rapanui tribes and the later enslavement of the Rapanui in 1862 by the Peruvian slave raiders.

Similarly, the episode capitalises on the myth of power with the moai coming alive in the most dramatic way, where unusual for moai fiction they are depicted carrying weapons. The running moai in the opening scene offers a captivating start to the episode. These moai are correctly shown facing inward, in this instance toward the volcano to honour the goddess Olongar (or so Pete hypothesises).

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Super Friends
'Sinbad and the Space Pirates'
(season 3, episode 7, 1978)

Sinbad's flying galleons steal the precious moai

From a flying boat, the space pirates watch the moai being lifted skywards

Captain Sinbad, an intergalactic pirate who commands three galleons that fly through outer space, comes to Earth. His aim is to plunder the treasures that have been buried by earlier space pirates and these are located at Earth's ancient monuments. The flying ships contain powerful cannons that can hypnotise people to be slaves, and rays that can lift cities and buildings to retrieve the treasure beneath, as well as activate forcefields and smoke screens.

At Easter Island, the moai are lifted into the air and into a galleon through a beam of energy. Apparently, hidden inside each moai is 50 tonnes of solid gold. Batman and Robin fly down to stop the pirates "before they dig up the whole island", but the plunderers manage to escape with their treasure. Eventually, and with help along the way from Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the pirates are caught and handed over to the Intergalactic Police Force. The Super Friends advise that they will return the treasures and stolen artefacts back to their original locations.

This episode was originally broadcast on 30 September 1978. Part of a long running series of 109 episodes spanning 14 years, the Super Friends were formed when Hanna-Barbera acquired the rights to characters from DC Comics and decided to rename the Justice League of America. Whilst many of the characters are recognisably from the DC universe, the voices and storylines are more Hanna-Barbera. Introducing pirates as the villains is designed to appeal to children who would seemingly appreciate a mix of buccaneers and space ships. Yet, the notion is made especially bizarre with the pirates depicted in historical attire and with ships and accessories that have barely evolved from centuries past and in the context of space travel are highly impractical. For they require no spacesuits – pirate clothing is sufficient – and galleons are shown anchored to the land below.

The moai are plundered as giant treasure chests with their enhanced value as hidden hordes of gold. Alas, within history, numerous moai have been stolen from Easter Island and taken to foreign museums and lands. This has been done with sailing ships that are akin to the pirate ships. The plundering in this animation is very imaginative and undertaken with greater ease than the actual thefts that have been recorded in the history of Rapanui. Significantly, in this fiction the moai are returned.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Cyborg 009
'Sleep, Giants of Legend!'
(episode 5, 1979)

A moai stands over a victim

The team gathers at Rano Raraku

It is a foggy night on Easter Island and a man is terrified to discover that he is being followed by moai. He tries to escape, by climbing up the side of a cliff, but he falls and breaks his neck. The moai return to their positions.

The Cyborg team are gathered at Gilmore Labs, where Dr Gilmore gives his thoughts on the legend of the moai and how they were perceived to have the power to move independently. It is believed that they may hold an answer to the Stone Giants found elsewhere which have been threatening mankind. In particular, an examination of an arm of one of the Stone Giants shows it is similar to the moai in terms of its molecular stone structure. The team head to Easter Island, aboard their craft Dolphin II, to investigate further.

On arrival, they meet Professor Milton, an archaeologist, and explore Rano Raraku, but they are interrupted by an earthquake, which is found to be caused by the moai shifting up and down, a phenomenon called the "shaking rocks". This is followed by boulders being hurled through the air which narrowly miss the team. The whole episode is a warning to the visitors to stay away.

Back on board the Dolphin II, Milton relays that he has been on the island looking for his missing twin brother, Galton, also an archaeologist, who had apparently got close to unlocking the mysteries of the moai. The brothers had ventured to Easter Island thirty years ago; entranced by the moai, Galton stayed, whilst Milton returned to Norway. Milton's return to Easter Island was triggered by an unexpected letter received from his brother urging him to come back.

Suddenly, the Dolphin II, which has been positioned underwater, is surrounded by moai, who have entered the ocean and are trying to ram the craft. Dolphin II surfaces and flies upwards, managing to lose the moai. It is decided that the team must locate the source of the moai energy, which is coming from the sea, so Dolphin II re-enters the ocean waters whereupon the moai again give chase. Dodging the threat, they locate the energy source to be inside a cavern, which is fronted by a moai, and through whose mouth they must pass.

The cavern contains booby traps, which fail to halt the team. Deeper inside they discover a moai-filled factory. And in the middle of the moai is a strange square stone, which opens up whilst Milton is attempting to decipher its writing. Horrifyingly, Galton is inside the object, and he is now a crazed human-stone hybrid who is able to control the moai, desires global domination and believes he can become a god.

Galton assembles a giant moai, which attacks the Cyborg team. They struggle to destroy the colossus, as each time a part – such as its head – is smashed or severed, it is simply re-attached. Milton manages to divert the moai's attention and make it accidentally destroy the supporting machinery. This brings Galton's psychic control of the moai to an abrupt halt with the stone giant collapsing into pieces.

Free of the controlling devices, Galton is now able to warn the team before he dies and turns to stone. He tells them that the Gods of Asgard have begun plans to take over the world. A new tremor is triggered by the technology, causing the collapse of the cave. The team escape safely and reflect on the successful demise of Galton's evil operations.

This was the second (the first in 1968) of several Japanese television series in the long-running Cyborg 009 stories, created by Ishinomori Shotaro, which has turned to the moai at points in its long running adventures (anime – reviewed below and manga - reviewed below). The series views the moai as sources of great power that allow them to move and become objects of destruction. Like the television series Gaiking (reviewed above) this episode employs significantly the myth of movement, with the moai able to follow and threaten visitors, attack vessels, and create earth tremors through moving up and down in unison. The moai that has an ability to reassemble itself if smashed has also appeared in Giant Girl Adventures (reviewed below).

Easter Island may not be a large land mass but in moai fiction it is a site where scientists and archaeologists can easily go missing. Strangely, the English sounding Milton is associated with Norway; an idea perhaps developed from real-life Norwegian archaeologist, Thor Heyerdahl.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Drak Pack
‘International Graffiti’
(season 1, episode 15, 1980)

The Drak Pack cling onto the leg of Mummyman in a desperate attempt
to stop the villains escaping

Frankie and Drak Jr. look out for Howler as he swims back to shore

The Drak Pack gang – Drak Jr., Frankie and Howler (descendants of Count Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman) – arrive on Easter Island in their flying car, the Drakster, for a vacation. Frankie finds the moai “scary”; Drak Jr. tells him to relax and that the statues have been there for centuries. He adds that “nobody knows for sure who created them and why”. Very soon after they arrive, their great foe, Dr Dred, head of the evil organisation O.G.R.E. (that includes Mummyman and Vampira), begins transforming the moai into stone effigies of his own face, using his ‘facemaker’ device. His plan is to turn all the famous statues of the world into monuments of himself. Drak Jr. advises him that in altering the moai he has just “defaced a famous artefact”. The Drak Pack try to stop him flying away in his airship, but they end up crashing into a moai that crumbles to pieces. Dr Dred flies next to the Great Pyramids in Egypt setting a trap for the Drak Pack, who are helpless to stop the face of the Sphinx being altered. Finally, he flies to Mount Rushmore, but this time the Drak Pack are prepared and using a mirror they manage to deflect the power of the facemaker device. The contraption is then grabbed by the Drak Pack, with Dr Dred’s airship receiving a puncture that sends it crashing.

Villains altering the faces of the moai to be in their own image have appeared elsewhere, in the television animation series M.A.S.K. (1985) and the comic book Joker: The Last Laugh (2001). This Hanna-Barbera episode, which was the penultimate in a total of sixteen, is no more than the basic idea of a villain changing the faces of world monuments. The idea is repetitive and runs thin, with the time on Easter Island occupying almost half of the 21 minute episode. The moai which surround a single volcano are simply famous artefacts to be transformed and serve no other function. Easter Island itself is devoid of a population or society and any other form of culture. The only original element to the story is the visit of so many classic movie monsters to the island.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Moby Dick 5 (1980)

The five heroes watch the great white whale emerge from the Pacific

The moai are destroyed as the spaceships of Atlantis attack

A 26-episode anime originally broadcast on Japanese television between April and September 1980, this programme’s original title literally translates as Mu’s White Whale. The giant sea creature, which is the reincarnated kingdom of Mu, is capable of flying and spectacularly emerges from the sea off Easter Island. It acts as a vessel into outer space for four heroic Mu warriors who are reincarnated as youths alongside the king’s daughter whose life has been sustained in the form of a cyborg. The team have their own flying gondolas that enter into the whale’s mouth where they unite. Before the series locates to outer space, it presents the five heroes spending their time on the shores of Easter Island preparing for their battles with Zarkon, the ruler of Atlantis. For 30,000 years ago, in a fight for planet Earth, Atlantis had defeated Mu sending it to the bottom of the Pacific. But the force sent the continent of Atlantis into space; now a colossal spaceship it has returned to Earth to recommence war where in its destruction of Easter Island the moai are blasted with its laser cannons.

The legendary lost continents of Mu and Atlantis have repeatedly been sources of inspiration for Easter Island fantasies, but this is the only instance in which they are in conflict with each other. Imagining the two continents as respectively a giant whale and spaceship is also original, with the inhabitants of Atlantis depicted as dark warmongers. In contrast, the inhabitants of Mu are now peace-loving and nature-based, dressed in clothes akin to Ancient Greece. It adds to the Arcadian appearance of Easter Island as these heroes of Mu stand around the fallen moai and remnants of a past civilisation. Other than the scene where the moai are destroyed by the laser cannons of Atlantis, the statues (as well as an ahu/ stone platform) are shown very much as scenery, monuments around which the Mu warriors debate and contemplate.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'When Magneto Speaks.... People Listen'
(season 1, episode 6, 1981)

Landing on Easter Island, Spider-Man finds himself surrounded by a circle of moai

Spider-Man suddenly discovers that the moai have the power to move

Following a period of relative peace and quiet in New York City, a blackout on the East Coast reveals the country's satellite communications system has been taken over by Magneto. Masquerading as Mr M, he demands $100 million in gold in return for the re-activation of the communications and electricity. Spider-Man realises that Magneto aims to take over a major new satellite that is about to launch, and that would give him ultimate control of global communications. Attempting to thwart the plan, Spider-Man ends up trapped aboard the rocket heading into space.

Spider-Man reverse engineers the navigation system on the satellite, and returns to Earth. It leads him to Easter Island, where he lands manoeuvring the satellite between a series of stone heads and coming to rest within a circle of moai. Standing among the imposing carvings, Spider-Man is concerned: "I knew Easter Island was an odd place, but these ancient statues really give me the willies, it's almost as if they're alive". The moai then actually begin to move, controlled by Magneto, with one nearly falling on Spider-Man and two others colliding with each other. Spider-Man refers to the moai as "Magneto's toy soldiers", and he contains the threat by spinning his web around the stone figures preventing them as a group from moving any further.

Spider-Man defeats Magneto using a modified form of the villain's technology and sends the world's satellites back to their rightful orbit, allowing global communications to return to normal. Magneto escapes and Spider-Man goes home to New York, swapping crime fighting for academia.

By shooting a web around the moai the threat is contained

Under Magneto's control, a moai fires lasers from its eyes

This series was developed by Stan Lee, through the newly created Marvel Productions animation studio, and as a way to attract the attention of the major television companies. First aired in September 1981 the series ended in March 1982 after 26 episodes. It is less well-known than Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the NBC series that followed and which aired between 1981 and 1983.

In this episode, which was first broadcast on 17 October 1981, there is no logical reason as to how Magneto's power, which involves the manipulation of metal, would enable him to move stone statues. No attention is paid to the history of the island or its culture, with the action focused on one circle of moai. This depiction creates an uneasy collision with notable stone circles, like Stonehenge, which are familiar in western civilisation. On another level, it prefigures the ring of moai that would appear a year later in DC Comics Presents – Superman and the Global Guardians (see the review below). As in many other examples of Easter Island fiction, a moai has laser weapons in its eyes. Spider-Man uses a satellite dish to reflect the power back at the moai, blowing it apart in the process. The simplicity of the story, the ease with which the moai are appropriated and Spider-Man's typically flippant approach to crime fighting, means there is no second thought about the destruction of such cultural artefacts.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

Miss Machiko
'The Messenger from Easter Island’
(episode 53, 1982)

Yamagata is frustrated by the moai following his every move

Yamagata, the chosen birdman, is accompanied by Machiko
in a dance to appease the moai

Miss Machiko takes school children from the Arama Academy to a Japanese exhibition focused on Easter Island, that promotes cultural ties between Japan and Chile. Inside, the children ask various questions and Machiko responds with confidence and knowledge on the facts of Easter Island. The group then turns to a television monitor which demonstrates a most likely method for transporting the moai. A young male teacher, Mr Yamagata, tries to engage the children by showing them a moai eye made of coral and obsidian that he advises had been discovered for the first time in 1978, but they are more interested in what Machiko has to convey and follow her instead.

Later that evening, a delivery truck that has taken a wrong turn, reverses into the school yard before heading off at speed back in the direction it had just come from. The manoeuvre, however, leads to the truck doors flying open and a large crate being accidentally left behind in the playground. The next morning, the teachers and school children prise the crate open to discover inside a large moai complete with pukao. A child tries to touch the moai, but a teacher warns him away as she thinks it is “sinister” and may have been placed there by aliens.

Yamagata emerges from under the debris of the collapsed crate and protests at the moai for being in the school playground. Each time Yamagata moves, the moai turns of its own accord to face him. A clever student, Hiroshi, who refers to a book that she is carrying, concludes that the moai must be drawn to Yamagata as it sees the teacher as the “chosen sacred birdman”. The school principal concurs and says Yamagata and carvings of the birdman bear a resemblance. Hiroshi advises that they must now proceed with the birdman ritual, starting by shaving Yamagata’s head. If they complete the ritual the moai will be able to return home; if they do not, a lost moai can bring “terrible misfortune”. The children part shave Yamagata’s head and then place on him a birdman mask, before he is told he will need to pray.

On Hiroshi’s instructions, everyone hangs objects, such as wristwatches, from their ears, to give them status like the Rapanui. Yamagata has now changed into a toga and carrying a staff he invites Machiko to join him in performing a strange dance in front of the moai, whilst everyone else kneels down in respect of the statue. Yamagata plays a tune to accompany the dance, which Machiko thinks is an Easter Island “folk song”; Yamagata says he is simply playing a tape backwards. Machiko finds the whole experience, which is having no effect, “ridiculous”. So, they next invite to the school a local priest from the Arama shrine who tries to encourage the moai to return to Easter Island. He advises that it may help if Machiko becomes a Shinto princess and performs a ritual dance. Everyone joins in with the dance to help “quell the god’s wrath”. The moai shakes and wobbles in unison, which results in its pukao crashing to the ground and starting an earthquake. Both the surrounding school infrastructure and the moai begin to crack and crumble.

Meanwhile, a helicopter arrives with the original delivery men on board looking for their lost cargo. They explain that it is not a real moai and was intended for a display in the entrance to the exhibition. The earthquake was a natural occurrence – nothing to with the moai – and the carving turned each time Yamagata moved as inside the sculpture (as part of its attraction) there is a magnetic device. Yamagata, who is besotted with Machiko, had carved a metal pendant in her image, which he wears around his neck, and it is this which attracted the movement of the moai.

Based on a manga series that appeared between 1980 and 1982, this made for television anime ran for 95 episodes between October 1981 and October 1983. There were also nine Japanese live-action feature films made between 2003 and 2009. Viewed from outside Japan, the anime is rather startling for its overt depictions of school sexuality between staff and students, with Miss Machiko repeatedly presented as a sexual object and both the male teachers and students forever desiring ways of touching intimate parts of her body or seeing her underwear and exposed flesh. Equally startling is Machiko’s easy forgiving of such harassment and sexist behaviour.

The Easter Island exhibition at the start of the episode is unusually correct in its information and reveals that the episode was based on proper research. In particular, the inclusion of the moai eye follows an actual archaeological discovery, just four years before, making its inclusion commendable and the first instance in moai culture for such a reference. The birdman is also incorporated, but whilst it begins by engaging with some of the Rapanui ritual, such as the head-shaving, it soon descends into a folly, ridiculing indigenous practices with silly objects hung from ears and a tape played in reverse to create an inane tune. The episode is most revealing in the ways the school deals with the unexpected moai arrival, which on one level is treated with suspicion and as an outer-space gift. On another more significant level the moai is revered and treated as a god, an idol to be appeased and helped in being returned to his rightful home.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Special Armoured Battalion Dorvack
'When the Moai's Light Shined'
(episode 22, 1984)

A moai weapon is transported into position

A moai empowered as it connects with a platform

Four spaceships carry a moai across a rocky wasteland in Japan as the Dorvack team try to stop the alien invaders from placing the statue onto a circular platform. When the statue and the platform meet, sparks fly and the earth begins to quake. Both sides of the battle react in shock as the stone head begins to rise into the air. The eyes of the Moai begin to emit blue beams of light whilst three other statues around the world – in Africa, North America and on Rapanui – begin to shoot similar rays. Their beams all converge to create a ball of blinding light. Before the process is continued, however, the Dorvack team use all their firepower to bring down the statue in Japan, destroying the platform it was on and causing it to plunge back down to the ground.

Dorvack is a Japanese anime that ran from 1983-1984 across 36 episodes, and alongside a toyline. It takes place in the future of 1999, as an alien race called the Idealians attack the Earth in order to make it their new home. A specialised battalion named Dorvack defend the planet against the invasion, using humanoid machines that contain human pilots.

From Africa, a moai fires its laser beams

As the battle builds, the main moai levitates

The moai are portrayed as sources of great power with the ability to create a doomsday-like event. It is unclear whether the moai were designed to be used as weapons or if their power is being manipulated by the Idealians. Their role, however, can also be seen to be a part of a trend of augmentation that is prevalent in Japanese culture. The blending of technology with the natural or historically symbolic reflects the country's own relationship with its advancements in machinery and their uses in society.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Kinnikuman: Justice Superman vs Ancient Superman (1985)

Kinnikuman plays the clown in front of the moai

Kinnikuman's foe, Stone Satan

Suguru Kinniku, aka Kinnikuman, is an idiotic superhero, from the planet Kinniku. He learns that he is the prince of Kinniku, a planet known for its great superheroes, but he must prove his worthiness for the throne through a series of wrestling bouts with brutish supermen, called Chojin.

In this film we learn that the evil Satan King, leader of the Kodai Chojin (Ancient Supermen), has long ago hidden his minion around the world where they have been lying in wait for the moment to attack. On vacation on Easter Island with a group of school children, Kinnikuman is the entertainer pulling faces at the moai and acrobatically prancing on their heads. But he is seriously challenged when faced with Stone Satan and his army, a group of moai that rise up from the ground, that Kinnikuman has to wrestle. Other superheroes, also on vacation, are faced with the Ancient Chojin at heritage monuments around the world. Kinnikuman looks to have lost, but superhero Buffaloman (who partially resembles a minotaur) comes to the rescue and defeats the moai. Satan King, however, has kidnapped the school children, who now have to be rescued from Mount Everest.

Employing his wrestling moves, Kinnikuman fights with the moai army

Overwhelmed, Kinnikuman is beaten by Stone Satan

Kinnikuman is widely popular in Japan, where he began as a manga in 1979, developed into a made-for-television anime in 1983, and has generated an array of associated video games, action figures and merchandise. Kinnikuman: Justice Superman vs Ancient Superman was the third of seven theatrically released short-feature films first exhibited between 1984 and 1986. As with the other Kinnikuman stories, the world of the superhero is parodied and united with the fandom, mania and drama of pro-wrestling. The stories, which are obviously aimed at children, are basic and structured around a stream of wrestling bouts. Nearly 30 years later the WWE Superstars visited Easter Island for a wrestling match that did not see the moai come alive, but instead they were used as weapons for slamming and whacking an opponent (see the review below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
'Operation: Mind Menace'
(season 1, episode 22, 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.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

'Panda Power'
German broadcast title: 'Entführung auf die Osterinsel' ['Kidnapped to Easter Island']
(season 1, episode 27, 1985)

Pandas graze at the foot of a moai

A moai altered to display the face of the villain, Miles Mayhem

M.A.S.K. is a Canadian-French co-produced animation series (employing Japanese animators) that was broadcast over two series in 1985 and 1986 in the US and later translated into German. The series was developed to support the marketing of the M.A.S.K. action figures with specialty masks and transforming armoured vehicles (best viewed as G.I. Joe meets Transformers). A range of paperbacks faithfully adapted the television series. The paperback for this episode (with M.A.S.K. changed to MASK), for which there was very little difference in the story, was released in 1986 (reviewed below).

Sonja Mausen

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Three Eyed One
'The Easter Island Voyage'
(episodes 40-43, 1991)

The first view of the moai of Easter Island

The monkeys of Easter Island attack

During a trip to the local zoo, Hosuke Sharaku is kidnapped by escaping monkeys – led by the human-like Pogo – and taken to a ship. There they are joined by Hegeoyagi and police detective Umei, who have climbed aboard to rescue Sharaku. As Sharaku, Hegeoyagi and Umei search the ship, a voice from the speaker system tells them that there is no way of escape and to come below deck for dinner. At the dinner table, a wall moves to reveal a mask with glowing eyes. It tells Sharaku that it instructed Pogo to bring him alone before zapping the monkey with a laser that is emitted from its mouth. Sharaku comforts Pogo, as the mask then fades away.

Pogo awakens at night and tells Sharaku that she was coerced into kidnapping him and the two play a game in which they choose a word that links to the one said before. In the morning, the ship arrives at an island and the passengers leave. During their exploration of the island, Sharaku and Pogo split up from the adults and are attacked by a swarm of flesh-eating dragonflies. This leads to the bandage that is covering Sharaku's third eye being devoured, causing him to turn into his alter ego. With his unleashed power, Sharaku defeats the swarm.

Pogo tells Sharaku that she was taken from her homeland, Rapanui, to this island via submarine. Sharaku finds the submarine below the island. They enter and encounter Wanfo, an antagonist in previous stories, and Miste Mali, who invite Sharaku to join their organisation, which is set on taking over the world. Sharaku refuses, mostly due to their treatment of Pogo. They leave the submarine and return to the island, as the ship moves on. Sharaku offers to take Pogo back to Rapanui and, after reuniting with Umei and Hegeoyagi, he uses his powers to push the island across the sea. During the voyage, Pogo reveals to the adults that she can speak, much to their bemusement, and tells them that she is the queen of the Naji family, the monkeys on Rapanui who did not evolve into humans.

Once they reach the deserted Rapanui, Umei and Hegeoyagi rush to admire the moai, discussing their beauty and the mystery of who built them. Sharaku follows Pogo to her tribe of monkeys and it is there that she attempts to marry him, placing a ceremonial crown on his head. This causes Sharaku's eye to close and he turns back into the childlike figure from the beginning of the story. Sharaku tells Pogo he cannot marry her before fleeing with the Naji monkeys in pursuit. Hiding from Pogo and her tribe, Sharaku once again comes across Wanfo who tells him he believes the third eye family created the moai. Wanfo shows Sharaku a rock with rongorongo carved upon its surface and tells him that, with his third eye, Sharaku could read it and reveal the mysteries of Rapanui. Sharaku refuses and draws the attention of Pogo and the monkeys, who chase Wanfo and Sharaku.

The moai glow as Pogo anguishes over Sharaku's plight

Hosuke Sharaku, the Three-Eyed One, wishes to read the
rongorongo inscribed on a rock

Escaping the clutches of both Pogo's tribe and Sharaku's allies, Wanfo forcefully takes Sharaku back to the submarine to where Mali is waiting. Pogo sends her monkeys to attack the ship but they are halted by its electrified hull. In anguish, Pogo exclaims "Don't go!" and her tears splash across the stone face of a moai. The statues all begin to glow red and a pool of light appears at the surface above the submerged submarine. The ship is lifted into the air and then broken into pieces but a red aura surrounds the unconscious Sharaku, keeping him from harm and levitating him back to the island.

Pogo takes off Sharaku's crown, once again turning him into the evil genius. Sharaku leads Pogo, Umei and Hegeoyagi to the rongorongo text. He admits he cannot read it but asks Pogo to instead. Reading the rongorongo, Pogo explains that the Naji family built the moai to protect their descendants. Having read the writing, however, Pogo regresses back into a normal monkey so that she will not be able to reveal the secret to anyone else. She tearfully plays the word game with Sharaku one last time until she can no longer understand the words. Pogo leaves the others, not recognising them. Sharaku, Umei and Higeoyagi then return home.

The Three-Eyed One is a Japanese animated series that ran for 48 episodes between 1990 and 1991 and was adapted from a weekly manga (reviewed below). The series follows Sharaku, a young boy and the last surviving member of the three-eyed family. When his third eye is open, he becomes a confident evil genius with special powers. With his group of companions, Sharaku investigates historical ruins in order to learn about their mysteries and his family's history. A number of the supporting characters are also frequently seen in other productions based on author Osamu Tezuka's drawings, such as Astro Boy and Black Jack.

The moai in The Three-Eyed One are a magical force that tap into the emotion of the monkeys they were built to protect. The fact that they simply glow red – rather than levitating and moving across the island in a path of destruction, as in the original manga – essentially lessens their impact. As in other stories, the translation of rongorongo reveals an origin narrative, and the source of the moai construction. In this fiction, not only is the Three-Eyed One's ancestors the constructors of the moai, thereby giving them a mysticism, but Easter Island is established as a site of primary evolution where monkeys became humans, an idea that also appears in the animation The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (see the review below).

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Montana Jones
'Emergency! Landing on Easter Island'
(episode 25, 1994)

Lord Zero employs one of his contraptions to lift up moai, in his search for treasure

A petroglyph (rock carving) of the birdman is discovered on Motu Nui

Montana Jones, a pilot and adventurer, is travelling on a seaplane to Easter Island with his relative, Professor Alfred Jones, who is an archaeologist, and Melissa Thorn, a wealthy and young reporter, who is multilingual. The trio have to make an emergency landing on Easter Island due to a tornado, and it is there that they hide in the basement of a home, a hare vaka (a traditional house in the shape of an upturned canoe), which is damaged by the storm. As the storm passes, the three protagonists meet at the home a boy (who later turns out to be a girl) and whose mother was abducted by the villains of the story: Lord Zero, a rich, and eccentric master thief/ lover of precious art who is constantly seeking treasures, Professor Nitro, an inventor who constructs the villains' unique contraptions, and their two helpers Slim and Slam, who usually do more harm than good because of their clumsiness. The villains are looking for the fabulous treasure of Hotu Matua, to the extent that they have been lifting moai up out of the ground with a special machine to see if anything has been buried underneath. The three protagonists are normally guided by instructions from their mentor and sponsor, the Boston-based Professor Gerrit, whose advice on this occasion has been provided on a record. The villains manage to listen to the record on a gramophone player, with the protagonists hiding in earshot; Professor Gerrit says they should search the rocky islet of Motu Nui.

The protagonists race to get to Motu Nui first, cycling over land and then rowing over the sea that separates the rock from Easter Island. It is there that the protagonists find the nesting sooty tern, whose eggs are a sacred part of the birdman competition. Nearby, they also discover a petroglyph (rock carving) of tangata manu/ the birdman. The villains suddenly emerge and attack the protagonists, destroying the rock featuring the petroglyph in the process and revealing underneath a secret hole, which the protagonists enter. The villains follow in their contraption, which burrows into the rock and then scuttles along the underground passageway, forcing its way along as the path narrows. It is revealed that the passageway leads back to Easter Island and to a ceremonial chamber directly under the crater-lake of Rano Kau, where the protagonists find a large cavern adorned with rock carvings of the birdman on the walls and floor. The centerpiece is a moai carved from whale bone. On examining its back, the protagonists discover it is covered in rongorongo glyphs.

Montana Jones walks within the underground chamber, with its
floor marked by birdman carvings

Professor Alfred Jones explains the importance of rongorongo, found on
the back of a moai

The villains try to steal the moai for Lord Zero's personal collection, but in doing so they trigger a magnetic mechanism that was beneath the statue. The mechanism attracts metal and the 'eggs' which are held in the 'hands' of each of the birdman carvings in the chamber. These combine to form an eye with a pupil, with the final 'egg' dropping from directly above, where it was acting as a plug keeping out the water from the lake. The vault under the lake subsequently breaks and everyone is close to drowning. At the last moment, they manage to escape, where back on the surface they watch this special moai re-emerge from a lake. The villains fly away but in the distance crash into the sea. The Rapanui woman decides that Professor Jones should record the glyphs of rongorongo in an attempt to have them deciphered. The conclusion is that the true treasure of Easter Island is its archaeological legacy.

Montana Jones is an anime television series, of 52 episodes, which was co-produced by the Italian studio Rever and the Japanese studio Junio. It is clearly inspired by Indiana Jones, from the name of the lead protagonist, the archaeologically-focused global adventures and the mechanisms that are triggered when treasures are stolen, through to the music and the period of the 1930s, in which it is all set. The series has also been conceived in the style of other animal animation – such as Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds (1981-1982) – where whole worlds are imagined with specific species or breeds anthropomorphised. It is a common feature of children's fiction, which has seen dogs and rabbits populating an Easter Island-set Hungarian novel (see the review below). In that novel, the moai were dog-shaped; in this story, the moai are in the form of lions, uniting with the characters who are all anthropomorphised big cats. The broad fantasy also imagines a large cavern under Rano Kau and, uniquely in moai fiction, a secret entrance to an underground passage on Motu Nui. As that rocky islet is some distance out to sea from Easter Island it is highly fanciful to conceive a story where the underground passage joins Motu Nui to the main island.

The rongorongo glyphs in detail

The villains attempt to steal the special moai

The moai in this story are more figures in the landscape and it is only the one discovered underground that is viewed as exceptional. Instead, the animation is drawn to the birdman, whose symbol is found at Motu Nui and on the floor and walls of the cave under Rano Kau; the undeciphered writing system of rongorongo; the eyes of the moai, that are recreated here in the pattern formed by the metal eggs; and the uniquely built homes of the Rapanui, which are boat-shaped as their vessels were used to form the rooves of their buildings, when they were not being used at sea. Both the depiction of the birdman petroglyph and rongorongo are largely faithful to the originals and show a degree of research. It is therefore a shame that the island is imagined as near-deserted, with just a Rapanui mother and daughter present. However, it is worth mentioning that in this animation the Rapanui woman is portrayed as independent and both a skilled engineer and professional doctor who intervenes proactively in the plot.

Hermann Mückler and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(season 2, episode 39, 1996)

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.

Lauren Jenkins

Jump to contents

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.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer [The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer]
Le secret de l'île de Pâques [The Secret of Easter Island]
(episodes 21 and 22, 1997)

A Rapanui man from the past carves a statue of moai kavakava in
the shadow of the giant alien moai

Blake and Maurata visit a Santiago antiques shop as they try to locate the
stolen rongorongo tablets

General Cambon is travelling by car when suddenly he is ambushed and kidnapped by gunmen hiding in a hay lorry. The villain behind the plan is Colonel Olrik, who wears a mysterious helmet that helps him to force the General to tell him the location of a secret missile site. The General manages to write Olrik's name on the ground before he dies, giving Captain Francis Blake, a MI5 (British secret service) operative, and his associate Philip Mortimer, a leading Scottish nuclear physicist, a clue for their investigations.

While Blake and Mortimer attempt to capture Olrik, a man from Easter Island intervenes and manages to steal the helmet. He is shot by Olrik, but before he dies he tells Blake and Mortimer to return it to a man named Maurata, a Rapanui archaeologist based on Easter Island. Blake realises the helmet grants the wearer the ability to hear the thoughts of others and resolves to return it to Maurata. Having distracted Olrik's henchmen, Blake and Mortimer head to the airport and fly to Easter Island.

On arrival, Mortimer in particular (who carries a guide book) is deeply impressed with the island's history. As they drive to the archaeological site in search of Maurata, they pass many moai. They encounter half-finished statues at Rano Raraku, the volcano from which the moai are quarried. There, they find Olrik has somehow got there first, and he has persuaded the locals that Blake and Mortimer have profaned the island. Blake gives the locals the helmet to enable them to hear Olrik's thoughts, which reveals him as the true villain.

Olrik escapes, and Maurata leads Blake and Mortimer into a tunnel beneath the island. There, they discover "the real mystery of Easter Island". A giant moai stands in a cavern, and Maurata takes them inside the statue. He explains the helmet was originally found within the moai, along with ten rongorongo tablets. Olrik stole nine of them along with the helmet, leaving Maurata unable to complete his translations. He tells Blake and Mortimer that the great moai was already on the island when the early Rapanui first arrived. Back then, one of the villagers put on the helmet and communicated with aliens, known as Markabians. He and the Rapanui believed the Markabians to be benevolent, and erected their own moai in preparation of the aliens' arrival. Meanwhile, the helmet caused a power struggle, so both it and the giant moai were declared taboo and buried.

The Paris museum, with its extensive collection of Rapanui artefacts

Muarata hurriedly makes a rubbing of the rongorongo hieroglyphics

As Maurata is finishing the story, Olrik returns and steals the helmet again but as he flees he is trapped under a fallen moai. With the help of the helmet, Murata and Blake learn that Olrik sold the stolen rongorongo tablets to an antiques dealer in Santiago, Chile. They also learn that Olrik spoke with the Markabians, with the aid of the helmet. The aliens will therefore soon return to earth and Maurata insists he must decipher the remaining tablets to discover what happened to the earlier invading force of Markabians. He is convinced these aliens mean harm.

Maurata and Blake go in search of the tablets, leaving Mortimer on the island, where unbeknown the aliens have now arrived. A local girl, Maria, encounters tall beings with moai-like faces wearing helmets. Impervious to bullets, they stun Maria and take her as a specimen aboard their ship. Mortimer sneaks on to the ship where he is captured by Markabians and subjected to brain scans. They question Mortimer, intent upon finding out what happened to their invasion force 900 years earlier. Their quest to understand, mirrors Maurata's desire to translate the rongorongo tablets. In the process, Mortimer learns that the giant moai are in fact transmitters, scattered across the galaxy to allow the Markabians to communicate. These aliens travel through space, removing "inferior life forms" to enable the domination of their own species. Their plan involves defeating humanity using lethal psychic waves.

Meanwhile, Blake and Maurata have travelled to Paris in search of the tablets. The antiques dealer had sold them to a Parisian museum, where they are now on display. Unable to access them during opening hours, Blake and Maurata sneak into the museum at night so that Maurata can make rubbings of the hieroglyphs. They are not alone as two aliens arrive, but Maurata and Blake manage to escape in the aliens' spaceship. Suddenly there is a thunderstorm, and the noise of thunder causes the two moai aliens to disintegrate into sand on the museum floor.

The alien moai subject Mortimer to brain scans

Mortimer learns of the distant worlds where the moai have destroyed other
life forms

Back on Rapanui, Maurata explains that according to the rongorongo, an earthquake caused the destruction of the aliens. Mortimer has noticed their vulnerability to low frequency noises, so they set off dynamite on the island, which causes the remaining aliens to disintegrate. Their abandoned spaceship becomes an ultra secret research facility; Blake and Mortimer note the potential for the Markabians to return, or threaten life elsewhere in the universe.

The original Blake and Mortimer comic, an action-adventure mixing the detective and science fiction genres, first appeared in the Belgian Tintin magazine in 1948. The subsequent television series in 1997 was produced in French (and made available dubbed in other languages) by Ellipse, with thirteen stories filmed, each divided into two episodes. Le secret de l'île de Pâques is the eleventh story, and whilst the first nine were based on the comic book by Edgar P. Jacobs, the last four – which includes Le secret de l'île de Pâques – were created especially for television. Part Bulldog Drummond and part Sherlock Holmes, of all the moai culture made-for-television animation this is probably the richest and most rewarding of the storylines, offering a wealth of material and ideas.

Most notable is how the Rapanui are represented. Where so much of moai fiction presents Easter Island as abandoned or uninhabited, this story actively populates the island with an indigenous community, moreover with contemporary representations of the Rapanui. They are generally shown to be proud people, interested in their ancestry and intent upon preserving their history and culture. Maria is a positive depiction of an independent and astute Rapanui woman, and the new ultra-secret research station, which the story shows being disguised at the end, is left in the hands of the Rapanui to manage. It is also significant that the rongorongo tablets are translated by Maurata, an indigenous scholar, and not the common figure of a visiting white man. Learning of Maurata's intent to urgently translate rongorongo, Mortimer declares "are you serious? So many scientists have struggled for years to discover their meaning!", to which Maurata responds, "yes, but remember I was born here".

Maurata's reverence for the tablets stands at odds with the position of both the antiques dealer and the museum, who treat them as a commodity to be exchanged and acquired. No other example of moai fiction has placed rongorongo so central to the story and whilst the tablets became the writings of the moai themselves in Jonny Quest (see the review above), here they are given a chance for the earlier Rapanui to communicate the evolution of their culture – which interestingly fictionalises a preference for revering moai kavakava before the giant alien moai acquired its importance – as well as providing clues for destroying the invading alien species. Here, the idea of something as basic as sound being able to destroy the mighty invaders appears inspired by H.G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds, where the aliens are defeated by the common cold. In reality, there are 26 existing rongorongo 'tablets', not the ten presented here, and all the known tablets are scattered across the world's museums and archives with none on Easter Island.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

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.

Lauren Jenkins

Jump to contents

Flint the Time Detective
(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.

The islanders depicted as childlike figures

The evil Moah spewing hot lava 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.

Lauren Jenkins

Jump to contents

Superman: The Animated Series
'Knight Time'
(season 3, episode 2, 1998)

After an encounter with Roxy Rocket in Metropolis, Superman discovers that Batman has gone missing from Gotham City. In his absence, Robin has been battling criminals on his own. Superman investigates and suspects that Batman has been put under mind control. He dresses as Batman and, together with Robin, breaks into the Explorer's Club in Gotham, a museum-like space filled with relics and antiques, where masks evoking African art and stuffed animals crowd the edges of the room.

Bane, the Riddler and the Mad Hatter are using the Club as their criminal headquarters. Bane voices a desire to "break" anyone who stands in their way, also threatening to crush Batman's spine. Here, he references an iconic moment from the Knightfall storyline in the Batman comics, in which Bane breaks Batman's spine over his knee. Having thrown Superman (dressed as Batman) across the room, Bane picks up a moai and throws it at the superhero. The ease with which he does so underscores his incredible strength, which has been supplied by the Venom chemical which has been pumped directly into his body. The monolithic stone head appears to have crushed the Caped Crusader, but from underneath he suddenly kicks the moai free and launches it back across the room.

Robin imprisons the Riddler and Superman subdues Bane. The Mad Hatter provides a clue allowing Superman and Robin to track down Batman at an abandoned Wayne Aerospace facility. There, they discover Superman's old nemesis Brainiac is the villain behind Batman's mind control. Superman defeats Brainiac and Batman regains control of his mind, allowing Superman to return to Metropolis.

Superman: The Animated Series ran for three series between 1996 and 2000, following the success of Batman: The Animated Series, which aired originally between 1992 and 1995. An additional spinoff series, Justice League, allowed for the introduction of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern.

Like an episode of the Justice League cartoon, which saw Aquaman throw a moai at Wonder Woman (see the review below), this story reduces the moai to an object to be tossed freely at enemies. Yet, unlike the Justice League episode, this sequence divorces the moai from its Easter Island context, transforming it into a convenient prop found in a museum. The moai is not displayed at all, and is part of a seemingly private collection of an Explorer's Club, hinting at the institution's exclusivity and ability to acquire the rarest of artefacts. The cultural connotations of the moai are stripped away, and the sequence relies on its status as a monolithic stone object that is included purely to showcase the strength of both Bane and Superman.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

'Really Oldies but Goodies'
(season 1, episode 9, 1998)

A dancing egg helps to introduce Jacob Roggeveen

A chorus of singing moai

The episode begins with a series of skits focused upon the practices of ancient Egypt. An advert explains mummification practices while riffing on the techniques employed by used car salesmen, and a later segment uses a quiz show format to present facts about the ancient Egyptians and an infomercial explains the use of trephination. Each of the sketches is designed to present facts about ancient Egypt to educate young viewers.

A rousing musical number closes the episode, exploring the history of Easter Island from the moment of its "discovery" in 1722. Singing moai take centre stage covering aspects of the island's history. The moai even acknowledge the theories of "crackpots", such as the notion that aliens left the moai on the island – shown here in a spaceship literally dropping moai from above – advising young viewers to be skeptical of what they hear about the statues. In the closing credits, moai briefly reappear as happy pilots of a spaceship.

Histeria! aired on Kids' WB between 1998 and 2000. The show used a Saturday Night Live-style sketch format for its 52 episodes and it follows in the footsteps of the widely successful Horrible Histories, which also presents history and education through a mix of popular culture and humour. The Horrible Histories book, Awesome Egyptians, one of the first in the series, had been published in 1993. Histeria! was explicitly designed to comply with FCC regulations regarding the educational nature of children's programming. Each episode features a historical focus, such as the American Civil War, the Vikings, famous inventors, the Tudors, and women's history.

The Histeria! kids try to lift a moai

Moai from outer space fly past in their craft at the close of the episode

Much like Time Warp Trio, Doki and Go Jetters, Histeria! explores Easter Island in an educational context aimed at children. Its focus is commendable as is the engaging and entertaining manner in which information is relayed. Jacob Roggeveen is introduced and so that children can easily remember the date the year 1722 is emphasised on an egg that dances past the Dutch explorer.

Unfortunately, Roggeveen is said to have "discovered" Rapanui, which completely removes the islanders that were there before. In fact, they are nowhere to be seen in a western-centric musical number that even has the children of Histeria! demonstrating the construction of the moai as opposed to a foregrounding of the active skills of the indigenous population. There is an attempt at accuracy through the inclusion of the pukao (which they call "hats") in the song, but the volcanic crater, Rano Raraku, a major moai quarry, is bizarrely shown to be on a neighbouring island. The segment lasts for just ninety seconds at the episode's end, making it feel like a 'filler' in an animation otherwise dedicated to the ancient Egyptians.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

(season 2, episode 3, 1999)

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Cyborg 009: Conclusion God's War
(parts 1–3, 2002)

The all-powerful moai, with its three eyes that glow red

A taxi driver, a token Rapanui depicted on Easter Island, takes Joe to the moai

This made for television anime of the concluding parts of the popular manga is a free adaptation that adds and alters much from the original source that was left unfinished following the sudden death of author Ishinomori Shotaro. See below for the two reviews of the manga, that was a later attempt at adapting the unfinished story and which differs in many ways. For instance, the television adaptation does not contain the crocodile men, the capture of Francoise or the giant female moai that all feature in the manga version.

The moai that is discovered in the undersea cave off Japan is in both versions, but in the television adaptation is depicted with a third eye in the middle of its forehead, with all three eyes glowing red when it comes alive. This adds to the appearance of power and superior ability/ control that the moai has over people. The three parts of the adaptation combined extend over slightly more than an hour and this permits in some places room for the story to be developed and have added context. So the transportation of the moai from the cave to mainland Japan is shown in a montage of images that includes it being carried first by helicopter and then by lorry. Though both the manga and anime conveniently avoid showing how the large moai is possibly removed from the undersea cave.

A group of birdmen stand ready to attack Joe

In his hallucination Joe is attacked by levitating moai

When Cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura, travels to Easter Island he is shown in the manga to be completely alone, driving to the moai by himself. Interestingly, the anime adds an islander, a Rapanui taxi driver, who drops Joe off at a site that appears near to ahu Tongariki. The driver says that he will pick Joe up later that evening. The appearance of a local driver connects the story to the island's contemporary society and an industry built around tourism, but it still fails to properly populate the location.

Amongst the archaeology, Joe experiences a hallucination of levitating moai that try to crush him and the birdman, which swoops down and attacks. In the manga, the birdman is singular; in the anime, there is a gathering of birdmen who stand atop of the moai heads, before attacking Joe with their piercing spears, beaks and talons. Finally, the anime adds a floating island at the end, upon which a titanic battle will take place. As the island emerges from the sea and rises into the sky its architecture is shown to be a combination of ancient and arcane designs consisting of pyramids, temples and moai. Floating islands in Japanese popular culture can be traced back to at least the anime Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which was inspired by Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Rokunga: el último hombre pájaro [Rokunga: The Last Birdman]

Moai kavakava, old and tired, begins his narration

The competitors line up at the start of the birdman race

On a windy and dark Easter Island, a wooden carved figure with a skeletal body and short chin beard walks around, old and tired, clutching a stick and a flaming torch. This moai kavakava narrator tells the story of the last birdman on the island and blames the white race for bringing illness, slavery and civil war to Rapanui. The land given by the Creator, Makemake, has been devastated and a foreign god aims to usurp his position. Many Rapanui were taken away as slaves in big wooden ships and those who returned brought with them death. The narrator mourns that no one will ever be able to read the sacred tablets (rongorongo) and the only ceremony left is the birdman cult (tangata manu), although the chief resulting from this competition will soon have no tribe to rule. As this apocalyptic story is narrated, another moai kavakava is carving a petroglylph, that is not displayed to the audience until the end of the animation film.

This gloomy atmosphere gives way to past images of the birdman cult, which is narrated by the moai kavakava in a luminous presentation of Easter Island with tribal music and a procession of the main contestants. Rokunga is introduced as the last birdman, destined to replace the current tangata manu by collecting the first sooty tern egg of the season from the rocky outcrop of Motu Nui. After a fierce race, including swimming under water and between sharks, Rokunga climbs the sea cliff and proclaims his victory with a 'Bird's Cry' supported by Makemake (the protector of migratory birds), here, depicted as a fiery god accompanied by thunder. A storm forms and the sound of thunder echoes back in the final scene while Rokunga raises the egg triumphantly.

The moai kavakava's torch brings us back to the sombre volcanic setting, now with two other wooden figures chiselling stone. As a colossal petroglyph of the birdman is revealed, the narrator claims that Rokunga was the last chief of the Rapanui. Only his image remains on the stone, but he will rule forever. The moai kavakava closes the narration with a chant and his senile and tired voice suggests, with a strong elegiac tone reminiscent of the ubi sunt motif, that the Rapanui and their traditions have been wiped out.

Directed by Erwin Gómez, with a script by Erwin Gómez, Gonzalo Oyarzún and Ignacio Iriarte, this 8-minute 3D animation film from Chile (in Spanish) is the second one directed by Gómez and tells the story of Rokunga, the last registered birdman, who was given the title in 1866 or 1867. With this film, Gómez intended not only to entertain, but also to spread the history of Easter Island beyond the usual focus on the moai. In fact, the moai are entirely absent from a narrative in which moai kavakava presents a story which is centred on the island's culture after the last moai had been erected.

The figures in this short – moai kavakava and tangata manu – are all inspired by actual carvings, which are brought to life as animated characters that continue to exhibit the surfaces and movement of objects that otherwise have been made of wood. The birdman is especially interesting as these are not humans competing in the annual race, but a group of wooden artefacts associated with the folk crafts of Rapanui, complete with accentuated features.

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas

Jump to contents

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.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

One Piece
'Jinginai Time'
(episode 282, 2006)

A group of moai declare they are bored

The story is revealed to have been a moai's dream

A group of moai standing in a line complain they are bored. Cut to a story involving three mafia-styled gangs who fight over who will be the leader of an island. The gangs and their associates end up killing each other leaving a last man standing, who declares he must therefore be the leader. Realising, however, he is now alone he is desperate for this all to have been a dream. The story suddenly moves back to Easter Island with one of the moai saying this had been his dream. The declaration frustrates the dreamt gangsters, dead and alive, and they demand "who the hell are you?".

Originally broadcast in February 2006, this short television anime is built around a simple joke with the moai bookending the story. Comic moai create humour either through an ability to move or through their immobility and fixed position. Like the moai in Night at The Museum, these stone figures are going nowhere, yet they do exhibit the myth of movement with their power of speech. The story of the mafia gangs also goes nowhere, as the gangsters are all 'alive' at the end. It is a circular narrative within a bigger circle that presents island life as repetitive.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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

Kai holds a rongorongo tablet

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.

Whilst trapped in a cave Samantha learns to read the
language of rongorongo

Kai explains the birdman race with Motu Nui in the background

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.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

‘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.

Catherine Welsh

Jump to contents

Inazuma Eleven
‘Can they Defeat It! The Impregnable Fortress’
(episode 4, 2008)

A Japanese football team (Inazuma translates as lightning) face a series of unexpected obstacles and powerful opposition in matches that go far beyond the ordinary. The concept was originally a computer game, then a manga and anime television series – 127 episodes produced between 2008 and 2011 – with also four spinoff films released between 2010 and 2014. In this episode, the obstacles facing the Inazuma Eleven are immense as they try to win their game against a ‘fortress’ team called Minodouzan, whose route to goal is literally protected by a large castle-like wall and a colossal moai that suddenly rises up from the football pitch. An opposition player summons the moai through thumping his clasped hands on to the ground in a move called ‘mokkori oka no moai’ or ‘rising hill moai’.

The moai summoning functions in a manner similar to so much manga and anime in which powerful figures/objects – part of a protagonist or antagonist’s arsenal of weapons or defences – can be brought into the action out of nowhere. In this episode, the rising hill moai, an impenetrable object, appears primal and of the earth and is striking example of the myth of presence. Moai and football are an unlikely combination and the only other instance in which they have been united is in the Spanish comic Mortadelo y Filemón – World Cup 78 (reviewed below). Whilst not directly about football, mention should also be made of the Italian animation Strikeball Match on Easter Island (reviewed below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Toot & Puddle
‘Swing Shift’ and ‘Doors, Drawers and Floors’
(episodes 1 and 5, 2008)

Puddle receives a postcard from Toot

Toot, the happy tourist on Easter Island

Toot and Puddle are two pigs who live in Woodcock Pocket with other animals, such as a kangaroo. Puddle generally likes to remain at home and explore the surrounding area, whilst Toot likes to travel to new places and countries – “the more places you go, the more you know” – sending and bringing back photos and souvenirs of his adventures. In the first episode, whilst Puddle tries to fix a broken tyre swing, toot visits Easter Island, mailing home a postcard of the moai and taking lots of photos whilst on Rapanui. This segment is brief and surprisingly conveys extremely little about Easter Island other than it offers a tourist destination.

An American-Canadian animation for National Geographic Kids, Toot & Puddle lasted for just one series of 26 episodes. It seemed designed in part to introduce children to the wonders of the world, whilst simultaneously maintaining the security offered by home. In episode 5, ‘Doors, Drawers and Floors’, it emerges that Toot had brought a small moai back home as it appears suddenly in a bathtub.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

La Pallastrike sull'Isola di Pasqua [Strikeball Match on Easter Island] (2008)

Nemesis' throne room, adorned with moai carvings

The stadium dominated by a central moai

Yara, Mike and Lez live in a city where a number of kids have mysteriously disappeared while playing strikeball, a ball game which is now forbidden. Despite the ban, they decide to go and train in that same square where the other kids have vanished, dominated by a moai statue at its centre. When the statue is hit by a ball, it suddenly comes to life: from its eyes a tremendous ray of energy emanates opening up a space-time vortex that swallows up the kids and transports them to Easter Island. There they come across three Mohip, moai-looking locals who welcome them revealing that the strikeball game was in fact invented on the island, where it is played with a flatball, that resembles a frisbee.

Unfortunately, Easter Island is ruled by an evil tyrant, Nemesis, who loves to organise strikeball matches. The problem is that whoever loses against his players, the so-called Moaia, is turned to stone. The Moaia suddenly appear and challenge the kids to a strikeball match; Yara, Mike and Lez lose and aided by the Mohip run away in order not to be captured by Nemesis' henchmen. The Mohip decide that they will challenge Nemesis and his team of Moaia to set their people free from the tyrant's yoke. They face Nemesis in his own throne hall adorned by many moai. At stake is Yara, Mike and Lez's freedom, and since the odds are against the Mohip, the kids decide to help them train for the big match.

The game eventually takes place in a packed stadium dominated by a giant moai and includes the kids who had disappeared from the city who have now been turned to stone. The Moaia resort to all sorts of tricks to win the game, and seem to have the better of the Mohip. Yet, when Yara enters the pitch, she drives the Mohip team to victory. Nemesis is thus defeated and the spell imprisoning the kids is broken. Yara, Mike, Lez and the other kids are transported back home, the Mohip are now the Island's heroes and Nemesis, together with his pet frog, is left to sell drinks and merchandise to the stadium crowds.

La Pallastrike sull'Isola di Pasqua is one of the last in a series of extended short animations that was produced in Italian by chocolate/ confectionary company Ferrero to promote its goods between 2001 and 2008. Available as a collectible inside Ferrero's Kinder range of chocolates and sweet cake packs, Pallastrike was also turned into a computer game and board game. The plot and theme is rather generic, showing a group of good kids championing values such as fair play, team spirit and sacrifice to help the locals defeat a ruling villain. This children's animation effectively unites Italy's football obsessed culture and its Roman history of gladiators in arenas where loss of life awaited the loser. Many of the ideas were echoed in the very British animation Early Man (2018), that combined cavemen, eccentricity, and football.

The setting of Easter Island for a soccer-like match in Pallastrike is an exotic one, and rather unexpected with the isolated Pacific locale also depicted as the home of this imaginary strikeball game. The moai on Easter Island are nothing more than ornamental statues, adorning Nemesis' throne and throne hall, the old abandoned stadium, and the new strikeball arena. By contrast, the statue in the city reflects the popular myth of moai as statues capable of coming alive, of wielding great powers and of functioning as a dimensional or spatial passage between different places. However, no explanation is given as to how or why the statue has ended up in this western city.

Nemesis is a pantomime villain who is often ridiculed, either through his passion for knitting or by the presence of his pet, a big frog that wears a Polynesian-styled koru-like pendant. In fact, Nemesis' attire more recalls the Incas than the traditional costumes of Rapanui, with one of the Moaia also dressed in a Mexican wrestling costume. Furthermore, the Island is depicted as covered in luscious vegetation from which the moai stick out, and is more in keeping with certain representations of the Mayan and Incan jungles that have been popularised by action and adventure fiction, such as those involving Indiana Jones. Such conflation of South American history with Rapanui is unfortunately common in popular culture. Beyond mere appropriation, the animation does not provide any insight into the culture of Rapanui.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

YooHoo & Friends
‘The Meerkat Conspiracy’
(season 1, episode 20, 2009)

A wooden fish tablet with rongorongo carvings, emits a special power

The YooHoo team look everywhere amongst the moai for the secret

The YooHoo gang arrive on Easter Island searching for another magical “Green Seed”, but the villainous meerkat brothers have followed them there and tie the team to the base of a moai. Worse still, they snatch the “seed pouch” in which the team have been storing other Green Seeds, which they have been collecting on their adventures. The meerkats go in search of the next Green Seed following the direction indicated by the magical light emitted from the seed pouch. At a cave with a closed entrance, the meerkats press a stone button bearing hieroglyphs, whereupon it reveals a miniature moai from behind a sliding panel and the door to the cave subsequently opens.

Deep within the dark cave the meerkats find a glowing Green Seed atop a pile of brightly shining crystals. The greedy meerkats decide to take not just the seed but all of the discovered treasure, which unbeknown to them immediately activates a wooden fish carving, bearing rongorongo, and which is positioned just outside the cave entrance. The carving glows brightly and triggers the door to the cave which closes shut, trapping the meerkats inside. This in turn sparks the moai that holds the gang captive. As the moai’s eye sockets glow, the team are set free, with the rope that holds them dropping magically to the ground.

Upon reaching the cave, one of the YooHoo team, Roodee, tries to decipher the rongorongo hieroglyphs on the fish carving, but finds the words it reveals – which include “rattlesnakes” and “flowers” – to be too cryptic. However, after a bit of time and effort, and using his encyclopaedia, Roodee manages to decipher the hieroglyphs which reveal that “the island is full of ancient treasure”. The rongorongo further reveals that the cave can only be opened from the other side of the island where a row of moai hold the secret. There, only one particular moai holds the “key” and that figure is facing in a different direction. The problem is that all the moai that they find at this particular location face the same direction, so the team spread out to solve the puzzle. It is only then that they discover a miniature moai buried in the grass. This figure is turned 180 degrees and it immediately opens the cave door. Behind it the YooHoo team find the meerkats asleep, who are forced to hand back the seed pouch. The YooHoo team fly out of Easter Island on their hang-gliders made of leaves to start a new adventure.

YooHoo & Friends is a South Korean made for television animation aimed at very young children. Sold globally and dubbed into numerous languages it grew from a range of South Korean plush toys that were marketed first in 2006. Each of these toys is based on an endangered animal with the ‘cute’ factor increased by giving the critters big exaggerated eyes. As part of the extended merchandising world of YooHoo, a series of children’s books were later released, with this Easter Island episode transferred into a storybook that makes a number of significant changes (reviewed below).

Whilst the magical Green Seeds are constant to both the animation and the storybook, the concept that Easter Island is also a location of special powers is present alone in the television episode. Roodee, a capuchin monkey, consults his encyclopaedia at several points to better understand Rapanui and on the first occasion he relays that “based on what I have read this is a magical island”. For moai act as devices to operate cave doors, and they also emit energy triggered by rongorongo. It is here, that the animation is most interesting with not only the rongorongo hieroglyphs introduced to a story for children of an early learner age, but unique within all moai fiction is the depiction in this YooHoo adventure of rongorongo on a fish carving. This artefact is based on the Concepción ika tablet, which can be seen in a Chilean museum. Alas, such a depth of research is partly spoilt by having the episode open with Latin American music on the soundtrack.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up (2010)

Between Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) and Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), Twentieth Century Fox released a two-part short animation featuring Scrat, its popular acorn obsessed critter. In part one of this extreme adventure, Scrat pushes his acorn into the ground creating a vast fissure that takes him and the acorn all the way down to the Earth’s inner core. There, as he continues to pursue his precious acorn he manages to move the Earth’s tectonic plates and create the continents that are known today. And as Scrat is pinged around the Earth’s inner core, hitting its sides, he also manages to alter or create versions of several of the world’s most famous monuments – the moai of Easter Island, America’s Mount Rushmore and Egypt’s Sphinx – where this critter’s features are immediately imprinted into stone. The result sees a Scrat-moai joining a line of Easter Island statues. This absurdist fantasy is closest to Mars Attacks! (reviewed below), in which humour emerges from an outside force dramatically altering moai which for centuries had remained unchanged.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Phineas and Ferb
'Candace Disconnected'
(season 3, episode 10, 2011)

An alert on Perry's watch shows Candace in peril

Norm's old head transported to Easter Island feels at home amongst the moai

Having lost her fourth phone in four months, Candace is bereft after having her final replacement accidentally crushed. She asks Phineas and Ferb to build her a new one. Their version includes a voice activated transporter app, capable of moving the user to any location, providing they use the trigger phrase "go to...". While talking to her friend, who is watching a documentary about Easter Island, Candace asks her why anyone would want to go to Easter Island. The app translates her innocent question into a command and transports her to Rapanui. A shot of the island shows her standing atop a cliff, looking down at a range of heads looking out to sea.

Meanwhile, Dr Heinz Doofenshmirtz has invented a Pick'em up-inator to collect Vanessa from school in his stead. He also discovers Norm's prototype head in the basement, which he takes back to his lab. Back on Easter Island, a bird steals Candace's phone and takes it to her nest, forcing Candace to climb down a cliff in order for it to be retrieved.

Fortunately, a passing sea turtle is a secret agent and notifies Carl that Candace is in trouble. Carl alerts Perry the Platypus, who sends the Pick'em up-inator to the island. It grabs Candace just as she falls from a broken branch on the cliff face and returns her home, albeit without the phone. The Pick'em up-inator takes Norm's old head to Easter Island. There, deposited among the moai he exclaims, "finally, a place where a head can be a head".

Phineas and Ferb ran from August 2007 to June 2015, and was broadcast on the Disney Channel. It follows the adventures of stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher. A sub plot explores the attempts of Perry to foil the schemes of Doofenshmirtz, a mad scientist whose inventions often go awry. The show uses a 'gag of the week' format to frame their adventures.

This episode uses Easter Island as an inaccessible destination to underscore how far Candace is transported, since there is no other narrative reason for the choice. Timbuktu is used as a second far-flung destination at the close of the episode. As with many other depictions of Easter Island, the local population is removed, which aids in reinforcing its status as remote. Yet Rapanui's apparent isolation is contradicted by the speed with which the Pick'em up-inator reaches Candace and returns her home.

The relatively short episode does not engage with the moai but it does connect in an abstract way with the island's cult of the birdman (tangata manu), with the bird egg replaced by a mobile phone. Candace's scramble down the cliff face recalls that of warriors at the start of the birdman race, though the competition is not emphasised. Few viewers would be directly aware of the cult of the birdman, turning the sequence into a simple adventure for the unaware.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

Total Drama World Tour
'Rapa Phooey!'
(episode 22, 2011)

The team's plane knocks over a moai on its inbound flight

The host for the series dresses as an islander to convey the challenges

When the remaining four contestants of Total Drama land on Rapanui, they are given indigenous headwear of different colours and told to collect the eggs of their own colour from moai-like statues, which feature the faces of the contestants that have already been eliminated in previous episodes (these are toppled like dominoes at the episode's end). Alejandro and Cody work together, as do Heather and Sierra. The four of them are then chased by a giant condor before being instructed to return the eggs to the bird's nest whilst simultaneously singing. Three of them fail, but Heather manages to return all her eggs and thus wins this particular competition. The contestants are then given a vote as to who will be eliminated, leading to Sierra receiving three votes against her. All four stay on, however, as it is revealed that nobody can be voted out this round.

Total Drama World Tour is the third season of the Canadian animation series Total Drama, in which nineteen fictional contestants compete in a game against each other in a range of challenges. Characters are also voted out of the competition, until only two remain to compete in the final. The third season, which is located in a different part of the world for each episode, brought in the new rule that the contestants must burst into song when a specific bell is wrung. The contestants are instructed throughout by the weekly host, who this time is dressed as a Rapanui man (in place of the island's complete lack of a local population) and whose surfer dude mannerisms are incongruous. Near the start it is conveyed that the island is a world heritage site, but only after the team's airplane has knocked over a moai on its way to landing on Rapanui. The airplane pilot does manage, however, to haul the moai back to an upright position, and miraculously all by himself.

Unfortunately, there is little depth to this children's programme which casually borrows the moai and the birdman race for an adventure which is inspired by the format of contemporary television programmes such as Shipwrecked, Coach Trip and Big Brother. The latter is especially referenced in the frequent cuts to the contestants' video diaries.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal
'A Dubious Duo'
(episode 42, 2012)

The powerful Chronomaly Moai is briefly introduced during the battle

Chronomaly Moai, a level 5 monster, as he appears on
the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards

Yuma and Kite play in a tag duel against the brothers Quattro and Trey in an attempt to rescue Kite's brother. During the battle, Quattro and Trey work as a team, defending each other and reinforcing their monsters. This is in contrast to the protagonists' team as Kite uses abilities that weaken his teammate. During his turn, Trey plays the card 'Chronomaly Moai' before sacrificing it in order to summon 'Chronomaly Machu Mech', a 'number' card with incredible powers. Due to Kite's arrogance and disinterest in playing as a team, he falls for the brothers' trap with the episode ending on a cliff-hanger.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is an anime series that ran from 2011 to 2012. It is based on the manga written by Yoshida Shin and is part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, originally created in 1996. Central to all versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! is the card game of the same name. Players use cards representing monsters, spells and traps to attack the other player, taking away their 'life points' until a player has no more. Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal takes place in the near future, where a young boy named Yuma and the spirit, Astral, hunt down players with 'numbers', incredibly powerful cards that have the ability to possess the owners, in order to claim them and regain Astral's lost memories.

The card 'Chronomaly Moai' is a level 5 monster with a significant amount of power in both attack and defence. As a medium tier monster, one card must be discarded in order for it to be played. Its special ability is that if it is in attack mode when being destroyed, it can quickly change to defence mode. This use of a moai, depicted here with an immense jaw, implies its durability and strength as it is able to survive devastating attacks. Its defence mechanism also causes it to be seen as more a force of protection than an aggressor.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

'Who are the Strongest Partners? Whole Island Cooking!'
(episode 131, 2013)

Toriko faces the giant Oyster Island

A golden light emanates from the opened oyster

As the cooking competition intensifies and enters its third round, the contestants are given a challenge to cook an entire island. Each pair has to choose an island and they range widely in nature. Komatsu has partnered with Toriko, a renowned Gourmet Hunter, and having collected the ingredients from their Gourmet Island, they realise that the greatest food riches and nutrients are actually within the sea. Toriko dives into the ocean and manages to retrieve a giant oyster, which is the size of an island. The oyster is covered in many moai, and after Toriko administers an almighty punch to its hard shell it opens up to reveal its delicious meat. The judges, the Gourmet Seven, taste all the meals cooked by the contestants and those that are put through to the next round include an elated Komatsu.

First appearing as a serialised manga in 2008, Toriko was made in 2011 as an anime for Japanese television that lasted for 147 episodes. This episode combines reality television with the contemporary craze for competitive cooking programmes, but all set within a futuristic gladiatorial environment complete with chefs with hyper-masculine bodies and magical powers. Within such a surreal concept anything is possible, including a giant Oyster Island unexpectedly covered in moai. The anime cares little for why or how these moai are on an oyster, but they help to add to its phenomenal appearance.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Mysterious Moai'
(season 1, episode 14a, 2014)

A book on Easter Island provides the young Doki with advice

Doki and Oto arrive on Easter Island near ahu Tongariki

Anabella has made a totem out of modelling clay which proves too heavy to move without assistance. While pondering the solution, Doki draws their attention to the moai, establishing parallels between moving the giant stone figures and their totem. Reading from a book on Easter Island, Doki notes the origins of the moai in a quarry and their movement down to the shore some 22km away. The gang decides to solve a "famous mystery" – how were the moai moved – in order to address their own problem.

Oto and Doki fly to Easter Island (as an "expedition team") looking for clues to solve the mystery while the rest of Team Doki try out suggestions to move their totem at the clubhouse. They discount the use of magic or dragging the statue using a rope. After standing on a pencil, Doki realises the statues could have been moved using rolling logs. The group combine the use of a pulley – demonstrated earlier in the episode while moving a heavy tyre – and a skateboard to move their statue.

Doki is a Canadian children's television programme aired on Discovery Kids. It made its debut in April 2013 in Latin America and 57 episodes have been screened so far across three seasons. The show follows the adventures of Doki, a dog, and his friends, which include Oto the aardvark. Other episodes see the gang explore underwater shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea and play musical instruments at a festival in Rio de Janeiro.

Doki ponders the mystery of how the moai were moved

Oto and Doki re-imagined as moai

The educational content of this episode is higher than that of other children's cartoons involving Easter Island, with it addressing environmental and historical issues and physics. The programme has clearly engaged in a degree of research and it is sensitive to some cultural issues. For instance, the group point out that the moai are protected by law, preventing anyone from now touching them. However, the islanders are talked about in the past tense and Rapanui is depicted as abandoned.

Doki repeats the ancient legends of the islanders that "the statues walked to the shore", though the point is undercut by the irreverent image of Doki and Oto in moai form walking. Meanwhile, their joke that a giant moved the statues is a simple fantasy. Both theories are ultimately disproven through the gang's use of physics, grounding the transportation of the moai in reasoning. That said, in reality how the moai were transported is yet to be proven conclusively, with there being a number of existing competing theories. One of these theories does give the appearance of the moai moving as if 'walking', as the upright carvings could have been toggled into position using a coordinated group of rope pulling movements.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

Rick and Morty
'Something Ricked This Way Comes'
(season 1, episode 9, 2014)

Summer starts working at a new shop, 'Needful Things', that is run by the Devil. Inside is an array of strange, exotic and special objects ranging from shrunken heads to aftershave that can make men irresistible to women. On one side of the shop is a moai, part of the collection of items that people apparently desire most. Scientist Rick refers to the goods as "Twilight Zone, Ray Bradbury, Friday the 13th the Series, voodoo crap magic". Bradbury is also referenced in the episode's title with a play on his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. The episode, however, borrows more from Stephen King's novel Needful Things, which is indebted to Bradbury's story.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Inspector Gadget
'Head Case'
(season 1, episode 14, 2015)

A variation on the pukao, with a moai wearing a hat similar to the one
worn by Inspector Gadget

Gadget, Penny and Brain arrive at Easter Island by flying car

With the use of dynamite, MADtana Dan who is working for the evil Dr Claw and the secret organisation M.A.D., reveals an ancient artifact that had been buried underground on Easter Island. Opening the casket he finds inside a helmet but he has no idea how it is activated, much to the frustration of Dr Claw, who desires its powers without delay. Inspector Gadget, a bumbling cyborg, is sent to Easter Island to investigate and intervene and flies in his car with his niece Penny and Brain, the dog.

Gadget arrives on Easter Island, which he foolishly believes is called "Easter Egg Land" and he is left wondering "where are all the eggs?". Admiring the moai he also wonders where "are their bodies…and their hats?", which he thinks have been stolen by Dr Claw. He wanders off to find their "hats…and chocolate eggs…and that Easter Bunny", but accidentally activates the helmet, which is being worn by MADtana Dan. Its activation awakens the moai, who rise up out of the ground. The movements of the moai are controlled by MADtana Dan, with the stone giants copying everything he does – this includes a moai being directed to grab Penny and Brain.

The evil Dr Claw watches from remote link the moai on the move

The moai echo Inspector Gadget's attempts to remove the powerful helmet

Completely oblivious to the moai threat, Gadget is not engaged until he receives his new car. This transforms at the push of a button into a giant robot (Transformers-style) and leaves him prepared to fight the moai. Unfortunately, in a simple blow a moai crushes the robot-car and then its fist pounds down repeatedly onto Gadget. Brain tries in vain to steal the helmet, though Penny successfully manages to infiltrate its frequency and she takes control of the moai before they can fly off to destroy a city. The helmet is dislodged and lands on the head of Inspector Gadget, who cannot see what is happening. The moai imitate Gadget's behavior, which includes flying high above Easter Island. As Gadget tugs at the helmet he pulls off his own head; the moai do likewise and consequently crash back down to earth, landing as detached heads on the island and narrowly missing a family of tourists. Dr Claw is defeated; he wonders how hard would it be to destroy Fiji.

Originally a popular children's television animation that began in 1983, and that was later made by Disney into a live-action film in 1999, the series was remade in 2015 using CGI. Alas, the quality of animation is poor and more akin to an inferior computer game, but Inspector Gadget remains the lovable fool who solves crimes by accident (and with the help of his assistants). He is a combination of the incompetence of Inspector Clouseau – from whom his fashion sense is borrowed – and the gadget enhanced James Bond.

The fact that he is a cyborg allows for a diversity of tools to appear from within his body and especially from his ever-present hat. It is this hat that is imitated in the opening credits, where a moai sports a new pukao (many foreigners see the pukao as a hat when it represents a topknot of hair) and which extends into a running joke with Gadget erroneously believing that the crime committed has been the theft of the hats for the moai. Much of the episode's humour is unoriginal, involving eggs and the Easter Bunny, as is the idea that the moai can be awoken and rise from the ground. Though the flying moai who pull off their own heads is a creative answer for how the stone heads appear dotted around the landscape.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘Mana: Un niño Rapa Nui’ [‘Mana: A Rapanui Child’]
(episode 131, 2015)

Mana surveys his town, Hangaroa, and the surrounding land

Moai kavakava figures welcome the visitor to the Tapati festival

Mana, a Rapanui child, guides us on a colourful and musical journey around Easter Island and his town Hangaroa. As Mana walks along the island, and past a toppled moai, he describes his homeland as colourful with many flowers and fruits. The wind, however, is strong leaving him clinging to a tree before literally being blown away together with his pet pig.

This child describes one of the oldest traditions on the island, here presented as curanto, a cooking technique whereby seafood, meat, potatoes and vegetables are prepared in a hole which is dug in the ground. The bottom is covered with stones which have been heated in a bonfire until red. Mana speaks of the variety of fish around Easter Island, particularly the nanue, which is his favourite, and one called titebe, a balloon fish that inflates when threatened and can be poisonous.

Mana introduces us to Rapanui’s most important festival: Tapati. The festival began in the 1970s to promote the Rapanui culture and in particular for generating interest and a sense of identity amongst the children. During the festival, dancing and singing competitions take place, together with traditional sporting events such as swimming, canoeing, horse racing, haka pei (a sledge race employing trunks of the banana tree) and the island triathlon. The entrance to the Tapati main stage is framed by two wooden carvings of moai kavakava. There, Mana dances tamuré, a primarily male dance originally from Tahiti. His uncles paint his body with kiea - white, black and red paint. Mana proudly shows the painting of Makemake on his chest and manu tara/ the birdman on his back, which are similar to the carvings his ancestors made in stone.

Rapanui people love music. When they are together, Mana’s father plays the guitar, his mother sings, one of his brothers plays the drums and the other the ukelele. Mana loves singing too and playing football, but what he loves more is to row the vaka (outrigger canoe). Races are frequent, with Mana winning this one as his opposition come across a balloon fish that makes them stop right before the finish.

The episode ends at the line of moai with their pukao at the beach at Anakena. Mana says this is a sacred place – “they remind us of our ancestors” – and he builds his own miniature moai out of sand in homage to the stone colossi. There is a view at night, by the beach, as spirits appear to rise upwards from the moai forming the image of Makemake in the sky. The last image is a photo of an actual child, who is presumably the inspiration for the protagonist: Mana Henua Hugueño Araki, aged 10, who lives with his family on Easter Island.

Directed by Patricio Veloso for the Cultural and Education TV Department of CNTV (Chile), with a script by Juan José Parada, this 7 minute animation is intended for young children. It is part of the Pichintún series whch introduces the viewer to everyday scenes of life and culture of young children from the different Chilean ethnic groups – such as the Aymara and the Mapuche. A companion episode, Florencia: Una niña Rapa Nui (reviewed below), shows other aspects to Easter Island, but from the perspective of a young girl.

Mana: Un niño Rapa Nui is part of a welcome growing trend to show, in the context of education, the society of contemporary Rapanui or the myths and legends from the islanders’ perspective. Most of these texts are being produced regionally, within Rapanui itself or within Chile, a country which sees the island as part of its geopolitical territory. On one hand it is encouraging to see a positive engagement with contemporary Easter Island, but on the other hand the desire to contain Rapanui as an ethnic group of Chile is wrong. The Rapanui’s origins are Polynesian and not South American. This leads to some fundamental misdirections within the animation with the earthen cooking technique described as curanto, which is a Chilean word, when the practise which is similarly found in Polynesia is called on Rapanui umu pae. There is also a conflict in the depiction of Mana and other islanders, who are sometimes shown in contemporary clothes but elsewhere spend much of the animation (Mana in particular) wearing a primitive dress/ loin cloth. This can be excused in part by the Tapati festival which is a time of the year in which tradition is celebrated, but Mana’s entire time spent out of contemporary clothes (even at night and away from the festival) gives an unfortunate impression to the viewer, which in this instance is quite young.

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas

Jump to contents

‘Florencia: Uua niña Rapa Nui’ [Florencia: A Rapa Nui Child]

Florencia ventures underwater, swimming past sunken moai

A collage of snapshots of island life

A young Rapanui girl, Florencia Araki, is introduced along with a song that relays the sports that she enjoys: riding, snorkeling and canoeing. She states that she lives on Easter Island, a land of moai, which for her is always blue skies and white clouds. Florencia helps her father with his garden, planting fruits and vegetables. She explains how they sow, putting sticks next to the seeds to secure them against the wind and bricks around them for protection. They plant parsley, tomatoes and bananas.

Florencia provides a list of the animals they own – pigs, cows and horses – as she mimics each one. Next she rides her horse, arriving soon at the beach where both she (and unexpectedly her horse) snorkels. Underwater, she names various local forms of sealife, in particular the balloon fish and tuna. Then she bathes in a pool whilst speaking about the island’s turtles.

Her favourite place on the island is Anakena, and it is there whilst watching the moai with their pukao, that she explains their construction. She proposes that perhaps the Rapanui moved them with the aid of ropes and banana sticks. After sledging down a hillside with her father, she speaks about the Tapati festival, an event held every February, which attracts people from all over the world. The entry to the venue is framed by two moai kavakava figures. The party ends with fireworks and the election of the Tapati king and queen. Florencia, who loves dancing, looks up at the camera and says, “In my house, I am the queen”, before being embraced by her father. The animation concludes with images of the real Florencia (aged 9) singing, and an indication that she lives with her family in Hangaroa.

Very similar in structure, design and style to Mana: A Rapa Nui Child (reviewed above), this 7 minute short copies its sister animation, which was produced by the same company as a companion for an evolving Chilean television series aimed at young children. As companion films, Mana presents Rapanui culture from the perspective of a young boy, whilst Florencia is from the perspective a young girl. Such is the relation between the two that Mana and Florencia (along with their pet animals) even appear briefly in each other’s stories.

The Pichintún series attempts to unify the different ethnic cultures within Chile’s geopolitical territory, but in doing so it mythologises lands with utopian narratives established through the eyes of children. As Florencia swims underwater off the Rapanui coast she encounters a sunken moai, an experience that is found in reality, but where it exists as a fake placed in the sea by a modern diving company, which the programme fails to convey. Likewise, whilst the Tapati festival gives Rapanui the opportunity to dress and perform in traditional costumes, Florencia wears hers beyond the realms of the event, which gives a false impression that her clothes form part of her regular/ everyday appearance. The animation is, however, positive in its aim to include aspects of contemporary Rapanui life, from the domestic to the social, with the Tapati festival central. The body art of Florencia’s father is also notable with the motifs of Makemake and the birdman included on his chest and back.

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas

Jump to contents

Go Jetters
'Easter Island'
(season 1, episode 34, 2016)

Tourists are drawn to the wondrous moai

Ubercron provides advice on Rapanui culture and history

The Go Jetter pilot, Xuli, is tasked with a quest to develop her navigational skills. Having requested "somewhere hard to find", she is given the coordinates to Easter Island, introducing young viewers to the concept of longitude and latitude. The point is repeated that there is "nothing there" at the location, underlining the remote nature of the island. The show's villain, Grandmaster Glitch, is also on Easter Island, ostensibly to enjoy its isolation. Instead, he finds himself overrun with tourists flocking to see the nearby moai. In frustration, he commands his robot helpers to build a new statue elsewhere on Easter Island to draw the tourists away. They build a giant neon pink poodle which Glitch destroys in a fit of pique. The Go Jetters arrive, wishing to see the moai for themselves. Seeing parts of the broken poodle hurtling down the hill, they employ their skills and use futuristic technology to save both the tourists and the ancient moai. With disaster averted, the Go Jetters take a group selfie in front of the moai.

Go Jetters is an animated television series for young children, aired on the BBC's CBeebies platform. The programme was originally only shown on its website as a one-off but its popularity led to a more traditional series-based format. Go Jetters is aimed at the 4-6 age group, and focuses upon teaching children about the countries of the world and their history. The first episode was aired in 2015, while a second series began in 2017. Created by Barry Quinn and Katie Simmons and produced by Boulder Media and Giant Animation, series one consisted of 52 episodes, and episode 34, 'Easter Island', first aired on 22 September 2016.

In each episode, the Go Jetters mentor, Ubercron (a brightly coloured unicorn), passes on information about each new destination with three "funky facts". The four Go Jetters are a combination, in part, of the Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with their assembled powers and overseeing mentor. Each Go Jetter possesses different abilities, such as fixing things, gymnastics, or marked intelligence. The plots revolve around the Go Jetters thwarting the nefarious schemes of Grandmaster Glitch, a former Go Jetter cadet. Many of his plans involve locations associated with famous world landmarks, feeding into the educational remit of the show.

The moai in this episode are treated as cultural artefacts and represent the heritage of this remote island. Ubercron notes that the first settlers arrived on the island using their "amazing navigational skills", before telling the Go Jetters that the islanders built the moai to honour families and protect the island. Significantly, the educational nature of the programme aims to establish a number of facts, rather than the myths of Easter Island. That said, the island is depicted as largely barren and desolate, with no inclusion of the local Rapanui. Instead, the focus remains on the largely white horde of tourists that flock around the moai with cameras. The piece of modern art – the Jeff Koons inspired large pink poodle which Glitch's robots build – is quickly destroyed as worthless, with its broken remnants subsequently acting as a threat to the genuine works of wonder. As with the episode of the television animation Dilbert (see the review above), the existence of the ancient moai is threatened by absurd constructions of modernity.

Laura Sedgwick

Jump to contents

Dimension W
(13 episodes, 2016)

Locating Easter Island as the site of a great scientific disaster

Snow-covered moai line a coastal road

This television adaptation exhibits striking animation and it sticks faithfully to the original story published a few years earlier (see below). Frames, situations and dialogue are repeatedly directly copied from the manga, with a notable difference being the slightly changed order in which it cross-cuts to particular narrative strands. On encountering the moai in the manga, Mira stops to admire them and poses alongside. In the anime, the car is still forced to stop due to boulders on the road that need moving, but Mira is no longer drawn to the moai, whose backs now face the protagonists. In this adaptation, the attraction of the moai has been removed; they are kept in the background and are of even less interest for the narrative.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Pokémon: Sun and Moon
'Mallow and the Forest Teacher!'
(episode 39, 2017)

The twentieth season of the long-running Pokémon series was subtitled 'Sun and Moon'. The format followed previous seasons with the opportunity to introduce creatures, objects and devices with some ease. The tropical island location for Sun and Moon also allows for an engagement with images of exotica and is a strange mixture of Hawai'i – with "aloha" used as a greeting – Australia, Borneo and Sumatra with koalas and orangutans in the forest. With previous stories introducing moai-inspired images (see the review above) it is perhaps not a complete surprise to see a central character being suddenly replaced by a moai, with its frozen features helping to establish a protagonist's look of disappointment. The function of this occurrence can be understood through the myth of presence, where in popular culture moai can seemingly emerge anywhere.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Ollie & Moon Show
'Easter Island Art Adventure'
(season 1, episode 39, 2017)

Ollie and Moon, together with a slab of clay, arrive at a line of moai
seeking inspiration

Ollie, Moon and Sophia slalom down the slopes of Rano Raraku on their
banana tree sledge

Ollie and Moon are two cats that live together and who love to travel the world to understand other cultures. In this episode, the two cats are trying to make clay statues of each other in their back garden. Moon has finished hers, but Ollie is struggling whilst also impressed by the “amazing” statues on Easter Island that he sees in a book. With twelve hours left before the clay sets, Ollie and Moon take a plane to Easter Island – complete with the lump of clay in tow.

Arriving on Easter Island, Ollie and Moon are in awe of the line of moai at ahu Akivi. Moon poses in front of the moai, whist Ollie tries to sculpt her likeness. But Moon is an impulsive and easily-distracted cat, challenging Ollie’s attempts at creating art. A local called Sophia, who is a tattooed rhino, appears and tells Ollie and Moon of a Tapati festival that afternoon that features music, dance, food and a competitive race.

Knowledge of the festival further distracts Moon, making Ollie’s task even harder. Meanwhile, the islanders take a surfing break, followed by hill sledging on “banana tree trunks”. Unfortunately, Sophia loses control and as a desperate Moon tries to get out of the way she splatters into Ollie’s sculpture. Ollie, however, is not disappointed as he realises that the chaotic sculpture that he now has reflects the essence of the impulsive Moon.

Based on a series of books, this French children’s animation, consisting to date of 52 episodes, is like other children’s animation, such as Doki (reviewed above), in which Easter Island becomes a necessary destination to solve a local conundrum. However, unlike other similar examples of children’s television, Ollie & Moon combines animation and actual photography, but with moai often placed out of context: the moai which are found on the slopes of Rano Raraku are reused here numerous times and positioned rather freely. It is pleasing that the Tapati festival is mentioned, but there is no attempt to properly engage with the event. And Sophia the Rapanui rhino is certainly original, but on an island where all the characters are animals – including a lion, ostrich and a giraffe – narrative decisions are focused on the young audience for whom the animation is intended

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Wacky Races
'Easter Express'
(season 1, episode 4, 2017)

The Rapanui problematically presented as a primitive make-do culture

The giant alien moai awakens

The perpetual racers are on Easter Island. With the race in progress the mouth of a moai opens up and the competitors find themselves within a large cavern. There in front of them is a giant alien moai seated on a throne. Muttley steals a precious idol from an altar, which awakens the giant moai. The giant subsequently turns to the moai dotted around the island and commands them to awaken: "arise my brothers, the Earth is finally ours!". With laser beams from the giant moai's eyes the moai awaken and pull themselves out of the ground. They in turn blast laser beams at the Rapanui, "the puny heads", whose heads increase in size, causing them to topple over. The beams continue across the world causing humans to fall over as a result of growing big heads. It is left to the Wacky Racers to save the day, with Muttley and Penelope Pitstop combining to return the idol to the giant. The heads of humans everywhere return to their normal size and the moai are fixed back in the ground around the island landscape.

The dominant army of moai

From an isolated position in the Pacific, a powerful beam is emitted out
from Easter Island and across the world

With a number of racing computer games setting the action on Easter Island it is not surprising to find Wacky Races eventually drawn to the location. In this reboot of the popular children's animation, Hanna-Barbera incorporates the moai, where previously in its many cartoons and comics they had largely been ignored – unlike DC and Marvel who seem obsessed with Easter Island. The moai have multiple functions in this cartoon, from being the subject of puns and sight gags, such as a car pinging like a pinball against a collection of carvings, through to aliens that exhibit both the myth of power and the myth of movement, emerging from their slumber and having the ability to fire body-altering beams from their eyes.

Like other fiction before, the cartoon borrows from Indiana Jones with the theft of an idol, which commences a narrative strand of action and danger. It also borrows from tiki culture with Muttley, the committed tourist, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and lei flower garland. It extends to the depiction of the Rapanui, who are grass-skirt wearing natives. However, the representation of the Rapanui is extremely problematic, as it contains the locals within a Flintstone-like primitive make-do culture that includes a microphone consisting of a coconut on top of a bone, and an overweight male wearing a coconut bra.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Legend of the Three Caballeros
'No Man is an Easter Island'
(episode 5, 2018)

The moai are free to party

A male and female moai enjoy a cocktail

The moai are guardians preventing evil lava lizards on Easter Island from flowing out of a volcano and destroying the world. Two villains, the wealthy Baron von Sheldgoose, and his talking staff, that contains his imprisoned ancestor, the dark sorcerer, Felldrake, land abruptly on Easter Island. There, they manage to relieve the moai of their guardianship duties, by convincing them they should take a holiday. The joyous moai rise up out of the ground and party in a style akin to tiki culture and popular images of Polynesian beach vacations.

The lava lizards are now free to flow, but José, Panchito, Donald Duck, Ari the Aracuan bird and Xandra, the Goddess of Adventure, come to the rescue to stop the impending disaster. Through Xandra’s Golden Atlas, a book that contains information on mythological places, they are immediately transported to Rapanui. Donald’s inane movements inspire a new dance in the moai, whose stomping inadvertently causes the lava lizards to retreat back into the volcano and their queen to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Sheldgoose and Felldrake manage to escape and set their sights on another group of stones – Stonehenge. Meanwhile, with the moai back in the ground, Ari leaves them his boom box, to help with the boredom; the music-loving statues tapping their underground feet to the rhythm.

The Three Caballeros was a 1944 Disney live-action and animated musical feature film (Disney’s seventh animated feature), designed as an attempt to connect culturally with Latin America. Each of the three central characters/ the caballeros – Donald Duck, the Brazilian parrot José and the Mexican rooster Panchito – were reintroduced for a contemporary audience in a television series that began in November 2018 (premiering first in the Philippines, before a January 2019 release in Southeast Asia) and has so far established 13 episodes. The series sees the caballeros travel to different world locations, accompanied by Xandra, the now requisite Disney all-action princess. Many of these locations involve world wonders such as the Pyramids, the Nazca lines and Mount Rushmore.

The deep-voiced moai in this episode are presented stuck in a “rock-bottom job” committed to an “endless, boring, sacred duty” and in need of a vacation: as one declares, “I haven’t had a vacation in five hundred years”. They awaken with the introduction of a catchy musical number very much in keeping with a Disney style, that mixes entertainment, clever lyrics, energy and humour. Here, the partying moai – male, female, and a baby moai – limbo and conga dance, water-ski, water-slide, wear Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses and drink cocktails against a background of tiki torches and exploding fireworks. One, whose feet “are killing me”, even reclines in an easy chair. The humour borrows from the many comic strips and single frame cartoons that humanise the moai, whilst associating island life with a leisure culture that is more commonly depicted via Hawai’i within the Disney world. Previously, Easter Island as a party-like celebration of a tiki culture had only occurred in Joker: The Last Laugh (reviewed below), in which the villain also sought a vacation.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(20 episodes, 2019)

A moai tells the children how the carvings were moved

A young girl practices the string game kai kai

Funded by Chilean television, this series of 20 short Spanish-language episodes (each approximately 4 minutes long) is located entirely on Easter Island. Intended for children, the stories are presumably set in the very early 1950s, as the first episode features Roberto Parragué, flying the ‘Manutara’, which was the first plane to land on Easter Island, in January 1951. Alongside Parragué on this flight is a young Chilean boy, Martín, who leads the viewer through a range of cultural experiences.

The series is notable for its use of stop motion animation, which is interspersed with hand drawn/painted 2D animation, that are favoured for moments of storytelling, history and more complex motion. Episodes focus on a diversity of cultures and traditions and include the moving of the moai, the birdman competition, wood carvings, body paintings, sealife, food and cooking, the string game kai kai, and the origins of the Rapanui people. The series emphasises togetherness (nuku-nuku means to gather and come together), community and friendship with Martín sharing his adventures with three Rapanui children. It is designed as an educational programme and the filmmaker, Vivienne Barry, sees a connection with the Montessori approach to childhood learning.

The idea for the series came from workshops on Easter Island, where the Rapanui presented suggestions for the content. This has been carried through to production with numerous Rapanui involved in the crew. The music is authentic and performed by the Rapanui using local instruments, whilst the islanders provide the voices for many of the characters. Conceived as a programme in which the Rapanui presented their culture to an overseas audience it is part of a growing range of cultural products disseminating Rapanui life and legends from the perspective of the islanders. Other examples include the comic Varua Rapa Nui (reviewed below) and the children’s book Varua, A Boy of Easter Island (reviewed below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

SpongeBob SquarePants (1999- )

SpongeBob and Patrick outside Squidward’s home

Mrs Tentacles’ home

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Ogú y Mampato en Rapa Nui [Ogú and Mampato in Easter Island] (2002)

An upright moai is carved out of the rock at Rano Raraku

Ogú and Mampato share a meal with Marama's tribe

A film adaptation of the popular comic by Themo Lobos, which was only Chile's second feature-length animation (and the first since 1921), Ogú y Mampato en Rapa Nui was also Chile's submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2002 Oscars. The film is also known as El Misterio en la Isla Encantada (The Mystery on the Enchanted Island) and Mampato: The Movie. For a plot synopsis, see the review of the comic below.

A proud Rapanui explains his culture

In the hall of the king, moai flank both sides of the room

Compared with other film adaptations this is very close to its source, yet there are important differences. The Rapanui men have been hyper-masculinised for the film and they now display broad and muscular chests. Consequently, they appear more heroic and noble and less comic, whilst the women in the film have been sexualised. The villain, the king/ Grand Chief is much darker – he now has pointy teeth and red skin, and resides in an imposing room with a line of moai flanking his throne. The film has added musical numbers – which would be less successful in a comic – and a man who constantly carries a guitar, an instrument that is anachronistic in a film set in pre-European contact times. The pineapple that Ogú finds is also out of place, originating from South America.

Mampato learns about the birdman through the rock carvings at Orongo

With the moai erected, the eyes are added to the face

There is less of the detail to the range of cultural artifacts of Rapanui, that was found in the comic, with references to rongorongo removed. The film, however, does add a moment where eyes are added to a newly erected moai, a ceremony that the Rapanui believed brought the carving to life. It is significant that the Rapanui were consulted in aspects of the film's production, which may explain some of the changes. Rapanui singer-songwriter Mito Manutomatoma wrote a number of the songs and performs here with his band Fusíon Rapa Nui. The music was in collaboration with Chilean guitarist Joe Vasconcellos and most likely explains the appearance of the guitar-playing islander.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Incredibles (2004)

Superhero Mr Incredible attempts to infiltrate the inner realms of the island hideout of the villain Syndrome. In one room, he is faced with a giant curtain of molten lava, bookended by two monolithic moai. Mr Incredible picks up one of the moai with the aim of using it to split the lava curtain. Just as he is about to make his dramatic move, the curtain parts to allow a female assistant from the other side to casually enter the room.

The design of the space in this brief scene appears inspired by the post-war boom in tiki bars and restaurants that frequently combined volcanoes and moai. It is in keeping with the look of the rest of the film, which director-scriptwriter Brad Bird said was a homage to the popular culture of the 1960s. The immense size of the moai, which dwarfs the superhero, is necessary not only for the ominous task but to emphasise the strength of Mr Incredible, who just about manages to carry the carving.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Sergeant Frog the Super Movie 5 (2010)

The island's town, Hanga Roa, is introduced

Sergeant Frog imagines his army of mechanised moai

An adaptation of a Keroro Gunso (Sergeant Frog) manga, this feature length animation was shown widely at cinemas in Japan – its country of production. The fifth film in a highly popular animation franchise, it is up to a point a faithful adaptation – see below for the review of the original manga story.

A 75-minute film permits greater opportunity to expand and explore a story that was originally a relatively short manga. Half of this adaptation is devoted to an extended battle between Sergeant Frog (a harmless extra-terrestrial army-styled frog now living on Earth) – along with Fuyuki, a Japanese boy, and their companions – and a giant aku aku creature that threatens to destroy everything. The film, unlike the manga, has Sergeant Frog's special platoon of soldiers, each with their own unique skill, absorbed into the aku aku, giving it increased strength and power.

Io and Rana are told to respect the island's cultural heritage

Moai kavakava appears during an extra-sensory experience

Moreover, the film adds a monolithic moai-faced mountain (bearing carvings of tangata manu/ the birdman) that erupts out of the ground, and that acts as a form of transmitter. As it shoots a laser beam into the sky, it is encircled by a series of rongorongo hieroglyphs. This releases from far out in space an army of golden moai (made from star fragments), with each etched on their torsos tangata manu patterns. These moai hurtle to Earth and are stopped by Sergeant Frog with moments to spare.

Assisting Sergeant Frog and Fuyuki are two Rapanui children, a boy and girl, who look like twins and are called Io and Rana, which combined translates as "hello", in the indigenous language. These children are the ancient power of the island, its "mana", who have taken human form. In the original story there was just one child, a boy; the film creates a gender balance, but it also populates the island with a community, albeit one that appears for a small section of the film. Here, contemporary Rapanui women are seen in the island's town of Hanga Roa, with a group of children also engaged on their way to school. A problem with the manga was that it had shown just one Rapanui on the island – the boy spirit – which was as good as suggesting the island was uninhabited. The manga had also made this Rapanui boy unintelligible; for much of the story he speaks in rongorongo that not even a special device, a translation badge, can decipher. Yet, in the film, the same badge now works and the Rapanui are therefore understood.

The moai mountain encircled by rongorongo begins to transmit

The outer space army of golden moai descend on Earth

Like the manga, the animators appear to have researched the moai and the geography of the island. In addition, the animators of the film have depicted with some accuracy aspects of buildings in Hanga Roa, including the main church. It is positive that a number of the bad mistakes in the manga have been addressed and corrected, with makemake no longer conflated with tangata manu. Both appear at various points in the film, with Io and Rana first appearing wearing moai kavakava masks. The character reappears in an extra-sensory experience, where he is re-interpreted by the story as a "mana" or power residing within a moai. That moai is levitated through the touch of Io and Rana and is a source of energy, with other moai realigned to acts as weapons to destroy the aku aku. Like the original manga there is some sensitivity to the heritage of the island, with Io and Rana told by Fuyuki that they should not touch the moai.

Creative additions made by the film to the manga include the miniature moai figure – which motivates the journey to Easter Island – now depicted in the shape of Sergeant Frog. And always looking for a new military opportunity, Sergeant Frog re-imagines Easter Island as a Thunderbirds-inspired island complete with launch sites that will be his new base of operations. Later on, he fantasises that within the crater of Rano Raraku he could build his own army of mechanised moai. These are clearly shown to be the foolish imaginings of a driven but lovable anime character.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Jennifer Wagner

Jump to contents

Minions (2015)

Following the success of Despicable Me 2 (2013), Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment made a spin-off feature film, Minions, starring the lovable yellow critters. At the home of supervillain, Scarlet Overkill, Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob are shown a room full of treasures: “just a few things I stole to help fill the void”, Scarlet informs. The room is filled with golden treasure and artworks that include Michelangelo’s David and Andy Warhol’s Campbell's Soup Cans. There is also in this treasure room a moai, with the suggestion that it too is unique, priceless and highly desirable. Its brief appearance is similar to a scene in The Adventures of Tintin, in which the power of an individual is underlined by the ownership of a moai.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Fiction Films (excluding animation)

Der Goldene Abgrund. Schiffbrüchige des Lebens [The Golden Abyss. Castaway of Life]
(French release title: Rapa-Nui; Italian release title: Atlantis; Austrian release title: Frauen im Abgrund [The Woman of the Abyss])
(1927, directed by Mario Bonnard)

Based on the novel Rapa-Nui by André Armandy (see the review below) this is the earliest known film to feature Easter Island. An adventure-romance – a common fiction of the time – it has only recently been restored and screened publicly after long being unavailable. The director, Mario Bonnard, had fled to Germany from Italy following Mussolini's coming to power in 1922, and was subsequently hired for this German/French co-production (the third of his films for the German film industry). Filmed in studios near Berlin and on location in Sicily and Rome – which provided the necessary exotic foreign land – the eruption of the volcano, however, was stock footage taken from an earlier film depicting Mount Vesuvius.

The film is relatively faithful to the original novel, but there are some key differences. In the novel, the heroine, Oedidée, the daughter of a sun god, is the last survivor of an all-powerful ancient race of superior humans, that lived on a continent (of which Rapanui is all that remains) and which disappeared in a natural disaster. In the film, Oedidée is divided into two women – twin sisters – who were separated at birth following a maritime disaster, with one sister Jola (renamed Oedidée in the French version) rescued and living on Rapanui.

The film's sex and violence pushed the boundaries of the time, with the German censor, for instance, requiring six cuts to intertitles and specific scenes. Internationally, The Golden Abyss, which was titled differently across its markets, received mixed reviews, especially regards the performance of the cast – which included notable stars of the period such as Liane Haid, who played both twins. A German critic interestingly described this Gothic adventure as a cross between Edgar Allan Poe and a Karl May western.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Aloma of the South Seas
(1941, directed by Alfred Santell)

Aloma (on the right) relaxes at a pool surrounded by moai

As the volcano erupts the islanders flee

As children, Tanoa is betrothed to Aloma, by his father, the king of a Pacific island. Soon after, Tanoa travels to the USA to acquire an education. Fifteen years later, the king dies and Tanoa returns to take the throne, but Aloma has been having romantic meetings at a secret pool with Revo, Tanoa's cousin and childhood friend.

Revo is the film's villain and he casually murders a man, shooting him from distance, to maintain his control of Aloma. Tanoa learns of the crime and after a fight with Revo banishes him from the island. However, Revo returns for Tanoa's coronation and shoots dead the priest, who is conducting the service. Revo then begins firing on the islanders from above with a machine gun. The island's volcano erupts, spewing rock and molten lava, apparently angered by Revo's crimes. The islanders flee, Revo is killed by a rock fall, and Tanoa saves his wife, Aloma.

Released less than four months before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought America into a war in the Pacific, Aloma of the South Seas is the second time that LeRoy Clemens' Broadway play of 1925 had been filmed (the previous occasion was in 1926). The film betrays its theatrical origins and is very staged and constrained as a production. The island action and sets are clearly studio-based, with the landscape behind appearing on an obvious canvas. The studio setting was also the result of the film's aesthetic choices, with this being an early three-strip Technicolor film (the first feature, Becky Sharp, filmed entirely in this process had been only six years earlier; The Wizard of Oz, just two years earlier). Filming in a studio enabled the control of the colours in front of the camera and this is maximised through an array of Pacific island artifacts, not least the fabrics (including the sarongs) and flowers on display. The film was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography.

It was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, presumably for the scenes at the end where the volcano erupts. In retrospect these are poor and film critics at the time were not convinced, nor with the film as a whole. The two lead actors, Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall, were taken from another more successful Pacific island production, John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), and were recast for a film that was clearly looking to exploit that screen partnership and the increasing appeal of Technicolor (despite its expense). From the performance, musical numbers and design, the film feels forced and is unconvincing with the images of the Pacific an awful hash of cultures and myths from Hawai'i, French Polynesia, Samoa and Easter Island (with seemingly bits of Africa and Ancient Greece included). From Easter Island, the moai are borrowed and they first appear in the last third of the film dotted in and around a pool and a ceremonial space. Some are toppled and crushed when the volcano erupts and they largely function, like so much else, as set decoration.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Wake of the Red Witch
(1948, directed by Edward Ludwig)

In the early 1860s, Captain Ralls of the 'Red Witch' sinks his ship, with the help of first mate Sam Rosen, sending its cargo of gold to the depths of the Pacific. The two later claim that the ship was wrecked somewhere else, not giving the real location to the shipping company. After Ralls and Rosen are lured to an island where they find the head of the shipping company, Mayrant Sidneye, waiting for them, they realise they have been trapped for their knowledge of the Red Witch's whereabouts. Sydneye and Ralls appear to have a more personal rivalry, however, leading to Rosen becoming suspicious.

During a dinner, Sidneye tells Rosen their past. The film then enters a long flashback where Sidneye finds Ralls adrift in the ocean and lets him aboard his boat. Ralls tells Sidneye about a treasure on a certain island and the two make course for it. At the island, Ralls is seen by the natives as the son of their god. This is furthered when he kills an octopus that has been terrorising the natives and brings a box of pearls from its lair. Whilst on the island, Ralls also falls in love with Angelique, the niece of a wealthy American. During a religious festivity Angelique's uncle tries to tell the natives that Ralls is not the prophet they think before attempting to shoot him. Ralls punches the man, and with a single blow he is killed falling into a fiery pit. Angelique is horrified and Ralls leaves the island, with Sidneye taking the pearls and making Angelique his wife.

After the story is told, Rosen leaves but is approached by Sidneye's niece, Teleia, who tells him that Ralls did reunite with Angelique and he was still the man she loved. Teleia and Rosen then try to help Ralls escape the island but the plan is foiled. Ralls tells Sidneye the location of the 'Red Witch' in exchange for Rosen and Teleia's freedom. The wreck, however, is teetering on an ocean floor ledge, and would be such a perilous mission that Sidneye's men refuse to go down to retrieve the gold. Ralls is persuaded by Sidneye to go down instead. He manages to retrieve some of the gold before the ship falls off the ledge, taking Ralls to the bottom of the ocean to drown.

An adventure film and star vehicle for John Wayne, Wake of the Red Witch was made by Republic Pictures on a relatively high budget in the hope that the studio could rise from the identity it had for 'B' grade productions. The film was based on the first novel by Garland Roark, who would become known for his seafaring adventures.

A single moai appears in just one part of the film, during a ceremony, where it is designed to add an element of the exotic and esoteric to a faraway event. Like other Hollywood films of this period, such as Aloma of the South Seas (see review above), Polynesia is raided for a mixture of images, culture and ideas, that includes the islanders wearing the Hawaiian lei and Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku in a supporting actor role. The islanders' belief that Ralls is the son of a god is also seemingly borrowed from Hawai'i, where Captain James Cook had once briefly been elevated to a deity. For its time, the moai is an unusually good rendition of those on Rapanui, but it acts as a background figure that would appear to be worshipped and is just placed in front of a fiery pit to loom large over the scene in which it appears.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Mothra (1961)
(1961, directed by Honda Ishirō)

In a ritual to awaken Mothra, the Polynesians perform in
front of moai-like carvings

A Japanese scientist explores a cave of strange plants, where a moai is also positioned

A vessel near the Caroline Islands is caught in a typhoon and shipwrecked. Some of the crew are discovered on a Polynesian island that has been used for nuclear testing. It was believed that the island was uninhabited but natives remain and are immune to the high radiation due to a special juice drink. A Japanese expedition to the island is undertaken but many of the locals are shot at and killed. The natives turn to the revered Mothra, a giant caterpillar/moth, for protection. In a ritual involving chanting and dancing, Mothra is hatched from a huge egg.

Either the film's geography is very wayward or the typhoon must have been powerful as the ship is blown a vast distance from Micronesia to Polynesia. Whilst in reality the Japanese have never have been allowed to conduct nuclear testing, this fantasy borrows from the actions of the French and imagines islanders who were left behind despite planned evacuations prior to the tests. It is an original element of this film's fiction, but the other points of reference are an awful muddle. The Polynesians are poorly disguised Asians, who are depicted as primitive (almost stone age) islanders. Little if any research has been conducted for cultural accuracy with the ritual dancing unlike anything in Polynesia, or the wider Pacific islands. The giant man-attacking plants and two miniscule island women, who can fit into the palm of a hand, extend the fantasy's extremes.

During the ritual to awaken Mothra two large moai carvings are visible in the background, but they are nothing more than basic artefacts meant to signify a Polynesian culture. Reference is briefly made to a lost continent that apparently united Polynesia, which borrows from the legend of Mu. Furthermore, a Japanese expert discovers in a cave an unknown writing system, which loosely connects with rongorongo, and in this instance is deciphered using other Polynesian languages.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
(1966, directed by Byron Paul)

Wednesday approaches the great god Kaboona

Flames shoot from Kaboona, in an attempt to scare the islanders

Lieutenant Robin Crusoe, of the United States Navy, is forced to eject from his airplane over the Pacific Ocean, 300 miles west of Port Moresby. He drifts at sea for more than 4 days until he finds an island that appears deserted. As well as discovering the wreck of a Japanese submarine and a NASA space chimp on the island, he also encounters a huge statue, called Kaboona, a “great god” that apparently only speaks to a visiting chief. This empowers the chief, giving him control of all the women in his tribe, keeping the men in servitude and having a system of sacrifices. Crusoe finds a secret back entrance into the hollow statue and by using a series of devices found on the Japanese submarine he is able to project his voice from within Kaboona and create effects where its eyes flash red and green, and fire and then water are shot from its mouth. The ruse is exposed, but with the chief trying to regain control his men flee in panic as the Japanese flares within Kaboona accidentally explode. Finally, as all sides reconcile, the chief says he wants his daughter to marry Crusoe; the American has other plans and he and the astro-chimp escape the island whereupon they are rescued by a US Navy helicopter.

Of the many film versions of Daniel Defoe’s castaway story Robinson Crusoe, this Disney production most revisits the Douglas Fairbanks 1932 adventure film, Mr Robinson Crusoe. Both feature spirited Americans who ingeniously (and rather implausibly) craft modern-day amenities and a comfortable standard of living from the island’s resources. Of the two, Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. is more of a comedy, albeit an inane family film, with Dick Van Dyke in the lead role. The astro-chimp, which Crusoe calls Floyd, is a topical inclusion to the story at a time of the USA-USSR space race, whilst the chief’s daughter (played by Hong Kong-American Nancy Kwan) is given the name Wednesday. Together, the three become Disney’s own Tarzan/Jane/Cheetah. Socially and politically, the film is also interesting for its overt inclusion of protesting island women, complete with placards – including “We Fight for Rights” – demanding equality, at a time when the feminist movement of the 1960s was in its infancy.

The island is unnamed and in the cultural mélange it sucks in a wide variety of sources. The women appear Asian-American, some perhaps even Micronesian, the men wear giant masks that belong to Papua New Guinea, and the outriggers are arguably more Polynesian. Unsurprisingly for an American film, the biggest source of ideas for this Pacific-set fantasy is Hawai‘i, visible for instance in the dancing and lei flower garlands. Moreover, Kaboona is inspired by the Hawaiian word kahuna, which itself is a modern invention from the Hawaiian language which has come to mean a shaman or sorcerer (often also associated with sacrifices). This great statue is a remnant of another civilisation, with vines growing over its features suggesting an ancient past. Hawai‘i and Polynesia have their tiki carvings, but this statue – its circular mouth aside, which the film employs to dramatic effect – bears the greatest resemblance to the moai of Easter Island.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(1968, directed by Joseph Losey)

On a secluded island in the Mediterranean, a young man named Christopher Flanders arrives unannounced, seeking Mrs Goforth, a rich widow of five husbands who lives there, and who rules over both her servants and the nearby villagers. After Flanders is attacked by her dogs, Mrs Goforth takes him in and becomes intrigued by this stranger. A friend tells her that Flanders has been nicknamed "the angel of death", due to his history of being present at the end of a number of rich old women's lives. During their time together, Mrs Goforth decides to take Flanders as a lover but warns him that he was mistaken to believe her death to be near. Eventually she succumbs to illness, however, and dies with Flanders by her bedside.

Boom! is adapted from the Tennessee Williams play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. It stars the then-married couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, although the characters they play are supposed to have a much bigger age gap. Noel Coward also appears in a supporting role as 'the witch of Capri', an old friend of Mrs Goforth. The film failed to make a profit at the box office and received mostly negative reviews. It was the third of Taylor's four Tennessee Williams films, but she could not rekindle the success of her earlier adaptations Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Its main attraction was the on-screen partnership of Taylor and Burton. By 1968, Taylor was on the fifth of her eight marriages (two eventually with Burton), such that it was not difficult to see some parallels between Taylor and her on-screen character, Mrs Goforth, a serial-marrier.

Moai appear in a number of shots, on the cliffs overlooking the sea. They are often in the background and are part of the wealthy-lifestyle of Mrs Goforth, suggesting opulence. Along with the cryptic dialogue and elaborate costumes, such as Flanders' samurai garb, the moai also add to the otherworldly atmosphere of the film.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Chariots of the Gods
(1970, directed by Dr. Harald Reinl)

Two years after the publication of Erich Von Däniken's best-selling book, Chariots of the Gods?, and a year after his book Gods from Outer Space, this West German documentary adaptation was produced. The film benefitted from an international release and a cultural climate in which the books had remained very popular. Von Däniken's book claimed the word's ancient wonders showed proof of alien visitation. Seven minutes of the ninety-minute documentary focuses on Rapanui, with the segment drawn first to the birdman petroglyphs at Orongo, accompanied by the absurd suggestion that the carvings of a bird head with beak on a human body, could actually be of "helmets equipped with oxygen masks". Unsurprisingly, the documentary is also fascinated by the moai and in a mixture of fabrication and twisted fact the viewer is erroneously advised that the moai were carved from extremely tough rock that stone tools would barely scratch, that Rapanui has strong magnetic forces across the island landscape and that two priests, who then suddenly disappeared, moved the moai using the power of flight. Despite a few verbal references to the islanders, they are not shown and the island appears barren and windswept, the point underlined by an exaggerated sound of the wind on the film's soundtrack. The moai are foregrounded on the film's artwork, with two large heads looming over Egypt's pyramids. One moai looks skywards turned towards a rocketship that is blasting into space and beyond the poster's frame. The watching moai is most aligned with space travel, making clear the proposal that the archaeology of Easter Island is of another world.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques [The Suns of Easter Island]
(1972, directed by Pierre Kast)

The celestial encounter aligned with a row of moai

In different countries, seven people/ six strangers with extraordinary minds are undertaking areas of research attempting to understand celestial patterns and special phenomena. These include Norma, a Brazilian astronomer who has been studying the positioning of statues at a church, which she comes to realise present a map to the stars; Helvio, a Chilean entomologist; and Alexandra who borrows a plane to observe newly discovered Nazca lines. Each suddenly experiences an intense hallucination – rapid images of world civilisation combined with brightly coloured shapes, ending with an image of a moai – which leaves them with a small shiny disc embedded in the palm of their left hand. Following the hallucination each feels compelled to journey to Easter Island.

The individuals become acquainted in Chile, where they realise they are not alone in their strange experience, and travel by ship together to Easter Island. On arrival, they explore the archaeology, and enter a cave where they meet in the darkness the "Guide", who has been expecting their arrival. Emerging from the cave they rest at the site of ahu Tahai, awaiting a visitation from outer space/ an "extreme elsewhere".

There, six of the group (three men and three women) stand in front of the six plinths/ five moai at ahu Tahai, with six glowing yellow circles hovering above each spot. The celestial visitors communicate telepathically with the six humans and learn of the state of the world. A rapid montage of images is conveyed, which emphasise conflict and death, and enough to deter the celestial visitors from establishing further contact on this occasion. It is time for the six chosen people to depart Earth and they say farewell to the seventh member, a psychologist, who is witness to this extraordinary event. He will wait in the cave for the next visitation in 500 years time.

There are surprisingly few fiction feature films that have been set on Easter Island. This French production was the first to be actually filmed there and is the only art-house example. It has a cult following for its esoteric quest, obsession with form and style, and an experimental synth soundtrack. The central characters are introduced separately and then joined in different combinations, most notably on board a ship, before becoming a group that walks and moves in unison. The film predates Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it belongs with the radical French cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and of Chris Marker's La Jetée, with its abstract science fiction. Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques is very much of a period of a fascination with cosmic intelligence, which was popularised in Erich von Däniken's best-selling Chariots of the Gods?. This was a book which promoted a theory that ancient sites, monuments and artifacts, such as those on Easter Island, are evidence of visitation a long time ago from extra-terrestrials.

In this fantasy, the moai function as beacons for unearthly telepathic communication. Easter Island dominates just the last third of the film, where the production becomes almost a tourist adventure/documentary exploring the island by foot and on horseback, whilst relaying archaeological details. Throughout, the group encounter on the island just one priest and a group of children, who are playing amongst a line of moai. The other islanders and the tourists are absent. The latter is perhaps understandable when in 1972 few had the opportunity to visit Easter Island.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Godzilla vs Megalon
(1973, directed by Fukuda Jun)

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Sky Pirates
(1986, directed by Colin Eggleston)

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.

Ian Conrich and Adam Crowther

Jump to contents

Rapa Nui
(1994, directed by Kevin Reynolds)

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.

Ian Conrich and Adam Crowther

Jump to contents

Mars Attacks! and Night at the Museum

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Television (excluding animation)

Gilligan's Island
(episode 73, 1966)

The skipper finds Gilligan in a cave where he has discovered hidden treasures buried in the ground. Whilst Gilligan is in awe of the jewellery, the skipper becomes wary of "Voodoo" that may be protecting the treasure. As the two leave the cave, a witch doctor, who had been spying on the pair and disrupting their plans, sticks a pin in the neck of a voodoo doll that looks like Gilligan. The subsequent reaction from Gilligan indicates the effectiveness of the voodoo.

After Gilligan gives out the cave's findings to the other islanders, he and the skipper are persuaded by Thurston to go back and look for more treasure. All of the shipwrecked islanders convene at the cave and watch as Gilligan digs up a small golden moai statue. The witch doctor again waits outside and this time places a fire beneath dolls of all seven of the islanders, which leads to them running into the sea to cool down.

The next day, the witch doctor turns the professor into a 'Zombie', who stares into space without moving or talking. The skipper and Gilligan decide to return all of the treasure to the cave, which allows the professor to regain consciousness. In the final scene, Gilligan makes a voodoo doll of the witch doctor and stabs his behind as the man, who emerges from the bushes, then howls in pain and runs into the sea.

Gilligan's Island was a popular American television sitcom that ran for 98 episodes from 1964 to 1967. The series featured seven characters that were shipwrecked on a tropical island with the various episodes focusing on their attempts to interact with and escape their environment. The series also spawned two sequel films made in 1978 and 1979.

The moai briefly seen in this episode is both a treasure and an unobtainable object as the castaways have to return it along with the other buried items in order to lift the curse. As a seemingly recognisable symbol of another culture – extricated from its cultural origins and merged with Caribbean dark practices to satisfy an American fantasy – the moai stresses the exotic more than the other gems or jewellery. But like the feature film Sky Pirates (see the review above), which features golden objects of Rapanui culture, the idea is an utter fabrication with Easter Island containing no gold deposits.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

The Muppet Show
(episode 320, 1979)

In one of the many musical numbers that were featured on The Muppet Show, a jazz-styled 'Hawaiian War Chant' is sung (in Hawaiian) by a variety of puppets. These include singing penguins, parrots and pigs in grass skirts in an animal melee that is overseen by a cliff top monkey that throws coconuts on the performers below. Predating the talking moai in Night at the Museum (see the review below) and the musical number in Histeria! (see the review above) is a singing moai, who not only speaks Hawaiian but says words such as "hubba hubba". Whenever moai speak or sing, they are given a deep voice, presumably as that matches their monolithic form. The guest star for this episode was Sylvester Stallone.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Comic Books

‘Rob the Rover’
(no.1091–1095, 20 June–18 July 1925, Amalgamated Press)

Rob and his companions Dick and Old Dan are flying over the Pacific when they decide to head to Easter Island. Dan has been there before, voyaging by ship from San Francisco to the South Seas, and he says it is “an interesting place and well worth a visit”. Unable to see a landing site they set their hydroplane on the water near to shore, where the observe a hillside of moai – “[h]uge heads […] and exactly all alike”. The three travellers conclude that what they are seeing is “very likely […] some native place of worship”. They take pictures of themselves amongst these wondrous carvings, which they say are “on a par” with the Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt. Then out of nowhere a herd of wild pigs emerges and charges at the adventurers, who clamber up on to the moai to a position of safety. It is only when a group of Rapanui “dusky warriors” who are “skilled hunters” chase the pigs away that the three companions can come down. The Rapanui are friendly with the chief greeting the strangers in English and offering them food and rest. A banquet of food is provided with the Rapanui supplying “amusement in the form of a war dance”.

Soon after the three companions depart Easter Island, but they do not get far before they are forced to land their plane at sea to conduct repairs to a wing. Approaching them fast, however, are twin waterspouts which will wreck their plane if they cannot to take to the air quick enough. They climb high, but are still caught in the tempest of the waterspouts which toss them around before they manage to regain control of their plane. Down below they spy a group of indigenous fishermen clinging to their upturned canoe, with others trying to stay afloat whilst floundering in the sea. The hydroplane touches down again and picks up the survivors who are extremely grateful and bestow a necklace upon Old Dan. The plane takes the survivors back to their nearby island, where their community is delighted to see them. Rob, Dick and Old Dan are “hailed as wonders” and made special guests of the chief, who speaks a little English. Suddenly, a native man comes running and alerts everyone to the fact that a number of “fully-manned” war-canoes from a rival tribe at the other end of the island is fast approaching.

The friendly islanders try to halt the intruders, but this tribe is too numerous and they swarm on to the land taking control and imprisoning Rob, Dick and Old Dan, who had been the focus of their intentions. Along with the chief and a number of his warriors they are tied up and taken on the canoes back to the enemy tribe’s home, where the captives are presented with great local satisfaction and celebration. The three companions are placed under guard in a tribal hut. Later that evening as two locals bring them water and food, Rob sees his chance to escape, with support provided by Dick and Old Dan, who tackle the guards. Pursued all the way to the beach, Rob finds an outrigger and manages to sail at speed out to sea, under a “brisk breeze”. At dawn, however, Rob fears he is now lost with no land in sight.

Despairing and exhausted, Rob lowers his sail and decides to have a nap. This results in his boat drifting, whereupon he is rescued by a group of friendly pearl fishermen. Unbeknown to Rob, the friendly rescuers are from Rapanui, who take him to the island and nurse him back to health. As soon as he can walk again, Rob climbs back into his airplane and he takes to the skies to locate his missing friends. He is able to identify the island they are on and from there he flies to “civilisation”, a “busy trading port of the South Seas”, where a British warship is anchored in the harbour. His hydroplane is met by a boat which takes him to meet the British Consul. The diplomat offers Rob two planes which accompany his into the air and to a planned rescue of his “chums”.

Back on the island of “savages”, Dick, Old Dan, the friendly chief and his warriors are each being tied to large carved posts, “weird wooden figures” as part of a ceremony that involves a war dance. At that point, the three airplanes fly past and scatter the panicked savages. The captives are untied and the protagonists fly the friendly islanders back home, where “a fuss” is made of Rob, Dick and Old Dan, before they set off on another adventure.

By far the earliest known comic to feature Easter Island – serialised over five weekly issues in 1925 – this was from an age when European comics were largely text based and had not fully turned to drawing speech bubbles. Puck was a British comic “for boys and girls” that had existed since 1904, with the ‘Rob the Rover’ stories created by Walter Henry Booth, and first appearing in 1920. An extremely popular and early boys’ own adventure comic, ‘Rob the Rover’ was translated into various languages and reprinted overseas, where it had an especially strong following in Scandinavia, and was renamed Willy på eventyr (The Adventures of Willy). There it was read by a young Thor Heyerdahl, who was later to convey that this particular story had been his original inspiration for wanting to voyage to Easter Island.

In fact, only part of the story takes place on Rapanui, with nine frames depicting anything that could be recognised as belonging to the island. Eight of those frames occur in the first part of the story which is dominated by images of the moai – presented here as identical, but also positioned incorrectly – and that create a sensational beginning to the adventure. But after this first instalment the moai are forgotten and do not reappear, even after the protagonists return to the island. However, in a single frame in the fourth instalment, when Rob has returned to Rapanui and is being nursed back to health, he is depicted lying in bed in a hut, with a statue that appears to be moai kavakava behind him and another carving of presumably tangata manu/ the birdman, hanging from the ceiling. Alas, the Rapanui, who are welcoming and hospitable, appear nothing like they should and are spear-wielding grass-skirt-wearing primitives. They play pipe like instruments have carvings adorning the posts to their homes, and speak pidgin English. The wild pigs are a further anomaly and unique to this example of moai fiction.

The story also problematically shrinks the Pacific, now positioning what was an isolated Rapanui in proximity to at least one other island – populated by a tribe who also appear more Melanesian – and within an easy flight of a South Seas port with a British consular office. The story, filled with words such as “chums” and “savages” is very much a colonial fantasy where the white man is the hero, either saving the friendly native, or resourcefully defeating islanders who present a threat.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Action Comics
'Three Aces'
(no.28, September 1940, DC Comics)

Three fine pilots, Fog Fortune, Gunner Bill and Whistler Will are paid well to explore Easter Island, in an "attempt to discover who put those giant statues there". They fly to Easter Island in their three planes, but on arrival are warned by a resident foreigner to be careful of the Rapanui, as they "have grown resentful of white explorers".

The Three Aces establish a plan to chart the island by flying first over a mountain range and then into the "mysterious valley of the giants!", where on the ground they discover a row of monolithic stone carvings. Suddenly, the Three Aces are attacked by the Rapanui and, as the aviators retreat, Fog Fortune slips and falls off a cliff edge and on to a tree branch which functions as a lever causing a section of the cliff to open revealing a hidden tunnel. Deep inside they find a cave of fossilised giant men, and a chest of scrolls on which are written in Egyptian the secret of Easter Island.

The scrolls reveal that these giants tried to reach the moon, but their experiments unfortunately attracted a comet, which brought with it a deadly germ that turned the men into stone. As a smaller species of man, humans were unaffected and survived. The Three Aces find a way out of the cave, carrying the "precious scrolls" with them. Their delighted sponsor tells the Three Aces they will be given "full credit" for their discovery.

This is the second earliest known comic to depict Easter Island. It is an action adventure that unites jungle fiction and fantasies of heroic pilots from an age in which the Pacific and aviation were very much associated with heroism, risk and exploration. The native Rapanui are referred to as "savages" and live within the jungle. They emerge from the dense vegetation and attack the Three Aces with bows and arrows, with one native depicted with a large ring through his nose. The geography of Easter Island is similarly of another land, with mountain ranges and a valley introduced that are more suited to a Tarzan adventure.

At a time when the perceived mysteries of the distant Easter Island fuelled myths related to a primary question of who could have created the monoliths, the Three Aces are tasked with solving the riddle and they do this easily, by accident and within a short 6-page story. The revelation that the moai are in fact fossilised giant men, make this comic the first fiction to reimagine the stone carvings as 'frozen' inhabitants of another time or place. The narrative that is established here indirectly equates the ancient race of giant men with the dinosaurs, who generally have been assumed to have been destroyed by an Earth-bound comet or meteor. The linking also of this race of giants to Egypt is brief (mentioned in just one sentence) but opens up fascinating questions as to why the comic felt the desire to work within the story this reference to another ancient civilisation.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Zig et Puce et le Professeur Médor [Zig and Puce and Professor Médor]
(no.12; Paris: Hatchette, 1941)

Two young boys, Zig and Puce, are at home with their companion, Alfred, an auk. They are all frustrated and bored, as they are not on their regular travels. Their ennui is broken by Professor Médor, who calls at their home saying he would like to borrow the auk to attract the flying oryctérope, a strange creature that is a cross between a giant kangaroo and a bat. Apparently, the cry of the auk is similar to that of the oryctérope. For the adventure, Zig and Puce take with them their horse, Marcel.

The team travel by boat to Mexico, where Zig, Puce and the Professor are kidnapped and taken on a second boat. Alfred and Marcel swim after them and provide an escape for the others from the vessel. They are subsequently rescued by another boat heading for Australia, but that captain soon regrets taking them on board, especially after the behaviour of Marcel. He drops them off at the next piece of land – Easter Island.

On Rapanui, they admire the “famous statues”, and then discover a little egg. The Professor says it is the egg of the flying oryctérope; a barefooted islander arrives and says it is the egg of the manu tara (the sooty tern). The Rapanui man disappears, but soon returns with a group of friends. They call the Professor a king, as he has found the first manu tara egg of the year, and say his head must therefore be shaved, only to discover that under his hat he is already bald. The Professor is held aloft and carried away, whilst another Rapanui man shows Zig and Puce petroglyphs of a birdman (that resembles Alfred, the auk), and of a reimiro (ceremonial breastplate), alongside the words “Make Make”. The man advises that the Professor is now the tangata manu (birdman) for the year, having been chosen by Make-Make, their god.

A feast is prepared for the Professor, who is now installed on a throne in an underground house. Zig and Puce realise they cannot wait for a year until the Professor’s honorary position ends, so they devise an obstruction. Alfred sits on Zig’s shoulders and Puce places his coat around them to make them appear as one – as the birdman. Zig-Alfred enter the underground home astride Marcel the horse, who thinks the whole idea is ridiculous, and declare they are the birdman come to take the Professor. Part of the plan succeeds with the Professor freed, but the Rapanui now want to keep the ‘birdman’, and form a dancing circle around Zig-Alfred, whilst sharing a song. The Rapanui offer the ‘birdman’ a fish, which is too tempting for Alfred and he breaks disguise. Alfred and Zig make a quick escape with the help of Marcel. Puce creates a distraction for the chasing Rapanui and manages to defeat them all, in doing so saving his companions, who call him a hero.

Next, they encounter a man, Pakomio, in a military uniform complete with epaulettes. He says he is a “big official” who registers everyone who arrives by boat at Hanga Roa, and he is not a savage like the islanders they have so far met: “other residents of the island are civilised”. He orders the team to the home of the Governor. On meeting the Governor, they are told that such visits to Easter Island are rare, yet only the day before two other foreigners had arrived to study local antiquities. They are the Governor’s guests, but Zig and Puce recognise the two as the dastardly men who had earlier been their kidnappers.

The Governor is suddenly brought a telegram that advises him there is a pirate ship nearby, which is carrying war contraband. As the telegram is read out, the two kidnappers flee but not before leaving a note demanding 100 sheep and three million pesos, or their ship will bombard the island that evening. They escape on Marcel, but he refuses to comply and smashes them against a tree. Now captive they are brought back by Zig and Puce to the Governor’s residence. Defiant, the kidnappers say their ship will attack that evening. At night, Zig rows out to the pirate ship and tells the crew that if they fire on the island they will kill their bosses. The pirates, however, do not care as they were planning to mutiny, so they commence firing on the island. Zig rows back to shore and with Puce, Alfred and Marcel, runs for cover. In the process, they observe the giant flying oryctérope. The team tries to capture the creature, by baiting it with a carrot, but it grabs Zig in its mouth and flies away.

Puce, Alfred and the Professor chase after the creature and discover a bad smelling underground passage, with petroglyphs on the walls to its entrance. The Professor believes the entrance to the passage was opened as a result of the pirates’ bombardment. Inside they discover the flying oryctérope, who drops Zig from its mouth and instead chases after the Professor. As the Professor runs through a narrow opening, the creature tries to follow but it becomes stuck. The team escapes from the underground system, but so does the creature which now flies after the pirate ship, sending the vessel fleeing. As the team celebrate, Alfred’s cry of delight attracts the creature. It first goes after Marcel, who initially is unafraid, but then gallops away in fright and hides behind a moai.

As the team regroups they wander further into Easter Island, where they are confused as the terrain now seems very different. A moai they observe proves they are still on Easter Island, but now they encounter dinosaurs including a diplodocus and woolly mammoths. The Professor believes they have been transported to another time, possibly as a result of the underground system. As he sits down on a rock to try and comprehend the situation, the Professor reflects on his knowledge of the lost continent of Lemuria, which sunk into the Pacific Ocean, following a cataclysmic event. He concludes that the moai and the underground system are remnants of Lemuria. The island was “forgotten by man” whilst the animals of old continued to live in favourable conditions. The Professor decides that if he can capture the creatures and present them in a zoo back home he will be rich. But as the Professor turns to rejoin the rest of the team he is attacked by a cave bear.

Awakening in bed at the home of the Governor, the Professor talks of the dinosaurs they saw, but Zig and Puce have no idea what he is saying. Puce relays that actually the Chilean navy arrived to save the island and they arrested the pirates. The Professor now doubts that he even saw the flying oryctérope. The Governor asks the team to join him for dinner as there may not be another boat passing by for two or three years. The Professor asks the Governor if he has a book that explains dreams.

A pioneering comic that began as a comic strip in 1925, this was amongst the first of the Franco-Belgian publications to include speech bubbles. Zig and Puce is also the earliest known French language comic to feature Easter Island. The story and characterisations are quite simplistic and the story is fragmented, with narrative gaps and key plot elements forgotten – symptomatic perhaps of a serialised comic. This, however, needs to be placed in context, and seen as a product of its age. The earliest examples of moai fiction are adventure-fantasies, and they are devoid of science fiction, but populated with pirates, smugglers and jungle tribes. Zig and Puce also reflects the last stage of a great age of exploration that had been strongest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when new lands offered weird and wonderful fauna. It is not surprising that the kangaroo - seen as a most curious creature, when first encountered by Europeans on Captain James Cook’s initial voyage of 1768-1771 – is employed as the major component in this comic’s hybrid animal. Giving the marsupial bat wings, enables it to fly whereas many other new fauna, that were found in the Pacific, were distinctly flightless. The creature is a wild fantasy that was later echoed in the giant kiwi birds of Easter Island found in the comic Kona (reviewed below), which saw another relocation of indigenous fauna in order to fulfil a myth of Rapanui.

Alfred the auk, a regular in the comic since 1925, when he was found on route to the Arctic, is a fauna of interest as he becomes a stand-in for the birdman – here, literally, part bird and part man – with the illustrations keen to find commonality between Alfred’s appearance and the birdman as it appears on rock art. For such an early comic, the narrative is actually progressive in its inclusion of images of the reimiro and Makemake, especially, on the walls of an entrance to a cave. Yet, the Rapanui, are again depicted as fools and barefooted savages, fitting the stereotype that was so often given to natives in faraway lands. In contrast, the Chilean Governor is presented as civilised, though overly associated with ceremony and, curiously, on an island of only men. But then, in this entirely male-centric story, even the animal companions are male.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Whiz Comics
'Lance O'Casey'
(vol. 3, no.13, February 1941, Fawcett Comics)

Lance O'Casey is a "swashbuckling sailor of fortune" based in the South Sea port of Maloana. Looking for adventure he sails the seas in his schooner accompanied by his pet monkey, Mister Hogan. On this adventure, they are joined by Captain Doom, a pipe-smoking man with a big white beard. As they pass Easter Island, they realise that the beacon from the lighthouse is shining from the wrong place. They decide to investigate as there have been many ships wrecked recently in the region.

The wrecking of the ships has been planned by Weasel Wiggins, "one of the worst men in the South Pacific". He is based on Easter Island and aided by the subservient native islanders. Meanwhile, Lance, his monkey, and Captain Doom land on Easter Island and discover the moai and a tribe of small monkeys. Mister Hogan makes friends with these monkeys who help the simian scout the island. They find Wiggins and his gang, who shoot at the monkeys, alerting O'Casey and Doom to the danger, who then take refuge in a ruined altar.

A storm approaches and Wiggins sets the fake beacon to lure another ship on to the rocks. O'Casey, Doom and Mister Hogan manage to get the real lighthouse working and overpower a group of Rapanui who try to thwart their efforts. Mister Hogan is sent to destroy the fake beacon, whilst O'Casey and Doom fight with Weasel and more Rapanui on a nearby beach. This is two against many, with the odds stacked against O'Casey, but Mister Hogan and his fellow monkeys arrive to the rescue and help win the battle.

O'Casey and Doom help refloat the boat that has just been stranded on the rocks. At the same time Wiggins and his henchman try to escape on another boat, but that is wrecked on a sunken rock and they are killed by sharks. The heroes leave Easter Island and Mister Hogan bids a tearful farewell to his fellow monkeys. Later, it is revealed that Mister Hogan has sneaked on board the schooner a monkey girlfriend, a wife to be who will be named in the next issue.

At a time when popular culture had barely engaged with Easter Island and research/ studies had not be widely disseminated, this comic presents a fantasy that is far removed from reality. In essence, this is a pirate adventure, with Captain Doom speaking in pirate-talk, and Weasel Wiggins acting like a modern day wrecker, creating false beacons to lure ships to their demise. Precisely why, is never answered by the story. The manner in which Wiggins lords over the subservient Rapanui is out of tropical island fiction where a sole westerner creates a new lifestyle away from the city and as a figure superior to the natives.

The idea of a lighthouse on Easter Island is fanciful, bringing western technology to a story that otherwise presents the Rapanui as primitive. The lighthouse belongs to pirate fiction, whilst the 'native' monkeys have also been transplanted on to the island from another part of the world. Moreover, the Rapanui are of another continent, and are more African, or Afro-Caribbean, than anything else. They speak in pidgin, "what you tink?", says one; more worryingly, they are referred to as "blacks" at several points in the story. This is very much a boy's own adventure, with no men in the fiction and the only female being a monkey introduced in the final two frames of the story.

The moai appear on just page 3 of this 8-page story and are poor renditions of the carvings appearing here as just a few flat stones no taller than a human. As Captain Doom advises, nobody knows where they come from.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

True Comics
'Voyage of Mystery'
(no.12, May 1942, The Parents' Magazine Press)

1785, and French explorer La Pérouse is tasked by the King of France with a scientific expedition to the Pacific. La Pérouse's ship sails around the Pacific for three years including visits to Easter Island and Samoa. But then he disappeared and after 38 years the natives of a "tiny South Sea isle" gave the captain of a British ship a sword hilt bearing the initials of La Pérouse. Apparently, the French had been shipwrecked nearby in 1788, with some of the men leaving in a row boat never to be seen again, whilst those that remained "mistreated the natives" and died. The story ends with the question, "who will ever know the true end of La Pérouse and his voyage of mystery?".

This account of legendary sailor La Pérouse fills four pages of an educational comic that focused on illustrating true stories. This is the earliest known example of an educational Easter Island comic strip and it is revealing that the focus is on a white European as opposed to the Rapanui. In fact, the frames depicting La Pérouse on Easter Island (he had arrived on 9 April 1786) show no Rapanui, yet natives (as savages) appear in the frames devoted to Samoa, where La Pérouse's crew was attacked and twelve died. The title page for this story presents La Pérouse standing confidently in front of a moai with a sword in his left hand and a flag in his right hand as if the land has just been conquered.

As with other early comics attempting to illustrate the moai there is some distance between the drawings and the actual carvings. The mysterious moai serve to enhance the story of La Pérouse who disappeared somewhere in the Pacific. As La Pérouse declares, "those statues belong to a lost civilisation" and "what race of supermen carved these statues?". Unfortunately for a comic that aims to be educational it gives the impression that La Pérouse was the first European to sight Easter Island and that nothing was known in 1785, yet the Dutch, Spanish and British respectively had all visited the island earlier in 1722, 1770 and 1774 and had surveyed and documented aspects of the geography and culture.

The captain who was given the sword hilt was actually Irish and he captained the St Patrick. The anonymous "tiny South Sea isle" was in fact Tikopia, part of the Solomon Islands, with the ship wrecked on neighbouring Vanikoro. La Pérouse was the subject of a more extensive narrative in a 2016 French bande dessinées (see review below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Super Magician Comics
'Blackstone Discovers the Lost Land of Lemuria'
(vol.2, no.5, September 1943, Street and Smith Publications)

Blackstone the magician is stranded on a floating island with his assistant, Rhoda, and their three native helpers, Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum. These three helpers are held enthralled by Rhoda, who wears a costume to make them believe that she is a sun goddess. With Blackstone's airplane fixed they plan to "hop" to Easter Island, which is "only a few hundred miles" from their current location. But they are jolted by a tremendous tidal wave, which picks up this small floating island with the team on board. They are transported by the wave to another, bigger island, which has suddenly been "lifted up from the ocean floor". Blackstone concludes that this is Davis Land (and Lemuria), a submerged continent, "which had disappeared a few centuries ago and was due to return".

A tribe, called the Kenawa, arrives by canoe on this resurfaced continent and they believe Blackstone is Hotu Matua, who has come from a land called Bolatu, "where nobody ever die". Blackstone performs a quick magic trick, using a seashell, to convince them of his power. Another tribe, called the Menehune, arrives by canoe and they are pacified by Rhoda, who makes them believe she is Namaka, "the great sea goddess". The two tribes are normally enemies, but Rhoda convinces them to be friends.

The team discover moai on the island and as Rhoda explores further she slips and falls into a volcanic crater containing a steaming asphalt lake; luckily she is rescued by Blackstone. The tribes are becoming uneasy, so Blackstone performs two more magic tricks to maintain his control. But the Kenawa chief discovers how one of the illusions was achieved, so Blackstone creates a further two magic tricks; unfortunately, this results in inter-tribal warfare. The tribes then turn on Blackstone and Rhoda as they think they are fakes. The magician and his assistant use a magic cabinet first to deflect the spears and then to enable their vanishing act.

The duo, chased by the angry tribes, arrives at a ring of moai. Astonishingly, the central moai comes alive and topples the other stone figures pushing over the natives. However, as this moai surges forward it stumbles on a rock, falls down and breaks open, revealing inside Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum. Blackstone says that he had earlier cased them in molded asphalt to make them look like a moai, and as part of another trick. The team runs for cover and a ship of passing whalers, "bound for the Antarctic", rescues Blackstone and Rhoda. Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum decide to stay on the island, and watch the two feuding tribes quickly annihilate each other. This leaves Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum as the new owners of Lemuria, as Blackstone and Rhoda sail off to their next adventure.

In terms of its racial depictions, this is without a doubt the most offensive of all moai culture comics. The cover image bears very little relation to the story inside, which stretches across an unusually long 34 pages. The native depicted on the cover is not featured within the story, there is no scene in which Blackstone hurls the skull of an ape-man, and there are no pygmies of Lemuria. There are, however, two Polynesian tribes who land on the resurfaced island of Lemuria and they are depicted as simpletons and savages, who either speak few words – a mixture of Hawaiian, Rapanui and a made-up language – or miraculously moments of English, where necessary for the story. Worse still, Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum are deeply racist thick-lipped black stereotypes. They are easily controlled buffoons who speak an awkward English and are designed to offer humour at their own expense. Blackstone is seen as Hotu Matua, who was actually Rapanui's legendary first leader and original settler, even though the magician is a white American. Here, the comic is probably borrowing from the voyages of Captain James Cook, who was apparently seen by the Hawaiians as their returning god, Lono.

Super Magician Comics began in 1941 and lasted for 56 issues until 1947, with Blackstone (based on the real-life magician, Harry Blackstone Sr.) appearing in many of the adventures where trickery helps to overcome threats and challenges. Yet the magic – the process for which is often explained to the reader – is crude and unconvincing and the situations full of holes. These include a barefoot Rhoda, surviving completely unharmed from a steaming volcanic crater and Ketchum, Fetchum and Fixum manipulating a giant hollow moai made from asphalt. The story is more interested in emphasising racial stereotypes than exploring the moai and it is not until near the end that the stone figures have a narrative function.

The comic is, however, a very early and significant example of moai culture and is the first to imagine the moai coming alive, albeit as a trick. Such a fantasy would not be explored again for another twelve years, when it was then evolved into the idea of the moai as actual slumbering giants (see the review for House of Mystery below). The notion of a fake moai was also a first and was next explored in World's Finest Comics (1947), and more importantly in Laugh (1962; see the review below). Yet, the essential difference is that House of Mystery and Laugh introduced science fiction and alien encounters to their stories. In contrast, in the 1940s, moai fiction was focused on the natives as the unfamiliar beings in adventures that were closer to jungle narratives than anything conceived from outer space. In such stories, the mythical lost continent of Lemuria – a nineteenth century fantasy – serves as the basis for a repositioning of Easter Island and the moai as fictional remnants of this sunken civilisation. In Super Magician Comics, it is casually merged with the legendary land mass that English buccaneer, Edward Davis, supposedly found in 1687, whilst he was searching for a mythical new continent. To date just two other comics, Konga (review below) and Lion and Thunder (review below), have built into their story a Davis Land/ Davis Island.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Le Téméraire
'L'Étrange Ile de Pâque' ['Strange Easter Island']
(no.17, 15 September 1943, Société Nouvelle La Platinogravure)

The second earliest known French comic to focus on Easter Island, Le Téméraire, was published in Paris during the Nazi occupation in World War II. It was permitted as its stories were somewhat sympathetic to Nazi ideologies, and typically featured blonde haired heroes in cartoon strips that could be viewed as racist or anti-Semitic (as on the back page of this edition). The comic was for the French "modern youth", as its subtitle states, and it was just one of two such publications for children published in occupied France.

Printed on large format paper, it is just eight pages in length with two pages in this issue devoted to Easter Island. This includes the cover, which presents a colourised copy of an earlier illustration that emerged following Pierre Loti's 1872 voyage to Rapanui. The image, which suggests the collapse of a race of people, is highly manufactured and presents a cluster of moai, of which one has fallen, alongside a collection of skulls. A Rapanui man, his head resting in his hands contemplates two skulls, whilst a nearby man sits on a ledge, his long hair blowing in the wind.

Inside the comic, the information references the French expeditions of Loti, La Pérouse (1786), and Lafontaine Aube (1877), with La Pérouse featuring on the opposite page in his own separate account. The comic pushes narratives of mysteries and knowledge/people lost and unknown, as well as cataclysms and disasters, which connects back to the cover image. It has a section on rongorongo and even offers translations of ten hieroglyphs – suggesting they represent amongst others 'eyes', 'sun', 'lizards' 'god'. However, the boldest part of the page attempts to position the Rapanui as proto-Aryan/ "primitive Aryan people". Through rongorongo it argues that the Rapanui can be traced back to the civilisations of Egypt, Elam and the ancient settlement of Mohenjo Daro (found in modern day Pakistan).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘La mystérieuse Île de Paques’ [‘Mysterious Easter Island’]
(no.53, 4 April 1946, Vaillant)

First published illegally as Le Jeune Patriot (The Young Patriot) during World War II, and then after the war formally as Vaillant, this French weekly magazine that combined comic strips, puzzles, stories and education, was originally overtly republican. A large format paper that was folded in a way that it became 8 pages, it often contained accounts of distant foreign cultures and world history, with this 1946 issue featuring a splendid front cover colour illustration of an imagined fire dance on Easter Island. The story inside is given one full page and is a cultural-historical record framed as the account of the magazine’s “dear friend”, Winchester, the ace of reporters.

What follows is text that is largely uncontentious and accurate for its time, including facts about the homes of the Rapanui looking like upturned boats and that vegetables are grown in subterranean openings in the volcanic ground that allow the vegetation to be protected from the wind. The magazine asks Winchester some inviting questions, such as “Is it true that the Rapanui are red?”, to which Winchester talks about body and hair being painted red for cultural practices. The page is supported by numerous sketches including one of moai kavakava and another of tangata manu in the top left and right corners respectively. Elsewhere, there is artistic licence in an imagined scene, where warriors ready themselves on a cliff top before the start of the civil war, with their women and children standing on a high vantage point to watch the combat. On the opposite side of the page and, most interesting, is a drawing of a scribe, engraving rongorongo on to a wooden tablet (albeit with the hieroglyphs appearing too large). These latter two images and the front cover were illustrated by Jacques Souriau.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

World's Finest Comics
'The Boy Commandos – The Faces of History!'
(no.29, July 1947, DC Comics)

A freighter at sea is caught in a magnetic storm that renders the ship helpless, whereupon it is drawn up on to a reef around Easter Island and wrecked. In the morning, a gang of criminals emerge, headed by Rollo, introduced here as the "world's fattest man". They use machinery to offload the cargo and then set fire to the ship destroying all evidence, in an act of modern day piracy. The next day another ship is sailing through the Pacific with the Boy Commandos on board, which includes Rip, Andre, Brooklyn, from New York, and Texas, a Texan. They are on a mission to Easter Island, sponsored by a museum: "we promised the museum we'd bring back one of them!", states a team leader as they arrive on the island. The group stands in awe at the size and number of moai. They start to haul one of the moai ("weighing about 50 tons") towards their ship, employing a crane and ropes, but they are suddenly halted by Rollo's gun-carrying thugs.

The unseen Texas swings into action on his lasso and temporarily helps to stop the thugs, but he and Rip fall from a severed rope and onto the face of the moai they were trying to haul. They crash through the face of the moai, which is exposed as false and hollow, with inside a secret control room and look-out post. The rest of the team are outnumbered and overpowered. Rollo explains his "diabolical" operations and his underwater electromagnet that is switched on at night and is "powerful enough to attract any metal object two miles away!". The magnet is powered by steam from deep inside the island's volcano, where the captured members of the team are now taken and suspended over its edge from a rope on a crane's slowly descending winch.

They are left dangling as a cargo-laden ship is spotted, which distracts Rollo and his gang. Whilst they are gone, Rip and Tex rescue their colleagues. To stop the wrecking of the ship the team then start rolling boulders over the volcano's edge to block the steam. At the shore, the Boy Commandos attack Rollo's gang and this time win. Rollo escapes in a boat, free to appear in another story. Back on their own ship, the Boy Commandos have new cargo – Rollo's thugs as prisoners and a moai that they have taken from the island.

In only the second DC comic to visit Easter Island, a key question that persists for the writers is who built the moai and why. The story is dominated by the dastardly actions of Rollo, but the moai are also largely centralised, featuring prominently on the title page and opening the narrative with the statement, "mystery of the ages!": "why and when were the great stone heads placed in this remote isle, looking out to sea?". Removing the native islanders from the narrative allows the myth of creation to grow. At least the earliest-known comic depicting Easter Island – 'Three Aces' in Action Comics (see the review above) – had presented the Rapanui. That said, the 'Three Aces' story is so problematic/ offensive in its depictions of the Rapanui, that their absence entirely from that fiction would have been preferable.

Despite a cover with Batman, Robin and Superman, none of the DC superheroes were yet to visit Easter Island, a location that would later become popular for DC. This would have to wait until 1954 and a story involving Wonder Woman (see the review below). Instead, the Boy Commandos, none of whom have superpowers, are left to halt the criminal actions of Rollo, a mastermind who would not be out of place in a Batman adventure. Written in 1947, when political correctness was seemingly much less of an issue, Rollo's deviousness is partly defined by his obesity. For he is man so overweight that he has to be carried and moved around by machinery. This man is described as a "bizarre figure" and "a massive blob of flesh so immense that he cannot walk". Strangely, the fake and hollow moai that is hauled is described as weighing "50 tons", and the evil genius Rollo has a magnet that can attract metal ships from two miles away, which seems pointless when considering Easter Island's isolation and the lack of ships that would have sailed that close to the land (particularly one that is described here as abandoned).

Rollo and the leaders of the museum expedition wear pith helmets, suggesting the foreign (and perhaps tropical) challenges faced by these adventurers. The helmets also suggest a colonial presence on an island that is described as "lonely", and from which the expedition plans to take a moai – without, of course, any permission. The tragedy of such cultural plundering is unwittingly reinforced in the final frame of the story, which states that the team with its moai onboard sails for home "peacefully".

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Operation Peril
‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Strange Adventures
'The Secret of Easter Island!'
(no.16, January 1952, DC Comics)

An archaeologist has a desire to solve the mystery of the moai. In order to fund his expedition to Easter Island he is accompanied by a friend's wealthy father and some of his rich business associates, who have little interest in the cultural and scientific aspects of the trip. On the island, the archaeologist blasts charges on a slope and uncovers a buried metal crypt. Behind its door the diverse group of four humans discover a "great hall of mysterious relics". They also find two extra-terrestrials, with faces resembling the moai, who awake from their slumber and through telepathy offer the men gifts of whatever they desire.

The archaeologist asks for knowledge so that he may understand who these visitors are, where they are from and the purpose of their visit to Earth. He is told, "Our civilisation on a planet of the star Sirius was a great one! We desired to civilise all other worlds in the universe". In a flashback, an exchange occurs between two aliens as the original spaceship approaches earth: "A beautiful world this third planet - but still barbaric", "Yes, but we can civilise its people – the science we teach them will bring them peace and plenty!".

The spacecraft subsequently lands not on the Easter Island as we know it today but on the mythical Pacific continent of Mu, of which Easter Island was the highest point. The inhabitants of Mu create moai statues resembling the extra-terrestrials which were located on the top of Mu's highest mountain. The islanders were offered advanced technology but did not use it wisely. As an alien informs, "we taught the people of Mu, giving them great scientific secrets...But they misused their powers to fight each other, and unchained a terrible disaster! […] They were not worthy of their knowledge!".

One aspect of the "terrible disaster" was the flooding of underground volcanoes and the sinking of Mu into the sea, leaving only the highest mountain still visible above the ocean. As Mu all but disappeared the indigenous population was wiped out leaving only the extra-terrestrials, who put themselves into a state of suspended animation in the hope that future generations would discover them and that these, hopefully, more advanced humans would be 'worthy' of the knowledge and powers that could be shared.

Two of the other men accompanying the archaeologist ask for wealth, which is given in the form of diamonds and strength, the latter provided via a 'Z-ray' that stimulates the growth of muscle tissue. The final man asks for the power to control others, which comes via a 'psycho-helmet' which would allow him to command anyone near him. The man with the 'psycho-helmet' attempts to gain all of the extra-terrestrials' powers and threatens to destroy them if they do not cooperate.

It transpires that the giving of the initial powers had been a test to see how humans would use, or misuse, them. Once again, the human race is seen to be not yet worthy and the extra-terrestrials return to their state of suspended animation, having erased the memories of the three men who failed their test. Only the archaeologist who simply asked for knowledge is praised by the extra-terrestrials. He is allowed to keep his knowledge of them and their mission, but only on the condition that he tells no-one else. In the final frame of this story the archaeologist asks himself, "How long before they wake again? How long before Earthmen are wise enough to receive the scientific powers of those who sleep beneath Easter Island?".

Oddly, the front cover illustration to this comic depicts humans being threatened by an aggressive-looking alien with moai features, who declares "You have betrayed the secret of Easter Island! Now – await your doom!". As with many other publishers of comics there is a perception that greater financial returns can be achieved from appealing to the stereotype of threatening, combative aliens rather than more peaceful and beneficial encounters. In fact, the visitors from outer space described in the pages inside are far from aggressive. Apart from being unusual in presenting extra-terrestrials in a more positive light this storyline goes further than most other comics of the time in providing a back-story for the origins of not only the moai but also Easter Island itself and the fate of the original human inhabitants. In doing so, it was the first comic to connect Easter Island with extra-terrestrials and it is telling that the story was written by the well-known science fiction author Edmond Hamilton, who was the first person to introduce aliens into moai culture with his 1926 short story Across Space (reviewed below).

This narrative can be read as a form of morality tale concerned more with the frailties of the human characters than the advanced abilities of the extra-terrestrials. Published just seven years after the end of World War II and during the early years of the Cold War it can also be read as a tale of unease and an inability to trust human intentions. For technology can equate to power, but as advances are made there are serious questions as to whether humankind exhibits sufficient responsibility to harness it appropriately. The story warns that any abuse of the technology will lead to destruction.

There is a brief mention of tablets containing "ideographic script" which the archaeologist has deciphered, but this early comic book reference to rongorongo is undeveloped. The opening page also presents the archaeologist within a San Francisco museum, where he stands staring at a moai on display. Comics up to this date had generally depicted the moai as distant objects. This is the first time in a comic that a moai is shown on display within a western institution, though the carvings continue to be regarded as mysterious: "the greatest secret of the past – I could solve it, but no one is willing to give me a chance", says the archaeologist. As popular culture was starting to discover Easter Island it was convenient for the moai to remain unfamiliar and devoid of their real cultural and historical context. In doing so, fiction could populate the void with its broad fantasies.

Roy Smith and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Il Vittorioso [The Victorious]
‘Rapa-Nui – Isola misteriosa’ [‘Rapa-Nui – Mysterious Island’]
(vol.16, no.40, 5 October 1952, Azione Cattolica)

Like the French weekly publications Vaillant, Le Téméraire and Tintin, Il Vittorioso (1937-1966) is part comic and part educational magazine, with the stories/ reports predominantly addressing history and world cultures. Interestingly, Il Vittorioso was published by a Catholic association, which promoted wholesome and morally positive comic content as a direct response to the dominant Italian comics that were being read by young people.

One page of this Italian language large format publication is devoted to Rapanui, with three supporting sketches included. This feature is typical of the period with fact mixed with imagination, unfortunately leaving the reader believing the entire piece as true. In this account, moai are wrongfully depicted adorning the rooftop corners and ends of buildings at Orongo. A strange-looking moai is also drawn with a gripping hand. But it is the magazine’s cover that is unquestionably its most spectacular element, with a full-page colour image of three people – who are possibly tourists – riding across a landscape populated with an excess of moai. Most striking is the large head and shoulders drawing of an indigenous woman, who dominates almost half the cover but does not appear elsewhere within the magazine. The implication is that she is a Rapanui woman but her appearance is far from reality with her nose rings and braided hair placing her more within Africa.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Action Comics
'Tommy Tomorrow – The Easter Island of Space!'
(no.180, May 1953, DC Comics)

The story begins with a reference to Easter Island, with its "weird, giant statues" existing as "one of the greatest mysteries of all time". Fast forward to the future and Colonel Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers, who "tries to solve the perilous puzzle of The Easter Island of Space!".

Astronomer Dr John Garrow observes through his telescope a strange new planet, a "cosmic mystery" and "a world such as no one ever dreamed could exist!". It lies in an "unexplored sector" and is considered inhabited or "was so once!". Believing it may contain "valuable scerets", Tommy and fellow Planeteer, Brent Wood, are assigned to fly Garrow and his assistant Kaimes to the new world. Garrow is hiding from the Planeteers the full details of what he saw through his telescope and Kaimes proposes that any secrets they may find should belong to them only.

Travelling through a meteor storm, they arrive at a "weirdly silent world" where in the sky above are three moons each bearing giant faces, which have been carved into their rock. Tommy says that they remind him of the moai on Easter Island. They discover an abandoned and destroyed city, whereupon a television screen is automatically activated.

The transmitted message warns the team of the evil of Tarnach, which had wrecked the metropolis. Tarnach was a great but evil scientist who desired power and was therefore exiled from the planet to the third moon. Promising revenge, Tarnach then set about carving his terrifying image into the rock of the third moon, which then in an attempt to gain control fired atomic bolts from its eyes at his home planet. The planet's remaining great scientists, Karrul and Dorn were sent to this moon and they managed to destroy Tarnach but they were mortally wounded in the fight. The inhabitants of the planet evacuated for another world, but first they carved the faces of Karrul and Dorn into the other two moons as monuments to the deceased heroes.

Kaimes imagines how powerful he could be in possession of Tarnach's weapons so that night he steals Tommy's rocketship to fly to the third moon. There he starts firing on his marooned comrades. Tommy realises they can use "space-sleds" left by the previous inhabitants and he and Brent fly these straight into the eyes of the moon's face. As the eyes explode, Tommy and Brent use hand-rockets to parachute to safety. They climb inside the mouth of the moon face where Kaimes is found inside. A hand-rocket thrown by the Planeteers brings a rock fall crashing down on to Kaimes. Tommy and Brent flee the cave-in and escape in their spaceship. Reflecting on their visit to the newly discovered world, the Planeteeers conclude that "those great faces will watch it forever, as they have watched it for ages!".

On the surface, Easter Island is a tangential reference point for this outer space fantasy. It is never depicted, and mentioned in just three separate frames, with the moon faces more reminiscent of Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon (1902). However, the writers of this comic clearly had Easter Island firmly in mind when constructing their story. The new world that is discovered is faraway and in a previously unexplored space sector. The vastness of the Pacific is swapped here for the vastness of the galaxy, with the new planet abandoned by its population who have left behind monumental giant faces carved into rock, that look across the silent terrain. By the early 1950s, the possibilities of Easter Island for popular fiction led to an opening up of new adventures, which saw this comic take an immediate broad turn to extend the fantasy far into outer space.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Adventure Comics
'The Girl of Steel'
(no.189, June 1953, DC Comics)

The father of one of Superboy's classmates, Lana Lang, is an archaeologist who has recently returned from Easter Island. Whilst there he uncovered a small belt made of strange metal, which Lana tries on and in doing so immediately acquires new powers. She now has the ability to fly and lift heavy objects (the device has "anti-gravitational powers") and be invulnerable to bullets (the device also has "anti-magnetic qualities"). The belt proves Lana's father's theory that the carvers of the moai were extra-terrestrials. As he tells a fellow archaeologist, "I believe these were carved by a race of superior people, who landed here many years ago from another planet". Alongside the belt they also discover a space helmet.

Lana discovers that her new powers make her almost like Superboy, so she fashions herself a costume and becomes a superhero, Sky Girl, saving Smallville from crime and danger. This provides competition for Superboy's heroism, but Sky Girl is vulnerable to heat and wood. Superboy discovers that Lana is behind Sky Girl and speaks with her father who suggests the belt is destroyed. The belt is hurled by Superboy, "far out into space".

The storyline develops around the superpowers Lana Lang temporarily acquires as a result of wearing a special belt. The original owners, the extra-terrestrials, are never shown but are established to be a highly advanced race: "people thousands of years ahead of us in scientific development". The moai appear in a single frame but they are a poor rendition of the actual stone figures – a symptom of a time when popular culture's myths of Easter Island were primitive. Yet, as comics were beginning to incorporate Easter Island into their narratives the distant civilisation clearly functioned as an easy tool for introducing technology and powers that were found nowhere else on earth. In this story, the powers are comparable to those of Superboy, a refugee from another planet.

Like many of the comics of this period, romance is also a central element of the story with the belt briefly giving Lana equality alongside the young Clark Kent, whom she idolises. The independent young girl is soon, however, contained by masculinity with her father and Superboy agreeing to permanently remove the device that gave her the special powers.

Ian Conrich and Roy Smith

Jump to contents

Wonder Woman
'The Stone Slayer!'
(no.65, April 1954, DC Comics)

Important scientists have started to disappear – eleven so far – and if their knowledge fell into enemy hands it would be "catastrophic to America!". In a military intelligence projection room a film is screened that mysteriously shows there is a stone carving of Wonder Woman on Easter Island, despite the fact she has never been there before. Wonder Woman, accompanied by military man Steve, flies to Easter Island in her special jet, where en route they witness an ocean liner being lifted into the air in 4 severed parts, damaged as a result of quadruple lightning strikes. Wonder Woman lassos the parts together again and lowers the liner back to the ocean surface and to safety.

Once on Easter Island, Wonder Woman and Steve gaze upon the moai and question how and why they were built. But they are suddenly paralysed by rays shot from the eyes of the Wonder Woman statue. A door opens from within the statue and men with giant heads emerge taking the captive Wonder Woman and Steve down a staircase, deep inside and into "a huge underground chamber". There they discover the kidnapped scientists and Wonder Woman is told that she has been lured to the island through the statue of her, which was constructed as a decoy. These large-head men reveal they are from the planet Lapizuria and another solar system. They had come to Earth as an advance party to observe the planet before an invasion force arrives, but they crashed into the sea off Easter Island.

The moai were constructed in their likeness as a signal to fellow Lapizurians that they were marooned on Earth. Passing ships were attacked simply as target practice in preparation for the invasion, and the scientists were then kidnapped to help the aliens build a spaceship. The scientists did not possess the necessary knowledge, but through telepathy the aliens learnt from their captives that Wonder Woman was the sole person on Earth who did possess spaceship-building knowledge. Wonder Woman refuses to help and is told she must therefore die.

Suddenly, and unexpectedly, a Lapizurian spaceship arrives, the aliens decide that as they depart they should destroy Wonder Woman by tying her between the spaceship lifting off and her stone carving. The effect actually awakens Wonder Woman from her paralysis and she hurls the carving of herself at the spaceship which is destroyed and prevented from blasting further rays at Easter Island and the prisoners.

This was the first time Wonder Woman visited Easter Island, but it was not the last. She later visited the island in the comic Super Powers (1985), where yet again a stone figure was carved in her likeness (see review below), in an issue of the comic JLA (2000; see the review below), and in a children's animation, Justice League, in 2003, where she fought Aquaman (see the review above). The four fantasies produced across different decades reveal much about the evolution of Wonder Woman, the ways in which she has been drawn, and the narratives in which she featured in American popular culture.

In a world of male scientists and soldiers, Wonder Woman's power and knowledge are supreme, but she still acts within their service. The story contains fragments of a cold war narrative/fear, with kidnapped scientists, captives forced into building a spaceship, decoys and mindreading for gaining information. The final frame has Wonder Woman issuing a warning to the men (and to readers): "we all have to be constantly alert for a treacherous blow – no matter from whence it may come!".

Significantly, this is the first comic to associate the moai with a fear of alien (or foreign) invasion. It therefore needs to be noted that the origins of the thread of alien invasion moai narratives that runs through so many later fictions, commenced here with a cold war fear. It is also the first story to bring secret moai doorways, stairs and underground passages to the fiction, as well as the first to imagine the carvings as weapons and therefore as active rather than passive figures. The aliens in this story are more human looking than those that were to follow in other fantasies, and these are funny-looking kilt and cap wearing men that seem part Scottish and part Egyptian, albeit with very large heads that would surely unbalance their bodies.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Mystery Tales
‘The Stone Heads!’
(no.24, December 1954, Atlas Comics)

A man lands by boat on Easter Island to research the moai for his new book: “I was hoping to throw some light on the origin of the giant, fantastic stone heads”. The researcher takes photographs of the moai, but when he compares them to the images published in the “standard text on the island” he observes that over a twenty-year period they have not only moved, but also “their facial expressions had subtly changed”. Looking further back in older books he learns that half of the moai were once “lying flat” whereas all are now standing upright.

The man speaks to the Rapanui, “of which only a few hundred still lived on the island”. One advises, “Always here! But how got here, we not know!”, although he adds that his grandfather had been told by his grandfather of long ago “big fire thing like volcano fly into ocean by shore!”. The researcher investigates and discovers by the shore increased radiation in or under the water. He dons his scuba diving gear and swimming to the sea bed the man finds a flying saucer and climbs inside. In its control room, he sees a map of the world, on which spots are marked, leading the man to conclude that these aliens were planning a conquest of Earth.

Back on land, the man realises that the moai are not statues but “they were living, alien creatures who had reached Earth”. He digs at the foot of a moai and to his horror finds that they have bodies. He concludes that the moai came from a different “time dimension” where things are slower giving them their apparent “stoniness”. Moreover, the gravity of their world has allowed them to grow very large. As he writes his diary entry he wonders why the moai are looking skywards, as if “watching for the coming of the other ships”. In the final frame, a fleet of flying saucers arrive as the moai rise up and in doing so suck the man into the ground.

The Myth of Movement can be traced back into Rapanui legends in which the moai were said to have walked into their positions. A modern version of the myth began in a 1943 issue of the American publication Super Magician Comics (reviewed above), in which a moai comes alive, albeit the result of a trick, with three men inside a model manipulating its animated body. It is, however, in this 1954 Mystery Tales comic that the defining version of the modern Myth of Movement was born, with the moai seen as slumbering aliens awaiting the point at which they would arise. Unlike Rapanui legends this is not a story of the moai moving into position, but of the moai removing themselves from the places in which they have been buried. The Mystery Tales story was written at a time of alien invasion narratives, when post World War II, scenarios imagining world conquest were increasingly leading to a fear of unfriendly visitors from another planet and Earth’s advances in rocket technology rapidly gave life to new stories of unidentified flying objects.

The result is a comic which, as the progenitor of the modern Myth of Movement, establishes a path in fiction that ‘resolves’ the mystery of the unearthly moai by viewing them as survivors of a crashed spaceship. Appearing in an Atlas Comics publication, a label which would become Marvel Comics, this particular myth was then magnified through later Marvel stories with a similar theme, that appeared in Tales to Astonish (1959, reviewed below), Tales to Astonish (1961, reviewed below) and Tales of Suspense (1962, reviewed below), with each republished in later Marvel issues. It is in these stories that the movement of the moai is made more dramatic as they walk and talk; in this Mystery Tales story, movement is unseen (even the final frame is a little unclear), with the researcher concluding the statues move very slowly and their changed position and appearance is detected only through studying differences in photographs. The story was republished in the UK in the comic Secrets of the Unknown (no.41, 1966).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(no.336, 31 March 1955, Dargaud Editeur)

March 1722 and Jacob Roggeveen, captaining his Dutch ship which is sailing from Santiago, Chile to New Zealand, becomes stuck at sea when the wind drops. Going nowhere, the drinking water on board becomes fetid and the crew becomes restless and talks of rebellion. Lieutenant Jan reads in a book that 36 years previously an explorer had found an unknown island towards the 27th parallel. Jan takes a crew of men in a row boat to explore the possibility of such land whilst also following the flight of an albatross. Upon later sighting Easter Island, and after a period at sea, the men exclaim "Happy Easter!" and "It's a true resurrection!".

Reaching the shore, the crew observe the Rapanui to be like other indigenous people of the Pacific, and describe the moai as a "wall of bizarre statues". The Rapanui, who have never seen white men before, are friendly and offer the Dutch sailors baskets of fruit containing bananas and oranges. They also delight in eating local eggs. The sailors erect a wooden cross near the coastline in recognition of Christ and their salvation. With the wind having now picked up, the main ship with Roggeveen arrives soon after. The Rapanui are "brave people" but they ran into the hills when the main ship fired cannon shots to announce its arrival.

Roggeveen instructs his crew to collect provisions – water and fresh fruit – to enable their onward journey. But they also decide that they should take one of the lighter moai as it will be of interest to Dutch scientists. The sailors find the moai they select to be very heavy and after a few hours decide to pause for the night and continue in the morning. That evening they watch fires in the distance and Jan says that the Rapanui will have the Dutch crew "on spikes". Roggeveen dismisses Jan's active imagination. In the morning, the crew again works hard to move the moai down a hillside and towards their ship. This time, the Rapanui, wielding spears and bows and arrows, are watching them closely from behind rocks. The Dutch grab their guns, but Roggeveen tells them not to fire for fear of "provoking a carnage".

Roggeveen approaches the Rapanui and tells them he is a "friend". The captain is unable to communicate but one of his crew says he can understand a little as the Rapanui speak the language of "the islands of the South". The crewman says that the Rapanui will leave them alone if they stop trying to remove their god. Roggeveen subsequently orders his men to abandon trying to move the moai. The Rapanui furthermore ask that the sign that the Dutch built to their own god, the wooden cross that was erected, is also left on the island to give protection. The cross is left in the middle of a cluster of moai as the Dutch sail away. The Dutch note the exact position of the "unknown" place and decide to give it the name of 'Easter Island'.

Roggeveen has been the subject of a range of moai comics, but this was the first. A four page untitled story, it appeared a year before the British comic Topper, with its one page feature (reviewed below) and three years before Spirou with its fanciful narrative imagining the Dutch encounter with the Rapanui (reviewed below). This edition of the French comic Tintin is equally fanciful in its story. So much of what it presents was never recorded in Roggeveen's log, whilst most of what was recorded is absent. The story is yet another Easter tie-in designed to foreground the link between the religious holiday/ festivities and a distant Pacific island. In this comic, the moai are sacred gods and are compared with the wooden cross that the Dutch erect amidst the stone colossi. Roggeveen never recorded the cross (three crosses were erected by the Spanish in 1770) or an attempt to remove a moai. With later foreign ships taking moai without permission, this comic surprisingly offers a more peaceful and respectful conclusion to an act of cultural plundering.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Easter Island: Mystery Island of the Pacific'
(no.165, 31 March 1956, D.C. Thomson)

Topper was a British comic for children, printed on A3 tabloid size paper. Filling one complete page of this issue is a series of eight coloured stand-alone frames each detailing a specific fact about Easter Island. This is the earliest known British comic to engage with Easter Island and one of the earliest anywhere to relay educational information. By the time of this comic, celebrated Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl had been on Easter Island for five months and was attracting interest in his work, which is repeated in one panel that states "it is possible that the first natives to settle on the island came by rafts from South America". But with the associated best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, not published until 1957, the Topper comic freely fills in gaps, makes many mistakes and employs some artistic licence to illustrate points.

For a British comic it is rather strange that Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen is presented but there is no mention of Captain James Cook. The moai are bizarrely shown singular on small and short square plinths and not the ahu (platforms) that are rather different. It states that each moai had a pukao (topknot), which is incorrect and this is repeated in the drawing for the moai that was taken by the British in 1868. In fact, moai Hoa Hakananai'a, which the British stole aboard HMS Topaze, never had a pukao. The birdman race depicts the competitors racing ashore on a sandy beach with no sign at all of the reality of a steep rocky cliff. Here, a waiting elder is shown wearing a birdman hat, whilst the penultimate panel is wrong to say that "[t]he King and all his wise men died in captivity" following the Peruvian slave raids of 1862. Such narratives further romanticise a series of images that are designed to appeal to young readers.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'L'Ile des Surprises' ['The Island of Surprises']
(no.43, 19 July 1956, Georges Lang)

Little pirate captain Pepito and his fellow buccaneers, Ventempoupe and Crochette, are stuck on an unknown island after their little boat sinks. They maintain a fire in the hope that they can be seen by their mother ship, the 'Peanut', and be rescued. A volcano on the island suddenly erupts resulting in earth tremors and lava flowing towards the sea. The trio hurriedly build a raft but Ventempoupe sees they are being watched by a native and gives chase. He soon discovers it is a trap: he is ambushed by a group of natives and tied to a stake whereupon he finds they have already captured Crochette, but not Captain Pepito.

The buccaneers, the "white men", are blamed for the volcanic eruption and will be sacrificed. From Pepito's hiding place he hatches a plan to rescue his companions. He discovers what he believes are cannonballs and has the idea of firing them from a volcanic vent. Alas, these are found to be balls of cheese that splat on impact. Meanwhile, a flow of lava has burnt through the ropes restraining Ventempoupe and Crochette, setting them free.

Pepito restarts his cheese ball cannon, but the first missile lands straight in the face of a fleeing Crochette. The natives are not far behind and Ventempoupe and Crochette turn to face them and fight. They are backed up by Pepito and his cheese ball cannon which fires missiles at the natives. The trio now spy their ship, the 'Peanut', and race to the sea. They swim to a rescue boat, just managing to escape a shark which a sailor bashes on the head with an oar. The sailor declares he does not want to be told anymore about unknown islands for they have far too many unwanted surprises.

Pepito is an Italian comic book that began in 1955 and lasted just two years, but it was more popular in France, where issues were published for twenty-eight years. This edition is one of the earliest known French comics to engage with Easter Island, though the place is never mentioned by name – it is simply an unknown island, or an island of surprises. However, populating this volcanic island is a series of stone heads, some of which bear a pukao (or topknot) as can be seen on the front cover. These are stone carvings inspired by the moai and are drawn in a style of modernism that was popular in the 1950s. Also of the period are the heavily stereotyped islanders whose difference is exaggerated as spear-carrying nose-pierced toothy simpletons or as primitive stone-age brutes who believe in human sacrifices to placate a volcano god.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

'L'ile Mystérieuse' ['The Mysterious Island']
(no.1042, 3 April 1958, Editions J. Dupuis)

It is Easter Sunday 1722 and Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen and the crew of his three captained ships spy previously uncharted land, which they decide to call Easter Island. As Roggeveen deliberates how best to engage with the islanders, a canoe comes alongside and a sole Rapanui boards a boat. They give this "savage" a meal and he mistakes the knife and spoon as pendants and sticks one in each extended ear lobe. And unsure what to do with a glass of wine he throws the liquid into his face.

As night falls, the canoe is sent back with gifts to show the good intentions of the Dutch visitors. At dawn, the Dutch approach the island with care and realise that the giants that they saw from a distance are not the islanders but in fact stone statues, which they understand are the gods of the Rapanui. One sailor declares Rapanui to be a "funny island", whilst another says he is scared. They note that there are no trees and cannot comprehend the great achievement of making, transporting and erecting the moai.

A high priest invites Roggeveen and his crew to follow him up a slope and into a cave, where inside a crater they witness the place where the moai are created. They also discover a large example of rongorongo, which they cannot decipher. Meanwhile, the high priest has climbed the high ridge of the crater, where he then pushes a moai that begins to wobble. Fearing this is a trap, one of the sailors shoots at the high priest, and without any orders from Roggeveen. The sailor is reprimanded by Roggeveen and told he will be put in irons.

As Roggeveen and his men leave the crater they encounter an angry population shouting for the Europeans to die. Roggeveen orders his crew to be careful and to not shed blood needlessly. Back on board their ships, Roggeveen realises that they left their rations behind on the island and they cannot sail without them. His officer warns that they cannot go back as the population is enraged. Roggeveen says they will fire their cannons at the moai with the aim of demolishing two or three. This quells the unrest and, to placate the Dutch, the Rapanui send them canoes of food. In return, the Dutch leave the islanders fabrics and glassware, and treat the wounded high priest.

Roggeveen departs pondering the unanswered history of the island and wishes rongorongo could be deciphered. The modern-day host, pipe-smoking Uncle Paul, who heads the story, concludes by telling the reader that Jean-François Champollion had deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics and he asks who will translate rongorongo. Uncle Paul advises the reader that they can observe a moai – one taken from the island by Pierre Loti in 1872 – by visiting the Museum of Man in Paris.

For a story that gives the impression it is educational, there are a worryingly high number of mistakes and fabrications. This French comic says Roggeveen saw Easter Island on 6 April, when it was 5 April. A high priest is shot and survives, with nobody dying, when in reality the Dutch shot and killed ten or twelve Rapanui (according to Roggeveen's own account). Moreover, the Dutch cannons in this story fire at and demolish three moai, when that definitely never happened. The official log of Roggeveen records that a sole Rapanui did board a Dutch ship, but no meal, cutlery or wine was given though it was recorded that the man was startled by a mirror where he saw his own reflection and that he was gifted the mirror, a pair of scissors and two strings of blue beads. A chief showed Roggeveen the site of plantation and food production but not Rano Raraku, as the comic imagines. Much of the encounter in this comic is an embellishment of Roggeveen's visit and at worse a fiction. Certainly, Roggeveen makes no record of rongorongo (or rock carvings of the birdman, which appear in one frame), but the comic is particularly interested in this aspect of the island's culture as it connects with and promotes the work of the French scientist Champollion (for a French readership).

Finally, the comic encourages readers to see for themselves a moai in Paris. Admittedly, the illustrations in this publication manage to capture a reasonable likeness of the moai but a visit to Easter Island (or better research) would have added to the resemblance. In this comic the moai are positioned all wrong – one balanced on the crater edge of Rano Raraku is especially dramatic but completely detached from reality. Presenting the moai singularly on high-raised plinths also removes them from the truth.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

House of Mystery
'The Stone Sentinels of Giant Island'
(no.85, April 1959, DC Comics)

A group of scientists are sailing across the Pacific studying ocean currents. It is a route that many ships have sailed previously so they are surprised to sight an uncharted island. They land on the island and discover three giant stone head carvings which they note are reminiscent of those on Easter Island. When they investigate inland they find pools of seawater and marine vegetation. This leads them to conclude that the island must have risen from the ocean relatively recently, which only deepens the mystery of who had carved the statues.

One of the scientists finds an inscription that he is starting to decipher when there is a rumbling sound and the group are astonished to see one of the statues coming to life with its full body emerging from the earth. The scientists run away and are pursued by the monolith. They manage to hide in a cave where Spears, who had been deciphering the inscription, tells the others what he has learned. Many centuries ago the island had been part of the mainland where a spacecraft had landed and the aliens on board had built a dome-covered base that was protected by giant sentinels. These sentinels were needed to protect the base from dinosaurs and were powered by a ray from a distant star. When the aliens departed the sentinels remained to continue their guarding duties. Since that time the island had sunk beneath the sea, and being disconnected from the controlling ray the sentinels became immobile with silt and sand covering the lower part of their bodies.

Exploring the cave system they have entered two of the scientists find the alien base. Meanwhile, the other sentinels are also awakening. Spears is able to read instructions in the base's control room and activates a mechanism which produces clouds of blue smoke on the surface of the island. This acts as a barrier to the ray that has been powering the sentinels and they become immobile again. The scientists take this opportunity to make their escape. As they sail away from the island they see it sinking below the surface of the sea.

Whilst Rapanui is not named, this isolated Pacific island is clearly inspired by Easter Island, of which one of the scientists is reminded when he sees the stone monoliths. A common storyline in moai fiction is the imagining of the stone figures as slumbering giants. This comic follows on from Mystery Tales (reviewed above), which then seems to inspire rival company Marvel Comics to revisit its own idea five months later in Tales to Astonish (reviewed below). Another root of the fantasy would appear to be in Thor Heyerdahl's best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, which was published just two years earlier in 1957. That book presented Heyerdahl's studies of the island and the moai, which included the excavation of some of the figures revealing that they had significant bodies extending below ground.

In moai fiction, the moai were yet to talk – that did not come until Tales to Astonish (September 1959). There is therefore no verbal interaction between the humans and extra-terrestrials, but the communication void is filled by the deciphering of a carved inscription that is undoubtedly a reference to rongorongo. Popular culture has fantasised that the inscription would helpfully reveal the answers to the perceived mysteries of the moai, and unlike the researchers who have spent decades trying to unlock the writing system the scientist in this story has the wonderful ability to understand what it says within minutes

With the indigenous population absent the story allows the moai to have a history that extends back into prehistoric times, where they are shown forming a defence against attacking dinosaurs. Such Pacific islands neither had nor could possibly sustain these dinosaurs, but the introduction of a beached sperm whale into the story (referred to here as a blue whale) allows for a demonstration of the moai's strength and guardian duties which requires that all beasts are repelled from the site. A whale-tossing moai is arguably the story's most unique moment.

Roy Smith and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'The Lost Worlds'
(no.7, July 1962, Charlton Comics)

Professor Trams relays the legends of lost continents: of Mu, Lemuria and Atlantis. Focusing on Atlantis, Trams says that some believe that it existed and that "people of the lost land survived!". Trams takes the reader next to Central America and the mighty Mayan civilisation to present evidence of the survival of the Atlanteans. The Spanish conquistadors had destroyed much of ancient Mayan culture, but in 1930 a Brazilian scholar translated a rare preserved Mayan manuscript. The text revealed that the Mayan's ancestors had long ago survived the sinking of their homeland. Professor Smart turns to the Olmec heads of Mexico and the moai on Easter Island as further proof of a once formidable lost world. He concludes by stating, "some feel that Easter Island was the burial ground for a chain of lost islands that vanished soon after being discovered by Captain John Davis in 1687. And so we leave the answers to you. Did the lost worlds really exist?".

Drawn by Steve Ditko, who was later to join Marvel Comics and help create Spider-Man, this short 3-page story is presented as a fact-based history lesson that is designed to create more questions (the final image ends with a giant question mark) than answers and to raise the fascination of its readership in an unfamiliar part of the world. Professor Trams (which is 'Smart' written backwards), smoking his pipe, standing next to a globe and appearing in various headshots at points in the story, is a man of knowledge and a figure of authority who guides the reader through the 'facts' much like the narrator or guide in a documentary film.

Mu is mentioned, but surprisingly is abandoned for Atlantis as the story's focus for the legends of lost Pacific lands. The buccaneer Edward Davis, appears here as John Davis and he is credited with discovering "a chain of lost islands", which mixes some fact with plenty of fiction. Davis was searching for a mythical new continent and seemed to have discovered a new island, which he called Davis Island in 1687. It is that discovery that inspired the voyage of Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who was then acknowledged as the first European to encounter Easter Island in 1722. The fantasies that Davis Island opens up are rarely developed in moai culture and the possibilities have occurred on just two other occasions, in Super Magician Comics (see the review above) and the British comic Lion and Thunder (see the review below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Justice League of America
'The Challenge of the Untouchable Aliens!'
(no.15, November 1962, DC Comics)

Phantom stone creatures emerge and disappear out of nowhere. They can touch objects on Earth, but earthlings cannot connect back leaving the Justice League of America (JLA), with their assembled superpowers, unable to fight effectively. The JLA in this comic are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, J'onn J'onzz, the Atom and Green Arrow.

High above the Earth in a Sky Fortress, a new American defence system is being tested which can rapid-fire nuclear shells thereby intercepting and destroying incoming missiles. Before, however, the test can begin it comes under attack from an unseen force, leaving the people inside falling out of the sky. Superman and Wonder Woman are on hand to help catch the hurtling humans who are placed back on board the fortress whilst it is gently brought back to earth. But neither can stop the atomic cannon from being stolen by the invisible force. The cannon is now turned on a skyscraper, leaving Flash to evacuate the entire building in quick time. Wonder Woman and Superman next focus on the missile from the failed test, which is lassoed and thrown into outer space, and then on the cannon, which is crumpled beyond use.

An emergency meeting of the JLA is called where they learn that the USA, the Soviet Union and "England" have had their "most destructive weapons" stolen. The message also alerts them to sightings of stone giants in three global cities. The JLA split into three teams to investigate.

J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern and Aquaman arrive in Tokyo, where they see a stone giant staring skywards. He has been waiting for a nuclear missile to arrive. The JLA attempt to send the missile away from harm and into outer space but they are initially stopped by the giant. Another giant is found under the sea firing nuclear missiles and is attacked by Aquaman. The trio succeed in containing the threat, but all are now in the clutches of the two giants. Then suddenly the giants disappear, releasing the trio.

Next, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Atom arrive in Brasilia, Brazil, where they find two stone giants waiting. Strange lightning follows, commencing a defence system that coats the city with a material that protects it from foreign attack. The system has been activated, as a weapon within the clouds is causing a rain to fall that would otherwise dissolve the city. The JLA intervenes to try and halt the rain, but they are hindered again by the giants. The Atom manages to switch off the rain machine but as he falls back to earth he is caught in a giant's fist. Wonder Woman and Superman are held too by a stone fist before all three superheroes are abruptly released as the giants disappear.

At Central City, Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern find the giants using another stolen device, pushing this one into the ground and causing an earthquake. Green Lantern grows multiple hands, which manage to hold the shaking city buildings together. Batman and Flash go after the giants but they are caught in the stone fists unable to fight back. Green Lantern is powerless too as the giants go after him with the aim of stealing his magic ring. He lets them have his ring but he has willed it inert and as part of his plan the giants now disappear to their own dimension. There, the ring probes the giants' minds allowing Green Lantern to understand the situation.

A few days before, the giants had exploded a cobalt bomb at the same time and place as Earth had detonated a nuclear bomb. The giants live in another dimension alongside Earth, separated by just a single minute. The simultaneous exploding of the two bombs created a shift in the time continuum. The giants are scientists (six of them), who have now been able to peer into the human dimension of Earth for the first time. The minute that separates the two worlds is narrowing and the three cities of impact that would lead to an immense nuclear holocaust are where the giants have appeared and intervened, trying to destroy the human cities first.

Batman, Flash and the Green Lantern, with the help of Lantern's ring now enter the dimension of the giants where they try to move these alien cities out of the way, whilst also battling the monoliths. The giants plead with the JLA to stop fighting and listen, because if they manage to move the cities everything will be destroyed in both worlds. Quick-thinking Green Lantern realises that he can save both worlds if he simply resets Earth back to the one minute that separates the two dimensions. All is saved and the grateful giants thank the JLA.

By late 1962, there had been a small rush of Marvel comics depicting the moai in fantasies where they come alive and as stone giants threaten helpless humans. Whilst Easter Island is not directly referenced in this comic, the depiction of these stone giants bears sufficient connection to the moai, who act here as figures trying to warn the Earth about the unfolding global crisis as a result of nuclear testing. 1961-1962 was a particularly acute period in the Cold War with the arms race and strategic missile deployment creating an increased fear of permanent and catastrophic world damage, that this comic reflects. In a tale of nuclear destruction it is no coincidence that one of the cities of concern in this story is Tokyo.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'The Jaguar – The Immortal Alien'
(no.141, December 1962, Close-Up, Inc.)

Archaeologists digging on Easter Island believe they may have found the answer to the origins of the moai. Major Kress's theory is that the statues had been built by aliens in their own image. Unfortunately, Kress died in a shark attack off Easter Island. Excavating beneath a moai the team find a sarcophagus made from volcanic rock, from which suddenly emerges alive an alien whose head resembles the stone carvings.

The creature of curiosity is taken to the USA, where scientists test and examine it "before we take him on a world tour!". The alien's body is made of "indestructible metal", which survives experiments in which a hand grenade is exploded and flames are introduced to a testing chamber. Superhero The Jaguar, has been watching these experiments and decides to introduce his own – poison gas. This makes the moai panic and run, as it speaks for the first time "no!". The Jaguar grabs the moai and rips open its metal 'body', revealing inside Major Kress. His plan, along with two associates, had been to collect "millions" from being exhibited globally and then to disappear.

In the decade since 1952, when a comic had become the first to visualise the fanciful idea that the moai and aliens are connected, there had been a handful of stories that had explored the possibilities of extra-terrestrials within moai culture fiction. Despite its simplicity, this comic takes an original alternative approach and counters those stories presenting the notion that such thoughts of aliens is hokum. Of the countless comics that have since followed, the revelation that an archaeologist/ scientist is responsible for enhancing or manufacturing the mysteries of Easter Island has been rarely repeated and can be found in a much later adventure involving Scooby-Doo (see the review below).

The fake alien moai in the Jaguar story chalks a series of hieroglyphics onto a blackboard; an early comic book depiction of rongorongo. Under the watchful gaze of a group of white male experts, who are not "able to decipher his hieroglyphic language", there is talk of taking this wonder on a world tour. It evokes the way that first encounters saw inhabitants of new lands taken on western ships, whereupon their cultural and biological difference was exhibited on foreign stages.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

El Eternauta [The Eternaut]
(no.14, January 1963, Buenos Aires: Editorial Vea y Lea)

First published in 1957 in weekly newspaper instalments, El Eternauta is a classic science fiction Argentinian political comic, that was created by Hector Germán Osterheld and Francisco Solano López. It featured space and time travel, radioactive snow, dystopian worlds and alien invasion, and a protagonist, The Eternaut, a traveller through eternity, who is part of the human resistance. The story is set in the near future in 1963, when this new edition was published. Despite moai appearing on the front, the image does not relate to the content within, which is a comic combined with short fiction and non-fiction news, and includes a republication of El Eternauta. The cover image is reminiscent of others from around the same period, such as Amazing Stories (reviewed below) and Las Esferas de Rapa-Nui (reviewed below), in which a large moai is foregrounded either against a sky of alien worlds or of recently arrived space travellers whose rocketship is in the background.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘Le Secret de l’île de Paques’ [‘The Secret of Easter Island’]
(no. 111, April 1963, Artima)

Voyaging around the Cape Horn and into the Pacific, Tarou, his girlfriend Denise, and their friend Gérard experience a storm before sailing into calm seas. They are heading to Rapanui and Gérard advises that it has just 230 inhabitants. On reaching the volcanic island, they moor their yacht in an inlet and the three, along with Tarou’s companions, Salvator the lion, and Bali the monkey, take a smaller boat to the shore. The island appears deserted, but Denise spots some islanders at a distance; Tarou thinks they may be afraid of his lion and monkey. Gérard approaches the islanders, but he finds he is unable to speak their language. The islanders therefore communicate using hand signs and indicate that the visitors should go to another side of the island, where there is “something unusual”. The friends proceed, but with caution.

As they venture, they see their first moai, whereupon Gérard advises that the statues have existed for a long time and were carved by the ancestors of the current islanders. Gérard, however, realises there is something strange and he goes back to the boat to fetch some photos he has of Rapanui. Returning to Tarou and Denise he is able to show them with the help of a photo that this moai they have been observing was previously not part of the landscape. They compare the moai with others nearby and conclude they are made of the same volcanic material. Gérard thinks the new moai could by a sailors’ hoax.

As they are conversing, Bali, the monkey, climbs to the top of this new moai, making it wobble and leading Tarou to realise it is hollow. Suddenly, the moai topples over, narrowly missing Tarou. Now on its side, a voice emanates from within the fallen moai. Tarou is asked to control his lion and only then does a strange-looking man, wearing a telepathy helmet with an aerial-like device on top, feel comfortable to emerge from the moai. The stranger, an electrical engineer, says he will take the trio to his laboratory – a vast room which is located beneath the moai and reached via a series of stairs – but he asks that Bali and Salvator remain behind as his appliances are very fragile.

The stranger talks of his past. He had manipulated a rare metal and realised that whenever he transported it whilst passing by people he could hear their thoughts. With the help of a friend, called Storm, he developed the telepathy helmet and then sold the invention to an unnamed nation, which gave him an advance to perfect the device. The money allowed him to build his installation on Easter Island, with the new moai scaring away the islanders and making sure he would be left alone. Gérard is concerned about the impact such a device will have on mankind, whilst the stranger insists that Tarou tries on the helmet so he can demonstrate its power. But without warning, Tarou punches the stranger and knocks him unconscious. Tarou’s friends are confused by this moment of brutality, but they soon understand that they were actually in danger. The stranger had forgotten that whilst wearing the helmet Tarou could read all his thoughts. Tarou had therefore intervened before the stranger was able to use a gun he had stored in a draw. It appears that the stranger had been planning to eliminate Tarou and his friends.

The villainous inventor is tied up, whilst Gérard now puts on the helmet to communicate telepathically with Storm, who is based “nearby” in Tahiti. Gérard deceives Storm into thinking he is communicating with his inventor friend and so he reveals the coordinates for his location. Without further delay, the team with the inventor as a captive (and still unconscious) leave Easter Island and travel by yacht to Tahiti. An hour after being knocked out by Tarou, the inventor awakens on board the yacht, but he remains dazed, which Gérard says will aid them in capturing Storm. After five days at sea, Tarou, Denise and Gérard land on a small Tahitian island and, as their continued attempt to deceive Storm, and make him think nothing is amiss, they force the inventor (still dazed) to walk in front of them whilst wearing the helmet, which has now been deactivated. At the point at which Gérard reveals to Storm they are armed and attempts to take him prisoner, Storm knowing he has been betrayed lunges at the inventor sending the two of them off a cliff and to their deaths on the rocks below. Gérard says they will pass the knowledge of the metal and the invention to honest scientists.

Tarou, subtitled ‘son of the jungle’, was a French Tarzan, brought up by tigers as a child, when he lost his French father and indigenous mother in a Pacific storm. He first appeared in the French Aventure magazine in 1949, later in Dynamic and Ardan, before featuring in his own publication, Tarou, in 1954. That lasted for 222 issues until 1973, when his creator, Bob Dan (the pseudonym of Robert Dansler), died. Despite the cover for this adventure, where Tarou wears a singlet, and other adventures in which he appears bare-chested and more Tarzan-like, Tarou spends his time in this comic dressed as an ordinary man in a thick jumper and a pair of trousers. His unusual companions – the lion and monkey – which would also establish him as a Tarzan-figure, have minimal function in this story (halfway through they are left outside of the laboratory and practically forgotten) and appear more like pets. As with the adventures of Tarzan, Tarou is the man of action and the white saviour, whilst the indigenous people he encounters are either savages or frightened, and therefore need to be fought or rescued (in this story the latter).

Whilst this is a relatively early comic for moai culture, it is surprisingly unsophisticated in its use of Easter Island as a location, with the story also astonishingly simple, interventionist and full of narrative weaknesses. Easter Island was presumably chosen by the inventor so he could experiment in isolation, but there are better and easier places to build such a hideaway in the world – and one that would not require an underground construction, with a decoy moai on top. The islanders also would have surely seen the ‘secret’ laboratory and moai being built and consequently not been afraid. But in this story, Easter Island as a perceived land of wonders and mystery becomes an appropriate location for a telepathy helmet, albeit one that looks rather silly. And with the comic reducing the population to a small number of 230 people, they become disposable figures, imagined as primitive inhabitants, wearing loin cloths and forced to gesticulate to communicate, and who bear no resemblance to the Rapanui.

Within moai culture, evil geniuses and mad scientists have been easily attracted to Easter Island, and there have been other stories imagining a hollow moai containing a secret – see, for instance, World’s Finest Comics (reviewed above) and Mystery in Space (reviewed above). In the fantasy that is Tarou, there seems little need for research, with Easter Island simplified to one large volcanic cone. But interestingly the moai in one frame, which are unlike those found in reality on the island, have been copied from a sketch originally drawn in 1877 by a French explorer, Alphonse Pinart. It has been re-used elsewhere, but only within French popular culture – on the cover of the comic Big Boss (reviewed below), on a trade card (reviewed below) and on the cover for the 1990 edition of the novel Les sphères de Rapa-Nui (reviewed below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Ile de Pâques: Mystérieuse et Sauvage' ['Easter Island: Mysterious and Wild']
(no.209, October 1963, Dargaud)

Appearing in a French comic that was best known for introducing popular characters such as Astérix, this double page centre spread presents a full colour illustrated education map of Easter Island. Post publication of Thor Heyerdahl's best-selling book, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, in 1957, there was greater knowledge available for comics that wished to be educational, as opposed to fictional, in their narratives. This is clear in one side image in this double spread that shows a moai head consisting of a much larger body below ground, a fact established through Heyerdahl's excavations of a number of the carvings. Furthermore, it is clear in a series of images on the right side of the page that illustrate one of the theories tested by Heyerdahl as to how the moai were raised into position.

Much of this comic is accurately drawn and labelled and includes good illustrations of rongorongo, moai kavakava and even Makemake, though the carvings of the birdman at Orongo have erroneously been given an extra leg. Further errors include a pukao being moved by just two men, and many of the moai depicted facing out to sea, albeit they function here as simple icons showing specific locations. Tellingly, the map and images are historical and show the Rapanui and its culture in the past. It is frustrating that the people and culture of contemporary Rapanui are apparently of no interest for a text that was aiming high in its educational value.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

Aventuras de la Vida Real [Real Life Adventures]
(no.108, December 1964, Editorial Novaro)

Whilst focused on the 1947 journey by raft by adventurer Thor Heyerdahl – that crossed the Pacific from Peru to French Polynesia and did not include Easter Island – this comic cannot resist bringing in a few references to the moai. Mexican comics have exhibited a continuous fascination in the life, work and theories of Heyerdahl, for which this is the earliest known example. Presumably the level of interest is due to Heyerdahl’s beliefs in the connections between South America, Rapanui and Polynesia, which Aventuras de la Vida Real is keen to emphasise where possible.

Early in the comic, on a date of April 1940, Heyerdahl and his wife are on the Polynesian island of Fatu Hiva when suddenly in the jungle they come across a monolithic statue. It resembles more a moai than anything found on Fatu Hiva and Heyerdahl comments that it is similar to prehistoric monoliths found in Peru. In reality, the statues of Peru and Fatu Hiva are distinctly different. Towards the end of the comic another moai (badly drawn) is depicted with the reader told that Easter Island contains remnants of the Peruvian culture that once flourished there. Both moai depicted in this comic are poor representations, with one quite amateurish and the other relocated appearing as a stand-in for statues found on a different island. Meanwhile, Heyerdahl’s theories on the settlement of Polynesia from South America have since been proven wrong.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘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”.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
(1966, Gold Key/ K.K. Publications)

From the 1960s into the 1970s Gold Key published countless licensed comics that were adaptations of popular film, television and cartoon releases of the time. It had a particular commercial relationship with Walt Disney and adapted a number of its productions, including Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966, reviewed above), a castaway film which was received much better at the box office than it was by critics. This 32-page comic is largely a faithful adaption of the Disney film, judicially selecting and condensing the essential parts of the story. Within the film is a moai-like statue in the jungle, called Kaboona, which apparently only communicates with a local chief, thereby giving him control over his tribe. The artists for the comic have interestingly made this statue less moai-like and more human in appearance. Most noticeably, gone is the jutting mono-brow, replaced by separate curved eyebrows. Its eyes and mouth are now oval, instead of respectively square and circular, and its nose is now more regular in its form, with the nostrils removed. The changes show how with a few adjustments a moai-like statue can lose its resemblance to the figures on Easter Island. The comic has also replaced the jungle floor in front of the statue with a stone-built platform upon which a native woman now kneels – both additions helping to make the arena in which this deity functions more sacrificial and like an altar.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'La Tragique Expédition de La Pérouse' ['The Tragic Expedition of La Pérouse']
(no.1448, 13 January 1966, Editions J. Dupuis)

Spirou had previously depicted the voyage of Jacob Roggeveen to Easter Island, in a 1958 Uncle Paul historical story (reviewed above). Elsewhere, La Pérouse has been the subject of comic book stories in True Comics (1942, reviewed above), Le Téméraire (1943, reviewed above), Die Eroberung der Welt (first published 1979, reviewed below) and as La Boussole & L'Astrolabe (2016, reviewed below). This particular Uncle Paul story, which is designed to be educational, shrinks the tragic voyage of La Pérouse into 4 pages, where La Boussole & L'Astrolabe had employed 46 pages for the adventure. Consequently, Easter Island appears in just two frames. In the first, the senior crew stare at a moai and reflect on the abilities of the Rapanui people. They recognise that the Rapanui revere the statues, but they do not understand how the same people could have built them when they live in huts shaped like overturned canoes. There is no mention of the statues having been toppled, which is believed to have begun before their visit. In the second frame, they are shown gathering provisions from the island – grain and sheep – before continuing on their voyage. Few comics mention the voyage of Edward Davis, who supposedly was the first European to find Rapanui in 1687. This comic is more confident about the discovery and asserts that he found Easter Island and that it was in 1686.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Patricia Porumbel

Jump to contents

Dossier Negro [Black Dossier]
'El Diablo de Rapa Nui' ['The Devil of Rapa Nui']
(no.8; Barcelona: Graficas Jorba, 1969)

Augusto Breck, a much-travelled man and collector of artefacts, is awoken during the night by a hideous floating face. When he switches his bedroom light on it disappears, but he is so worried that he phones his friend, a doctor, Bertold Coleman, during the middle of the night, and he arrives at Augusto's home without delay. Augusto shows Bertold his collection of world artefacts including a stone carving of a head, which is the face he has seen in his nightmares. He tells Bertold that he had stolen the carving from a secret and sacred cave of a family on Rapanui, that was guarded by an aku-aku spirit. Those who intrude into the cave are said to suffer punishment followed by death. Augusto does not believe in witchcraft, but every time he has gone to sleep, this demon carving has appeared in his nightmares growing bigger and bigger, where it is on the verge of crushing him. Bertold has not been listening properly to this story as he has been overcome by the eyes of the demon carving; Augusto says, "do you understand now?".

Bertold thinks that Augusto has been too obsessed with his books and travels. He suggests that Augusto takes a break, leaves the city, and stays with him at his villa by a lake. They leave together in Bertold's car. Upon arriving at the villa, they discover that the carving is in Augusto's luggage, but he assures Bertold that he did not put it there. Bertold does not believe him; Augusto says he is not crazy.

The two friends row to the middle of the lake, whereupon Augusto tosses the carving overboard, and it sinks twenty metres down into the mud. The two friends can now relax and they spend the rest of the day playing tennis, horse riding and fishing. They return to the villa for dinner and are shocked to see that the stone carving has re-emerged and is now sitting on a mantelpiece. Bertold is a rationalist and does not understand how this is possible. One of the rangers for his estate arrives and reveals that he placed the carving in the villa as he had found it on the edge of the lake, but this does not explain how it rose from the watery depths. Augusto takes a hammer and smashes the carving into pieces; Bertold instructs his servant to take the bits and scatter them in all directions.

The two friends retire to their rooms for the evening. Bertold is worried about Augusto's mental health; he admits there is something about the mask, but he does not subscribe to Augusto's belief that it is demonic. Suddenly, Bertold hears the horrific screams of Augusto coming from the bedroom next door. Augusto screams for help and that "it's growing…growing! It will crush me!". Another scream, then silence. Bertold asks his servant to help him break down the door. Augusto is discovered lying dead on his bed.

Bertold calls the police, telling them a man has died in "very strange" circumstances. The police investigate and the coroner reports that Augusto's bones had been broken by a heavy object. Bertold decides to tell the police superintendent everything but he does not accept the story. Demoralised and knowing that nobody will believe him, Bertold returns to his home in the city. He begins to question what he has experienced, but as the day turns to night and his room darkens the carving reappears floating in front of his eyes and growing in size. Bertold orders it to go and throws his glass at its head. He switches on the light and the mask vanishes; Betold wonders whether he had dreamt the demon and that he is going crazy like Augusto. But there on a cabinet sits the stone carving staring at him. As the carving then rises, Bertold is terrified that he will be its next victim.

Dossier Negro, Spain's first horror comic, began in 1968 and lasted for 218 issues. It was noted for its striking covers – graphic and often gruesome – and for publishing the early work of many famous Spanish illustrators. The publication's emergence coincided with a wave of popular interest in Gothic narratives that was especially strong in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, with the films of Hammer Studios most notable in the latter. Other British producers of Gothic horror films include Amicus, who was known for its omnibus format of several short stories linked by a framing narrative. This story, 'El Diablo de Rapa Nui', could easily have appeared in one of those omnibus films, where the horror was frequently constructed around stories of guilt and revenge, theft and inanimate objects that come alive. In fact, this story is reminiscent of the Amicus feature film, The Skull (1965), based on a short story by Robert Bloch, in which a collector of unusual objects is affected by the possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade. It also appears to borrow from Edith Wharton's short story 'The Eyes' (1910), in which a pair of haunting eyes repeatedly appear at night at the side of a terrified man's bed. Following familiar Gothic narratives, 'El Diablo de Rapa Nui' is a tale of the uncanny that sees the protagonists and the supporting characters questioning what they have seen, experienced and heard and whether it can be explained as the result of drinking or madness.

The entire story takes place at three homes – those of Augusto and Bertold – but the country is never made clear. Rapanui appears in just one simple frame as a flashback in a cave and the location would have been unknown if it had not been stated in the text. The comic essentially exploits Rapanui as a faraway place that can conveniently become shorthand for the 'exotic' and thereby 'demonic', through an object of cultural importance (which appears in colour on the front cover). The stone carving of the demon head, which is an ancestral possession and is associated with the sacred, is twice referred to as 'she' though the drawings do not make the gender explicit. Aku-aku is once again referenced to give a semblance of anthropological 'depth' to the fantasy, but the carving is unlike anything found within Rapanui culture (unsurprisingly) and is pure fiction. What is interesting is the subtext that the theft of such objects is wrong – Augusto later repents and wishes he had not stolen the carving – and that the act will haunt those who have transgressed.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Grandes Viajes [Great Journeys]
‘La Trágica Expedición de La Perouse’ ['The Tragic Expedition of La Perouse']
(no.72, 1 January 1969, Editorial Novaro: Mexico)

Of the thirty-two pages in this comic, Easter Island fills just five frames and less than one page of images in total. As a rather improbable crew of three land a small boat on Easter Island, they stand on the shore in awe of a moai and pause to reflect on the ancient Rapanui civilisation that “must have been admirable”. Roggeveen’s 1722 voyage to the island is mentioned as is Captain Cook’s visit twelve years earlier. The text states that La Pérouse’s task was to conduct a more thorough study of the island than Cook’s. So, La Perouse’s small team take measurements of the statues, employing a ladder to reach the top of a moai head, whilst another crew member states, that if he had more time he would make a dictionary of the Rapanui language as it shares similarities with Polynesian. The ship then departs for the Gulf of Alaska.

As a forerunner to Grandes Viajes’s focus on Easter Island and Thor Heyerdahl, which began in the August 1969 issue (reviewed below) and continued in the December 1971 issue (reviewed below), this comic detailed the voyages of the French explorer Jean Galoup de la Pérouse, borrowing the same title for the story as a 1966 issue of Spirou (reviewed above). La Pérouse’s expedition was designed by the French to follow and expand upon the voyage of Captain Cook, but interestingly of the moai culture comics it is the former that features more often – La Pérouse has been the focus of five comics compared to just the one for Cook. Whilst Cook was tragically killed on a Hawaiian beach and his great voyages would make an excellent comic, La Pérouse’s disappearance for many years and his almost mythical lost expedition appears to make a more sensational story. As with so many comics that claim to be historical, the original ship logs are barely respected and this comic (like others) presents the island as initially abandoned, with the Rapanui only appearing in the last frame.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Grandes Viajes [Great Journeys]
‘El misterio de la Isla de Pascua’ ['The Mystery of Easter Island']
(no.79, 1 August 1969, Editorial Novaro: Mexico)

On the evening of Easter Day 1722, the ships of Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen suddenly spot smoke coming from an island that was not recorded on any maps. The next day, an islander with long ears and a European appearance – fair skin and ginger-blonde hair – rows up to Roggeveen’s ship. When asked with sign language about the name of the island, he replies “Te pito o te henua”, but Roggeveen decides to call it ‘Easter Island’, because of the day on which it was ‘discovered’.

A group of ten Dutch men subsequently visit the island and are received warmly by the indigenous people. The visitors are first shocked by the lack of women present (they might be hiding in the hills) and then by the colossal moai, which they call “devils” and “monsters” and wonder how these weird statues had been carved and moved into position. Back in the village, the islanders are more relaxed and curious about the Dutch, but tragedy soon follows with several Rapanui killed. A Dutch sailor shoots a Rapanui man, which results in the islanders’ violent reaction and further shots fired. Roggeveen is on board his ship at the time when he hears the gunshots and returns to the island with a group of 50 men, but it is too late. Many innocent natives have been killed leaving Roggeveen feeling guilty.

48 years later, in 1770, the viceroy of Peru sent two frigates (the San Lorenzo and the Rosalía) led by captain Felipe González, to navigate the western side of the Pacific. The Rosalía arrives at Easter Island, a place they recognise as the one discovered by Roggeveen. Accompanied by two priests, the crew plant a cross on a hill and call the island ‘San Carlos’, which they declare to be part of the Spanish crown under the reign of King Charles III.

The visitors are curious about the scarce presence of women and children on the island. One of the islanders indicates that the women and children are under the earth. The visitors inspect the islanders (who are tall and well-built and with extremely long ears) and try to make them learn some Spanish. Before the crew departs they leave the islanders some nice clothes for the women, who subsequently appear from their places of hiding and say farewell.

In 1774 another expedition appears led by Captain James Cook. The islanders deliberate and decide to again hide their women and children in their caves, before gauging the visitors’ real intentions. Cook lands with his crew and an interpreter who can speak Polynesian. With the interpreter, Cook exchanges clothing for fresh fruit and food. They ask also for a moai, and an islander explains that their ariki (chiefs) or ancestors are buried there, as well as mentioning the aku aku (or protective spirits). Twelve years later, Captain La Pérousse’s expedition visits Easter Island and brings many presents for the natives in the name of King Louis XVI. This visit is very short.

Until the first years of the nineteenth century, the island does not receive many other foreigners until one day an American schooner arrives. The islanders still have the memory of the French expedition and its presents, but this crew has the aim of recruiting islanders to repopulate Juan Fernández Islands (which includes Robinson Crusoe’s), where a company from the United States has established a base for seal hunting. The visitors capture ten men and twelve women, but after three days of navigation, the islanders jump ship. Unfortunately, they do not survive, being so far away from land. Two years later, an English brigantine that had survived a storm and was without water for six days visits the island and the islanders. No longer trusting strangers, the Rapanui take revenge, attacking the visitors. In the mid nineteenth century, a Russian boat tries to stop at the island, but they are rejected by the natives. After a long and dramatic fight, the Russians leave.

In 1862, a Peruvian whale fleet approaches the island. Although the islanders are eager to attack, they are surprised when they hear their language spoken with just a request for an exchange of clothing for sweet potatoes. But this is a trick of the Peruvians, for they are actually slave traders, who capture 1000 islanders to be sold to work on guano islands, off the Peruvian coast. The remaining islanders cry that shameful night of 24 December 1862. The news spreads to Lima, and the government there orders the repatriation of the islanders. Only 15 out of the 1000 natives returns home, but they are ill with smallpox, which causes an outbreak on the island. Only 111 islanders survive.

Later a friar arrives on the island and starts preaching to the Rapanui, who tell him stories about the land, which he collects in a book. One of the stories involves a confrontation between the long and the short ears, with the latter subjugated by the former. The short ears revolted and defeated the long ears, who had devised the moai and had come from the East.

After a number of other missionaries and anthropologists, Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition arrives. Heyerdhal knows how to gain the natives’ trust and they reveal many details, which he collects in his studies. Together with the close friendship of the Rapanui mayor, he researches the moai and even replicates a construction of one of them. He visits the mysterious caves and gets to know about the Rapanui ship-building techniques, similar to those found around Lake Titicaca. He also discovers the origin of the red-haired, long ears on Rapanui, who are apparently the descendants of the Incas, although their arrival on Easter Island using ships made of bulrush is still to be proven.

This was the first of five Mexican comics that were published over the next eleven years – those that followed are Grandes Viajes (1971, reviewed below), Duda (1972, reviewed below), Duda (1978, reviewed below), and Aunque usted lo dude (1980, reviewed below) – and it functions as a template for the themes and motifs that occur throughout the group. Grandes Viajes displayed an interest in Rapanui in two comics – 1969 and 1971 – but in the later issue the island was a small element in a wider story about Heyerdahl’s attempts to sail the Pacific on a raft made of bulrushes. It both adds to the stories found in this 1969 comic and repeats ideas.

Whereas the 1971 issue of Grandes Viajes is about voyaging, this 1969 issue is more about visitation. Each of the accounts that this 1969 comic illustrates are about foreign ships – from Europe and the Americas, and significantly not Polynesia – encountering the Rapanui and the connections or, more often, the tragic events that occur. Alas, such a comic is pseudo-educational, appearing to provide facts and information on world histories and cultures, but with a spread of fiction. Some of this fiction could be the result of the writers wishing to sensationalise – the stretched ears of the Rapanui are a particular obsession of the comic and are hyper-extended beyond how they were in reality. In other places, it is presumably due to laziness, with a surface scratched for a history, and then the rest of the details made-up. For instance, Cook did not venture far on Easter Island as he was ill at the time, and in his notes he observed that some of the islanders appeared malnourished, and a number of the moai had been toppled, but none of this is reflected in the comic. When González arrived, prior, he placed three crosses on the island, not the single one that is shown here. And there are many more errors.

A third cause for the inaccuracies is the contested work of archaeologist Heyerdahl, who promoted the view that South Americans settled Easter Island and were the originators of much of its culture of carving. That has since been proven incorrect, with the island widely believed to have been settled from the west, but the comic takes Heyerdahl’s scientific work and allows it to enhance and advance its own approach to the island’s history. This is most visible in the depiction of the Rapanui, who are never shown to be Polynesian. Instead, they appear as the Adonis-like bodies of a race of tall and muscular men alongside slim and youthful women, with modern hairstyles. The Europeanising of the Rapanui continues in their attire with the women wearing twentieth-century bikinis. It is a particular re-imagining of the islanders that is not unique, with similar figures seen, for instance, in Weird War Tales no.95 (reviewed below) and the Polish comic The Secrets of Easter Island (reviewed below), with the latter also inspired by Heyerdahl’s work.

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Les Aventures de Néron et Cie [The Adventures of Neron and Co.]
‘Le mystère de l’île de Pâques’ [‘The Mystery of Easter Island’]
(no.24; by Marc Sleen; Antwerp-Brussels: Editions Erasme; October 1971)

Néron, his son Adhémar and Captain Patfolle are resting on the idyllic tropical island of Paprica. They are enjoying a life of ease but Néron is bored; he believes he is a man of action. Adhémar arrives and urges his father to follow him to the water’s edge. There he shows him a raft, with ‘Neron Tiki’ written on its sail and a flag flying from the mast bearing the name ‘Magellan’. Adhémar thinks the raft could get them home, with the tradewinds blowing them towards Europe and through the Straits of Magellan. Patfolle advises Néron that Adhémar may be a genius at most subjects, but not in Navigation. Néron responds that he has faith in his son. Adhémar swaps hats with Patfolle, so he is now a proper sea captain. Néron and Adhémar wave goodbye to Patfolle and the native islanders and set sail.

Early into their journey, Adhémar fishes for their dinner, but finds himself dragged into the ocean by a hammerhead shark which he hooks. Néron jumps in to save his son and punches the shark on its nose. Next, as Néron sleeps, Adhémar tries again to fish but finds a sawshark has cut their raft into two. Thankfully, Adhémar manages to unite the two separated halves of the raft. As Néron again rests at the back of the raft he now finds himself being kissed by two beautiful sea sirens and then greeted by Neptune, who takes him down into his undersea kingdom, where Néron is pierced through the stomach by a swordfish. He wakes up back on the raft with everything apparently a bad nightmare, but still wearing the ring he was given by Neptune. There is no respite as Néron is now attacked by an octopus, that drags him to the ocean floor and engages him in a boxing fight. As Néron punches the Octopus in the face, the creature blows out a jet of thick black ink. Néron returns to the raft covered in enough ink to allow Adhémar to write a journal of their sea adventures thus far. Next, the two voyagers find themselves riding on the back of a great whale, with Néron taking the opportunity to have a shower from the water spouting from the cetacean’s blowhole. Finally, Néron finds himself helpless astride a dangerous blue shark. Adhémar dives into the ocean armed only with his fountain pen to rescue his father, but Néron is saved just in time with the shark killed by Neptune’s trident.

Suddenly they spy land and find themselves on Easter Island. Adhémar demonstrates his knowledge of all things by advising his father that the moai wear red hats, not much is known about the figures and the Rapanui completely disappeared several centuries ago. On the side of a moai, Adhémar finds a panel which he touches and the mouth of the stone figure opens. Adhémar crawls inside and the mouth firmly shuts. Néron punches and kicks the moai to make the moai reopen its mouth but to no avail. Meanwhile, Adhémar is inside descending a very long series of steps. At the bottom, he finds a large petroglyph of the birdman, with its finger pointing in a specific direction, which Adhémar follows. There he finds another world, the Kingdom of the Longears, which has existed for a millennium, and which is populated by strange people with very big and long ears, wearing pseudo-medieval clothing. The Chancellor of this kingdom tells Adhémar that a law states he will have to remain in this underground world for “eternity plus three years”. First, however, they must stretch Adhémar’s ears which are far too small.

Adhémar tries to leave but is stopped. The Chancellor says he will take Adhémar to the king and the royal palace. Showing Adhémar their subterranean city made of gold, he advises that they have been able to survive underground as a result of radium providing them with light and heat. Taken to the throne room, Adhémar, who is the first visiting stranger for 500 years, meets the “young” king, aged 90, who has the air of a child. The king explains that his people have discovered the secret of longevity. The king introduces Adhémar to his ministers, one of whom is 700 years old. The subject of Adhémar’s small ears returns and the king says that in their current form they will be ridiculed. As the ministers laugh, Adhémar asks for everyone to stop and he advises that where he comes from what is most important is what is in the heart or the head. The king and the ministers are taken by Adhémar’s knowledge and theories of the wider world, so the ruler decides to appoint Adhémar as his Minister for Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, this upsets the man who had been the incumbent minister, who decides to kill Adhémar, by trapping him in a box and throwing him off a bridge.

Above ground, Néron manages to reopen the mouth of the moai. Inside is a Longear who is in the process of cementing the mouth shut forever. Néron punches the man in the face and descends down the long staircase inside. As Néron encounters different Longear officials he overpowers each one, in his commitment and desire to find his son. Whilst defeating soldiers on a bridge, he hears Adhémar crying out from the box which had miraculously managed to snag on a pole under an arch. At this point, however, Néron is overpowered and taken to a cell where he is chained to a wall. Adhémar is rescued and asks the king for clemency for his father, but a minister is more persuasive in relaying an account of the aggression and thuggery of Néron as he journeyed through the underground kingdom. Néron is therefore sentenced to a death in which he is downed in a large fishbowl. An hour later he is still alive – having managed to survive the ordeal with ease as he is still wearing Neptune’s ring – an accomplishment that astonishes the king.

Néron is released and made a new minister, yet at that point the volcano of Orongo erupts. A minister falls to his knees and asks for Saint Longears to protect them, whilst Néron and Adhémar make a dash to safety, employing a bicycle to quicken through the latter stages. Along with the bicycle, they are spat out of a moai’s mouth and find themselves back on the surface. Using the bicycle and their raft, Adhémar creates a pedalo which takes them far out to sea. But the sky turns black and the raft is hit by a sea storm, throwing Néron overboard.

Back home, friends and family have been worried, with no news from Néron or Adhémar. Their friends turn to a giant computer to give them answers. Feeding in the question “where are Néron and Adhémar”, they receive the reply “they have been shipwrecked off Easter Island”. The friends telephone Valparaiso, Chile, and arrange for a boat to sail out and rescue Néron and Adhémar. There, the captain of the ship finds that Néron’s life has been saved by Neptune. Back home, over a family feast, Néron raises a glass to Neptune, whilst Adhémar proudly displays his fountain pen containing octopus ink.

Originally published in Dutch, Néron’s adventures have extended to many publications with, for instance, 101 titles in the French language series which was published in colour by Editions Erasme, between 1967 and 1987. The creator, Marc Sleen, was fond of referencing news events and adding figures from popular culture. In this bande dessinée the adventure across the Pacific Ocean, on a ‘Neron Tiki’ raft, which dominates the first half of the story, is clearly inspired by the voyage of Thor Heyerdahl, made in 1947, aboard his raft ‘Kon-Tiki’. On Heyerdahl’s crossing he and his fellow sailors had numerous encounters with sea creatures, including sharks, which in Néron’s adventure are exaggerated to the level of being ridiculous.

Other comics have had the idea of a moai concealing an entrance to a secret underground passage – see, for instance, Basil and Moebius (reviewed below) and WWE Superstars (reviewed below). Elsewhere, in the comic Hewligan’s Haircut (reviewed below), an entrance to another world was also through a moai’s mouth. More common in moai fiction is the fantasy that the Rapanui have built a subterranean civilisation, which helps to explain in these worlds the absence of a society on the surface. The moai depicted in Les Aventures de Néron et Cie are good copies of the originals, but the Rapanui (here referred to as the Longears and every one of them male) are distinctly caricatures, with their features exaggerated. In particular, there is an obsession with ears – theirs and those of Adhémar. Unfortunately, Rapanui simply serves as the basis for a fantasy of the absurd, which began before Néron and Adhémar even reached the island. There is little reference to Rapanui culture, except for a volcano called Orongo (there is no such volcano in reality) and one wall of a cavern displaying birdman petroglyphs introduced in order to establish a brief moment of humour.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Grandes Viajes [Great Journeys]
‘Las fantásticas travesías del “Ra”’ [‘The Fantastic Voyages of “Ra”’]
(no.108, 13 December 1971, Editorial Novaro: Mexico)

The comic begins with the presentation of the ancient Egyptians’ tradition of papyrus ship-building as an agrarian craftwork that allowed them to travel along the Nile, but which was then used by Faraoh Sahure to explore distant lands, such as the coast of Somalia, Mozambique, South Rhodesia, and other places around the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Currently, this technique is used in Lake Chad, 2000 kilometres away from Egypt, and in Lake Titicaca (Peru) and in Easter Island, where instead of papyrus they use an equivalent plant – bulrush (totora). The narration clarifies that part of the culture of Rapanui, such as the moai carving, comes from the coast of Peru, and can be traced to a pre-Incan civilisation, 8 kilometres away from Lake Titicaca. This therefore connects the bulrush shipbuilding technique on Rapanui to practices in Peru.

What if ancient Egyptians had reached the American coast in their papyrus ships? With this hypothesis in mind, the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (who led the Kon-Tiki expeditions between Peru and Polynesia, Easter Island and the Galapagos islands) meets in Mexico the anthropologist Dr Genovés, who agrees to the idea of sending a papyrus boat from Africa to America in similar circumstances and with inexperienced sailors, that is, themselves and a few others: the Russian Seinkewich and the Italian Masi. In Cairo, they start to organise the expedition and, in an institute for papyrus research, they are advised to find shipbuilders from Lake Chad, but they are warned that papyrus boats sink after a maximum of twelve days. Far from discouraged, Heyerdahl travels to Lake Chad, where an indigenous man, Oma, and a group of men are persuaded to go to Cairo to build a papyrus boat, which, according to Oma, would float on water for several months.

The boat (5 metres wide by 15 metres long) is given the name of ‘Ra’ in honour of the sun God and is taken to Safi, the Western coast of Morocco since, a few miles from this coast, the northern Ecuadorian current would take them directly to the Antilles. On 25 May 1969, the Ra sets sail. The crew experiences a variety of obstacles during the voyage: sharks, whales, storms, and dermatitis as a result of the ocean salt. They also discover how polluted the water is in the middle of the ocean. After 50 days, the sailors are rescued by a boat that takes them to Barbados, but they do not give up their mission. A second papyrus boat, Ra II, is built by Titicaca ship builders with less and thicker papyrus stems, and with the help of a local man, Demetrio, and his team. They all fly to Africa, and to Safi, where the boat is built (4.5 metres wide by 12 metres long). After six weeks, the boat is ready to set sail on 17 May 1970. This crew experiences perils similar to the first Ra boat, but after 57 days they manage to reach American soil.

Mexican comics had a phase where they were fascinated by Pacific voyaging and Easter Island, as can be observed in five comics published between 1969 and 1980 and that include Grandes Viajes (1969, reviewed above), Duda (1972, reviewed below), Duda (1978, reviewed below), and Aunque usted lo dude (1980, reviewed below). Significantly, all five are interested in presenting pseudo-educational stories that relate a mixture of facts, fantasy and unproven/ contested theories, and which unhesitatingly position South America as the source of first discovery and settlement of Easter Island. In doing so, they often feature or foreground Heyerdahl, who was a prominent promoter of the South American theory as well as the idea of a possible Egyptian connection. As this comic, Grandes Viajes, demonstrates most emphatically, Egyptian sailors are perceived to be a part of the history of the Pacific. Easter Island appears on just one page, with the others dominated by acts of voyaging as would be expected by a publication titled Great Journeys. The comic is a cousin to others that have illustrated the Pacific voyaging of great explorers – La Pérouse (True Comics, reviewed above), Jacob Roggeveen (Spirou, reviewed above), and Captain Cook (The Conquest of the World, reviewed below). But the closest publication to the narrative interest of this particular comic is probably Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Friends (reviewed below).

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas

Jump to contents

Duda: Lo Increible es la Verdad [Disbelief: Incredible but True]
‘A quién esperan los gigantes de la Isla de Pascua?’ [‘Who are the Giants of Easter Island Waiting for?’]
(no.38, March 1972, Editorial Posada: Mexico)

When Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro conquered Mexico and Peru for the Spanish crown they were told that long before them there was an extraordinary god with a white beard, white skin and long ears. He was called Viracocha, and he had founded the Inca civilisation beside Lake Titicaca, before his descendant, Cápac, founded the city of Cuzco, the capital city of the Inca Empire. However, some of Viracocha’s nobles did not believe in Cuzco as the central city and a group of 400 of them sailed on a boat towards what would later be called Easter Island. Were they the artists who carved the moai? How could they carve those sculptures – 10-metres high and weighing 50 tons?

On Easter Sunday in 1722, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen arrived on Easter Island with two ships, after watching smoke signals from afar, and was received by indigenous people swimming to the boats. He was surprised to see that one of them was white. They visited the island the next day and were drawn to the moai (which at that time had pukao, or topknots, on their heads) and the huts where the Rapanui lived which took the form of inverted boats. The indigenous people stole a Dutch sailor’s three-cornered hat unfortunately leading to thirteen of the Rapanui being killed.

In 1770, the Spanish captain, Don Felipe González y Ahedo, arrived with his crew and planted three crosses on a hill, calling the island San Carlos in the name of their Spanish king. When he asked the natives to sign the contract ceding sovereignty, one of them, with fair skin and red hair, drew hieroglyphs. They also discovered that the moai were made of stone, not of clay, as concluded by Roggeveen. Like Roggeveen’s crew, the Spanish visitors had their hats stolen by the islanders, an action which they found funny.

Next, Captain Cook visited the island, in 1774, and he wrote in his book his impressions. Before leaving the island, Cook and his crew were given a good supply of sweet potatoes, but, when they reached their ships, they realised that below the vegetables the baskets were full of stones. Cook was surprised that the island had changed so much since Roggeveen’s visit, so poor now, with thieves as inhabitants.

When in 1786 the French navigator Jean-Galoup de la Pérouse visited the island, the moai no longer displayed the pukao and the inverted-ship huts mentioned by other visitors had vanished. In 1808, the North American ship, ‘Nancy’, fought the natives and upon departing took with them 12 indigenous men and 10 women to be sold as slaves. Far out to sea, all of them jumped into the ocean, but they probably died, as they were very far from home. Seven Peruvian ships visited the island in 1862 and took a thousand islanders as slaves to work on guano mines back in Peru. They killed those who resisted and many of the slaves died in the mines. The English government pressed Peru to cease the slavery, but it was too late. Only fifteen Rapanui had survived, but they returned home diseased with smallpox. The illness spread through the island and three quarters of the remaining population died, including the elders and, with them, the secret to the hieroglyphs of rongorongo.

Two years later, the first missionary, Father Eyraud, arrived on the island, but the Rapanui no longer believed in western people, and he died alone. In 1864 some other missionaries tried to catechise the Rapanui, and in 1914 the English anthropologist, Katherine Routledge, drew a map of the island and made an inventory of the moai. Later, in 1934, a Franco-Belgian expedition stopped at Rapanui and the French ethnologist Alfred Métraux wrote the first book on Easter Island, but it contributed little to an understanding of Rapanui’s origins.

Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific Ocean, in 1947, on board a raft, voyaging from Puerto de Callao (Peru) to the Tuamotu Islands to prove that men from the Americas might have reached the islands of Oceania many centuries before. When he arrived, he noticed that the Rapanui were highly civilised thanks to their connection with Chile as a colony. The Norwegian became a friend of the mayor, Pedro Atan, a redhead who was said to be a descendant of Viracocha. He explained that originally the population was divided into the long-ears and the short-ears. The latter worked as slaves for the former carving the moai. These statues were taken to the ahu (or family mausoleums) in doing so giving the family an aku-aku (or protecting spirit). During the civil war, the long-eared Rapanui created a ditch across a section of the island, separating it into two. But a woman warned the short-eared, who attacked the long-eared that night and killed all of them bar one, by throwing them into the ditch. The one that survived is the ancestor of Atan, the mayor. Heyerdahl started a series of excavations, with the mayor’s permission, to corroborate the story, and in doing so he found human bones which, after carbon-dating back in Chile, were shown to be from 1680.

Heyerdahl also dug around the moai and discovered on the chest of one a drawing of a ship that might have been a vessel used by the Incas to arrive on the island. This excavation leads to a debate as to whether Rapanui culture comes from the Americas or from Polynesia. Heyerdahl defends the former; the latter is favoured by William Mulloy, who is an American archaeologist on the island at the same time. Heyerdahl asserts that the use of big monoliths with human form are only to be found south of Mexico and in South America. In addition, the rafts made of bulrushes found in Lake Titicaca are similar to the ones found in the lake located in the crater of the Rapanui volcano Rano Raraku. And the name the Incas gave to this rush was totora, which is the same as the name it has been given by the Rapanui. The stones of the ahu resemble those of the Incan empire, and there are many other similarities, such as the obsidian knives, the sweet potatoes that Incas called ‘camotes’, the manu tara (birdman) myth, and the particular way of cooking, involving an earth oven.

They also speculate about cannibalism. After the slaves’ rebellion against their masters, anarchy became the norm and islanders started to live in caves and, out of despair, they ate their enemies’ bodies. Part of the revenge consisted in toppling the moai. When Roggeveen arrived on the island, this civil war had begun, but there were still some moai standing. Heyerdahl tries to explain what the pukao represent – they are not hats, but are intended to be hair. Made from a distinct type of lava, the red colour of the pukao was supposed to represent the redheads that were the original descendants of Viracocha.

Mulloy takes over and makes his arguments, establishing a different position. According to another legend, the king Hotu Motua, from a race of people that had come from Asia, landed first on Easter Island by canoe. According to Frenchman Guillaume de Hevesy, writing in 1932, the hieroglyphs found on the rongorongo tablets are reminiscent of a type of writing found in India, and in a culture that had disappeared 5000 years ago. These tablets could have been preserved by the Polynesians since the day they left their original land, but then progressively lost or destroyed. Heyerdahl argues back that this writing is similar to that of the Cuna Indians, in Panama. After an intense argument, each concludes that the influence might come from both sides. But they conclude there is a mystery that they cannot fathom: how were the statues sculptured and moved? The mayor and some men try to move a small moai, but it is impossible. Atan tells Heyerdahl and Mulloy in secret that the statues were first carved and, before given their eyes, they were instructed to move and were guided by the sculptor.

Later in 1969, the German writer Erich Von Däniken advanced another theory that the moai were made by beings of high intelligence from another world. Due to a technical problem, the aliens had landed on the island where they began a programme of moai carving. The islanders killed all the aliens and subsequently ceased the building of the statues. The comic ends with a number of questions concerning the mysteries of the moai – reflected in the names for Easter Island, such as ‘the navel of the world’, ‘the eyes that look to the sky’, or ‘the sky frontier’ – which will never be solved.

Unlike the earlier Grandes Viajes Mexican comic (reviewed above), with which this publication shares many similarities in terms of form, there is more attention here given to following historical facts. This pseudo-educational comic, with considerable accompanying text for each frame, correctly illustrates González erecting three crosses on a hill. The stealing of a sailor’s hat did occur during Roggeveen’s visit and during Cook’s in 1774, but also when La Pérouse was on the island. Cook is correctly presented recording some of the Rapanui as impoverished and clearly there has been research conducted employing source material as a print from La Pérouse’s visit, in which he inspects a moai, is reproduced as an inner title page, although the image has been altered with curiously the hat thief removed. Elsewhere, the comic is wrong to present the British (with a supporting image of the Houses of Parliament) as the power that had the Rapanui slave trade dismantled. In reality, it was the French bishop of Tahiti, Florentin-Étienne Jaussen, who intervened. The civil war was not prior to Roggeveen’s visit and the toppling of the statues was first recorded by Cook. It is also wrong to say Metraux was the first to publish a book on Easter Island, when others such as Routledge and Walter Knoche had done so earlier. Moreover, it is unfair to describe Metraux’s book as superficial.

Few instances of moai culture include the moai excavated by Heyerdahl that was found to bear a carving on its chest of a ship, so it is pleasing to see it featured. But, this comic adjusts the vessel’s structure from a multi-sailed European ship with an ‘anchor’, to a more primitive looking craft. In doing so, it allows the comic to exploit this great discovery as further evidence that the island was settled from the Americas. Such a distortion undermines the value of the comic, one which unusually includes (and illustrates) Routledge, Eyraud and Mulloy. The latter is particularly interesting as he is included as an alternative to the theories of Heyerdahl. Yet, it is clear that this comic and the others that were published in Mexico in this period are committed to promoting Heyerdahl and his theories, which favour Mexicans as great voyagers. The comic begins with the Incas, and despite suggesting at the publication’s end that mysteries remain, the importance of the pre-colonial Americas is elevated within the narrative.

Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Mr Magellan – Le réveil des géants' ['Mr Magellan – The Awakening of the Giants']
(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 (reviewed below), the 1986 bande dessinée that collected the four stories into one volume.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Mickey Rat
'The Rot Expedition'
(vol.1, no.2, October 1972, Kitchen Sink Enterprises/ Krupp Comic Works)

Mickey Rat wishes to escape the routine and stresses of life so he distances himself from everyone on a barge tied up near a warehouse. Whilst asleep, the shoring for his boat snaps; when Mickey awakes he finds himself drifting out at sea. An octopus attacks the boat and snaps it in two. Now floating at sea on just a piece of wood Mickey Rat begins to hallucinate and imagines he is in hell. There, pitchfork carrying imps force him off a cliff and into the mouths of hungry crocodiles that bite him in half. The two halves become two rolling balls that tumble skittle-like into a row of moai. These moai bring the two Mickey halves to their leader, a giant seated moai, who orders them to fix the rat. Now whole again, Mickey is tied to a string and like a necklace is dangled from the giant moai's neck. The moai think the necklace looks "rotten" and that it smells. The moai leader orders for the rat to be destroyed and he is fed down a conveyer belt, into a deep chute and straight into a meat grinder, where he becomes a dollop of meat in a frying pan cooked over a fire.

Cut to a shipwrecked Mickey exhausted, lying on a beach, where he has been cooking and hallucinating in the sun. As he stumbles up a hill he finds he is on Easter Island. The Rapanui nurse him back to health, but he is desperate for sex and he forces himself on a local woman. He is consequently chased by a group of Rapanui men carrying spears and falls into a pit. Calling for help, he is heard by a large-built local woman who rescues him and carries him back to her isolated hut. There he enjoys his idea of a perfect life, relaxing in a hammock, whilst the woman cooks, laughs at his jokes and tends the land.

Mickey Rat was conceived by the artist Robert Armstrong, a friend and contemporary of the more famous cartoonist Robert Crumb. It is drawn in the same crude style as Crumb's more celebrated work, which includes Mr Natural and Fritz the Cat. Like Crumb, Armstrong's alternative comic is for an adult readership and is obsessed with drugs, the sexualised body and the experience of the surreal. Both artists also exhibit problematic depictions of race and women.

The anti-hero Mickey Rat is a counter-cultural expression against the corporate power of Disney's Mickey Mouse and is everything the latter is not: sleazy, hedonistic, perverted, vulgar, exploitative, self-centred, abusive and extremely lazy. In fact, it was Armstrong in his comics who is credited with having popularised the term 'couch potato'. Most challenging is Armstrong's treatment of the Rapanui, which is deliberately offensive. These are primitive, grass-skirted, bare breasted islanders who are viewed as sex objects, and who speak gibberish. The comic should be placed in its context of the early 1970s and the underground scene in America from which such cultural expressions emerged. The richest part of the story is the surrealism in the hallucinations of the Rat and these are a rudimentary mixture of Salvador Dalí and Hieronymous Bosch.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Lion and Thunder
‘Adam Eterno: The Weird Menace Under the Waves!’ (Part 2)
(3 February 1973, IPC Magazines)

Adam and Martin flee the moai, which have been brought alive by a light projected from “weird marine vegetation”. The moai monoliths are unstoppable, as they crunch through trees and wooden buildings, but the “fiendish brutes” stop once they think they have killed Adam and Martin. Unscathed, the companions row back to Martin’s abandoned ship, which had been conducting oceanographic tests. One of their depth charges has awakened an undersea power. Martin relays that some say “Easter Island was the cemetery of a bigger island – Davis Land – which long ago sank beneath the sea…!”. Adam and Martin ride a sea-scooter to the seabed where they discover a large glowing dome surrounded by the glowing vegetation.

This action story that functions as a serial with cliff-hanger endings has a look and feel that is both of its time in the early 1970s and of its culture of British produced weekly comics. Adam Eterno is a combination of an immortal action superhero with super-human powers and a movie-styled hero from the weekly kids’ serials. Unusually for such fiction, the moai that come alive have no feet but move at some speed on a neck stump. The “weird marine vegetation” are a fascinating addition to the moai myths, especially as this alien plant-life is not too distant from John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the Triffids.

Most interesting, is the comic's mention of Davis Land, which is a reference to a forgotten aspect of early European engagement with Easter Island, and one that does not appear anywhere else in moai popular culture. Edward Davis was an English buccaneer, who attacked mainly Spanish ships and settlements around the Caribbean, Central and South America. He encountered a new land mass on December 1687, which was subsequently called Davis Island. It inspired Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on a voyage that led him in 1722 to a land mass that he called Easter Island. It is possible that Easter Island was Davis Island, and in this comic the fantasy joins the two and mythologises the age of discovery with a sunken civilisation.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Lion and Thunder
'Adam Eterno - Monsters in the Weird City on the Sea-Bed!' (Part 3)
(10 February 1973, IPC Magazines)

'Adam Eterno – 'Zaal the Destroyer versus the Golden Colossus!' (Part 4)
(17 February 1973, IPC Magazines)

In part 3 of this story, Adam Eterno and his companion, Martin, are enveloped by an undersea bubble, which sweeps them through a metal hatch. Inside, they discover a kingdom beneath the sea, of which Easter Island was once a part. They are chased by robots and a giant man made of gold and take refuge in a building from which erupts a giant snake from beneath the sand. The snake, called Zaal the Destroyer, thwarts the robots but Adam and Martin cannot escape the giant man of gold.

In the final instalment, the escaped snake coils around the colossus and brings it crashing down. Adam and Martin dash back to their sea-scooter, but are held back by the glowing vegetation, one of which forms into a shark and attacks Adam. By now the giant has defeated the snake but Adam and Martin flee through the metal hatch just in time leaving the colossus locked within the undersea kingdom. A rockslide buries the hatch and, back on the surface, where the threat has now been removed, the native population begins to return.

Much of parts 3 and 4 of this rather undeveloped story take place in an undersea kingdom, which like the myth of the lost continent of Mu (itself inspired by Atlantis), is said to have been joined once to Easter Island. There is just a brief mention of what exactly this undersea kingdom is in part 2, where Adam refers to a "bigger island" called Davis Island. Who or what is Davis the story never explains. It operates simply to provide an underwater adventure for the heroes with further ominous figures for them to defeat or escape.

The robots have moai-like features, but there is no link explained between them and the moai above ground. The un-original colossus, meanwhile, is perhaps too close in design to the Amazing Colossal Man (1957), even down to the trunks that he wears. He and the robots are made of gold, with the reason being that the sole thing that can destroy Eterno is this precious metal. This fact, which is part of Eterno's stated character within the comics, is unfortunately repeated often throughout this adventure. The story is a boy's own fantasy of heroism, camaraderie, voyaging, foreign lands and 'history', that was typical of many British children's comics.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Patricia Porumbel

Jump to contents

'The Super-Amazon!'
(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!".

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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!’.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Perry: Unser Mann im All [Perry: Our Man in the Universe]
Atlan: Der Einsame in der Zeit. Das Geheimnis der Osterinsel [‘Atlan: The Lonely one in Time. The Secret of Easter Island’]
(no. 116, Moewig Verlag, November 1974)

Atlan is descended from the Arkonids, who travelled the Universe long ago in their spaceships. Stranded on earth, Atlan was given a Cell Activator by the Immortal Wanderer. Thus, Atlan himself became immortal, whereupon he observes the evolution of the human race through the cosmic bloom and up to the epoch of American astronaut Perry Rhodan, and his space landing in 1971, which was to change the Universe. The humans and human-like beings depicted here all originate from the planet Santayaar.

This is the prelude to a story that takes place on Easter Island and which has significance for the whole world and beyond. A strange energy awakens Atlan from a deep sleep in his undersea dome. He discusses the situation with his servant, the robot Rico, and decides to voyage in his rocketship to the source of this power. He notices that the energy comes from a remote island, Easter Island, which is attracting ancient tribes and people from across the world - here called Larsaf III. Rico thinks the people could be on a recurring pilgrimage to a religious site.

Against Rico’s advice, Atlan decides to land on Easter Island. Soon he witnesses a colossal moai falling, the ropes around it snapping, as it buries beneath it many “primitive” people who were trying to erect the carving. On a hill-side he observes an old wizard-like man, wearing a cloak, and radiating power from his eyes and hands. He was overseeing the construction of the moai and he now raises the fallen statue through the use of his immense mental powers. The locals revere such a god-like man, but Atlan suspects that the wizard is a mutant. He decides to follow the man, who enters a cave, where strange symbols are written on the walls and which correspond to those on the wizard’s cloak. Now exposed, Atlan is suddenly paralysed by the strange man’s powers, but he is mentally able to resist the force and begins to communicate.

The old man says that he is descended from Santayaar and that he is the reason for the migrations to Easter Island. He decides that Atlan must die, but just in time Rico comes to the rescue and with his gun immobilises the old man. Rico takes Atlan outside to show him a strange phenomenon, with six vertical cosmic rings now appearing above the heads of moai positioned on an ahu (or ceremonial platform). These rings begin to communicate with Atlan by sending thought impulses to his brain. Atlan learns that the old man was actually meant to be the guardian of the people as they emerged into the world, ages ago, observing and guiding this race as it developed. The old man, however, was no longer able to cope with the loneliness of his task and he consequently endangered all mankind by persuading them to come to him. The powers of the original planet Santayaar, which are manifested in the rings, determine Atlan as the new guardian of the so-called “Children of the Star Wanderers”, as the humans are called. As the rings begin to disappear, Atlan, who stands on a cliff surrounded by moai, concludes that the inhabitants of Larsaf III and the Arkonids all have a common origin.

Whilst an Atlan adventure, this twelve-page story is part of the extensive science fiction universe of Perry Rhodan books and comics, which since the first publication in 1961 has continued to be extremely popular in German-speaking countries, in particular. The story and its design are a striking amalgamation of contemporary forms of moai fiction and artwork that was popular in the early 1970s. In its depiction of an ethereal beauty of a distant time before man, the opening pages draw on the neo-bohemian art of psychedelia, which incorporated the abstraction, patterns and forms of art nouveau. The wizard-like old man could easily be a Merlin figure borrowed from Arthurian legend, the symbols on his cloak possibly bearing a loose connection to rongorongo, but also runic inscriptions. This continues into the realisation of Atlan, a science fiction immortal with an exaggerated masculinity and thick flowing hair, who appears part inspired by the depictions of 1970s rock music ‘gods’ (see also Lion and Thunder, reviewed above).

The imagined technology is quaint, with Rico the robot, the rocketship and the television monitor devices little evolved from 1930s fiction, but Atlan is also a product of a time when space operas of epic narratives, melodrama, exotic interplanetary settings and grand adventures and battles were being re-established and just a few years later were reinvented in the blockbuster film Star Wars (1977). By then, music (most often prog rock) and graphic artists had combined to create entire new worlds and imagined empires, imagescapes and soundscapes in which warriors and outer space castles created a new mythology, borrowed from the relocated mysteries and medievalism of an ancient Earth (see the review below for Evidence). The effect was to position Earth within a greater lineage of life within the galaxy and where the seeds of mankind could be traced to a distant civilisation, one in which the moai have repeatedly been foregrounded. In other stories in the Perry Rhodan series, it is revealed that the Arkonids long ago lived on the Pacific’s lost continent of Lemuria, which has often appeared in moai fiction as the destroyed civilisation for which Easter Island is all that remains.

Besides the moai – many of which are either copied from those found on the slope of Rano Raraku or the row of seven moai at ahu Akivi – there are unfortunately very few references to Easter Island culture. The Rapanui appear in just four frames and always as people that are in the distance, tiny, faceless and controlled. Wizards and shaman figures, able to levitate or erect the moai through extra-ordinary powers, are part of Rapanui local legends and they have appeared elsewhere in moai fiction (see The Adventures of Ogu, Mampato and Rena, reviewed below). In fact, the comic appears influenced by the writings of Erich von Däniken, and his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods?, which was subsequently filmed in 1970 (reviewed above). Significantly, Däniken’s work promotes the story of priests who through their immense powers were able to make moai fly. Moreover, this comic copies the 1972 French film, Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques (reviewed above), with its image of a celestial encounter above a row of moai. Whereas the film depicted six yellow glowing discs, one above the head of each moai, which communicate telepathically with selected humans, the comic has six bright rings, one above the head of each moai, directing intense thought-waves to the immortal Atlan.

Hermann Mückler and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

Look and Learn
‘What Really Happened? The Stone Secrets of Easter Island’
(no.682, 8 February 1975, IPC Magazines)

A British educational magazine, that contained well-illustrated stories from history and contemporary life and industry, as well as comic strips, Look and Learn lasted between 1962 and 1982, absorbing other similar publications into its identity as it became the most known UK weekly of its kind. The publication had a reputation for solid education, but its content, viewed now, is extremely suspect.

In the first of three separate issues in which Easter Island was given prominence, a two-page feature presents text supported by three very wrong illustrations. The first image, which dominates the opening page, has a group of European sailors (who are presumably meant to be Jacob Roggeveen and his crew) examining moai around the slopes of Rano Raraku, but with each of these carvings bearing pukao, when in reality none of these particular statues have the topknot. On the second page a pith helmet wearing explorer ponders a large stone tablet bearing hieroglyphs. The accompanying text says there remain “67 stone tablets covered with writing” and that “the natives have hidden them all. And so well that years of digging has failed to find them”. Which means the image contradicts the accompanying text. More importantly, there are in fact just twenty-six rongorongo tablets and they are made of wood, are much smaller and only found now in foreign museums. As the explorer contemplates the finding, a Rapanui man looks on, but the depiction of this islander seems more inspired by African natives. This is more explicit in the final image which shows a battle in which the workers fought the long-eared rulers, but everything in this drawing from the physiognomy of the warriors to the weapons is plain wrong. It is as if the image has been taken from another story and from another continent, with the long ear warriors carrying long shields and wearing helmets and even one of them employing a metal sword.

The accompanying text is shoddy. Buccaneer Edward Davis is reported in this magazine to have spied a large land area near Easter Island in 1856, when it was December 1687. It says there are 387 moai on the island, when the number is just short of 900, and that many of them adorn “either side of a five-mile long avenue”, which is completely untrue. Even more absurd, it states that the moai “point to the conclusion that Easter Island must at one time have been near to a much larger island, or a series of islands. Some scientists believe that Easter Island was the holy island and cemetery for its bigger neighbour”. Such imaginative narratives masquerading as fact appeared in sensationalist magazines such as Sir! (reviewed below), but its readers would presumably have been aware of the fiction of those stories. What is worrying is the arena in which Look and Learn operated, and from which generations took the ‘knowledge’ within as true.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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”.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(no.1, December 1975, Editions Procodif)

Easter Island appears on the cover only for this French magazine which combines science fiction, contemporary art and counter culture, across comic strips, erotic sketches and interviews (including one in this issue with director Alejandro Jodorowsky on his plans for his forthcoming film, Dune). The front cover features the artwork of celebrated British illustrator Chris Foss, and his painting for ‘Visitors from Outer Space’, which extends around to the back of the magazine. In 1975, Foss was working with Jodorowsky, helping to design a vision for Dune, but primarily his commissioned work has been found in/on magazines and the covers of science fiction paperbacks.

Great spaceships, marvellous machinery and futuristic cities are common to Foss’s science fiction illustrations, with scale emphasised through planets or occasionally people appearing alongside. The image for Imagine is no exception, with not only the spaceship but the moai establishing the monumental nature of the fantasised scenario. The small figures (possibly humans) that surround the site in which the central moai is being positioned, wear ceremonial robes displaying a red symbol, which appears birdlike, but certainly reflects Foss’s interest for including esoteric symbols in his art. Moai culture has repeatedly resorted to aliens as an explanation for how the moai were transported and erected, and this image is the most sophisticated example of them all. A second related image (now vertical), titled ‘Easter Island’, and painted by Foss around the same time also features a spaceship positioning a moai with the use of cables, with another statue in the foreground bearing alien symbols/coding on its back. In addition, a companion painting subtitled ‘Atlantis Before the Fall’, that appears to share the same main title, ‘Visitors from Outer Space’, was painted in this same period of Foss’s creativity and shows a continued focus on mythologised and lost civilisations.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Atom Robot Adventurer
'Secret of Easter island'
(no.1, July 1976, Pulp Mania)

A federal agent diver comes ashore on an isolated beach and is immediately shot and killed by a sniper, who then attempts to dispose of the body with a chemical more lethal than acid. Bionic special agents Nova Hendrix and Atom intervene and destroy the sniper with his own chemical that dissolves his body. In the federal agent's reserve airtank they find a pouch containing slides of undeciphered rongorongo hieroglyphs. The agent had been missing for months and had relayed to his superiors information "about an alien spaceship buried on Easter Island". Nova and Atom are sent to Easter Island to investigate.

As Nova and Atom fly over Easter Island, they observe that it is abandoned. Upon landing and seeing the moai, Atom says "if only they could talk!". They then notice a guard on a beach who is suddenly attacked by the branches of a tree that has come alive. Atom attacks the tree and saves the man, who is killed by Zarina before he can talk. She is accompanied by hooded men with space guns. Nova is shot by a ray that knocks her out leaving Atom to fight a giant alien – Zarina says if Atom can defeat this alien, she will let him and Nova go free; if not they will both be vaporised.

Part one of a story for an independent comic that seems to have lasted for just one issue, this barely begun adventure was therefore left unfinished. Drawn in black and white and with a poorly written story it is interesting for its inclusion of rongorongo, which would appear to play an important later plot function. Beyond this there is just one frame featuring the moai, on an island that curiously has a tree that comes alive. The comic is inspired by manga, and by characters such as Astro Boy, as well as American super hero comics and the television series The Six Million Dollar Man, which had begun three years earlier.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

1977 Super DC Calendar

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes
'A World Born Anew!'
(vol.30, no.236, February 1978, DC Comics)

On the planet Braal, in the thirtieth century, the geography is changing suddenly and dramatically with new seas forming, mountains becoming plains and mountains now in city centres. The Legion of Super-Heroes arrives to help and they discover an evil planetary architect, Worldsmith, remodelling the planet from his spacecraft for an unseen client. The superheroes try repeatedly to halt the destruction and finally Worldsmith leaves in a space warp, defeated. He leaves behind a world part altered that features a landscape of moai which Superboy recognises as similar to those on Earth.

Moai appear in just the final frame of this comic and are a strange and abstract conclusion to a story that employs the myth of creation. Worldsmith is an obsese alien who smokes fat cigars and wears a pin-stripe suit. He also has devil horns, snorts and resembles a wild boar. Undoubtedly, in this simple allegory he is intended to be an intergalactic version of a property developer, who alters landscapes on an industrial scale with no concern for community or local authority. Yet, the story implies that the unique landscapes of Earth are related to his powers of creation, which permits another reading of this despicable figure from beyond as a god, and the moai as ancient carvings from the beginning of time.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Duda: Lo Increible es las Verdad [Disbelief: Incredible but True]
‘“Ellos” Colonizaron la Isla de Pascua?’ [‘Did “They” Colonise Easter Island?’]
(no.352, March 1978, Editorial Posada: Mexico)

Two men on board a large ship point towards an island on the horizon. The man on the right, presumably the ship’s captain, declares that this island was once home to extra-terrestrials; the man on his left firmly rejects the idea, “that’s absurd,” he replies, “the Polynesians colonised it”. For the archaeologist, anthropologist and historian, the origins of Rapanui’s inhabitants and the island’s giant statue carvings remain an enigma – one that has sparked numerous sensational theories. Few such theories have been the result of serious study. Among those studies that are taken seriously is the work of the Norwegian ethnographer, Thor Heyerdahl. In his book Aku-Aku, which was first published in 1955, Heyerdahl remarked on the similarities between the cultures of Easter Island and South America pre- European colonization. Precisely twenty years after Heyerdahl published his work, another researcher, Antonio Ribera, set out once again to explore the mysteries of Easter Island.

Ribera is introduced as a man courageous enough to dispense with prejudice. He is willing to remain open to all possible explanations as to the origins of Easter Island’s remarkable culture. Indeed, compelled to tell the truth, he is even willing to consider the involvement of extra-terrestials, flying saucers and other “disconcerting ideas”. Ribera began by studying the history of Easter Island, of which not much is known. However, official sources trace its origins back to sometime in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries of the Christian era, during the month of August, when a Polynesian king, called Hotu Matua, from the island of Hiva arrived on its only beach. He had risked this lengthy and dangerous voyage because his previous homeland was due to be swallowed up by the ocean. Hotu Matua and his family travelled to Easter Island in two giant canoes made of “vesi” (strong, redwood), crafted with “toki” (stone tools). Hotu Matua had learned the location of the island through one of his subjects, Hau Maka, to whom it had appeared in a vision. During their long voyage, Hotu Matua and his crew survived by eating nuts and fish. A large supply of roots and seeds were also brought along, but left untouched. Hotu Matua and his people planted these roots and seeds in their new home. They brought yams, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and bananas to Easter Island.

Details pertaining to the original boats and cuisine of the first Easter Islanders were of great importance to Ribera. He doubted whether all such produce was native to Polynesia. He was, in particular, interested in the origins of the sweet potato. This vegetable, he was sure, came from Latin America and not from Polynesia. Ribera also picked up on a point made previously by Heyerdahl: in Rapanui, the name for sweet potato is “kumara” it could be no coincidence, Ribera reasoned, that in the Quechua dialect of the Peruvian people sweet potatoes also carry the same name. In addition to the sweet potato, Ribera also discovered the American origins of the soapberry, or sapindus saponaria, a small tree growing in Florida (North America) which was found on Easter Island by the first Europeans.

Not all evidence suggested an American origin for the first islanders, however. Rather, Ribera learned about the “naunau” (sandalwood) and “niu” (coconut palm). These had arrived on the island from Indian-Malaysian or possibly, in the former’s case, Australian territories. How, Ribera wondered, can the cuisine of Easter Island have originated as far East as Indo-Malaysia and Australia and as far West as America? How could the earliest inhabitants have travelled such enormous distances using basic tools? The matter grew more complex still when Ribera noticed the existence of two remarkable plants. The first is spaghnum, a moss which flourishes in sweet water; the second is cattail, a reed growing in the island’s volcanic craters. As Stéphen Chauvet had observed many years before, the islanders used spaghnum as a sealant to plug up the holes in their canoes. Yet, Ribera remembered that, according to the islanders’ own stories, they had originally arrived in canoes made of a single piece of hard, redwood. Such boats, Ribera reasoned, would never require a sealant. Could spaghnum have been used by people living on the island – who did not sail in hardwood canoes – before the arrival of Hotu Matua and his people? And what about the cattail? This reed grows only in the Himalayas and in Lake Titicaca. How did it arrive on Easter Island if not in the boats used by the island’s original colonisers? These first canoes must have been built using cattail reeds and sealed using spaghnum. On the basis of this evidence, Ribera tilts once again in the direction of Heyerdahl’s thesis: the most likely origin of the first inhabitants of Easter Island were South America, not Polynesia.

Yet Ribera was ready for another possibility, one far more outlandish than that proposed by Heverdahl. He noticed that, in the pre-modern world, the technology to construct these boats had existed in one other place – ancient Egypt. Could it be that Easter Island had been colonised by Egyptians? Of course, as Ribera realised, such a claim was likely to aggravate his critics, but this did not deter him, and as he explored further he began to notice similarities between the languages of Easter Island and ancient Egypt. The particle ‘Ra’, for instance, which signifies ‘days’ in Egyptian frequently appeared in the Rapanui language. Similarly, in the Easter Island dialect, ‘Aku Aku’ refers to spirits while, in ancient Egyptian, spirits were called ‘Akhu’. The brother of King Hotu Matua was called Oroi, which reminded Ribera of the ancient Egyptian deity, Horus. It was also said, Ribera noted, that Hotu Matua had been educated in a land ruled by a king whose first name was Kokiri. Did that name not echo Osiris? And the second name of Hotu Matua was Hotu Araae – a term that means, in the language of Easter Island, ‘Son of Ra’. Moreover, Ribera was drawn to the ways in which the Rapanui carvers worked with stone to construct a wall for which there are parallels with the techniques of the builders of many South American cultures – the Wanaku (of Bolivia), Saqsaywaman (Peru), Cusco (Peru), and Macchu Picchu – but, Ribera argued, the strongest parallel was with the building techniques of Egypt.

Ribero’s bold thesis situates the original colonisation of Easter Island in the third century BC. It happened, Ribera argued, as the result of the boundless curiosity of Ptolemy III Euergetes, an extraordinary individual whose reign marked the height of the Ptolemaic era. This ruler ordered a Greek adventurer, Aristo, to sail the Egyptian coast to the Indian ocean during the years 278-277 BC. The Pharoah’s desire for naval adventure was so great that, to please him, another sailor, called Pythagoras, travelled to each of the islands of this ocean. Ptolemy’s sailors arrived, without doubt, at Sri Lanka, the coasts of Tasmania, and the islands of New Zealand. Having travelled thus far, Ribera began to ponder, was it not possible that the same men crossed the ocean to the western coasts of South America?

For those who consider such ideas absurd, one scholarly publication should set the reader straight: The Week of Science and Technology, no. 131 (13 March 1975). The authors introduce the reader to a study carried out by the Chilean Government’s National Commission of Science and Technology. According to this study, presented on 13 November 1974, in a seminar conducted at Harvard University, there is ample proof that in the year 232 AD, a fleet of Polynesian boats under the command of two men, Ratas and Mawi, travelled the Pacific and Indian oceans. They had been sent by Ptolemy III on a fact-finding mission to test the theories of the polymath Eratosthenes regarding the world’s circumference. (As is now well known, Eratosthenes’ eventual findings shatter the myth that, pre Columbus, no one had known that the world was spherical.) Their intentions, then, had been to circumnavigate the world. In the Harvard seminar (reported in The Week of Science and Technology), mention had been made of recent discoveries of inscriptions in Western New Guinea. These inscriptions were carved in a Libyan language. The ancient Libyan and Egyptian languages are related. And, for Ribera, this was only logical: Ptolemy II was married to Berenic II, Queen of Libya. Whoever left these inscriptions must have been sent by the Pharoah.

Sensing the possibility of a remarkable breakthrough, the organisers of the Harvard seminar alerted their North American colleagues of the need to locate corroborating evidence of a trip by the ancient Egyptians. They were interested in clues – writing, inscriptions – proving that ancient Egyptian (or Libyan) science had been transferred to the shores of South America. One scholar, Professor Fell, found a vital piece of information. He came across a record by Carl Stolp, in 1885, of extraordinary inscriptions in a cave in central Chile. According to Fell, these inscriptions were left by Mawi, one of Ptolemy’s captains: “this is the southernmost point of the coast reached by Mawi. It is the southernmost point of the mountainous land which the commander claims by this declaration”.

For Ribera, matters were clear: having travelled as far south as they could go, Ptolemy’s men must ultimately have sent off westwards towards Easter Island. The ancient Egyptians colonised Easter Island before King Hotu Matua. To Ribera’s mind, this is the only way to interpret the manifold linguistic links between the two cultures. Again, it is the only possible way to explain the resemblance between a giant, bearded Moai, twenty-two metres in height, that had been captured on film by Thor Heyerdahl, to the figure of Akhenaton.

Of course, there is space to include only a fraction of Ribera’s overall argument. Shining new light on the workings of history, Ribera and others have yet to receive the attention they deserve. Perhaps this is because the past he imagines is richer and more replete with wisdom than the past described in our authorised texts. After all, in the latter, primitive peoples could never cross the ocean in such fragile vessels, yet the proof uncovered by Ribera shows otherwise.

Ribera’s book Operacion Rapa Nui (Barcelona: Editorial Pomaire, 1975) provides more on this highly contentious subject, to which subsequent researchers have given little to no oxygen. The ancient Egyptians did not, in fact, settle or visit Rapanui and the links between Rapanui and South America remain hotly debated. This, however, has not stopped moai fiction – see Sky Pirates (reviewed above), Action Comics (reviewed above), and Sakkara (reviewed below) – fantasising links between Rapanui and the Egyptians, especially as the two offer some of the most striking myths of civilisation. The bearded moai on Easter Island, called Tukuturi, exists and is unique amongst the carvings, but connecting it to Egyptian culture by hair alone is absurd. Like many other of the Mexican comics of this period – such as Grandes Viajes (reviewed above) and Aunque usted lo Dude (reviewed below) – which took the ideas of Heyerdahl and others to reconsider the Pacific and the origins of its settlement, their ‘facts’ belong more to a pseudo-science fueled by wild imaginations.

Richard Gauvain

Jump to contents

Mortadelo y Filemón – Mundial 78 [Mortadelo and Filemón – World Cup 78]
(text and drawings: Francisco Ibanez; Barcelona: Editorial Bruguera, 1978)

The President of the African republic of Mondongo is angry that FIFA has not granted him the opportunity to host the 1978 football World Cup. He plans to sabotage the World Cup, so special agents Mortadelo and Filemón are sent to intervene, disguising themselves as players within the Spanish football squad. Whilst at the World Cup, Mortadelo and Filemón foolishly light a match in a truck packed with explosives. It sends Filemón, in the burnt remnants of the truck's driver's seat, all the way across the North Pole. Mortadelo is catapulted to Galicia in the north-west of Spain, from where he returns with one of its famous octopuses on his head. To his surprise, Filemón's journey has continued further still to Easter Island. Seeing Filemón returning with a moai stuck on his head, Mortadelo does not need to be informed as to where his colleague has come from; "Don't tell me anything! I can guess!", he declares.

Mortadelo and Filemón is a much read Spanish comic, which creator Francisco Ibáñez populated at times with cartoon images of Easter Island. Other issues will be reviewed here over time; see below for a review of an issue where Easter Island features on the cover. As with that cover, the humour in this issue is centred around Easter Island's remoteness (and uniqueness), with the distance travelled by the exploding truck sufficient to send one of the spies beyond the North Pole and all the way to distant Rapanui. Furthermore, there is humour in the myth of presence, in which a monolithic moai carving, which would be so difficult to transport, has somehow been brought all the way to the World Cup as a remnant of an unexpected visit. The comedy in fetching an actual moai and bringing it 'home' was repeated in an issue of Futurama (see the review above).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(summer special, 1978, Editorial Bruguera)

Easter Island appears on the cover only of this summer special bumper edition comic. It connects with a football World Cup special of Mortadelo for 1978 (see review above), in which the cover characters, Mort (aka Mortadelo) and Phil (aka Filemón), experience a brief visit to Easter Island. Mort and Phil first appeared in 1958 and are hugely popular characters in Spain (who have also been translated into numerous other languages). They are secret agents (originally private detectives) and for many of their adventures they travel the globe; in this issue they are in Egypt.

Many of the summer specials of Mortadelo have a water theme and, on this cover, Mort the master of disguise has gone ashore on Easter Island, holding in his hand a dodgy compass. Phil, his boss, shouts at him from their yacht, irate that they had bought a cheap compass that should have guided them to Mallorca, part of Spain's Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. The compass is so poor that they have veered widely off course and rather unlikely (considering also the small size of their boat) ended up on a remote island in the Pacific. Mort and Phil are a bumbling duo who repeatedly make mistakes.

The artist Francisco Ibáñez often inserted 'whimsies' into his cover art – bits of detail which add another level of visual humour. Here, that detail is focused on the moai, which are humanised, with one given a sticking plaster on his chin, another given warts on his nose and a tear in his eye. A third moai has a gecko crawling up the side of his face, which he appears to be observing. The large Italian pork sausage, mortadela, from which Mortadelo's name derives, lies on the ground at the foot of a moai.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Kid Acero, Brazo-Bala y el "Escuadrón Lobo" [Kid Acero, Bullet Arm, and the "Wolf Squadron"]
'Un Extraño Visitante' ['A Strange Visitor']
(no.62, 16 August 1978, Editorial Novaro)

Evil scientist, Doctor Drago, finds himself in a top-secret prison. He reaches out telepathically to Yu Yan's Eastern Monks, the Black Sect. Drago closes his eyes and begins to intone the monks' mantra: "Kali Bau Shiva… Kali Bau Shiva…". A circle of monks in Tibet hear Drago's telepathic pleas. A Lama answers: "I hear you, little dragon… how can I be of assistance?". Drago explains his situation. Rebuked for his laziness, Drago agrees to make a sacrificial offering to Kali, goddess of death and destruction. In return, the monk tells Drago to expect his rescuer in three days.

Lying on the floor of his prison cell, Drago enters a trance and waits. Three days pass whereupon a sinister robot emerges from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Walking ponderously, its footprints sinking deeply into the sands, the robot makes its way towards the top-secret prison. High on the walls, the guards fire on the approaching robot. Bullets bounce off its metal body and its force-field deflects a bazooka strike. But the outer walls are protected by a 10,000 volt electric charge, which momentarily staggers the attacker. The robot soon rises to its feet. It scoops up an enormous granite rock and throws it with extraordinary power at the walls. Within seconds, the robot is inside the prison, trampling the guards' bodies under its feet. The robot swipes through the metal bars of Doctor Drago's prison cell and carries Drago – cackling in glee to himself – away. The director of the prison decides to call the Wolf Squadron.

At their base, the three members of the Wolf Squadron - Kid Acero, the Invisible Man and the Bionic Man – are preparing themselves for the fight when news arrives that the robot has been located on Easter Island. Leaving for the island in the Wolf-Plane, the heroes reflect on Drago's new choice of home: "He must want Darwin to study him", "Isn't Easter Island home to the mysterious stone colossi?", "Nobody can explain where those giant heads came from", "Maybe Doctor Drago knows something and plans to use it against mankind […] Anything is possible".

On Easter Island, Drago confides to his robot companion that Doctor Darwin carried out many interesting studies on the great lizards of this island. Positioning his robot in front of one of the moai, Drago next instructs it to focus its beams on the medulla oblongata, at the base of the moai's head. As the robot does so, and electricity courses through the moai, Drago excitedly remarks that the giant head seems about to move its eyes and mouth. At this moment, the Wolf-Plane arrives. Furious, Drago swears that nothing will interrupt his grand experiment. On the edge of a cliff face, the Wolf Squadron attacks Drago's robot. The fight does not go well and the Bionic Man is soon thrown off the cliff. Just as the robot is about to destroy the Bionic Man with his laser beam, Kid Acero knocks it off balance. To Kid Acero's dismay, the robot rights itself immediately – "I don't think I even tickled it". They fight until the robot activates its plutonium cathodes and forms a neutral field around Kid Acero, who crumples to the ground.

Laughing over Kid Acero's body, Drago tells his robot to throw the unconscious hero into the sea. High up on a mound directly above his enemies, the Invisible Man picks his moment to push a large rock down onto them. The rock barrels into the robot's chest and knocks it to the ground. Now immobilised, the wires in one of the robot's arm are exposed. Drago desperately tries to mend the robot, but fails. The Invisible Man takes Drago captive and prepares to transport him onto the Wolf-Plane, deciding to leave the bodies of his fallen comrades behind for others to recover – "killed in combat, fighting an evil criminal. They will be declared global heroes". Drago plays for time by pleading for the Invisible Man to recover the other members of the Wolf Squadron.

At that moment, the island begins to tremble. On the Hill of the Great Lizard, the moai that Drago's robot had energised slowly starts to rise from its place. There for thousands of years, it now searches for its new master. Drago calls out to the moai for help. It begins to move towards him and the Invisible Man. Its giant stone hand snatches Drago away from the Invisible Man, who is thrown headlong down the cliff. Still at the bottom of the cliff, the Bionic Man helps to drag his winded team-mate from the sea. The Invisible Man explains his plan to immobilise the moai: "the robot activated it by energising the medulla oblongata…by striking it in the same place, the robot could also paralyse it". The Bionic Man points his magnetic arm in the direction of the fallen robot. Within seconds, the magnetic field he generates pulls the robot's giant body down the cliff face towards the two members of the Wolf Squadron.

The Bionic Man realises that the robot's wiring can be repaired. He points the partially repaired robot's arm at the giant moai which remains standing in protection of Drago at the top of the cliffs. The laser beam strikes the stone head in the same place, at the base of the skull, neutralising its medulla oblongata. The big head flops down, lifeless; the moai's body once more sinks back into the soil; it closes its eyes, never to open them again. Drago holds his head in his hands, but swears that nothing will stop him from ultimately conquering mankind. To his surprise, he finds Kid Acero leaning nonchalantly against one of the other moai: "Great, doctor, so, you're speaking to stones". As he is led off, Drago snarls, "I hate you all now more than ever. I will destroy you".

A cheaply produced Mexican pocket-sized adventure for children, this comic was designed as a tie-in for a range of toys that were popular in the 1970s. Mattel had produced a toy called Big Jim, a hero with a mighty steel fist. He was accompanied by the Invisible Man, and former astronaut the Bionic Man – the latter an even greater admission of the source of inspiration for these hyper-masculine figures that were designed to compete with the Steve Austin (in Mexico called El Hombre Nuclear) line of tie-in toys. The Big Jim trio were known as P.A.C.K. and had a series of vehicles that they used to fight a range of villains, all of which were immortalised in toy-form. CIPSA, a Mexican toy company, bought the rights to market the toys south of the border, and consequently renamed Big Jim as Kid Acero (Kid Steel) and P.A.C.K. as the Escuadrón Lobo (Wolf Squadron).

Much of this comic's fantasy of Easter Island is derivative. The island is devoid of a population with its remnant culture represented solely by the moai. One of the stone heads rises up and becomes an active threat, though the robot dominates the story and appears a more challenging foe (as the cover to the comic emphasises). The myth of movement is common in moai fiction with the colossi able to walk, talk and fight. Interestingly, this Mexican comic gives a moai a medulla oblongata, which can be activated to bring the giant alive. It subsequently functions like a Golem, protecting its master, Drago.

The Darwin reference is odd and the naturalist/biologist has only appeared on two other occasions in moai fiction (see The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, reviewed above, and The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, reviewed below). As an adventurer exploring his theory of evolution, Darwin (who was not a doctor) did voyage within the Pacific, but never as far as Easter Island. In narratives drawn to the endeavours of an apparent lost race of islanders, Darwin references can become a convenient shorthand for societal advances and collapse. The other distinct anomaly in the comic is the giant lizard which is observed on the island and resembles the komodo dragon. Such a creature is found only around the islands of Indonesia; it is also distinct from the iguanas that Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands. As in many other examples of moai fiction, island identities can be easily exchanged.

Richard Gauvain

Jump to contents

Duda: lo Increible es la Verdad [Disbelief: Incredible but True]
‘Nan Modal: La Otra Isla de Pascua’ [‘Nan Modal: The Other Easter Island’]
(no. 396, January 1979, Editorial Posada: Mexico)

In this story the moai appear sporadically on just five pages, where they are mentioned in the context of other ancient monuments. First they are mentioned alongside the ‘Bihimi pavements’ of the Bahamas and the antiquities of Ba‘lbik, in Lebanon and Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia. All locations are described as containing marvellous and mysterious architectural clues to “lost civilizations”.

A few pages later, on the story’s title page, a colossal moai dominates with the view that the archaeological site of Nan Madol, on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia, is the “other Easter Island”, despite there being no such carvings in that region. Later in the comic, the authors ask the reader to imagine the possibility that Pohnpei, Easter Island and all Pacific archipelagos once belonged to Mu, a vast land mass known as Lemuria, which is said to have sunk beneath the ocean. This hypothetical land has been studied in India and Tibet, and was proposed by an English colonel, James Churchward, who said that there were around 64 million inhabitants living on Mu, before it was destroyed. The authors, however, acknowledge that it is unlikely that the island of Pohnpei ever belonged to Mu. Yet they do conclude that there is nothing to suggest that the cultures of Mu and Pohnpei did not co-exist.

In the final pages, the script of rongorongo is mentioned with the authors remarking that there are similarities between the Indus Valley script and rongorongo; they also note the overlap between both these ancient scripts and the scripts used in Greece and Crete during the same era. A reasonably accurate image of a rongorongo tablet is presented, with an extract then positioned next to Cretan and Indus Valley scripts, which are juxtaposed for the reader to observe connections.

This is a descriptive and wildly speculative Mexican comic, with a gung-ho approach driven by the sensationalism of connecting disparate cultures into one. The focus of the comic is Pohnpei, with the links to Easter Island important but infrequent and far from smooth. Duda is in fact one of a number of Mexican comics that were published post the late 1960s that are pseudo-educational, mixing fact and fiction to different degrees. Aunque Usted lo Dude (reviewed below) shares some similarities in that it also foregrounds Lemuria and the belief that rongorongo is connected to the ancient hieroglyphs of the Indus Valley. A previous issue of Duda (reviewed above) was more accurate in its facts, albeit promoting the since contested ideas of Thor Heyerdahl. This issue of Duda is more problematic in that Churchward, a faux-historian-scientist is taken seriously. Here he is referred to as “an army man” (Churchward did serve in the British army) and even depicted in a military uniform, which gives him an appearance of authority.

Richard Gauvain

Jump to contents

Look and Learn
‘Their Changing World: Battle of the Ears’
(no.923, 29 September 1979, IPC Magazines)

A little more than four years after its first attempt (reviewed above) at relaying the wonders of Easter Island, British educational magazine Look and Learn devoted another two-page spread to educating its readers. This time half of the feature is in colour and it presents a rather fanciful large image that imagines the culture of the Rapanui, in a form of ceremony, at the foot of three moai. The image continues on to the page opposite, which shows three European voyagers observing the performance. It would appear to be an illustration for the accompanying text that says when Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen “went ashore, he saw a sight which must have appeared very strange to his Christian eyes. A crowd of natives were performing a sun-worshipping ritual in front of a number of outlandish, giant stone statues”. Unfortunately, this is one of many Look and Learn fabrications as no such ritual was recorded by Roggeveen.

Fifty-five months earlier, Look and Learn had informed its readers that there were precisely 387 moai on Easter Island; now the number was revised and almost doubled to the less exact “something like 600 altogether”. Still it was far short of the 887 moai on the island. It is also wrong to say that all of the moai are of the upper half of the body. Most problematic is the manner in which it ends, conveying a narrative of great Chilean welfare and the good lives that the contemporary islanders apparently now experience: “The Chilean government has greatly developed sheep-farming there, and has introduced a forestry scheme. In a further big investment programme, they have already built a commercial airport, a school, a hospital and a leper station”. This presented such a false account of the reality for the Rapanui who, in 1979, had endured many years of hardship under the Chilean administration. Not least, the dreadful sheep farm, that ceased in 1953, essentially imprisoned the islanders in a small part of their island, whilst the grazing animals were prioritised in terms of land use.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Mystery of Easter Island

Review forthcoming

Jump to contents

Mister No
'Isola di Pasqua' ['Easter Island']
(no.60; Milan: Editoriale Cepim, May 1980)

Mister No is learning to surf in Rio de Janeiro while his Piper aircraft is being repaired. In Ipanema he comes across an old friend and sweetheart, Patricia, an archaeologist who is on her way to Easter Island, where she hopes to decipher the mysterious 'kohau rongo rongo', with the help of Professor Pakomio and the local Rapanui, the custodians of the island's oral traditions and legends.

The following day Mister No is about to fly back to Manaus when his Piper is damaged by the careless landing of another aircraft piloted by the shady Mr Davis. Mister No decides to confront him but he is attacked by Davis's henchmen, who threaten him with knives. Mister No manages to escape and boards a plane which, he soon finds out, is the one taking Patricia to Easter Island.

On Easter Island, Patricia and Mr No are met by Pakomio, who accompanies them to their bungalow in Hanga Roa. Later that evening, as Mister No and Patricia are about to eat dinner, their bungalow is hit by gunshots. The attacker fires through a window striking in the head a large carving of moai kavakava, which Mister No is holding and which the gunman mistakes for a human. Pakomio, who lives next door, rushes to their help but the unknown gunman is nowhere to be found. The professor tries to downplay the incident, but then is forced to admit that the two Americans may be in danger. Yet, he refuses to reveal the reasons why.

The following morning, Pakomio, Mister No, and Patricia drive all the way to Rano Raraku, where the moai were created. Pakomio leaves the two Americans to observe the statues and goes to retrieve one of the mysterious rongorongo tablets, which are secretly kept in a cave. In the last panel of this comic, a mysterious attacker is about to roll a boulder onto the unaware American explorers who are admiring the statues.

Created in 1975 by Guido Nolitta, the pen name of Sergio Bonelli, the popular Italian series Mister No (which has been translated into other languages) tells the adventures of Jerome Drake Junior (nicknamed Mister No), formerly a US Army military pilot during World War II. At the end of the War he moves to Manaus, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, where he works as an airplane pilot and tour guide, flying his Piper. Although most of his stories are set in the Amazon rainforest, his foolhardy and reckless character also results in global adventures.

In the first part of this story – which takes place over three comics/ instalments (reviewed below) – Easter Island only appears in the last third. Maps of the island are shown twice, so as to provide an outline of the place and a visualisation of its geography. Within the frames, Hanga Roa appears as a colonial village surrounded by palms, with both wooden two-storey buildings and bungalows and unpaved roads. It is a place whose economy revolves mostly around fishing.

Rongorongo is the cue for this adventure. In the story, the tablets are presented as the instruments of a group of ancient chanters and priests, repositories of the island's oral culture, who used the tablets to recall legends and tales. The descendants of these chanters are believed to hold the key to interpreting the glyphs but, according to Patricia, they have so far refused to reveal the secret to deciphering the tablets. The comic book correctly refers to kohau rongo rongo, which is translated as 'recitation wood' or 'narrator staffs'. The tablets, which in reality are scattered throughout the world, are here hidden in a secret cave that is only known by Pakomio.

While the tablets are not shown in this episode, the moai – which have largely been copied from photographs for the illustrations – figure prominently. They are the first thing we see of the Island and they are the main spectacle as Pakomio, Mister No and Patricia ride on horses towards Rano Raraku. In the words of Pakomio the statues are mostly three to five metres tall and date back to six or seven hundred years ago built using volcanic stone by the original settlers of Rapanui, who came from the Marquesas Islands.

Interestingly, the story also features a moai kavakava (wrongly referred to as moai kama kama), a wooden sculpture representing a human-like figure with prominent ribs, a bald head and a chin beard. The sculpture, which had ritual functions, is depicted as an ornamental object in the house where Mister No and Patricia are staying and it is employed for a moment of drama that spans several pages. The figure is much larger than those in existence but it is given a life-size appearance to aid a specific narrative moment.

To further contextualise the information provided in the comic, the closing section is dedicated to famous travellers and adventurers and focuses on Thor Heyerdahl's life and his famous Kon Tiki expedition. Here, it offers readers information about the supposed links (later largely dismissed) between South American civilisations and Easter Island.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Mister No
'Il Segno del Potere' ['The Symbol of Power']
(no.61; Milan: Editoriale Cepim, June 1980)

Mister No manages to escape another attempt on his life and rushes after a man in the distance. He manages to catch up with him at the entrance of a cave full of human skeletons and bones, whereupon he attacks him only to discover that it is Pakomio, who apparently had also been chasing after the mysterious attacker. Outside the cave, the professor explains that the failed attacks on Mister No's life may be the result of a mistaken identity. Pakomio thinks that behind the attempts is the local Sunset Company, which has mistaken the American pilot for a US government representative sent to the island to investigate the company's exploitation of local labour, which Pakomio has been fighting for years.

Later that night, a spontaneous rally takes place in Hanga Roa between the supporters of Pakomio's cause (those who are against the Sunset Company) and the followers of Matua who instead operates in favour of Sunset. While Pakomio seeks to liberate the islanders from the Company's capitalist yoke of underpaid labour in the sheep farming and shearing industry, Matua tries to dissuade the same workers from taking action against the company by evoking the spectre of retaliation and unemployment. A brawl between the two factions ensues, which is barely contained by the two policemen on the island.

At this point, Matua suggests that the course of action should be decided by the island's ancient tradition of electing a tangata manu or birdman, in which a leader is elected following the birdman race under the auspices of the ancient god Make-Make. All the workers agree. As the pretenders to the title of Birdman, Matua and (a reluctant) Pakomio will have to choose three representatives who will have to swim to the island of Motu-Nui from the cliffs of Orongo, find a manutara (sooty tern) egg and bring it back to Orongo. The first challenger to receive the egg, "The Symbol of Power", will become the new Birdman.

The challenge takes place the following day with Mister No offering to compete for Pakomio. Competitors must brave the currents that can bash them against the rocks, whilst avoiding the sharks that infest the waters. One contestant is eaten by a shark, another killed as he is smashed against the rocks. As he is about to reach Motu-Nui, Mister No decides to help one of his opponents from drowning. Finally, on Motu-Nui, Mister No finds an egg but he is attacked by Matua's machete-wielding men. Mister No manages to defeat them but breaks the egg. Luckily for him, the man he has just saved hands him another so that Mister No can swim back with the egg to proclaim Pakomio as the Birdman.

Unfortunately, the new leader's authority is immediately subverted as the Pascuans riot, setting fire to the Sunset Company's warehouses, and killing one of the policemen guarding the area. Mister No, who had collapsed on the Orongo shores and had awakened in the evening to a deserted beach, learns from the second policeman that the people of Rapanui, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, will be honouring Make-Make with a human sacrifice. Mister No heads back to Hanga Roa to save Patricia.

The second episode of Mister No's Easter Island trilogy contains many cultural and historical references that further serve to characterise the depiction of Easter Island and its people. Visually, the moai remain a dominant image for the island for the early part of this instalment, but they are not woven into the story and there is no mention of the rongorongo tablets that had appeared in the previous instalment. The action takes in the cliffs of Orongo, the ceremonial site of the birdman race, with its stone houses on the rim of Rano Kau and its petroglyphs representing the birdman.

The episode also mentions the Kaitangata, or Man Eaters, explaining that the practice of eating human flesh mostly occurred during the intestine wars; the victors eating the flesh of the defeated in a gesture of total annihilation. The comic conveys that cannibalism occurred on the island during a number of religious ceremonies and as an extreme act in case of food scarcity. While the birdman of yore controlled the food stocks, in this episode he is modernised as a political figure that has the power to lead the locals against the foreign capitalist invader and to reaffirm the rights of the Rapanui.

The Sunset Company is in fact a fictional rendition of the Williamson-Balfour Company, a Scottish-owned Chilean company which leased much of Rapanui as a sheep farm, confining the inhabitants to Hanga Roa and preventing their movement across the island. Through the return of the birdman cult the episode appears to endorse the reaffirmation of Rapanui culture and the rights of its people. Pakomio's fight for workers' rights reflects the widespread political protests of the late 1970s and very early 1980s, when the episode was written. However, Pakomio is shown to believe that these practices and attendant traditions are backward and should be confined to the past. Moreover, the lawlessness of the Rapanui at the comic's end depicts a frenzy that takes the population into a dark realm of murder and human sacrifice that counter's any cultural reaffirmation.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Mister No
(no.62; Milan: Editoriale Cepim, July 1980)

Destructive violence and primitive rage have taken hold of the inhabitants of Hanga Roa, who have been hailing Make-Make while leaving behind a trail of death and devastation. Mister No reaches a deserted Hanga Roa under the driving rain and heads for Patricia's house only to find an injured Matua waiting for him. The man wishes to kill Mister No believing him to be a US government agent. He also reveals that the people of Easter Island in a fit of collective rage have rebelled against their own birdman (Pakomio) and have brutally killed all those who opposed them. They are now heading to Ana Kai Tangata, the Cave of Cannibalism, where they will sacrifice Patricia to honour Make-Make. Mister No disarms the dying man and rushes to save Patricia.

He runs beyond Hanga Roa and across the hills until he reaches the plain of Mataveri, at the end of which, in the distance, he hears the roll of the drums and sees plumes of smoke coming from a bonfire. Surreptitiously he moves closer to the spot where the men are camped, and sees many dancing around the fire or lying unconscious on the ground. He also notices Pakomio, tied up and held captive by his supporters. Mister No attacks the camp shooting at the man who is guarding Pakomio and frees the professor, while the rest of the party runs away. Pakomio and Mister No head off to Ana Kai Tangata, where they will try to surprise Make-Make's followers by entering via an adjacent tunnel known only by Pakomio.

In the cave, the ceremony has just begun. Led by the costumed elder, the men of Easter Island dance frantically around a sacrificial altar, brandishing their machetes and hailing a giant statue of Make-Make, a feline or bear-looking human hybrid, seated and holding an enormous flaming torch. Patricia is held captive in another grotto, the so-called Cave of Fish, because its walls have been completely decorated with paintings of fish in different shapes and colours. As they are about to climb down to save Patricia, a man enters the cave but he is immediately knocked out by Mister No. However, the fugitives are discovered and a fight between the machete-armed men and the gun-toting Mister No ensues. Mister No is forced to shoot and kills several men. Patricia, Pakomio and Mister No manage to return to the surface where they separate: the two Americans head to the shore where in the distance a large ship is visible, while Pakomio runs to the airport to launch an SOS to the ship and ask for backup.

Pakomio manages to alert the ship, but he is reached by the men who kill him with their machetes. The rest of the men have managed to find Mister No and Patricia hiding among the rocks and attack them. Mister No fires back and the two manage to board a lifeboat that takes them to the ship. There they look forlornly towards the shore of Rapanui where the men, in a fit of bloodthirsty rage, have hoisted up Pakomio's head on a spear and continue to hail Make-Make. As the ship with Mister No and Patricia sails away towards Valparaiso, Miro, the son of Pakomio, who was returning home on that same ship, lands on the island and faces the men who now seem to realise the gravity of their actions.

Unlike the previous episodes in the trilogy, where a return to the Rapanui culture seemed to foresee a rebirth of Easter Island's people against the exploitation of the foreign company, here, the cult of Make-Make is presented as a fall back into primitiveness, and primordial impulses that take hold of the men of the Island (no women or children are ever mentioned or depicted in the entire story). The adventure unfortunately turns into a clichéd cowboys and Indians narrative where the hero must save the damsel in danger from the fury of the primitive locals. Make-Make rarely appears in moai fiction, so to have a story where he is so central held much promise. Yet this is a bloodthirsty god and a fantasised full-bodied figure that usually appears in Rapanui culture as just a face. Its appearance does, however, create a suitable fictional cult idol with its characteristics echoed in the animal-like behaviour of its followers. The inclusion of the Cave of Fish in the story's dramatic last stages is an interesting addition but, in reality, the rock paintings of the cave that is its inspiration, Ana Kai Tangata, depicts manutara, the sacred bird, and not fish.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Big Boss
(no.48, July 1980, Arédit)

Featuring only on the front cover of this French comic, the artwork of an extra-terrestrial spaceship hovering above the moai is one that has been echoed by other publications both before and since. The common message is Rapanui as a land associated with the strange, mysterious and the unearthly.

The artwork has a fascinating history. It was originally a sketch drawn by the French explorer Alphonse Pinart, who visited Easter Island in 1877. The sketch was developed as an illustration by A. de Bar, and titled Campement sur le Ronororaka [Camp on Rano Raraku] for the 1878 publication Le Tour de Monde – nouveau journal des voyages - livraison n°927 - Voyage à L'île de Pâques (Océan Pacifique) par Alphonse Pinart (1877). It was later used for a French trade card of the 1960s (reviewed below), before appearing on the cover of Big Boss and inspiring Jean-Louis Morelle, who has illustrated many of the book covers for prolific French science-fiction writer Jimmy Guieu.

The 1990 edition of Guieu's novel Les sphères de Rapa-Nui (reviewed below), features a front cover illustration that is very similar to the one used for Big Boss. The moai that is lying prone on the cover of Big Boss was removed for the cover of Les sphères de Rapa-Nui, but the other four moai are identical. The cliff behind the moai was reduced in size for the later publication; the nighttime sky became a red sky; and an exploding spaceship and floating giant spheres replaced the flying saucer. The cover of Big Boss suggests alien visitation to Easter Island, whilst the later image appears to move the location to another planet.

Crucially, both Big Boss and Les sphères de Rapa-Nui remove from the original image the six European men from Pinart's expedition and the fire within the cave entrance. Consequently, the image's original narrative of a human camp is erased. The visitation has now gone from an actual record, albeit one that was augmented and heightened, to an imagined encounter of the extra-terrestrial kind, all the while retaining much of the depiction and positioning of the moai.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Aunque Usted lo Dude [You May Doubt It]
‘El Gran Misterio de los Colossos de la Isla de Pascua’ [‘The Mystery of the Colossi of Easter Island’]
(no.1, August 1980, Ediciones Latinoamericanas: Mexico City)

The story’s narrator begins by stating that the world has the separate legends of both Egypt and Rapanui, two cultures for which it is unlikely that one influenced the other. In 1722, a ship captained by the Dutch sailor, Jacob Roggeveen, sighted Easter Island, inhabited by just its giant stone heads. Confused by the sunset, the Dutch thought the moai were living giants. Fearful that these colossi would attack, the Dutch sailed away without landing on the island. Back in the Netherlands, Roggeveen told others of the wondrous place in the middle of the Pacific, and that if they had not swiftly turned around they would have been devoured by the giants; thousands of them “all hungry roaring like beasts”. Sailors subsequently asked the natives of other islands about Rapanui and they expressed terror, speaking of a cursed and dangerous island of giants, who devour men.

Courageous Europeans carrying guns eventually landed on the island, with the intention of killing the giants. Only then did they discover that these giants were actually carved stone statues, leaving the sailors to ponder who put them there and how. Back then the island was “totally uninhabited”. Most of the 593 moai had been carved at the crater of Rano Rarakoa [sic], with others left unfinished in situ. A pith-helmet wearing German explorer examines the evidence and says that the tools that have been left abandoned around the unfinished moai are like workers who have stopped “to go for lunch”. He also wonders how the Rapanui moved such gigantic statues, especially as this is a land of no trees.

In 1868, 300 sailors from the British ship Topaze, with help from 300 natives, hauled for several days a colossal moai off the island to be placed in the British Museum, where it could be “admired”. Four years later, in 1872, a French ship captained by Pierre Loti took the head of another moai, as the full statue was too heavy to haul. This moai was decapitated with the use of a saw, to be displayed in France in the Museum of Mankind, where it can be seen today. It was not, however, until the arrival of archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl that some of the mysteries of the island were resolved. With the help of islanders, Heyerdahl re-erected moai, but he was unable to solve the mysteries as to how they could have been transported.

Under the sandy soil there are signs of at least three previous civilisations. Holding small moai statues, Heyerdahl and his colleague reflect and conclude that whoever built the giant statues were from a civilisation that was more advanced. Therefore, Rapanui civilisation has “evolved backwards”. One construction on the island, a particularly well-built wall, leads Heyerdahl to propose it must have been erected by another society. The story’s narrator asks how could the people survive on an island without agriculture and domestic animals. At one point, there were barely two hundred people on the island, though when the statues were erected there were probably 3000-5000 inhabitants. The narrator argues that the feat of creating the moai should be viewed as greater than the building of the pyramids.

Then there was an act of vandalism that has made generations of archaeologists weep. A group of missionaries had ordered the excavation of the foundations of a moai. In the process, many wooden rongorongo tablets were discovered, but the missionaries ordered them to be destroyed, and burnt to cinders in a large fire, declaring the artefacts to be part of a pagan cult. Nineteen of the tablets managed to be saved and these are now on display in a glass museum cabinet, though they lay there “forgotten”.

Later, in 1922, whilst a trench was being dug for a railroad in the old city of Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan, a wall was uncovered bearing hieroglyphics identical to those on the rongorongo tablets. But some archaeologists refused to accept these findings, especially as there is a vast difference in age between the two sites. The narrator advises that when Europeans first landed on Rapanui they found amongst the natives, men who were different – tall, blond and bearded. Subsequently, slave traders from Peru took the islanders to work in mines, and then the king, Kaismoki, was killed as the long-ears and the short-ears fought each other in a civil war, which culminated in cannibalism. Going further back, when the Rapanui first arrived on the island, under the leadership of Hotu Matua, it was said that he was a blond-haired king. So where had they come from? The narrator says this points towards the Rapanui being the last of the people of the mythical Lemuria, a sunken land that is an Atlantis of the Pacific. Cook and Bouganville have seen other such blond-haired bearded men across the Pacific, with other colossal constructions found in Guam, Hawai’i, the Marquesas and in Tahiti.

Whilst this Spanish-language comic devotes several pages to rongorongo, which very few other examples of moai culture have considered at length, this remains a deeply problematic publication. It is the last in a batch of pseudo-historical Mexican comics that were published between 1969 and 1980, which began with Grandes Viajes (reviewed above) and includes Grandes Viajes (1971, reviewed above), Duda (1972, reviewed below), and Duda (1978, reviewed above). As with those comics, Aunque Usted lo Dude purports to be an educational account, but many liberties are taken – none more so than in this particular comic – with facts distorted by a belief that the theories of Heyerdahl permit a great departure into ideas of alternative colonisation of Rapanui.

When rongorongo does appear in moai culture it is most often an undeciphered system of writing, that when suddenly decoded reveals a fantastic warning, a sub-narrative of alien visitation or the activation of superior technology. Aunque Usted lo Dude is to be congratulated for including the tragic moment in history when the ‘pagan’ tablets were suddenly lost. But the comic cannot resist an embellishment, having the tablets dug up from the base of a moai, destroyed by missionaries and then ludicrously establishing a connection with an archaeological site in Pakistan, to plant the idea that rongorongo is not a unique part of Rapanui culture, but transported from afar from a mother culture. Such an absurdity essentially denies Rapanui culture its relevance, identity and authority. And worryingly, this is a theme that runs throughout the comic.

Other falsehoods include the presentation of Rapanui as completely uninhabited at the point of Roggeveen’s arrival; Roggeeveen never setting foot on Rapanui (he did and shot/ killed ten or twelve islanders and he certainly never sailed away scared of moai that he feared were giants that devour men); and other islanders informing explorers of such myths. There are many more than 593 moai on Rapanui; they were not carved from isolated upright stones as the primitive drawings in this comic would have the reader believe; and the uniquely precise wall found on Rapanui at ahu Vinapu is nothing like the extended structure depicted in this story. Elsewhere it did not take 600 men to move the moai Hoa Hakananai’a from the island to HMS Topaze, and it is nowhere near as huge as the colossus depicted in this comic. And there are more than nineteen surviving rongorongo tablets and they are not held in one museum – in fact there are twenty-six tablets scattered across many institutions/ countries from St Petersburg to the Vatican.

Most worrying is the constant racial denigration of the Rapanui from being a society that has evolved backwards, to absent islanders or primitive inhabitants – the comic re-emphasises “primitive” – who are always depicted wearing simple loin cloths, even in a contemporary setting. Hotu Matua was not a blond-haired king, but this comic’s desire to relocate the source of Rapanui culture and attribute the wonders of the moai to a society that is not Polynesian, sees a promotion of others – from Europeans and Asians and ultimately the mythical Lemurians as the island’s cultural origins and creators. Anything it seems but the chance to recognise Rapanui culture within its rightful context, which the final frame extends further into the Pacific, potentially attributing the sources of cultures of other islands to foreign societies.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Weird War Tales
'The 600 Heads of Death!'
(no.95, January 1981, DC Comics)

The Rapanui are introduced as "peaceful inhabitants" who worship giant stone statues, that "only stared skywards" and whose lips "were sealed in a terrible silence". Offerings of jewels and pearls are made to the monoliths, with festivities and marriage ceremonies performed at their feet. Then one day a war party of "Polynesians" arrives on the island and they viciously attack and murder many of the peaceful islanders. The Rapanui plead to the stone giants to "avenge us".

The survivors flee to the "caves in the hills". Meanwhile, the warriors celebrate their easy victory. Ultimately, they have come to the island in search of its legendary treasures. They believe the treasures are hidden within the statues and use their weapons in an attempt to break open the stone legs. The monoliths awake in anger and step on the invaders "crushing them as if they were mere insects". With the enemy defeated, the surviving islanders come out of hiding and thank the giants: "We will ask no more questions of you, o' strange ones. We know now that when the time comes, you will answer in your own terrible swift way!".

Yet another Steve Ditko drawn story that features the moai, and this was the second time that Weird War Tales was focused on fictionalising Easter Island (see the review above). The story is rather simple and is stretched out over seven pages, with little to visually connect the fiction directly to Easter Island, though the text makes it clear that this is Rapanui. The moai are not named as such and bizarrely their entire full-length bodies are above ground and include legs, feet and toes, unlike most moai fiction which views the monoliths as buried in the ground. In fact, the appearance of these moai is very different to those that exist, with these giants exhibiting bullet shaped heads, sticking-out ears and muscular torsos.

The war party are simply called "Polynesians", which opens the possibility that the story regards the Rapanui (who in reality are Polynesian) as belonging to an unnamed foreign race. Both the invaders and the inhabitants are drawn with an artistic licence similar to the depiction of the moai. These Pacific people wear toga-like clothes and all the men have big muscular chests. Facially, they seem European with their general appearance placing them somewhere more like Sparta as opposed to the middle of the Pacific. The spiked club weapons that they wield are also out of place; perhaps the 'closest' comparable examples are found in Tonga or Fiji.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Look and Learn
‘What Really Happened? Idols of Easter Island’
(no.988, 14 February 1981, IPC Magazines)

With little more than a year left until it ceased publication, the long-running British weekly educational, Look and Learn, turned to Easter Island for its third and final feature (previously it had appeared in issues in 1975, reviewed above, and 1979, reviewed above). Appearing on the reverse of the front cover, where it was given prominence, this one page text is dominated by a large colour rendition of a sketch, originally by M. Gaspard Duché de Vancy, taken following the voyage of French explorer La Pérouse, who visited Easter Island in 1786. The original sketch which became a popular lithograph has reappeared in other examples of moai culture, such as The Conquest of the World (reviewed above) and Disbelief: Incredible but True (reviewed above).

Historically, copies of prints have often been altered or embellished and the one in Look and Learn, is no exception. The new artist, Pat (Patrick) Nicolle has made the moai look more like those on the island, but he has also added eight European sailors, three in the extreme foreground (with one carrying a gun) and five more in the background. The original had ten islanders (men and women) to the left of the image, but these have all been cut out, presumably as they were too fanciful and imagined, drawn to satisfy a French interpretation of an Arcadian Rapanui befitting European tastes of the time. Interestingly, the most famous part of the image, which depicted a Rapanui man towards the far right of the frame, about to steal a three-cornered or tricorne hat, was changed by Nicolle. Instead, the Rapanui man (now shown completely naked) in this new image has successfully completed the theft and is departing exit right, leaving behind a second tricorne that is closer to the original. The liberties that Look and Learn took in its claims to educate, means that this sketch is used to accompany a story about Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen, who had visited Rapanui 64 years earlier than de Vancy’s original.

As with the other Look and Learn issues the text is surprisingly spurious, mixing fact and fiction. Apparently, the first moai was carved by a sculptor called Rapu, in remembrance and likeness of the first chief Hotu Matua. The moai that had numbered 387 in the 1975 issue, and then risen up to 600 in 1979, are now back to 387. In fact, parts of the text simply self-plagiarise the 1975 issue, so the untruth about 67 stone tablets covered in hieroglyphs and hidden on the island is repeated.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'De Stenen God' ['The Stone God']
(no.90; text and images: Willy Vandersteen; Antwerp & Amsterdam: Standard Uitgeverij, June 1981)

Whilst on a beach holiday, Odilon finds in the ocean waves close to shore a bottle containing a message inside. He writes another message on a piece of paper, puts it into the bottle and tosses it back into the sea. Some time later, Professor Barabas organises an expedition to Easter Island for his friends: the extremely strong Jerom, Aunt Sidonia and Odilon. The three of them have already experienced many adventures together.

Upon arrival, Jerom is immediately recognised and revered as a god by the Easter Island locals. Jerom and Odilon study the stone moai, one of which they decide to carry away on a raft. They are watched by the long-haired Rapan, the sorcerer of Easter Island, and his followers. Rapan takes Odilon hostage and demands that all three leave the island within 24 hours so that the true God can be worshiped again, instead of Jerom.

Meanwhile, Aunt Sidonia has been able to talk to other locals using Professor Barabas's language translation device, and she learns of a stone portrait of a white man that resembles Jerom. The captive Odilon speaks to this statue and unfortunately learns that he has to be sacrificed on an altar. The sacrifice is prevented by a ball of lightning, which interrupts the ceremony, and allows Odilon to escape and alert his two friends.

The friends load their plane with coconuts, which they fly over the locals and drop on them like bombs as they attempt to help Odilon flee his captors by boat. But they find themselves stranded on the nearby island of Teopi, which they now begin to defend from the angry natives, by building giant coconut-filled catapults. Jerom has an idea to secretly steal the statue that looks like him from the sorcerer and position it in the place where the three friends are making their defense. As the attackers approach they cease fighting and pay homage to the statue.

The statue speaks and informs the Easter Islanders that the sorcerer Rapan is a fraud. He escapes in a canoe leaving the Easter Islanders to celebrate with the three visitors, before they depart for home. They wonder why Jerom was worshipped as a god and why the stone statue looked like him, with the mystery solved by Odilon. He advises that the message which he had placed in the bottle had been written on a photograph of Jerom, which must have then reached Easter Island.

Most of the main characters also appear in the Suske en Wiske [Suske and Wiske] comic strip, by Willy Vandersteen, who had already been inspired by Rapanui for a story originally published in 1980 (see the review below). Unfortunately, the images of the native population in this Belgian produced fiction are very problematic. They are shown to be black-skinned primitive islanders with the front cover of the comic exaggerating their image further giving them large bottoms and adding thick lips and afro hair to their features. This renders them as racist figures that are seen more often in the old stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans. Less problematic, but also wrong, is the appearance of the locals using spears and machetes made with metal parts, when such raw material was not traditionally found on Easter Island.

There are images of the South Sea, but these are also clichés, as seen at the farewell party where there are scenes more commonly associated with the festive culture of Hawai'i. The natives in this story are portrayed as extremes – either violent (with karate skills) or simple-minded. The liberties taken in the story continue in the geography of Easter Island with it split into two neighboring islands called Wahoe and Teopi. The story is essentially one of cargo cults. Such stories and accounts have circulated around the Pacific (Melanesia, in particular) in which islanders removed from the wider world worship foreign objects that are washed ashore or have fallen from passing airplanes.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Die Eroberung der Welt [The Conquest of the World]
'James Cook. Tod in der Südsee' ['James Cook. Death in the South Seas']/ 'La Pérouse. Schiffbruch vor Samoa' ['La Pérouse. Shipwrecked off Samoa']
(no.2; text: Jean Ollivier & Pierre Castex; drawings: Maurillo Manara and Carlo Marcello; Bergisch-Gladbach: Gustav H. Lübbe/Bastei Verlag, 1981)

Two stories are united in this volume: the voyages of the British explorer Captain James Cook to the Pacific up to and including his violent death in Hawai'i, and the expedition of the French navigator Jean-Galoup de La Pérouse, who also had an unhappy demise as his expedition vanished. Both explorers had visited Easter Island – Cook in 1774, La Pérouse in 1786 – and reported their findings, with La Pérouse's voyage designed in part to verify and extend the reports of Cook.

In the first story, there is only one picture showing Cook in front of the erect moai, about which he talks with respect. The story of La Pérouse is more elaborate, with the moai shown being measured by the French crew. One of the most famous early contact moments between the Europeans and the Rapanui is featured: the theft by an islander of a three-cornered hat belonging to one of the officers on La Pérouse's expedition. The original depiction of the theft was in a 1786 drawing from nature by Duché de Vancy (who joined the French voyage), that became a lithograph which accompanied the 1797 publication of La Pérouse's voyage, Atlas du Voyage de La Pérouse. The comic also depicts the actual events of the French leaving pigs and sheep on the island and sowing grain.

Originally published in France in November 1979 as issue number 14 in the series La Découverte du Monde en bandes desinées [The Discovery of the World in comics], the series was interestingly retitled with the more colonial sounding The Conquest of the World for the German market, for which this was issue number 2 of 24. Easter Island is only mentioned on a total of three pages in the comic, but it represents key images/moments of the famous expeditions and enough for a moai to appear in the centre of the front cover. Both James Cook's and La Pérouse's visits to Easter Island show the moai standing upright. This was not the case, as both Cook and La Perouse report that many had fallen.

The illustrators for the comic includes the South Tyrolean/Italian Maurillo 'Milo' Manara, who created more than twenty comic-albums and co-worked with several other artists, among them Federico Fellini. La Pérouse had already been the subject of a 1942 American comic (reviewed above) and would be illustrated again in a 2016 French comic (reviewed below). The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen's visit to Easter Island has been the subject of several comic books, most notably as the focus of a 1958 French publication (reviewed above). In comparison, this is the only comic book to address the voyage of Captain Cook to Easter Island. That is surprising, given Cook's importance as an explorer.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

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".

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!
'Rabbits of the Last Ark' and 'The Yolks on Gnu York!'
(no. 5, July 1982, DC Comics)

In the Museum of Nature, a prairie dog tells a group of assembled super-hero animals, the 'Zoo Crew', about a journal, "which tells of my dad's last great adventure, which occurred just before the Second Weird War!" All of the animals appear to know of his father, who "became world-famous travelling around in search of things that other people have misplaced".

An adventure from the journal is recounted. The prairie dog's father – Oklahoma Bones – was a semi-retired university professor, when "two government guys found him". They tell Bones about "Easter Bunny Island" and persuade him to accept a mission involving "the evil Ratzis". He heads to the island together with his companion Whipley, a snake that acts as his whip. As they fly close by Easter Bunny Island, Bones notices bunny head stone figures with the Ratzis forcing the natives to dig them up until only one is left standing. Before he and Whipley have time to land, their plane is shot down by a Ratzi plane. The protagonists are forced to parachute into enemy territory whereupon they are attacked by the spear-carrying locals. Bones uses Whipley as a lasso to defeat the locals, but unfortunately the gun-carrying Ratzis arrive and capture the heroes.

The monocled leader of the Ratzis introduces himself as Baron Von Vermin. He tells Oklahoma Bones, "since you have doubtless come to spy on us and learn why we are on this island, I vill tell you – for you vill never tell anyone else". Von Vermin explains that Ratzis had suspected the presence of a strange secret on the island, so they started turning over the bunny heads to learn about the advanced race that had created them. In doing so, they discovered on the bottom of each figure a series of hieroglyphics.

It is revealed that an advanced race of space rabbits, who lived on a far-away planet, one day found giant eggs had fallen on their homeland from outer space. Children had already started hammering at the shells, and when the eggs were opened, they saw "the most horrifying, terrifying, scary thing in the entire universe!". The space rabbits could not destroy the eggs and instead decided to hide them on Earth. Their space ship crashed and only one rabbit survived the journey. He managed to complete the mission alone by taking over the minds of the natives, making them bury the eggs and carve stone heads to "put them on top of the eggs as a warning to everyone to keep avay." After this, the space rabbit "spun a cocoon around himself – und prepared to vait till somebody vood come to get him". Von Vermin did not know what the horrible thing inside the eggs was, but hoped to find out once the Ratzis turned over the last standing stone head.

As Von Vermin is finishing his story, Whipley slips out undetected and manages to tie up the Nazi leader, followed by Bones grabbing the Ratzi's guns. The villains run to their plane, taking with them the cocooned space rabbit and promising revenge on Bones. The now freed natives of Easter Bunny Island help Oklahoma Bones turn the last stone head over and he writes down the undeciphered hieroglyphics into his journal. In addition, he took the egg from underneath the head back home and promised to keep it from hatching. Back in the present and at the Museum of Nature, Bones' son reveals he still has the egg.

A few days later the egg starts to glow, but a hungry member of the Zoo Crew, Pig-Iron, foolishly cracks it open and starts to fry himself a meal. Suddenly the frying egg comes alive and attacks Pig-Iron, who now has egg on his face. Simultaneously, the Zoo Crew are managing to decipher the hieroglyphics in the journal and realise that they communicate a warning not to crack open the eggs. With the egg yolk having escaped out of a window and in search of water, the Zoo Crew, led by Captain Carrot, follow its trail of destruction to Gnu York harbour, where the creature, a "yolk monster" is now "a thousand times larger" and about to attack the metropolis. The team work together to destroy – fry and then scramble – the giant yolk; afterwards they wonder what happened to all the other eggs. As the instalment to the story ends, the President of the United Species is shown welcoming children and Von Vermin (now Ambassador to San Salamander) to his annual White House Easter Egg Hunt. The children find the large glowing eggs under bushes and declare "this'll be the greatest Easter ever!".

Adventurer and courageous archaeologist Indiana Jones has been the most frequent fictional visitor to Easter Island appearing in two novels (one English – reviewed below; one German – reviewed below). Moreover, on the back of the popularity of the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), a number of imitations, such as the film Sky Pirates (reviewed above), homages such as Montana Jones (reviewed above) and The Adventures of Basil and Moebius (reviewed below), and parodies, like this comic and its character Oklahoma Bones, appeared. In this adventure, much of the humour is centred around a ridiculing of the Nazis who are stuck between the First Word War and the Third Reich in their depiction.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! tries to please both children and adults, but would appear to never offer enough to satisfy both age groups. The result is an inane adventure with much crazy humour that is built on silly animal puns, such as Adolf Hitler now called Adolph Hippo. Like many other comics, in particular the Disney Easter specials, Easter Island is associated with the Easter bunny and eggs. The Rapanui are depicted as easily-controlled spear-wielding rabbits but unlike the 2017 Hungarian novel, The Treasure of the Long Ears (reviewed below), they are simple stereotyped primitives with no promotion of an indigenous culture. The yolk monster adds a bizarre kaiju eiga (colossal creature) element to the story, whilst the Zoo Crew function as a strange animal form of the Justice League drawn to defeating Earth's deadliest enemies.

The most interesting element of this comic are the hieroglyphics which are a reference to rongorongo and are found in excavations of the moai that echo the archeological work of Thor Heyerdahl who discovered buried facts about the nature of the stone carvings. Rongorongo remains undeciphered but in so much popular fiction the hieroglyphics are easily understood and reveal an unearthly message.

Kseniia Kalugina

Jump to contents

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!
'The Bunny from Beyond!'
(no. 6, August 1982, DC Comics)

Continuing the story began in issue no.5 (reviewed above) a news report broadcasts that during a traditional Easter egg hunt at the White House in Waspington, yolk monsters erupted from the eggs. Moreover, yolk monsters are now "popping up" all over the world. The Zoo Crew teleports to Waspington to fight the monsters, and rescue the children that were on the egg hunt. Oklahoma Bones also rescues the so-called Ambassador for San Salamander, but recognises him to be Baron Von Vermin, leader of the Ratzis. The crew wants to know the whereabouts of the cocoon containing the space bunny, and Von Vermin reveals that he had actually hid it on Easter Island.

The Zoo Crew are teleported with Von Vermin to Easter Island, leaving Oklahoma Bones behind. On the island, the team discover the cocoon with "carrots growing out of it". With the cocoon now disturbed it opens itself, revealing a giant 'Bunny from Beyond'. The bunny realises the team need him to defeat the yolk monsters and he says he will help. He explains that on Earth his alien electrical powers, which crackle from his upturned ears, are heightened and this will enable him to defeat the monsters. The crew encourages the bunny to hurry up and apply his powers. He answers arrogantly but begins to concentrate and in doing so the monsters vanish. All seems well.

Von Vermin takes a chance to suggest an alliance with the alien bunny. But instead he turns Von Vermin into stone: "In truth, you deserve to become the newest addition to the great stone heads which have stood here for untold generations!". The bunny proclaims his name to be "Ralf-124C4U from the star Beetlejuice" and announces his intentions to conquer Earth. He transports everyone to Follywood, where the Zoo Crew under the leadership of Captain Carrot try to stop the bunny, but their powers are insufficient and they are imprisoned by Ralf-124C4U. The alien bunny desires Earth's glowing carrots as they provide him with a "new energy source".

Captain Carrot reverts to his non-superhero self, the skinny Roger Rabbit, in order to slip out of his shackles. Once free, he consumes several carrots and becomes once again Captain Carrot. He knocks out the space bunny and ties together his bunny ears – the source of his power. As the space bunny awakens he tries to zap Captain Carrot with his powers, but instead blasts himself and he disappears in a puff of smoke.

Most of this story's strongest ideas were contained in part one with this instalment reading like a drawn-out extension. It continues in the same inane manner as part one with few of the frames this time set on Easter Bunny Island. As the Zoo Crew are teleported to Rapanui, a map is provided of the location, which is shown to be an island in the shape of a rabbit's head.

Kseniia Kalugina

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Orient Express
'Ivan Timbrovic nell'Isola di Pasqua' ['Ivan Timbrovic on Easter Island']
(no.6, December 1982, Gruppo Editoriale L'Isola Trovata)

Russian secret agent Ivan Timbrovic is summoned to the Kremlin where His Excellence Leonida Leonidievic orders him onto a new, dangerous mission: Timbrovic will have to pose as archaeologist Marcello Maccaroni and take part in an expedition to Easter Island in order to discover its many mysteries. Thanks to Timbrovic, the Kremlin will be the first to know the origin of the moai and the purpose of the many caves scattered throughout the island. Ivan reluctantly leaves for Easter Island together with three other real archaeologists, Dr Uriah Seller, Professor Kakalosino and Professor Martyn.

Once on the Island, Timbrovic and the three experts begin their exploration in search of answers. The four spend the first day walking around the island, but find nothing that can help. During this time, Seller is bitten by a mysterious insect, which was thought to have been extinct for 5000 years. At night, a sleepless and scared Timbrovic hears a noise coming from outside his tent. Peering out, Timbrovic sees Kakalosino leaving the camp and decides to follow him. While walking, the Professor starts to call out to the sky to an extra-terrestrial civilisation that he believes has inhabited Easter Island and built the moai. The aliens are bound to return to the island that night as they do every thousand years. Kakalosino jumps off a cliff believing that he will be drawn into the spaceship's anti-gravitational field but instead he falls to the bottom and dies.

Timbrovic goes back to the camp, where he finds Martyn staring at the decomposing body of Seller. Apparently the insect that had bitten Seller had injected the archaeologist with a larvae that has been eating his body from within. The two surviving expeditioners split up. Timbrovic goes east and roams endlessly for ten hours. Suddenly, he discovers a number of stone birds perched on a tree. As he rushes back to the camp to tell Martyn, he runs into a pool of blood next to which are the Professor's glasses. Believing Martyn dead, Timbrovic seeks refuge in a cave, where he finds a young blonde woman welcoming him to the Easter Island Holiday Resort. The woman tells Timbrovic that the mysterious phenomena, for years associated with the island, were in fact all staged for the sake of the tourists who stay in underground accommodation.

Dispirited by this discovery, Timbrovic runs away from the cave to escape the attentions of the woman, only to find Martyn, who had staged his death to force Maccaroni and Timbrovic underground in a search for the truth. While Timbrovic tries to explain that there is no mystery, a huge rock falls from the sky killing Martyn. Back at the Kremlin, Timbrovic tells Leonidievic a story about a mysterious population that had constructed the enormous moai in order to venerate their great chief Hotu-Matua. He also presents His Excellence with a fake statuette of this leader represented as a fertility god, which is supposed to have lain hidden for centuries in a cave. Unconvinced by his story, Leonidievic sends Timbrovic away with the statuette.

Published in Italian, Ivan Timbrovic's stories are a parody of the secret agents and Cold War stories best epitomised by James Bond. Easter Island seems to only serve as a setting for another improbable adventure of this unlikely Russian spy. For this reason, the mystery of Easter Island is only loosely constructed around the presence of the moai, which actually appear only once in the story. The comic exploits the most common myths surrounding Easter Island, such as the notion that aliens from outer space had erected the giant statues, and shows them to be false – manufactured, or the result of delusion.

What is relatively original is the fiction's extensive re-imagining of Easter Island as a giant tourist resort. Whilst there was a tourism industry on Easter Island in 1982, it was lacking development and the huge crowds of visitors that it attracts nowadays and which the authors of this story seem to anticipate. Certainly tourists do not live in underground accommodation and nor are the mysteries staged, but within the humour of this fiction there is possibly a critique of the island's commodification and its transformation as a result of tourism.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Agent 327
'Geheimakte Siebenschläfer' ['Secret File Dormouse']
(vol. 3; text and drawings: Martin Lodewijk; Stuttgart: Ehapa Verlag, November 1983)

Agent 327 (real name Otto Otto Eisenbrot; Hendrik IJzerbroot in the original Dutch version) works for the Dutch secret service. In this role, he experiences numerous strange adventures, in which despite his clumsiness he ultimately emerges successful. He is accompanied on his missions by his assistant Olga Lawina, originally from the Swiss Secret Service. The story begins with Agent 327 and Olga in a seaplane in the so-called Bermuda Triangle, where they have had to make an emergency landing. Pulled by an unknown force, the seaplane is drawn to a huge ship and aircraft graveyard in the middle of the sea. It is precisely the place where all the planes and ships have been disappearing over many decades. There, Agent 327 discovers an ape-like figure who – as it turns out later – has lived in this strange spot for ten million years and is the world's oldest human being.

The place is a so-called time hole, where time has stopped. When Agent 327 falls into the water, he discovers a pyramid at the bottom of the sea, which later turns out to be a spaceship, which could not be removed due to computer damage. Agent 327 is caught by this pyramid and falls into a deep sleep. He dreams, with some of his own history becoming clear, but he also suddenly arrives on Easter Island. There he is surrounded in the darkness of the night at the slopes of Rano Raraku by moai, one of which asks him to sing the song of the mother. Agent 327 is initially unsure of where the voice is coming from, but a moai rises up out of the ground and Agent 327 runs for cover: "Help! Help! Help!", he shouts. Finally, and rather nervously, he sings to the contented moai, whilst being cradled in its stone palm.

Meanwhile, things are also developing at the ship's graveyard. Two American agents have shown up there to solve the mystery of the place. With the help of the ape-like prehistoric man, the team manage to enter into the pyramid (the spaceship), through an abandoned ship's locker, where they meet fluffy gnome-like aliens. They wear pointed red hats and Agent 327 manages to catch one which he places on his head. This tells him the whole story of how and why the spaceship became stranded. The moai also appear in this narrative, and they are revealed as the overlords of the gnomes, who used them as unskilled workers in their search for resources on their way through the galaxies.

Apparently, the stranded aliens have been waiting for thousands of years for human civilisation to evolve enough to repair the spaceship. Agent 327 manages to repair the onboard computer with two simple kicks. In gratitude for the aliens being able to fly home again, the humans are released by the leader of the gnomes. With the departure of the spaceship, the moai on Easter Island abruptly disappear, as seen on the penultimate page of the story, where two locals wonder where the stone figures have gone. One islander suggests that maybe they flew, with his speech bubble depicting a moai with bird wings.

Originally published as a Dutch comic in 1977, as 'Dossier Zevenslaper' ('Dossier Sleeper'), Agent 327 is part of a series that has been published since 1966 and at the height of spy fiction and its many imitations. Agent 327 is a parody of James Bond, but he also acts and looks like the later British parody Johnny English (2003-). Many of the events dealt with in the series take place during the Cold War. More recent volumes deal with contemporary events making numerous cultural references to actual persons and situations.

The moai in this story are primarily depicted employing the myth of movement as they are shown talking, walking and actively holding Agent 327. Although on the island just one moai comes alive. In one flashback the moai carry a futuristic backpack as they stride across a landscape holding conducting orbs in their hands as they search for resources like uranium and radium. Moai fiction rarely connects Easter Island with the perceived mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, though Erich von Däniken had in his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? (1968), in which he posited theories about contact between aliens and early humans. Däniken is parodied in this comic as Erik van Tischrücken, who praises his books on television.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

The Legion of Super-Heroes
'A Shared Destiny'
(no.311, May 1984, DC Comics)

Wildfire, a member of the Legion, arrives at Starhaven, a planet of lush vegetation and with a large stone figure – the site of a temple – rising from the land. On the surface, Wildfire encounters winged people dressed in the clothes and culture of Native American Indians, who say they have been on the planet undisturbed "in the seven hundred years since we settled here". One of their kind, Dawnstar, who is also a member of the Legion, is being sought by Wildfire, a super-hero with whom she had become close. Unfortunately, Wildfire is a superhero in a suit, without a body – and therefore someone Dawnstar cannot touch.

Dawnstar has been roaming the galaxy searching for meaning and the man with whom she will settle, in a rite of passage that is called a "grand tour". Wildfire catches up with dawnstar near the planet of Venus, but just at the moment of her sacred revelation which he unwittingly disturbs. Wildfire reveals his true feelings and he and Dawnstar embrace. She flies back to Starhaven, her home planet, with her quest fulfilled and destiny realised. There within the temple of the stone giant the silent vigil can now end.

The giant stone figure that appears within two frames of this story (including the title page) is a site of community worship connected to ancient spirits. The hard, angular features of this idol were perhaps inspired by the moai of Easter Island even though Rapanui is not directly referenced in the story. Found on a planet of winged Native American Indians places the stone carving within a fantasised and romanticisied Indigenous culture whose origins are not of Oceania but crucially of a remote civilisation, long left undisturbed, and that is strongly connected to the land.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Special Rock Issue'
(no.254, April 1985, E.C. Publications)

Appearing on just the cover of this special issue, which is focused on rock music, a row of moai are presented wearing headphones which barely cover their long ears. The joke which recognises the human features of the moai and suggests they can hear, appeared to inspire the advertising campaign employed by Sony for its range of headphones that it promoted in 1989 (see below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Martin Mystère. Detective dell'impossibile [Martin Mystère. Detective of the Impossible]
'Rapa Nui!'
(no.42; Milan: Daim Press, September 1985)

It is 1942, and on the 30th parallel a US navy warship finds a man floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The man, who appears to be a South American Indian is saved, but he cannot speak, has no documents and is apparently in a state of shock. Nicknamed Robinson, he is taken back to the USA where slowly he learns a few words of English and memories of him being imprisoned in a dark room resurface. Over time, the government discover that Robinson is a computer whiz, so they keep him in a military base to work on a top-secret war programme.

Fast forward to New York, 1985. Two CIA agents hire Martin Mystère, archaeologist and detective of the impossible, to help them solve the mystery of Robinson, who has tried to run away with the help of his collaborator, Dr Mara Marata, a physicist and former colleague of Mystère's at MIT. The agents take Mystère to Mara's house where the scientist reveals that Robinson can indeed speak very good English and has begun to open up. Unable to recall his past, he has spoken of his strong aversion for the war programme and affirms that he must reunite with "The Masters", hence the botched attempt to run away. Later Robinson gives Mara some drawings he has done, which are in fact glyphs resembling human figures. As soon as Martin is shown the glyphs he recognises them as the mysterious "rango rango" writing from Easter Island, and he believes they depict the moai.

Martin, his assistant Java (a Neanderthal), Mara and Robinson are transferred to Chile and from there on to Easter Island, where they are taken to an American military base. During the flight to the island, Robinson starts muttering something about The Masters and the drowned island of Rangitea, which he claims to have visited in a forgotten past. Once on Easter Island, Robinson begins to behave strangely: he looks as if he once knew the place and walks in a sort of trance. He enters a bar popular among the locals, and then leaves heading towards the beach where the moai are located.

A group of islanders follow him and in a fit of inexplicable anger attack him calling him "long-eared bastard". Mystère, who has been following Robinson, saves him by using his special paralysing laser gun, which was created 15,000 years before by the Nacaal, the inhabitants of the Lost Continent of Mu (which sunk in the middle of the Pacific). When the locals come around, they tell Mystère that they had felt a primordial hatred towards Robinson. They identify him with the Long Ears, the people who had created the moai, and in the process had enslaved the ancestors of the Rapanui, the Short Ears, who had eventually risen against their oppressors. Mystère begins to suspect that there may be a connection between Robinson, Easter Island, and Mu.

At night, Robinson escapes to the beach where he evokes the spirits of the moai to show him the way to re-join with "The Masters". The moai come alive and begin talking to each other; then they turn to Robinson and invest him with power with the lasers coming from their eyes. After a while, Robinson returns placidly to the base. The following day, Martin, Mara, Robinson and Java decide to explore one of the many hundreds of caves on the island and whose entrance is marked by a birdman petroglyph. Inside the cave, Robinson easily leads them to a place where more "rango rango" inscriptions are uncovered behind a cave wall. The episode ends abruptly with Mara approaching Robinson, telling him that she had been following him the night before (although to her eyes the moai had been still). The story continues in volume 43 (reviewed below).

Created in Italian by Alfredo Castelli in 1982 (post Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981]), Martin Jacques Mystère is rather similar to Indiana Jones. He is an American anthropologist, archaeologist and art collector who, following the mysterious death of his parents in 1965, begins to investigate the world phenomena that science refuses to acknowledge. Mystère is accompanied by Java, a Neanderthal – an idea also found in The Adventures of Ogu, Mampato and Rena (reviewed above) – who has survived through the eras hidden in a cave in Mongolia. At the heart of many adventures of Martin Mystère is the constant resurfacing of traces of the lost rival continents of Mu and Atlantis, who annihilated each other 12,000 years ago, using sophisticated nuclear weapons.

Given its mystique, Easter Island could not but provide an apt setting for an adventure of the Detective of the Impossible. In addition to an exploration of some of the most significant popular myths surrounding Rapanui, the story also connects with the history of the island. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of this episode is the account of Easter island's discovery in 1722 by Jacob Roggeveen, and more importantly of the arrival of the Peruvian slave traders (the story says this was in 1826; in fact it was 1862), who took the inhabitants of the island to work as slaves in the guano mines, thus destroying the repositories of Rapanui's ancient culture. Mystère also discusses the supposed origins of the original Rapanui people – who were apparently survivors of the destruction of Rangitea (this presumably is meant to be the Polynesian ancestral/spiritual realm of Rangiatea) – and of the contrast between two ethnic groups. In this fiction, the Long Ears were of South American Indian origin and they had enslaved the Short Ears of Polynesian origin, who eventually rebelled sometime between 1680 and 1774.

The Long Ears are also identified as the creators of the moai, and one of the panels shows them carving a prone statue directly from the foot of a rock. Mystère also hypothesises that it was the Short Ears who knocked them down as they were the symbols of their oppressors. As in many other instances of moai fiction, these monoliths convey the myths of movement and power, having the ability to speak and to project strong energy rays from their eyes.

The story, like much fiction before and since, also hints at the connection between Rapanui and the Lost Continent of Mu, with Robinson appearing as the link between the two. However, except for the man's highly advanced computer knowledge that may be traced back to the ancient but extremely advanced civilisation of Mu, the links between Mu and Rapanui are not fully developed at this stage in the story, nor is the true identity of "The Masters" and their link to Rangitea.

Rongorongo (here called rango rango, but corrected in the 1992 reprint) is another key element of this fantasy. The glyphs appear several times during the episode as stylised human figures and they are close to the originals. Although no attempt is made to interpret the signs, Mystère believes that these glyphs represent the moai. He also believes that some similarities may exist between these ancient writings and those found in Mohejo-daro in the Indo Valley. The episode reveals the author's interest for the lessons that may come from the history of Rapanui. Even as he seeks to answer many of the questions concerning the origins of the moai and of the Rapanui people, and the meaning of the rongorongo inscriptions, Mystère uses the history of the Rapanui to offer a brief meditation on the dreadful consequences of slavery, civil war and ethnic hatred.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Martin Mystère. Detective dell'impossibile [Martin Mystère. Detective of the Impossible]
'La guerra senza tempo' ['The Endless War')
(no.43; Milan: Daim Press, October 1985)

Having followed Robinson to the site of the moai, Mara pays him a night-time visit and decides to disclose the secret she has been keeping from him for a long time. Mara is the descendant of King Marata, Easter Island's king who had been enslaved by the Peruvians, and she is convinced that Robinson is one of the "Undying", an ancient race that populated Easter Island together with the settlers from Rangitea. The Undying are meant to fight the "Eternal War" and are the bearers of endless knowledge. Mara shows Robinson a card engraved with some ancient glyphs which the man is inexplicably able to read and which triggers his memory.

The next day Mystère decides to visit the island's museum where the rongorongo tablets are kept, but Mara has drugged his coffee and Mystère is forced to stay behind. Meanwhile, Mara and Robinson drive to the south-western corner of Rapanui to a volcano with its slopes dotted with moai. Robinson reveals that the engraved card is actually a key and that the moai have told him how it can be activated. The two climb the volcano and walk into its apparently sealed crater, with Robinson exhibiting superhuman powers – such as moving large boulders – the more they descend into the bowels of the mountain. By now, Java has found out about the spiked coffee and has alerted Martin; the two of them follow Mara and Robinson's tracks.

Inside the volcano, Mara and Robinson go down a staircase that should lead them to the headquarters of the Ancient whose door opens up the moment they insert the etched card/ key. A writing on the door suddenly appears identifying Robinson as the operational unit 221. Robinson finally remembers his past and walks into this cave where a number of supercomputers are kept. Robinson begins to activate the machines blabbing something about an extremely ancient war plan similar to the one he was working on for the CIA. The screens suddenly glow with glyphs alerting the man to the presence of Mystère and Java at the mouth of the volcano. Robinson knocks Mara unconscious so that she won't be able to warn them against the security systems that protect the cave.

Mystère and Java manage to reach the entrance of the cave but realise that they cannot go inside. Mara comes around, faces Robinson, and manages to deactivate the security system: Mystère can now enter the cave whereupon he knocks out Robinson. Mara tells Mystère about her origins and the legends about the Undying and the Masters but now the two must find out what was Robinson's mission and why he has activated the computers. At the same time, back at the US base, the military register the presence of a submarine which moves at extraordinary speed and depth towards the island. Jet fighters in the sky try to intercept it but they are destroyed by lasers fired from beneath the ocean. In the cave, the computers start to beep and flash and the cave begins to shake. Whilst in a trance, Robinson shouts "they are coming".

The cave reveals itself to be an underground base within which a sophisticated submarine emerges. A group of men speaking in rongorongo salute Robinson who replies in this unknown language. He then confesses to Martin that he has remembered being one of the Masters, and that Mara belongs to the same race. Robinson asks Mara to join him on his mission where she will have access to untold knowledge and technology. Outside, the military are surrounding the island, when the volcano begins to erupt spitting out the submarine which has now turned into a rocket.

The episode ends in New York where, a month later, Mystère is writing his diary. In it he records that Mara has joined Robinson to fight the Endless War against the mortal enemy of their race, while the soldiers from the ancient race had used guns (similar to the one Mystère possessed) to knock him and Java out. As long as the revenge of the Ancients remains unaccomplished there is no real end to the story of the Masters and their Endless War.

Although the story establishes a link between the lost continent of Mu and Rapanui by identifying Robinson as one of the Masters from which the Rapanui descended, and by characterising him as the keeper of an ancient but highly advanced civilisation, the story does not add much to the representation of Easter Island and its culture established in the previous issue. In fact, Rapanui and its subterranean network of caves are depicted mostly as the setting, and as the millennial hiding place of advanced technological equipment – an idea which reappears elsewhere, such as Area 51 (reviewed below).

The moai only briefly appear and mostly in a flashback as animated statues endowed with telepathic powers. Similarly, although numerous glyphs appear throughout this instalment, none of them recalls the detail of the rongorongo symbols, but instead they are more depictions of matchstick men. The sentences that Robinson reads on the key, which are meant to belong to a forgotten language – ""ho' okomo pili pono kii ma loko o puka ahi ai honua" "a ole maopopo ia u popule keelaa mai oolelo peelaa" "kulikuli lapuwale, huupoo looloo" – are made up of invented sounds based on actual Hawai'ian words.

The story fails to fully explain the reasons for the Endless War and to clearly identify Robinson and Mara's mortal enemies. The episode seems more bent on focusing on the theme of sophisticated warfare which reflects the arms race of the time and US preoccupations of the Reagan era.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Super Powers
'Seeds of Doom!'; 'When Past and Present Meet!'
(vol.2, no.1 and no.2, September and October 1985, DC Comics)

Darkseid escapes a revolt against his tyrannical rule on the evil distant planet of Akropolis. He is joined by the last of his loyal forces, and together they are transported to the moon through the inter-dimensional boom tube. Darkseid is now looking for a new world to rule and he targets nearby Earth.

Many of the superheroes from the DC Universe gather for an emergency meeting. Five UFOs have been spotted crash-landing around the world – at Stonehenge, the Colosseum in Rome, New York, Arizona and Easter Island. At each site, giant seeds are taking root and burrowing deep towards Earth's core. The superheroes decide to split into teams to tackle the threat.

Aquaman and J'onn J'onzz travel to Stonehenge where Darkseid's evil helper Desaad transports them back in time to the age of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Desaad manufactures a battle between King Arthur, his knights and the two superheroes, who are captured but then manage to show Desaad is the true villain. Desaad escapes and the superheroes arrive back at Stonehenge in the present day.

In New York, Red Tornado, Hawkman and Green Arrow arrive to tackle another seed of doom, but they are transported back to prehistoric times and an age of dinosaurs. Simultaneously, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Dr Fate travel to Easter Island, "to a place shrouded in mystery". Dr Fate advises that for some the moai are "grounded in dark magic".

Easter Island appears in just one image in issue no.1 and on one page in issue no.2 as part of the comic's basic exposition in this six-part story, that moves to a focus on Easter Island in issue no.3. Having a group of superheroes divide into teams to tackle a series of related threats in different global locations, that include Easter Island, had been presented as a narrative structure just a few years prior in DC Comics Presents (see the review above).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Super Powers
'Time Upon Time Upon Time'
(vol.2, no 3, November 1985, DC Comics)

On Easter Island a team of superheroes comment on the moai they find there, but assume they are inanimate statues. Yet the reader can see one of the moai thinking 'At last! They have arrived!'. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Dr Fate move away from the moai in search of one of Darkseid's seeds of doom. When they locate the seed it begins to glow and, with a blast of energy, Darkseid's faithful minion Mantis appears. In turn each of the superheroes attempts to subdue Mantis but he is able to absorb their powers, reflect them back and make his escape. The superheroes then attempt to destroy the seed of doom, but Green Lantern is pulled inside. As Wonder Woman and Dr Fate try to rescue him, they are attacked from behind by Mantis, who pushes all three superheroes into the seed.

When the superheroes recover their faculties they find themselves still on Easter Island, but in the year 1087AD. They find the island is inhabited by natives "in primitive garb", and they also discover giant alien beings that look like the moai. These beings describe themselves as the M'mtnek, hailing "from a planet afar", and declare their intent to rule over Earth. The Rapanui have been enslaved and with Easter Island conquered the rest of the world will follow.

The superheroes battle the aliens but are initially defeated and held captive with the natives. The aliens trap the superheroes using a force field but, once rested, Dr Fate is able to break through this barrier and they escape to continue the battle. He is also able to gain entry to the alien's spacecraft where he finds Mantis is working with the aliens to further their plans to conquer the Earth. Green Lantern creates special sponges that soak up the energy Mantis directs at him and returns it in a manner similar to how Mantis had previously battled the superheroes. More aliens emerge from the spacecraft and Mantis believes they will defeat the superheroes so he returns to the future. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are floored and seemingly about to be killed when Dr Fate uses his power to immobilise the aliens. He also destroys the alien spaceship, but salvages a time/ space warp device that enables the superheroes to return to the present.

In honour of the superheroes, who have freed the Rapanui, three moai-like giant heads are carved of the crime-fighting trio at the story's end, but they are immediately obliterated by Green Lantern, who wishes to keep their activities on the island secret. However, this was not the first comic to show Wonder Woman on Easter Island, and it was also not the first to depict her likeness in a moai – that was 30 years earlier in another DC comic (see the review above). Green lantern's freezing of the aliens apparently explains how the moai, fixed in time, came to exist. The story conveniently ignores, though, the issue that these alien moai wear uniforms and helmets – which somehow disappear when the creatures become the stone monoliths. In one frame set in the contemporary period, the island is bizarrely shown crammed with giant bulbous moai heads that are packed together.

So much of this comic is a series of fights, with the Rapanui innocent bystanders whose island has become a staging post for an invasion and now a battlefield involving superheroes. Easter Island may be remote, which could aid an assault on Earth that does not wish to be noticed, but so many similar stories position the island as the unlikely start of a successful invasion when the territory is relatively tiny compared to the world's continents and metropoles. The culture of the Rapanui is presented as simple, and the men are drawn with muscular bodies yet they still kowtow and cower in fear. "Hello. Don't be afraid. We're friends", says Green Lantern reassuringly.

Roy Smith and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(no.261, March 1986, E.C. Publications)

A year after its 'Special Rock issue' and the placement of moai humour on its front cover, Mad published the first of two cartoons (see below for the second) that imagined what lies beneath the moai heads. The work of archaeologists such as Thor Heyerdahl has revealed that the bodies of many of the moai extend far underground. Unlike the second Mad cartoon, where a team of archaeologists use industrial equipment to excavate, the two adventurers in this comic dig furiously with simple shovels. These colonial figures with their pith helmets, shorts and surnames such as Faversham, are presumably British, and their theory that the moai are ancient ice-age carvings is proved correct when they reveal that the heads are joined to the bodies of ice-hockey players, complete with skates and sticks.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Mr Magellan
'L'île des Colosses' ['The Island of the Giants']
(no.7; text: André-Paul Duchateau and Jean van Hamme; drawings: Henri Ghion; Brussels: Editions du Lombard, June 1986)

Mr Magellan and his super-strong female companion Capella travel by yacht to Easter Island in search of Professor Wolfgang. He has been kidnapped by the evil Myra von Mars, a sculptress who has stolen his discovery: a formula with the power to transform living things into stone and vice versa. At a Rapanui stall selling tourist souvenirs of miniature moai, Magellan and Capella find one in the shape of Wolfgang's head. It starts speaking to them and says it can guide them to where Wolfgang is being held captive. Magellan and Capella travel by moped to near Anakena beach where they find Wolfgang imprisoned, but before he can convey much he is shot in the chest with an arrow. Von Mars flees the scene and Magellan and Capella give chase.

Magellan follows von Mars up the side of a large moai. Von Mars sits on top of the moai's head and brings it alive as it rises out of the ground and starts walking. Magellan and Capella flee, diving off a cliff into the ocean and then swimming to their yacht. The moai, controlled by von Mars, also jumps into the water. It surges up beneath the yacht forcing Magellan and Capella to jump overboard, where they are caught in nets and become the prisoners of von Mars.

When Magellan and Capella awaken they find themselves tied up as marionettes – with shackles and rope around their neck, ankles and wrists – in a giant puppet theatre. Alongside them, as a third 'puppet', is Wolfgang. Von Mars controls these 'puppets' lifting and twisting their bodies around the stage. She reveals that she has plans the next day to awaken all the moai of Easter Island, who will become her slaves. She will also wreak world havoc bringing giant stone monuments, like the Statue of Liberty, alive to attack civilisation. Von Mars will only stop if she is given twenty million dollars. Magellan is freed in order to persuade his powerful employer, the International Testing Organisation (ITO), to release the funds. Meanwhile, Capella and Wolfgang will remain the hostages of von Mars.

A little airplane leaves Easter Island for a secret location, with von Mars, Magellan, Capella and Wolfgang on board. On route, it drops Magellan over the ITO headquarters in South America. He parachutes in and asks to be taken to the Director's office, where there is a room of many television screens linked to the worldwide members of ITO. Despite their horror at the demands, he manages to persuade them to agree to pay von Mars the twenty million dollars and he flies back to her location. There, at her hideaway, guarded by the giant moai, he hands over the document that she desired, which is signed by world leaders.

Magellan, however, has worked out her deception. He reveals that von Mars and Wolfgang have secretly been working together, and that the giant moai is actually a robot. Magellan and Capella escape just as von Mars discovers that the writing on the document has now vanished; the special ink with which it was written fading away upon being exposed to sunlight. Von Mars instructs Wolfgang to start up the moai robot. But Wolfgang, a respectable scientist before he met von Mars, has had enough and says he would rather go to prison. The device he controls can turn some things into stone and therefore he decides to petrify von Mars. In the final frame, von Mars is a statue adorning Magellan and Capella's home.

Originally published in 1972 as a 4-part story in the Belgian comic tintin (see the review above), Editions du Lombard collected the four parts into a hardback publication, adding two Magellan short stories at the end and a striking cover to the front. Like the 1972 publication, this cover is a composite image, combining elements of individual frames inside. The moai does indeed follow Magellan into the water, but the image employed for the cover is taken from when the robot is striding on land. Moreover, by the time the moai has entered the water, Magellan and Capella have ceased swimming underwater and are focused on climbing aboard their yacht.

This moai is the most appealing aspect of the story and whilst it is meant to be terrifying, due to its size and weight, its body gives it the appearance of a baby. Robot moai are surprisingly uncommon in moai fiction and can be seen elsewhere in Gaiking (reviewed above), Where Creatures Roam (reviewed above), Lion and Thunder (reviewed above), and Sonic the Comic (reviewed below). Despite the story being set in part on Rapanui (the location emerges in part three), there is little connection to the island, with the moai-robot the main feature. On just one page, there is a brief depiction of the island's culture, with several tourists taking photos of the moai, and an indigenous merchandise seller, offering replica moai for sale from a shack.

The story contains many narrative flaws, but instead has to be viewed as an adventure-fantasy in the mould of international crime-fighting heroes of the day, like Derek Flint (the films Our Man Flint and In Like Flint) and Modesty Blaise. Both of these fictions were spoof spy creations in the wake of James Bond, with Magellan most like Flint, and Modesty Blaise emerging from a British comic strip.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Le Retour de Tangata Manu [The Return of the Bird Man]
(Dominique Hè; Paris: Les Humanoïdes Associés, April 1987)

Review forthcoming

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge Adventures
'The Mystery of Easter Island'
(no. 3, January 1988, Gemstone)

Scrooge McDuck, accompanied by Donald Duck and his nephews are on a boat, returning from the Pacific Island of Tsalal. Scrooge is concerned about being on time for a banker's conference, Donald is enjoying life away from Duckburg, and the nephews are busy inventing ideas for their costumes for Halloween. The celebration is only 10 days away, and costume options are very limited by the lack of supplies at hand. Suddenly, pirates riding dolphin-shaped vessels appear and board the boat. They remove the protagonists' cash and valuables, including a safe stashed full of money that Scrooge secured from a profitable mining deal on Tsalal. Eager to get his money back, Scrooge sends the nephews to call for help. They return with bad news that the ship's radio has been sabotaged, so Scrooge decides to change course and seek help from the closest island – Rapanui.

The nephews read about Rapanui in a guidebook and learn that it is "an isolated Pacific isle discovered by Jakob Roggeveen" with "all those giant stone heads", which "natives believe […] can walk". Approaching the island, they spot the volcano Rano Raraku, the "maternity ward" from which most of the moai were carved. As they come ashore, they find local kiosks, with signs announcing, "Easter eggs we no got" and "Shards & Cards". Scrooge aims to find the authorities, whilst the rest of the team head to see the moai.

Donald and the nephews are not alone as there are also tourists exploring and taking pictures of the statues. "They are a tad intimidating! I wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley!", says Donald, with the nephews adding, "Living in the shadow of these bruisers could sure make me superstitious!". Scrooge joins the group, advising that the pirates might be on Rapanui, since he has found one of his stolen dollar bills. The local authorities, however, are not interested, since Aku Aku is said to be protecting the island from the pirates. The protagonists decide to investigate with the help of a local guide, Lazarus Mana, who welcomes them in Spanish. He tells them that moai were recently seen dancing and later at night escorts everyone to witness the event. Lazarus, however, is extremely superstitious (like the other islanders), and departs leaving the protagonists to unravel the mystery alone.

Soon after, the nephews see the gun-wielding statues walking with Donald and Scrooge captive. But the moai suddenly disappear, so the nephews decide to search the area thoroughly. They find one moai is a rotating closed-circuit surveillance camera and it has a secret door (accessed via a button in the moai's shoulder), which leads to a tunnel that takes the nephews into an underground harbour and what turns out to be the pirates' base. Here, they find full-length moai costumes hanging on hooks. The pirates, who would appear to be English, emerge and tie up the nephews. The pirate leader, Wyngard Slink, declares that he and his gang "terrorise the whole South Pacific" using an old volcanic cave for their operations. Apparently, the Rapanui of old had used these caves as their "treasure houses".

Lazarus comes to the rescue, soon followed by the authorities who arrive and arrest the pirates. The police praise Lazarus, saying "it took mucho machismo to enter taboo ground". Scrooge, Donald and their nephews sail back home safe where it is now Halloween in Duckburg. The nephews are wearing the "neat" moai costumes, and they promise to tell their friends where they got them later, "maybe 'round Easter".

Disney comics have had an enduring attraction to Easter Island, with quite a number of the issues published around Easter, in order to exploit puns that connect eggs and bunnies to this Pacific locale. This was the first of those publications and is by comparison out of season, published in January and referencing Halloween. The comic employs many of the popular myths of Easter Island, such as the ideas that the moai can walk, as well as secret doors, hidden treasure, hideaway caves and underground lairs for villains, all of which reoccur in the Disney comics. The idea of pirates using the island as a base is surprisingly uncommon and was central only to the earliest of moai fiction such as Whiz Comics (reviewed above) and World's Finest Comics (reviewed above) in the 1940s.

As with the other Disney comics there is little depiction of the Rapanui, although in this issue there are several frames in which the local community appears, albeit as Duck-related islanders, some of whom wear the Polynesian sarong and the hibiscus flower in their hair. Lazarus is another interesting addition, who speaks phrases in Spanish, an official, but not a native language of Rapanui. In fact, this Disney comic goes the furthest of the group into Rapanui culture adding local superstitions to the story, taboo areas of the island, and the spirit of Aku Aku.

Kseniia Kalugina

Jump to contents

Fix und Foxi [Fix and Foxi]
‘Die Riesen der Osterinsel’ [‘The Giants of Easter Island’]
(vol. 36, no.16, 1988, Erich Pabel Verlag)

The protagonists of this comic are twin foxes, brothers Fix and Foxi, Lupo, a wolf, and Professor Knox, a raven who is a slightly whimsical genius, an inventor and an enthusiastic explorer who offers the most opportunities for the gang’s new adventures. In this story, they all journey to Easter Island, at Professor Knox's suggestion, so he can study the moai. The island is inhospitable, cold and windy. Lupo has consequently wrapped up warm, but he has still caught a cold and at one point he sneezes so hard that he blows himself off his feet.

The sneeze, however, is so dramatic that it awakens a nearby giant moai, which rumbles and rises out of the ground. Other moai rise up, all giant and muscular figures who stride forth, stomping on the landscape and smashing down with their fists. Professor Knox is, in part, excited by this development, but the team need to flee and they run to a nearby village where the moai crush buildings in their wake. All the local inhabitants manage to flee using whatever they can find – boats, surfboards and inflatable rings – leaving the four protagonists to try to save themselves by dashing to a nearby cave; the moai follow and try to reach inside but to no avail.

Since they can no longer leave the cave, the team penetrate its interior. There, at an underground lake, they meet an old bearded man with long white hair, a hermit who appears similar to Lupo but with a red nose instead of a big black one. The old man tries to help and knows that only the wise book can resolve the situation. But he has forgotten where he hid the secret map which tells the way to the wise book. All he knows is that at the time he drew the map, he hid it in a place where it could be overgrown. Meanwhile, two giant moai, called ‘Zeugels’ in the story, run against each other with full force in front of the cave. From the resulting collision, many new smaller moai emerge, which are now able to penetrate into the cave. The five fugitives in the cave now have to flee further inside, escaping across the lake, with the moai not far behind walking along the bed of the underground reservoir with ease.

Fix realises that there can only be one place in the cave that is overgrown, namely the head of the old man, because there is no vegetation in the cave. They cut his hair and find the map which gives them the directions they need. The team have been resting on a plateau, and with the moai all lined up in front, they jump from one head to another, to the other side of the lake. There they discover a secret opening to a passageway, through which they can only crawl. They all venture down with the door closing shut behind them just as a moai attempts to follow. At the end of the crawlspace they find a chamber covered in hieroglyphics and in the middle of the room, positioned on a pedestal, the treasured book opened at a particular page.

The book advises that on the island there were the so-called “red noses”, who lived peacefully and made regular offerings in the form of food to the stone statues. But one day an eccentric man with a black nose came and stole their offerings from the moai so the angry stone giants came to life and took revenge on the black nose. The villain, however, managed to escape and so the moai destroyed the village of the red noses, who all left the island, except for the hermit who escaped in to the cave. Now it is clear what had awakened the moai this time and caused their aggression. When Lupo had sneezed hard, he had blown away the scarf covering his face, in doing so revealing his large black nose. Foxi has an idea to hit Lupo firmly on the nose so that it turns red. Lupo is then despatched from the cave, whereupon the moai immediately calm down and sink back into the ground. With the resting moai once again looking out to sea, the team sail home.

The series Fix und Foxi, conceived and drawn by Rolf Kauka, first appeared in 1953 and was produced continuously until 1995. In German-speaking countries, the so-called ‘Fix und Foxi’ books were the strongest competition to Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, who coincidentally have repeatedly visited Easter Island. In fact, anthropomorphic animals unraveling the mysteries of Rapanui have been a common theme of moai fiction, understandably in stories aimed at children: from a collective of dogs (The Treasure of the Long-Ears, reviewed below) and mice (Geronimo Stilton, reviewed below) to the lions in the television animation Montana Jones (reviewed above) and the hamster in the German comic, Mike (reviewed below), which is possibly the closest cousin to Fix and Foxi.

The subject of the moai rising up and striding across the island can also be found in numerous other stories, such as Inspector Gadget (reviewed above), Where Monsters Dwell (reviewed above), and Chamber of Chills (reviewed above) and Spike. In these fantasies, the awakened moai largely flatten and smash their surroundings, but Spike shares an irregular plot similarity with Fix and Foxi, in terms of moai unity and multiplication. In the former comic, moai surge together to form a singular giant moai, whilst in the latter, two giant moai deliberately crash into each other to form smaller versions of themselves. Such fantasies bypass the islanders as the craftsmen of these statues and, in a myth of creation, these moai become self-generating.

Fix and Foxi combines both clichéd and original ideas and unfortunately it fails to give anything other than a few frames to the Rapanui, who are shown simply fleeing their island by any means possible and, most tellingly, not returning at the story’s end, despite the threat being contained. The red noses and the black noses is the story’s way of establishing two opposing groups of people, in a manner presumably inspired by Rapanui’s long ears and short ears, but in this fiction the individuals defined by their nasal features are removed from the villagers, who appear to be a different form of islander.

Beyond the moai, there is nothing else within this comic to connect it to Rapanui, which is a shame. The hieroglyphics found in the secret chamber, covering the walls and a pillar of the circular room, could be linked to rongorongo, but they are clearly more inspired by Egyptian illustrations. In fact, Professor Knox points out that these characters are Sumerian hieroglyphs, which sadly takes the culture of Rapanui far away from any local point of origin to a distant civilisation that is deemed to be the superior progenitor.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Tajemnice Wyspy Welkanocnej [The Secrets of Easter Island]
(text: Wiesława Wierzchowska; images: Jerzy Wroblewski; Warsaw: Sport i Turystyka, 1989)

A tribe of sun-worshipping Incas with red hair and beards and distended ears, are forced to abandon the land of their ancestors. They are optimistic of a new future: "We believe that we will find new lands and build cities even more beautiful beyond the huge water. The masters of stones are among us who can sculpt everything. The intellectuals are among us as well who know history and can read the stars. The brave solders are, too...". The tribe's ancestors had been led to the land that they are now abandoning when their "marvellous island sank into the depths of the sea".

The voyagers journey on rafts for many days without seeing any land. Food supplies are supplemented by fish from the ocean but the fresh water is beginning to run out. Just as the situation is becoming desperate, they thankfully spy an apparently uninhabited land. They decide to moor to take on fresh water, repair their rafts and rest for a few nights in the caves. But the island (Rapanui) is inhabited and the newcomers are attacked by "wild" men with topknots. The South Americans fight back and defeat the islanders. They make the islanders, who had led "empty" lives, their slaves and teach them farming and crafts.

More than half a century has now passed since the conquest and the elderly King, who is soon to die, conveys to his granddaughter, Oana, the importance of the stone works and the building of the moai for honouring their ancestors. The leader wants Oana to quickly find a husband, so their people can be strong under a new king. She promises her grandfather that she will continue the moai building, but her friend Utupepe says the people's lives are affected for the worse due to the continuous hard work. Oana says she will reduce the speed at which they build and she will improve their working conditions. Utupepe has been Oana's friend since childhood when she alone protected him from the long-eared and red-haired boys who mocked his black hair (which he inherited from his Polynesian mother). There was much breeding on the island between the newcomers and the natives as the South Americans had voyaged with few females and there were many beautiful women amongst the original islanders.

As the King lies on his death bed he reminds the elders that his son had died defending the island against invaders. Therefore, his granddaughter will take over; he asks that they swear allegiance to her and help to continue the great work. After his funeral and a period of mourning, Oana speaks to the men of great knowledge and understanding: to Ururute, the master of stone, Ororoina, who is in charge of the soldiers, and Ataroa, the teacher of the children. She asks Ururute about building plans and he points to work starting at the quarry at Rano Raraku. Privately, Ororoina and Ataroa are concerned that Oana will select the crossbreed Utupepe as her husband, when he is viewed as an agitator, pushing for better working conditions for the ordinary citizens, and besides they would prefer their own sons, Iketepe and Arotepe, to be chosen to marry the new queen. They decide to try and kill Utupepe, by asking a witch, Mararana, to poison him with one of her snakes.

Meanwhile, Utupepe is with the workers who complain of their working conditions: "The stone statues are eating us alive. We have not enough to eat and we have too much work. The Queen should cease this useless work and strongly focus on improving our welfare". Utupepe tries to convince them that the situation will improve under the queen, as she wants to give them the same rights as the long-ears.

Iketepe and Arotepe are on guard duties, and they discuss their fear that Oana will marry Utupepe. Arotepe says he actually loves Elinene, Utupepe's sister, and he knows how much Iketepe wants Oana. As they stand looking out to sea, Arotepe informs that he wishes to escape the island: "I wish to see what is beyond the horizon! I know that somewhere, far, far away, there are huge lands, cities and people…". Iketepe agrees. He tells Arotepe, "I promise you when I become King, you will be the commander of a group which will start building ships. We have to finish with the isolation of the island!".

Oana is also friends with Elinene and she asks her advice as to whom she should marry. Elinene says Iketepe loves her very much; Oana responds that he is "too violent and impulsive" and asks whether Utupepe loves her. "We are cross-breeds. The Queen needs to choose someone from her race!", is Elinene's reply. Oana says she has loved and admired Utupepe for a long time and wants to also set an example for mixed couples: "I will rub out racial differences and give equal rights for all". Elinene warns her that her tribe, the long-ears, will not be happy and could rebel. Oana asks Elinene to find out if Utupepe loves her too. Soon after, Utupepe declares his love for Oana and they kiss with great passion.

Elsewhere, by moonlight, a strange man meets with the witch who gives him a basket containing a rock spider with a venomous bite that will lead to unavoidable death. At Rano Raraku, Ururute is advising Oana about the past. When the South Americans arrived they had found no trees on the island with which to build ships, so they stayed and turned to creating an island infrastructure. They experimented with building boats from bulrushes but those expeditions did not return so the king prohibited further attempts. They turned to building moai and the first, which was of the King of the Viracocha people, "the ruler of the great continent", became the pattern for the many others which now surround this original moai, and which is also the biggest.

Oana asks Ururute to show her the stages involved in creating the moai. Ururute goes into detail addressing the preparation, carving, polishing and transportation. It takes six to ten "well-educated sculptors" almost a year to create one statue, before it is moved into place and then eyes and hair added – the red pukao from the extinct volcano of Puna Pau matching the red hair of the long-ears. Ururute advises that to make the work easier they transport the pukao by boats made of bulrushes. Arotepe has now joined them and he tells Oana that he hopes she will abolish the king's ban on sea voyaging. As Oana watches the erection of a moai, Utupepe joins in and tells her how they learnt through skill to move the moai to an upright position, using its centre of gravity, stones, ropes and levers.

Another moai will be transported the next day and Oana says she will come to watch. She also says that she will announce her husband later that day in the evening. Many men are needed for the transportation of the moai, which the brutal Iketepe supervises; his men using whips to push the workers to their limits. Iketepe overhears Elinene telling Arotepe that Oana will declare she has chosen Utupepe as her husband. He is livid and with his sword drawn rushes at Utupepe. Oana steps between the two of them and is accidentally killed by Iketepe. Utupepe tries to defend himself but he too is killed by Iketepe, as the workers look on in horror. They saw Utupepe as their only hope. They respond by rebelling and taking up their axes. Following the long civil war, the building of the moai ceased forever.

The only known original example of Easter Island fiction in Polish, this rather curious comic appears dated and is regarded by followers of the artist as his weakest work. The comic begins with a lengthy historical contextualisation of Rapanui on the inside front cover, which is notably from a European perspective of voyaging and discovery. It promotes the work of Thor Heyerdahl and it is this which underpins the content of the comic. This can be seen in the descriptions and depictions of the moai being built and moved (which closely follows Heyerdahl's studies and fieldwork) and in the presentation of the long-ears as red-haired South Americans who became the dominant islanders (a theory of Heyerdahl's which has been much challenged since).

The comic embellishes the story with ideas and images that go far beyond Heyerdahl and reality. Rapanui is imagined as a treeless island before the arrival of the South Americans and therefore the construction of the moai. The Incas are imagined colonising the Polynesians, who are the original settlers. The former are shown to be an advanced civilisation in comparison to the primitive Polynesians, who apparently knew nothing of stone building, farming and craftwork until they were taught it by the newcomers. This is a racist view that positions the Polynesians as inferior, but they are also established as workers who demand better welfare and working conditions, who hold meetings to discuss improvements and who rebel at the end against the outsiders. As a Polish comic published in 1989 and as the Soviet Union was collapsing, precipitated by the Solidarity movement in Poland, it is fascinating to read this comic in a local context that promoted socialism, labour rights and a break from oppressive rulers.

Giving the long-ears red hair and beards distinguishes them from the dark-haired Polynesians, but they also have little resemblance to South Americans. In fact, they have a strong European appearance and these warrior people with muscular physiques are more inspired by Vikings. The hairstyles of the women in particular, with their flowing locks, are very 1980s and seem to have been created by a modern stylist. The Polynesians are shown with topknots of hair, whilst the South Americans are presented arriving at Rapanui with their ears already distended. Much of the culture of the latter is subsequently recreated on the island, with clothing and domestic interiors resembling Inca designs. The pukao, or any other part of the moai construction, was most likely not aided by boats. Moreover, the pukao are not red to honour the South Americans – although that it is a nice idea.

Ultimately, this is a clichéd and simple story of love and death between young people of different tribes. It is a European story transplanted on to a foreign culture and spun out over thirty-two pages, with a reasonably long section added to the last third that educates on the moai.

Arkadiusz Modrzejewski and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Doom Patrol
‘Imaginary Friends’
(no.25, August 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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Bob Morane: Les Tours de Cristal [Bob Morane: The Towers of Crystal]
(no.4; text: Henri Vernes; drawings: Dino Attanasio; Brussels: Claude Lefrancq, 1990)

Bob Morane is flying back from South America to France via the Pacific, along with his two friends Bill Ballantine and Professor Clairembart, when a storm forces the passenger plane to make an emergency landing on a remote Pacific island. Everyone survives, but the aircraft has lost a wing. The three friends set off to explore the island and discover, amongst the lush vegetation, ancient ruins including numerous moai, both with and without pukao, and stones carved with the figure of the birdman. This leads Clairembart to reflect on the lost Pacific continent of Mu, whilst he notes that the statues remind him of Easter Island.

During the first night on the island, comets are observed in the sky, one of which explodes directly above the three companions. Only later does it become clear that the three adventurers have travelled back in time as a result of this incident. For the ruins have now gone and when they want to return to the plane on the beach, both the aircraft and the other passengers have disappeared. Instead, they now observe numerous gigantic crystal columns protruding out of the sea. With a self-built raft, the three manage to reach one of the columns, whereupon they climb down inside and discover a room in which they find a huge seated bright golden moai, a god with its head crowned by a sun symbol.

Back outside, the three observe from the top of the crystal column a city on the ‘island’ they had left, and which is now part of a bigger continent. As they try to comprehend the situation, they are picked up by a sophisticated jet plane, piloted by strangers who speak rongorongo. Clairembart understands the language – as it resembles the language spoken by the old inhabitants of Easter Island – and he is able to communicate with the strangers. One of them, Ra-Mu, introduces himself as the master of the Muvian empire. The three are brought to his capital, where numerous moai are visible across the landscape. The so-called metal city is made of the material Oceamine, which comes from underwater deposits and is apparently earthquake-resistant. The same material is used for the helmets and suits that enable the three companions to walk with Ra-Mu to the bottom of the sea to find the cause of a series of tectonic movements. There they see the extent of the danger facing the Muvians. Following another underwater seismic quake the three are separated and Bob and Bill are washed away through caves and ancient underground passages and finally spat out of the ocean and deposited ashore on a beach. From there they cross a desert, the result of an atomic explosion, and discover a city of ruins and giant cybernetic animals and birds which attack them. Finally, they are rescued by an airplane and brought back to the city where they are joined by the professor.

Morane proposes that they should try to escape the expected cataclysmic event that the Muvians will soon face, by building rockets and trying to reach a new and safe planet. The three companions plus Ra-Mu and a few Muvians, first reach a planet in the galaxy Proxima Centauri, where they just about manage to escape a land of monsters and giant sea beasts. Finally, they land on a planet whose atmosphere seems suitable and find there another rocket, abandoned and overgrown with vegetation. Once inside the vessel they read the log book and discover that it had arrived from Earth and landed in the year 2537. This makes the team realise that they have journeyed far in time. They plan to take this discovered rocketship back to Earth, via hyperspace, in order to rescue the Muvians and bring them to this new planet. The team remove the vegetation from the sides of the vessel and awaken the onboard instruments.

When they arrive back on Earth and the continent of Mu, they find that the crystal towers have been destroyed. The moai remain but they again discover the architectural forms they first found as ruins on the Pacific island, including a grand series of steps, but this time with everything now intact. Climbing the stairs, they are met at the top by a warrior-like nation, an ancient civilisation, strongly reminiscent of the Aztecs/ Incas. The time-travelling friends are taken captive by these people, who want to sacrifice them to their gods. As prisoners underground awaiting their fate, the intrepid time-travellers discover on a wall a story written in rongorongo. This tells them of a great disaster in the ancient year 24500, in which the Muvian empire was destroyed by a huge underwater eruption. The survivors sought refuge on the small piece of land that remained and there they built their new civilisation. The Aztec/ Inca-like people are therefore the descendants of the third civilisation of Mu, and they now worship a sun god in honour of their survival.

Before Morane, his two friends, and the Muvians can be sacrificed, they manage to overpower a priest and take him hostage. They reach their rocketship and flee, but as they attempt to take off for a second time the rocketship crashes into the sea. Lying on the seabed, the vessel is retrieved by advanced technology and hauled into a series of underwater domes. There the group are received by another civilisation of descendants of the generation of Ra-Mu, who also escaped but by living in an undersea kingdom. Only the privileged and elite of Muravian society were allowed to escape and live in these domes. Now, finally, Morane’s plans to escape the final expected cataclysm can be implemented with a fleet of rocketships built enabling the undersea Muvians to voyage to safety. Meanwhile, Morane and his friends manage to return to earth in the present by again using hyperspace.

The first French language edition of this comic-book was published in black and white in serial form in 1961, in the magazine Femmes d'Aujourd'hui. It was republished in 1962 in a modified form as a comic-album by Les Editions Marabout, in colour, with re-drawn characters and scenery and a more modern appearance for the future sequences. Morane was invented by the Belgian writer Charles-Henri-Jean Dewisme, known under his Henri Vernes pseudonym for his novels – an oeuvre that comprises more than 200 books. The Morane collection also includes more than 80 bandes dessinées adaptions of the novels of Vernes, with the comics drawn by different artists – for this edition, by the Italian, Dino Attanasio, from Milan.

This is not Morane and Ballantine’s only moai adventure, as they revisit an undersea kingdom of Mu in an entirely unconnected comic in 1975, Bob Morane: The Giants of Mu, in which there is now a Queen of Mu and a deceased Prince Raah-Mu. Whereas that comic took place partly on Easter Island and predominantly in the undersea kingdom, the Towers of Crystal involves interplanetary voyaging, hyperspace rocketship flights, journeys back and forward in time, dinosaurs, and an Aztec/Inca-like civilisation, in addition to an undersea kingdom. The Towers of Crystal is an extraordinary adventure which seemingly feels the need to pack in a raft of ideas in one bande dessinée. Like the earlier Giants of Mu, the comic reflects the period in which it was produced. For The Giants of Mu, it is the mid 1970s; for The Towers of Crystal it is the early 1960s. In April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to be sent into space in an age defined by a space race. In that context, The Towers of Crystal’s fascination with space travel and rocketships, as part of an evolution of humankind, can be better understood. The early 1960s was also a period in which there was a real and acute fear of nuclear warfare, which can be seen to affect other comics of the time – see, for instance, Justice League of America (reviewed above). The abandoned city and desert landscape encountered by Morane and Ballantine, which is the result of an atomic bomb, is an early nuclear fantasy, especially within moai culture, which is then revisited over the subsequent years in countless other nuclear fiction.

A lost continent and kingdom of Mu, an Atlantis-like myth for the Pacific, has also become a recurring fantasy and is a popular moai culture narrative. Functioning undersea kingdoms of Mu can be found in comics such as Lion and Thunder (reviewed above) and Fathom (reviewed below), and the film Godzilla vs Megalon (reviewed above). When there is an outer space connection, the fiction imagines the inhabitants of Mu to have arrived on Earth from another planet; The Towers of Crystal is unique in viewing the people of Mu as needing to evacuate Earth for another world. The Towers of Crystal is interesting for it attempts to extend the Mu myth within a broad narrative that aims to connect Easter Island to both the lost continent of Mu and then to a second myth of South America. The latter was a theory (latter disproven) of noted explorer and archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl, who saw Easter Island as settled from the East.

The Towers of Crystal is more about Mu than Easter Island, though the cover to this 1990 edition would suggest otherwise, with three large moai (mirroring the depiction of Morane, Ballantine and Clairembart) and petroglyphs of the birdman dominating the front artwork. Moai do appear inside but are mainly part of the scenery, with the exception of one glorious giant golden moai that is worshipped as a god and which bears a birdman carving on each arm of its throne. In this story, the moai becomes a sun god, with the worshipping of the sun presented later in the Aztec/Inca culture and found also in the name of the leader of the Muvians, Ra-Mu, with Ra, the sun god of the ancient Egyptians.

Few comics have presented spoken rongorongo in speech bubbles – see also Lais und Ben 1 (reviewed below) and Sgt Frog (reviewed below) – with the hieroglyphs present also on a wall inside the Mu city, presumably as a public instruction, and later as an extensive wall carving with the often-used function to fill a gap in the narrative. What The Towers of Crystal therefore attempts is a weaving of Rapanui culture into a fantasy that exoticises the foreign, for an adventure set in the past and future but with very little direct interest in the present and the people of Rapanui.

Hermann Mückler and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Onkel Dagobert [Uncle Scrooge]
‘Micky Maus. Das Geheimnis der Osterinsel’ [‘Mickey Mouse. The Secret of Easter Island’]
(no.36, 1990, Egmont Ehapa Verlag)

Mickey Mouse and his friend Goofy attend a slide show presented by two scientists, Merlin and Zapotek, where they learn of the European discovery of Easter Island by Jacob Roggeveen, in 1722. They also learn that it is still not known why the stone statues called moai were erected. The two scientists suggest that Mickey and Goofy should go back in time for twelve hours, to 1200AD, with the help of a time machine, to try and solve some of the mysteries of the moai. Before they start their adventure, they learn that there are approximately 260 moai on the island and that it is about 3,700km off the coast of China (presumably, the comic meant Chile).

Mickey and Goofy arrive on Easter Island through a time hole, where they are warmly welcomed by an islander named Rano Ropo, who seems to have been expecting them. The two friends are immediately taken to a quarry at the slopes of Rano Raraku, where the moai are being carved from out of the rock. The supervisor and spiritual expert there, named Aku Aku, is much less euphoric about the arrival of Mickey and Goofy, because he was expecting people of a different appearance. Slowly it becomes clear that our two friends are being held responsible for the production of the moai, which are being produced by the Rapanui on the basis of a contract signed 50 years ago with foreigners.

Hundreds of moai are ready and waiting to be received and transported. While attending a dinner, the confusion regarding Mickey and Goofy is cleared up, but at the same time the actual clients arrive on the island. These foreigners look like Vikings, and their burly leader is clearly unhappy with the way the moai look. He makes use of his right of withdrawal, which is provided for in the contract, and refuses to take the moai with him or pay for them. With the Vikings gone, and with the moai abandoned, the islanders are left in despair. What are the locals supposed to do with all the moai? Goofy proposes selling them to others, whilst Aku Aku suggests all 320 moai should be sold to Mickey and Goofy.

When Mickey and Goofy refuse to accept Aku Aku’s proposal, they are chased and with the help of Rano Ropo’s daughter, Nora, they hide behind a pukao, on the top of a moai. Meanwhile, Nora convinces the islanders to distribute the moai around the island to alert ships to the attraction and encourage them to buy the carvings. Mickey and Goofy can now descend from their hiding place, and with the twelve hours about to expire, the time machine brings them back to the present, where they are able to report the real reasons behind the existence of the moai. Since only about 260 of the 320 moai mentioned are still available, it can be deduced that some of the statues had been successfully sold.

Originally published in Italian, in March 1986, as ‘Mickey Mouse and the Enigma of Easter Island’, this is one of many Disney comics to approach Easter Island, each with their own highly imaginative adventures. Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge are the most regular visitors, appearing for instance in Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge Adventures (reviewed above) and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures (reviewed below). Goofy was to feature on Rapanui on the cover of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Friends (2005, reviewed below), but ‘Mickey Mouse. The Secret of Easter Island’, is the only story in which he appears.

Unusually, this adventure foregrounds the pukao, the red-coloured stone on top of many of the statues, which are clearly shown here as a separate step in the moai construction process. However, the pukao are depicted as square, when in fact they are round, and in this comic they imitate the square red hats worn by the Rapanui, when in reality they were made to represent topknots of hair. And whilst the moai are shown being moved on wooden log rollers (the most common theory for their transportation), the pukao are depicted being placed in position through a more unlikely design of scaffolding and a crane and pulley system. The clothes worn by the Rapanui, which resemble brightly-patterned nightgowns, are far from anything that was worn on the island, and the homes are stereotyped straw huts.

Essentially, this is a story of outsiders, with Mickey and Goofy intruders from another place and time, who act as investigators as well as catalysts. It emerges that the moai in this comic acquired their positions following the suggestion of the time-travellers, and they were not built for Rapanui culture, but through an order placed by another race. These people, who look like Vikings, and who would normally be depicted as aggressors, pillaging communities, are here more formal doing business with the support of a contract. Furthermore, whilst the Nordic countries were great voyagers, travelling far – the Vikings are believed to have been the first Europeans to land in North America, long before Christopher Columbus – they did not make it to Easter Island. Disney has colonised cultures, appropriating myths and legends, and in its obsession with Easter Island it has attempted from a range of perspectives to rewrite Rapanui history.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Rock Animal
'A Profecia da Ilha de Páscoa' ['The Prophecy of Easter Island']
(vol.2, no.22, 1990, Abril)

A research team led by Dr Gemma arrive on Easter Island by hydroplane in search of more powerful and sacred rock animals – stones which can transform into creatures – "to prevent them falling into the wrong hands". On arrival, they are met by Mr Tiki, who has studied the culture of the island, and who takes the group to see the moai. They are observed from afar by a strange group of men, who see that the prophecy will now be fulfilled, for later in the day there will be an eclipse and one of the newly arrived researchers, a suspicious-looking academic, is wearing the 'Eye of Satan', a large red stone, around his neck.

The leader of the strange group, a "wizard", clasps his own red stone that he wears around his neck, which magically transforms into an evil clawed beast of immense strength called the 'Lava Guardian'. The wizard orders the beast to retrieve the 'Eye of Satan', which the creature does by strangling the academic and ripping the jewel from around his neck. With the academic's stone now in the hands of the wizard he places it on a pedestal near to the moai, declaring that the giants will be awakened once the eclipsed has ended and they will then be under his control. This will make him the most powerful man on the island.

As the eclipse begins, a ray of sun passes down to the red stone and out through it in all directions to the many moai, which subsequently come alive. The research team are surrounded by the angry moai that are about to crush them but for two of the children in the group who employ the stones around their necks which transform into a golden lion and a blue hawk. The bird dives into the centre of a volcano making it erupt and shoot a cloud of smoke into the sky blocking out the sun's rays. As a result, the moai return to their original positions. The lion attacks the Lava Guardian, meanwhile the wizard runs away but the powerful stone is found to be missing from the pedestal. Little do the team know that the stone is back around the academic's neck, who thinks to himself "the Evil Eye is mine again".

This is part of a series of small comic booklets in Portuguese, produced in Brazil and published to accompany and promote a range of Rock Animal toys that children were encouraged to collect. The Rock Animals appear inspired by the successful Transformers or M.A.S.K. toyline, for which an associated novel was produced for its own adventure on Easter Island (reviewed below). Instead of cars and machines that transform into robots, the Rock Animals are stones that can become creatures – either recognisable fauna, dinosaurs or monsters like the Lava Guardian, that appears in this story and which the comic shows at the end how it can be effectively transformed.

At the end and beginning of the comic are a total of eleven pages providing cultural-historical information about Rapanui, from the lava rock found on the island and how the pukao were positioned, to rongorongo and the birdman petroglyphs. Unfortunately, it includes a photo of an islander parading behind a giant mask, allegedly taken at the island's Tapati festival, but which looks suspiciously from Papua New Guinea. The story is basic but in its twelve pocket-sized pages still manages to pack in a wizard, transformations, an eclipse, an erupting volcano and moai that come alive.

For more on the Rock Animal comics see

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Lais und Ben 1 [Lais and Ben 1]
'Anamarama' ['The Cave of Light']
(text: Joachim Friedmann; drawings: Henk Wyniger; Hamburg: Carlsen, Edition Comic Art, June 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.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Yan et Mirka: L'Expédition Perdue [Yan and Mirka: The Lost Expedition]
(no.1; text: Gregorio Muro Harriet; images: Daniel Redondo; Geneva: Alpen Publishers, October 1990)

Yan is a boy in an orphanage, where he is teased by the other children and falsely punished by the director. When he has to kneel outside the orphanage in the cold as punishment, he sees a spaceship land from which Mirka, an alien with blue skin, and her robot Zopix emerge. Mirka tells Yan that she comes from the planet Tarox, part of a brotherhood of three planets, more than a hundred light years away, and is making her first expedition into this solar system, to follow a weak signal, that points to lost members of Tarox on Earth. Mirka has made this unexpected landing as she needs a spare part for her spaceship, which is found in the form of the orphanage director's gold bell. Yan says he will help them retrieve the bell, but he is first caught in the act by the boys in his dormitory and then the director who comes to see the cause of the commotion. Zopix intervenes, trapping the director in a bubble. Yan flees and begins his fantastic adventure with his new companions.

On board the spaceship, Yan experiences a sunrise over Earth and then a voyage to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where they follow a signal that Mirka has been tracking. There, they find a sunken Spanish galleon laden with treasure, including a gold disc from the original spaceship, but also dangerous canisters of nuclear waste. Back on the spaceship, they examine a golden cup that Yan had found with the disc amongst the Spanish treasure. The characters on its surface identify it as belonging to a Peruvian Andean civilisation. They decide to fly to Peru and on their way they pass over the famous Nazca lines. In these, Zopix recognizes symbols of the Tarox Confederation. They land their spaceship in the South American jungle, and near to a huge step-temple. They enter deep into the building and reach a vault where they find a man in a hibernation capsule. The three want to take the capsule on board, but they first have to get it to a clearing so that the spaceship can land. Zopix and Yan are attacked by indigenous jungle dwellers, who carry spears and swing from vines. Zopix falls into a swamp and Yan is captured. Mirka who had separately gone to the spaceship arrives just in time, and as she beams down from the futuristic flying craft the scared natives bow down to her as a god.

With the companions safely back on board the spaceship, the capsule is thawed and the man inside, Xanot, who is also from Tarox, comes to life. He explains that he knows where the other members of Tarox are: Easter Island. Xanot says that once the Tarox spaceship had been damaged by a comet they had to make an emergency landing on Earth, where they were helped by the Inca people. Then the Spanish conquistadores arrived destroying the Inca culture in their search for gold. The Tarox hid with their spaceship in the forest step-temple after leaving clues regarding their whereabouts in the desert (of Nazca). As the conquistadores approached the hideout, the Tarox fled to Easter Island with the little energy that remained on their spaceship. Xanot had volunteered to hibernate in the temple in case their signs in the desert were found.

The team fly to Easter Island, where they set down in the crater Rano Kau. From there they find behind a large rock an entrance into a cave, where the Tarox are hibernating in their sleeping capsules. The "lost expedition" has been found. The reawakened Tarox convey that they lived well with the indigenous people of Easter Island for a long time and that with their carriage rays they contributed to transporting the moai. Mission accomplished, Yan flies with Mirka into a future of new adventures.

Originally published in France in 1986, this more widely available Swiss edition was the first story in an intended new series of adventures featuring Yan, Mirka, and her robot Zopix. But no other comics have been published since the first. The duo Yan and Mirka resemble the more famous French science fiction comic book pairing of Valerian and Laureline. Moreover, the graphics appear influenced by the artist Jean Giraud/ Moebius and they contain a number of political messages regarding the dumping of toxic waste and the brutal conquests of the Spanish in South America.

The moai are featured boldly on the front cover of this Swiss edition, but Easter Island is not mentioned or seen until page 46 of this 52-page comic. Even then the moai appear in just three frames. Clearly of all the fantastic elements in the story, it was felt that the moai carried a strong selling point for a tale of science fiction and adventure and were exploited to promote the comic. The connection of Easter Island with the Nazca lines had occurred previously in the French film Les Soleils de l'île de Pâques (reviewed above), with the aliens helping to transport the moai also not a completely new idea. Unfortunately, in 'resolving' the perceived mystery of how the moai were moved it displaces the labours of the Rapanui.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Disney Duck Tales
‘A Húsvét-Szigeteken’ [‘On Easter Island’]
(no.3, 1991, Egmont Pannonia)

Scrooge McDuck boards a boat bound for Easter Island with his nephews, Huey, Dewie and Louie. Scrooge relays that the previous year scientists saw crazy things on the island, but he wants to see it now with his own eyes. On arriving, the team go ashore via a small boat and comment how the island is abandoned and that nobody knows who carved the moai. They decide to return to their ship for the evening, but upon awakening the next morning they discover to their surprise that another island has emerged adjacent to Rapanui, upon which moai recline and are posed in positions of contemplation and relaxation.

The young ducks consult a book which advises that there is a second Easter Island which undersea currents reveal every six months, and each time is visible for just two days. The ducks board their small boat again, this time for the second Easter Island, whereupon McDuck comments that these alternative moai show that the islanders did have a sense of humour. The moai that they encounter include one doing a handstand and another pulling a silly face. The ducks believe it would be shame if they were to disappear underwater again and so they begin a plan to remove them on to their ship, within the short time frame of two days.

The team bring their ship closer to the island and with its on board crane begin to lift the moai on to their vessel. One of the ducks comments just how “cool” the moai will look in a museum. They manage to hoist the moai on to their ship just in time as the island disappears again under the sea. The nephews consult their book and it says the moai must be maintained in a state of constant wet humidity or they will crumble away. This is a real challenge for the team who ponder how they can resolve the problem, including perhaps building an aquarium in which to place the moai. But McDuck has a moment of inspiration – they will display the moai in a room that is constantly raining. On opening day, the public gather at McDuck’s museum, paying $1 entrance and an additional 25 cents for an umbrella for one hour to view the unusual statues.

One of many Disney comics set on Easter Island, this was originally published in September 1989, in the US, as ‘Ducktales: Scrooge McDuck and the Boys on Easter Island’. Republished for the Hungarian market, it is the earliest known example of Hungarian moai culture (for a later example see The Treasure of the Long-Ears, reviewed below). Scrooge McDuck has visited Easter Island in other adventures – see Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge Adventures (reviewed above), Walt Disney. Funny Paperbacks (reviewed below), and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Friends (reviewed below) – each with their imaginative or absurd stories. Perhaps inspired by Brigadoon, in which an obscured land becomes visible for just a short period in a calendar cycle, Easter Island-like islands that emerge suddenly from the ocean floor have also appeared in fiction as early as the 1943 Super Magician Comics (reviewed above).

In this Hungarian comic, it is unsurprising that Rapanui is once again presented as uninhabited but in what is essentially a basic story there is here a deeper (and unintended) message. Without any consideration for respecting a local culture/ phenomenon, the ducks take every single moai from the second island with the aim of profiteering from paying visitors in a foreign and faraway museum. It is a sad act of cultural theft and one that has unfortunately occurred repeatedly in the European history of Rapanui.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Corto Maltese
(vol. 9, no.7, July 1991, RCS)

Mū begins with Corto Maltese and his companions' initial quest for the lost continent of Atlantis and its ancient race. According to legend, the people of Atlantis came from the west and colonised Europe. Corto's quest eventually leads him to search for the lost race of Mū, an ancient continent in the Pacific destroyed by fire and water. The story begins in 1925 on a ship that is sailing across the Atlantic, where Corto seems to have located Atlantis off the coast of an island in the Caribbean.

When some Carib tribesmen, who inhabit the island, kidnap the woman Soledad believing her to be the incarnation of Kukulcan, the Sun Head God, Corto and his friends go ashore to find and liberate her. There, in the middle of the jungle they reach an ancient Mayan temple which leads to the Sacred Labyrinth. Once inside, Corto must go through a series of ordeals to reach the lost dimension and find the ancient sonic vibrations, sound reverberations of the long-gone centuries. In the Labyrinth, Corto encounters a Sardana warrior who has travelled across time and space from Atlantis in search of Mū, reaching the Americas long before the Phoenicians, the Celts and the Vikings. The Sardana warrior invites Corto to find Mū before reaching the Maya Elder, but as he crosses the Labyrinth, he and his companion Rasputin must fight against the Guardian Warriors.

This instalment of the story opens with Corto fleeing the Guardian Warriors by jumping into the water where, whilst swimming, he comes across a giant turtle that leads him ashore towards the end of the Sacred Labyrinth. Once there, Corto finds an ancient Mayan Stone Head that invites him to eat the magic mushrooms that he collected in the Valley of Butterflies. Only by eating the mushrooms will Corto be able to find the lost days of the ancient civilisation of Mū, the island continent that was once the Navel of the World.

As soon as Corto eats the mushrooms, he is transported to an island where he finds himself amongst giant moai who look up towards the sky. In their brief encounter, the moai reveal that they are all that remains of the realm of Mū, which was destroyed from the stars, and of the Chosen Race which was exterminated by fire and water. The survivors found refuge on Aztla, the island from which the Aztec civilisation is believed to have originated. For thousands of years the moai have been looking at the stars waiting for some mysterious entity to return from outer space.

Suddenly, the Moai disappear and Corto is back on the Caribbean island where he finally reaches Soledad, who is in the process of getting married to a man named Hugues. She consequently decides to remain with the Carib tribe. Corto returns to the labyrinth where he comes across a series of paintings representing the Sacred Dance: the figures on the wall invite him to follow them into the dream dimension where Mū still exists.

Corto decides to move forward and finally arrives before the Maya Elder, the descendant of Kukulcan, the Mayan God also known as Quetzalcoatl by the Aztec and as Cuchulain by the Irish. The Elder inhabits the subterranean realm of Tezcla uniting Aztla and Mū, hidden to the men living on the surface of the Earth. The Elder shows Corto the exit of the Labyrinth. Corto leaves, only to flee the Spider Men by jumping into an ocean of fire. He emerges from the fire to find the Amazons who have been holding his friends as prisoners. This episode of the story ends up with Corto following the women warriors inside their citadel.

Published in instalments in Italian between 1988 and 1991, Mū was the last Corto Maltese story written by Hugo Pratt before his death. Here, the author builds on the genre of the 'Lost World' utopia and, specifically, on the myth of the lost continent of Mū and its identification with Easter Island, which was popularised by James Churchward in his 1926 work, The Lost Continent of Mu.

In Corto Maltese: Mū, Easter Island is never directly mentioned, but only alluded to when Mū is referred to as 'the Navel of the World', which was another early name of Easter Island. However, the association is easily made by the presence of the moai, which appear only briefly. In the story, they are the vestiges of the very first civilisation to have inhabited the world, a race of chosen, superior people possessing almost magical skills at the very dawn of time, from whom all the other civilisations have descended. As a result, through the identification between Mū and Easter Island, Rapanui is presented as the birthplace of all civilisations.

The moai appear as melancholic figures, the last inhabitants of a forgotten land, and the custodians of the origins of the civilised world, forever caught in the act of looking up at the sky in search of a sign, extricated from both time and space. In reality, the moai are associated with the words mata ki te rangi (eyes to the sky) and this comic advances the idea. The story also employs a common trope used in the popular representation of the moai, that is, their association with outer space. However, unlike other representations whereby the moai are the product of an alien civilisation, outer space here appears as the source of destruction rather than creation.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures
'A Tuft Luck tale'
(no.15, August 1991, W.D. Publications)

Donald Duck and his nephews find a bargain book for sale with a curious note inside of "squiggles and wiggles". They are being watched by a suspicious looking man, wearing a long coat and tall hat, who desires the note for himself as it presents a formula. The villain pulls out a gun and Donald and his nephews flee. They bump into another stranger, the villain's associate, who manages to grab half of the formula. The ducks hide in a crate of oranges, which is then hauled onto a waiting ship that is heading for Easter Island.

Two weeks later the ducks arrive at Easter Island and as stowaways are found and charged by an islander who holds multiple roles: police officer, mayor, barber and customs agent. The two villains arrive and offer to pay the ducks' bail, but they also want the other half of the formula. The villains attack the policeman and the ducks "head for the hills". In the nighttime darkness, Donald falls into a hole that is discovered to be at the base of a moai.

The villains have now caught up with the ducks and with the document rejoined and after hours of mixing the formula, a special ointment is held aloft. It is revealed it is an ancient treatment for baldness and the villain not only wishes to cure his own ailment but he sees global power in controlling the cure. The captive Donald lashes out and the ointment is kicked into the air, landing on the heads of both villains. Some also lands on Donald's head and on the chin of a moai. All develop rapid hair growth including the moai who grows a beard. The villains are sent to prison for assaulting a police officer and the same officer as the local barber says he will give Donald a haircut.

Disney comics have turned to Easter Island on five occasions and whilst more than half of this story is set there, very little is seen of its culture with the moai appearing in the latter stages of the story. Moai have been excavated to assess the extent of their bodies beneath the ground, but unlike the hole into which Donald falls, these pits have been filled in afterwards. The hairless moai watch silently as the ancient potion is mixed, which is so effective that hair growth occurs immediately on stone. The tuft of hair that this moai now sports on its chin references Tukuturi, the only moai that has a beard.

The sole islander depicted multi-tasks with numerous professional jobs to fulfill. It emphasises the smallness of the island, which the comic states "is a lonely speck" far from mainland Chile.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(no.264, August 1991, Major Magazines)

A successful imitator of the American humour magazine, Mad, Cracked ran from 1958 to 2007. Mad had already published cartoons that used the moai for gags – see the April 1985 issue (reviewed above) and the March 1986 issue (reviewed above) – and they would later publish an inspired third (April 1998; reviewed below). The celebrated cartoonist Don Martin, who drew this cartoon for Cracked, also drew the one for Mad in March 1986. One of the common gags for Easter Island cartoon humour is the question of what lies beneath the protruding moai heads. The archaeological work of Thor Heyerdahl had shown that many of the moai have extensive bodies that go far beneath the surface, and which have been buried over time. The March 1986 and April 1998 issues of Mad had imagined the results of an archaeological excavation, with the 'secrets' of the moai revealed. Cracked takes this a step further with the fantasy that the moai extend so far down that they can be observed underwater, their enormous bodies, arms, legs and feet found so far beneath the island that they are part of its geological foundations connecting it to the seabed. Jacques Cousteau and his crew are incorporated into the humour and given a comedy French accent. One crew member, Pierre, is depicted as childlike and he is confused to discover at a great depth "huge stone columns" in front of their submarine; Cousteau is much calmer and offers an explanation. A great explorer and oceanographer, Cousteau had visited Rapanui for his 1978 television documentary, The Blind Prophets of Easter Island (see below the cover for The Register). Cousteau's expedition was to also inspire a bande dessinées, Le Dernier Secret de l'île de Paques (reviewed below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Jeanette Pointu
‘Le Secret Atlante’
(no.6; text and drawings: Wasterlain; colouring: Studio Cerise; Marcinelle: Éditions Dupuis, June 1992)

Review forthcoming

Jump to contents

‘Verschollen auf der Osterinsel’ [‘Lost on Easter Island’]
(no.1, January 1994, BMC-GmbH)

Mike Hamsterbacke (Mike Hamstercheeks), the main character of the series, arrives by ship on Easter Island with his girlfriend Tina and the scientist Dr Karl Höhn, to search for the missing Professor Graber. On their arrival, they meet an indigenous Rapanui man, called Tiki-Tiki, whom they ask for directions to a cult site, Te Pito o te Henua (the navel of the world). The local, with whom Dr Höhn can converse in the Polynesian language, warns them against visiting the place, because demons and spirits live there and it is a sanctuary, guarded by tangata manu (the birdman), who eats intruders.

Nevertheless, the three protagonists set out to find the sacred place. On arrival, Mike comments that a big stone in the centre of a circle looks like a giant medicine ball. Tina says that the three moai positioned behind it are more exciting. Dr Höhn produces a letter from Professor Graber, which states that the moai are alive and can walk. Höhn jokingly says that Graber must have been drinking too much. Tiki-Tiki suddenly presents a pocket watch that he found at ahu Raku, and that turns out to be Professor Graber’s watch.

As the group are discussing the pocket watch, a big black bird flies in and lands on top of the large ball-like stone. A frightened Tiki-Tiki flees, saying it is the birdman, who will eat them when it turns dark. Mike, Tina and Dr Höhn, however, decide to remain. As darkness falls the three are still there when the bird, now possessed, appears wearing a cape. Its eyes glow red, and its body emits a bright energy, as it screeches, “Sacred! Sacred!”. Tina says they should leave fast.

The story continues in issue 2 and is part of a running series of adventures introduced by the comics at the end of 1986, and which contain the explorer-scientist Dr. Höhn (a character who was perhaps inspired by Indiana Jones). The Mike comics have appeared across different series, starting in May 1978, and they were developed by the combined German co-operative banks to promote a new savings plan for young people, called the Jeans Savings Book. At its peak in the mid-1980s, ‘Mike’ reached phenomenal print runs of up to 850,000 copies. The concept was so convincing that foreign editions were released in other European countries, such as Finland.

Te Pito o te Henua exists, it is actually called Te Pito Kura (the Navel of Light), and it is a magnetic stone that apparently was brought to the island by the first king, Hotu Matu’a. Its magnetic qualities lend itself to a story regarding unnatural powers on the island, and which transform a bird into a possessed portender. The magnetic stone can be found at ahu Te Pito Kura, a name that presumably gave the comic the idea for the non-existent ahu Raku, where there is just one large moai, not the three depicted here. Few comics have included the magnetic stone in the story, and this one is alone in making it central to the narrative. The German children’s novel, Tixi Tigerhai und das Geheimnis der Osterinsel (reviewed below), is the only other example of moai culture to come close, with a magnetic volcano, called Te Pito o te Henua, which is feared by the islanders. Meanwhile, Tiki-Tiki is an awful stereotype of a Pacific islander, depicted here as rather simple, superstitious and motivated by money. His clothing, and the cape worn by the bird, are closer to the textiles of South America than Rapanui, but in this children’s comic indigeneity is fluid.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Le Dernier Secret de l’île de Pâques [The Last Secret of Easter Island]
(no.14; text and drawings: Dominique Sérafini; Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1995)

Jacques Cousteau and his team of oceanic adventurers are on a new mission to explore the heart of the Pacific Ocean and its sources of life. This includes underwater volcanoes which have given birth to the numerous Pacific islands. Cousteau and his team, aboard their boat the Calypso, are voyaging from island to island, following the routes taken by ancient voyagers – the ancestors of the Polynesians. They observe the marine life and coral formations from their submersible, whilst above ground they film the land with the aid of a helicopter. The helicopter team, which includes Cousteau, record the wild horses of the Marquesas Islands – imported from Chile in 1857 – goats grazing on the rocky landscape, a waterfall and a sacred cave in which skeletons have been placed within a canoe. A team on the ground travels on horse to a spot near to the caves, where the helicopter cannot reach, and where they locate an ahu (platform) – a sacred place where priests would convene – featuring a large carving of a figure.

The ancient Polynesians were great navigators and they knew the ocean well. It helped them voyage and discover new lands. On board the Calypso a Marquesan lobster fisherman, with the aid of a map, explains to a member of Cousteau’s team the importance of Rapanui, which was first discovered in the seventh century by a group from the Marquesas under the guidance of King Hotu Matua. Protected by their god Makemake they came ashore looking for water and fruits. At Rano Kau they found treasure: a collapsed volcanic crater containing fresh water. As the Rapanui settled they remained isolated from the rest of the world until the Dutch, under the command of Jacob Roggeveen, sighted the island on 5 April 1722. The Dutch found the land to be arid and they were surprised by the scarcity of resources. One Rapanui man took the hat of a Dutch crew member and in a moment of misunderstanding the Dutch shot at the islanders. The Spanish were the next European voyagers in 1770, followed by the British in 1774 and the French in 1786. The visitors were amazed by the moai carvings and wondered how they could have been made by such primitive people. But the visitors also abducted the islanders, stole artefacts and brought disease: the Americans took several moai breaking a few in the process, whilst the Peruvians enslaved the Rapanui in 1862 to work in Guano mines. Finally, in 1888, the island was annexed by Chile.

Since then, the legend of the moai has emerged, with the myth that they were the work of extraterrestrials. Cousteau interrupts the fisherman’s account and says that the truth is always simple and that today the moai are no longer an enigma. He presents for the fisherman drawings that show how the moai were carved and transported. The men agree that the moai represent a tragic history for a society that has disappeared and that this has become a lesson for humanity. Cousteau mentions that “intrigued by the mysteries” of the island he and his team had planned a visit to Rapanui in 1977. It was an expedition organised by Jacques’ son, Philippe, but he died in a flying accident one day whilst surveying the island. Back then, they explored the seabed around the island, Orongo, Motu Nui, petroglyphs and caves in which they found the skeletons of victims from the civil war. They also studied pollen in order to understand the original vegetation and aided by ethnography they attempted to grasp the society of the first Rapanui.

The island was divided into different castes for building the moai, and once they had been finished and positioned they were given a red hat, a pukao, and eyes made from coral. But following a famine, there was a revolt which lead to the moai being broken. In this terrible war in which many died, some Rapanui turned to cannibalism. Those that survived created the ritual of the birdman, but many things about the island will never be known as the last priests took their secrets with them when they died. There are the words of rongorongo, but these tablets – most of which had been burnt – remain undeciphered. Cousteau reiterates that the history of Rapanui has been a tragedy but it is not unique and comparisons can be drawn with the ecological damage that has been experienced by Haiti. Earth’s resources are not infinite and the power of modern weapons is terrifying; there has to be better management of our planet with the hope that future generations will understand the lesson of Rapanui. Cousteau’s boat, the Calypso, continues on its journey with everyone on board thinking of the Rapanui.

Cousteau, wearing his trademark red hat, had indeed visited Rapanui in 1977, and it was the focus of his 1978 television documentary, The Blind Prophets of Easter Island (see below the cover for The Register). His team’s exploration of the island’s ecology was later captured in a cartoon in Cracked magazine (reviewed above). Rapanui appears in just the last third of this French language bande dessinée, which devotes more pages to team Cousteau’s study of the Marquesas, and which leads them to reflect on the settling of Rapanui from those islands.

This bande dessinée gives the impression that it is educational, but it repeats the common western myths of Rapanui that it is a lost civilisation, and a tragedy from which the rest of the world must learn. The challenges that befell Rapanui were many – which this bande dessinée briefly acknowledges – and it is therefore too simple to establish the cause and effect narrative here of building moai led to resource depletion to famine and to inter-tribal warfare. Comparing Rapanui with contemporary socio-political issues in Haiti is an attempt to bring the story into the modern world, but the link is forced and it would have been better if the lives of the contemporary Rapanui had been reflected instead.

Worryingly, there are many mistakes in this comic, from the positioning of the moai and the view that the pukao are hats, when they are meant to represent topknots of hair, to Hotu Matua landing at Anakena beach, but erroneously with high cliffs shown alongside, which upon being scaled lead the settlers straight to Rano Kau – in reality, Rano Kau is on the other side of the island. There is also a simplifying of the event when Roggeveen’s expedition shot and killed ten or twelve Rapanui. Roggeveen also did not record that the islanders were impoverished, that was not noted until the voyage of Captain James Cook in 1774. The presented ‘facts’, which are given weight within a Cousteau endorsed adventure, are an amalgamation of several European explorations, with even English buccaneer Edward Davis given a fleeting mention. Meanwhile, the cover which is a composite image gives the wrong impression that there are moai standing erect underwater.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Danger Unlimited: The Phoenix Agenda
(story and art: John Byrne; Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics, 1995)

Hardback editions of this comic book, which collects together the 4 issues of Danger Unlimited, feature this artwork on its signature page. The four superheroes gather around a fallen moai whilst behind them other moai begin to rise up from the ground. The Legend imprint of Dark Horse Comics ran from 1994 to 1998 and featured a moai as its logo. This has seemingly inspired the artwork, where the myth of movement sees the moai brought alive as menacing figures with spindly arms.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's Oom Dagobert [Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge]
'Het Mysterie van het Paaseiland' ['The Mystery of Easter Island']
(no.33, 1995, De Geïllustreerde Pers)

Originally published in the January 1988 issue of Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge Adventures (reviewed above), the cover for this Dutch edition is closer in design to a particular scene inside. The earlier cover took some artistic creativity in drawing the moai as less angular and therefore different to those depicted within the story. A comparison of the two covers shows an interesting contrast in the art of comic book illustration; the moai have been drawn in such different ways but remain unmistakable in both images.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Mortadelo y Filemón
(no.106, April 1995, Ediciones B)

The continuing trials of incompetent Spanish spies Mort and Phil are collected into this anthology, which contains a series of short 4-page adventures. Known for their explosive mishaps, slapstick humour and disastrous results, Mort is also a master of disguise and can change into seemingly anything. At the conclusion of this adventure, in which Mort's boss, Phil, is once again left irate, Mort has fled to the remote Easter Island and furthermore disguised himself as a moai. A revenge seeking Phil asks a local if they have seen someone who is bald and wearing glasses.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘Påskmännens Ö’ [‘Eastermen Island’]
(no.4, April 1995, Mumin)

The Moomin family are at sea in a small boat, drifting without control as a storm has broken their rudder. The weather had been fine that morning when they began their journey, and despite having also passed through a fog, Moominpapa remained confident of his skills as a sailor and navigator, having “crossed the seven seas”. Suddenly, they spy an island but Moominpapa is confused as it should not be there; he looks through a telescope to try and understand the strange land. Through the telescope he can see a group of strange egg-shaped people with “flat feet under their heads”, who are outside their huts, cooking sausages over an open fire. Moominpapa says these are Eastermen, which he had heard about in his youth. When asked by Moominmamma if these people are bad, Moominpapa says nobody knows as the island has never been visited before.

With no ability to steer their boat, the strong winds violently blow them ashore, in doing so badly damaging their vessel. The family decides to build a shelter for the night within the branches of a tree. The next day they collect firewood and fresh water and express hope that they will be rescued by a passing ship. After a few days, the Moomins become accustomed to their new way of life, but Snork Maiden is without warning abducted by the Eastermen and back at their village tied to a stake, whilst a large cooking pot is prepared. At nightfall, Moominpapa and Moomintroll launch a rescue party and they wait for the Eastermen to fall asleep from their energetic dancing, before successfully making their move and freeing Snork Maiden.

The next morning the angry Eastermen have gathered on the beach; Moominpapa says he will go down to “negotiate peace”. The Eastermen want Moominpapa’s top hat, but he says he cannot give it away. However, he communicates that they are in need of a boat. The Eastermen provide a canoe and Moominpapa gives his top hat in exchange; the happy islanders depart, with Moomintroll building a sail from palm leaves. The Moomins return home, having made a permanent impact on the Eastermen, who now not only wear copies of the top hat as their new identity, but they have built large stone carvings of the hat wearing Moomin.

The seemingly endless list of popular fiction characters to have visited Easter Island includes Scandinavia’s Moomin, in a story that is the only known original Swedish-language comic to engage with Rapanui. The Moomin do like to journey and often by boat, but this adventure has taken them far from their familiar terrain. Storms and fogs have often brought visitors to an island that voyagers are surprised to discover, reinforcing an idea that Rapanui is highly isolated, difficult to reach and beyond normal shipping routes. The Easter festive season is likely to blame for inspiring this fantasy – as in many other holiday-time stories in moai culture – with the islanders in this fiction appearing egg-like.

There is very little in the story that engages with Rapanui culture – though three pages of elementary historical and scientific facts follow – other than the final image which has the islanders constructing moai in honour of the departing visitors. Such idolising can be found elsewhere, for instance in Wonder Woman (reviewed above) and Super Powers (reviewed above). A difference here is Moominpapa’s top hat which becomes the pukao for the moai. That idea has also appeared elsewhere, with a visitor’s hat providing inspiration in The World Mystery Adventure: The Secrets of the Easter Island Stone Statues (reviewed below). Popular culture, however, has misunderstood the pukao which are actually meant to represent topknots of hair.

The Eastermen’s liking of a foreigner’s top hat is perhaps a reference to events that happened several times in history when the Rapanui stole the hats of visiting sailors. Existing within a Moomin world where they bear no resemblance to the Rapanui, it is perhaps unfair to be too critical, but still it is unsettling to see the islanders portrayed as highly simplistic, cannibalistic primitive men (notably there are no women on this island), who have absolutely no verbal form of communication.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Beaux Rivages [Beautiful Shores]
‘Évasions’ [‘Escapes’]
(text: Cothias; drawings: Juszezak; colouring: Sébastian Convard; Paris: Dargaud, October 1995)

The hero of this story, 19-year-old Charles Dutrou-Bornier, was born in Chile to Frenchman Henri. His mother was probably of Indigenous descent. When he was 6 months old, he was sent to France to live with his aunt, the wife of the Marquis de Boisrond. Now, Charles is the sole heir to his father’s fortune, which is managed by notary Legras. One day, his girlfriend, Hélène, Mr Legras’s daughter, is murdered by his jealous friend, Richard. When arrested, the latter names Charles as his accomplice. To make sure his nephew is condemned, the Marquis also bribes the police chief and the judge. Charles is eventually acquitted when the judge’s wife, who had an affair with the young man, testifies in his favour at the trial. Richard’s father, a wealthy bourgeois, takes Charles under his wing. Nevertheless, the Marquis and Legras manage to have Charles committed to a mental asylum.

As a result of daily electroconvulsive therapy during his incarceration, Charles’s mind wanders and he dreams that he is on Easter Island, where he is tied down to the back of a fallen moai and about to be killed. To avoid death at the hands of the Rapanui, he assures them that he is Make-Make and the birdman, but they answer that he cannot be since he is white. Suddenly, an elderly white man in a pith helmet intervenes and shoots one of the inhabitants in the head. The others flee and hide by putting their heads in the sand. The old man addresses Charles: “You must not argue with these people, they are savages. They can only understand the language of the whip, the sound of gunpowder”. Charles thinks this man is his father, but he introduces himself as the island’s first king.

When Charles awakens, he is with Richard’s father who has brought him out of the asylum. Charles goes back home to settle accounts with his uncle, the Marquis. There, he overhears him talking with Legras: it turns out Charles’s father has been dead for several months, his ship having run aground off Easter Island. His billions of francs have been confiscated by Chile because Henri was a pirate of sorts. Then Legras and the Marquis quarrel over an unpaid debt and fatally shoot one another. Charles fears that his aunt will hold him responsible for their deaths, so he decides to leave the country with the help of Richard’s father. The latter informs him that his great-grandfather was Jean-Baptiste Onésime. This French navigator landed on Easter Island in 1866, whereupon he used the population as a labour force on his cattle ranch. He then thrived there for ten years until his assassination by the Indigenous people. Richards’s father renames Charles to Victor de Beauxrivages, so that he can travel with false papers, and offers him a sailing boat.

Patrick Cothias is a prolific French storywriter who specialises in historical bandes dessinées, whilst Erik Juszezak has illustrated many French comic books since the late 1990s. It would seem the Beaux Rivages/ Charles Dutrou-Bornier trilogy did not meet with much success, though, as it remained unfinished after its second volume, Les chemins de Valparaíso, was published in 1997. Offering but little interest, this first story in the series quite simply relies on a constant Manichaeism and yields to the classic pitfalls of the ‘bad boy’ rebelling against consumer society in which the state is corrupt at all levels. The language is also often needlessly vulgar.

In stark contrast to the cover, which shows three prominent moai – as well as further prominent images of moai on the title page and inside front and inside back covers – Easter Island plays no significant part in this bande dessinée and serves only as a brief exotic diversion and a loose component of the wider story. While the main hero’s hallucinations present the Indigenous inhabitants in a ridiculous light (they hide by literally putting their heads in the sand), the author acknowledges their sad fate when the end of the comic evokes their massacre by so-called “civilised” cultures. The island itself is depicted as a ragged rock of scattered shoreline moai, and in the centre of which is an ornate Gothic tower – all part of Charles’s dream – which is eventually drowned/ broken-up by high-swirling stormy waves. Charles is presented as the great-grandson of real-life Jean-Baptiste Onésime Dutrou-Bornier, a captain in the French navy who settled on Rapanui in 1868 and proclaimed himself king of the island in 1870. Planning to turn the island into a sheep ranch, he appropriated land and severely reduced the liberties of the Rapanui. He has been the subject of just a few other examples of Easter Island popular fiction, most notably La Reina de Rapa Nui (reviewed below) and Der Traum von Rapa Nui (reviewed below).

Samuel Pauwels and Jessica Maufort

Jump to contents

‘Second Coming’
(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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Doraemons Special no.2
‘The Secret Power’
(Tokyo: Shogakukan, January 1997)

The ‘great king of terror’ in the form of a comet is fast approaching the sky above Japan. This has been planned by Nostradamus to ensure his prediction is fulfilled. In the Doraemon family there is a man with mystical powers and he tells the Doraemons and their friends to go to three great wonders of the ancient world: the geoglyphs of Nazca in Peru, the great Sphinx of Egypt, and the moai of Easter Island. If they can break open the stones which hold the mysterious powers at these three sites, the evil force of Nostradamus can be stopped. The Doraemons have to hurry, though, as Nostradamus has started to use his dark powers to transform people on earth into his evil servants to prevent the Doraemons from achieving their goal.

The man with the mystical powers communicates with the Doraemons through telepathy to help them find the stones at the ancient sites; each stone lighting up when they are near. The Doraemons manage to locate the stones and break their seals at two of the three sites – in Peru and Egypt. However, in order for the mysterious energy of the ancient monuments to be fully released, the stones at all three sites need to be unsealed. All this while, Nostradamus and the people under his evil influence are thwarting the Doraemons’ progress.

Just as the Doraemons are about to be captured, a ‘Sorceress of Time’ appears and helps to temporarily hold back the dark force of Nostradamus. During this brief moment, the Doraemons finally succeed in breaking the seal off the stone which is located on Easter Island. Then all of a sudden, the tremendous energy that was trapped at these three sites is released and unites. The Doraemons realise that these ancient forms were built on the power spots where Earth’s energy forces accumulated. Nostradamus’s evil force is destroyed by the Earth’s clean, positive energy, with the Sorceress of Time sealing Nostradamus into the fissure of a space-time continuum. This leads to the comet returning to its normal orbit with the Earth spared total annihilation. The Doraemons thank the sorceress, but she tells them that what saved the world was the energy of Earth itself and the binding power of friendships.

In this short manga story, the highly popular Doraemon figure has a somewhat unlikely encounter with the sixteenth century French philosopher, Nostradamus, who is now a force of evil. A common feature of moai culture is the idea that Easter Island is a source of tremendous arcane power and that it is connected to other ancient sites – for instance, the Sphinx and the Nazca lines have appeared in other Rapanui adventures such as the film Les Soleils de l’île de Pâques (reviewed above) and the Area 51 novels (reviewed below). The moai appear just twice in this manga and have been directly copied from the inaccurate sketches originally produced by M. Gaspard Duché de Vancy, following the 1786 French voyage of La Pérouse to Easter Island.

Takanori Funamoto

Jump to contents

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.

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

'Approach Nine: Lara'
(vol.2, chapter 15, November 1997, Viz Media)

In the future, the world is a vast barren land with constant war and fighting between 'Towns'. 'Citizens' join the army to increase their status and earn credits for missions and kills, whereupon enough points allow them to migrate to the idyllic 'City'. Grey becomes a soldier and is very successful on the battlefield fighting in a range of combats and encounters with advanced hardware, which includes humanoids.

In this chapter, a flying gunship in the shape of a moai attacks. Moai as weapons is a common theme in popular culture where they fire guns or emit lasers from their eyes, mouth or body. Japanese popular culture has a particular obsession with moai and this is apparent most in computer games where they appear mutated and as assaultive figures to be avoided, dodged or destroyed. The flying moai gunship in this manga is from a gaming culture in which conflict and weaponry dominates. This manga was originally published as a series of titles in Japan between 1985 and 1987, with the English translation released in the USA in 1997. A feature length anime film adaptation, Grey: Digital Target, was produced in 1986, but the moai flying gunship was absent.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney. Lustiges Taschenbuch [Walt Disney. Funny Paperbacks]
‘Auf der Suche nach dem Füllhorn’ [‘Searching for the Horn of Plenty’]
(no.7, 1998, Egmont Ehapa Verlag)

Donald Duck finds himself stumbling across a report on the Horn of Plenty – a unique object that pours forth with gold coins – while cleaning the library of Uncle Dagobert Duck (Uncle Scrooge). The report describes the horn’s hiding place in Tubot, at the foot of Mount Entok. Since it offers never-ending riches to its owner, it would solve Donald’s financial troubles as he has creditors at his door who have even resorted to blowing up his house. Donald excitedly informs his nephews Tick, Trick and Truck (Huey, Dewey and Louie) of his find. Uncle Dagobert overhears their secret and claims ownership of the horn, as he possesses the book that revealed its existence. Following great protest by Donald, the two agree to share the horn, and that Donald and his nephews will travel to Tubot to recover the artefact. Soon after, the four board a plane, with Dagobert staying behind. But Donald, Tick, Trick and Truck soon realise they have been set up. Their plane is on a remote-controlled course to Christmas Island, far from their intended destination, while Dagobert is on his way to Tubot. However, after an excruciating trip up the frozen Entok, Dagobert finds the hiding spot empty but for a note. It reveals that the explorer who had found the horn took it with him on his travels to Christmas Island.

Meanwhile, Donald and his nephews have arrived on the island and have set up camp at the base of one of the moai statues close to the shore. Donald’s fear of the statues is superseded by the information that the natives are cannibals. In the middle of the night, the gang are awakened by both shouts for help and the beating of drums. From afar, they observe a parachute bearing Uncle Dagobert’s company name lodged on the extended ear of a moai. The shouting continues, as do the drums, and the three ducklings convince Donald to save the parachutist, whom they believe to be a representative of Uncle Dagobert’s company. The ducks are caught by the natives and thrown into a hut where they encounter not a delegate, but Uncle Dagobert himself. After much confusion, they exchange stories of everything up to this point. Ultimately, Uncle Dagobert has already met the tribal chief and verified that he is in possession of the Horn of Plenty. The researcher who had found it, needed to exchange it for his life upon arrival on the island.

Dagobert strikes a deal with the chief. Every year, the island’s natives hold a competition to secure the season’s first manu tara (sooty tern) egg, with the winner granted a wish. Donald is allowed to take part in the competition, and his reward, if he wins, will be the horn and both his freedom and that of his family. During the night, Tick, Trick and Truck overhear two native guards and learn that the chief knows exactly from which moai the first egg will be collected – it is the same statue every year. Donald’s cousins come up with a plan to thwart the chief’s plans. They find an egg-like stone on the shore and, come morning, whilst everyone is watching the chief as the manu tara birds approach, Donald holds up the fake stone-egg and shouts out his victory. The chief is fooled and hands over the horn in exchange for the egg, but in a moment of foolish glee, Donald mocks the chief’s gullibility. The chief overhears and calls for the capture of the ducks, who split up in their race back to their airplane. Alas, in the process, Donald loses the horn in the crater of the island’s volcano, but the ducks manage to return home unharmed.

The moai are first introduced midway in this German-language story when Donald and his nephews swim ashore after their hydroplane lands in the ocean close to Christmas Island. The name change here from Easter to Christmas Island is presumably a simple pun, but beyond that it bears no logic within the narrative, as the stone statues and the references to a manu tara competition clearly establish the location as Rapanui (an island which Donald and his clan had visited before in Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge Adventures, reviewed above, and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures, reviewed above). The moai are fearsome-looking statues (quite different to those on the comic’s cover) with exaggerated square ears, heavy furrowed eyebrows and piercing eyes that appear to be permanently watching the protagonists. However, for much of the story they act as little more than background figures. They are employed centrally as platforms from which the comic adopts the myth of the birdman. In this context, the competition is not mentioned by name but the first egg of the sooty tern is emphasised, whilst removing any race across shark-infested waters to the rocky outcrop of Motu Nui.

All of this pales alongside the depictions of the Rapanui, who are portrayed as savages and cannibals wearing grass skirts and feather headdresses. From cliff tops they pound large drums, they smoke ceremonial pipes and they hunt with bows and arrows. For in this Disney fantasy, the Rapanui are presented through the image of Native Americans, and as easy stereotypes which are antiquated and racist.

Sonja Mausen

Jump to contents

(no.368, April 1998, E.C. Publications)

This full-page cartoon which has since been much imitated re-imagines a moai as a Pez dispenser. It emerged on the back of an earlier moai cartoon that Mad published in 1986 (see above) and culturally its references are two-fold. The highly popular and collectable Pez sweet dispensers emphasise the head of a known person or character, and it is surprising that the company is yet to manufacture one based on a moai. The work of archaeologists, and in particular Thor Heyerdahl, has revealed that beneath the surface many of the buried moai heads have extensive bodies. It has led to a never-ending flow of popular culture images and cartoons that have imagined just what exactly may be discovered under the moai heads, and what may therefore resolve the perceived mysteries regarding their creation. In this cartoon, the archaeologists clearly lack care and patience for they employ a large digger and truck to mass excavate the soil.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Las Aventuras de Ogú, Mampato y Rena [The Adventures of Ogu, Mampato and Rena]
'Mata-ki-te-Rangui' ['Eyes to the Sky']
(text and drawings: Themo Lobos; Santiago: J.C. Sáez, December 1998)

A Chilean boy, Mampato, is given a book about Easter Island, by his father. Earlier that evening the father had brought home a carving of moai kavakava. From the book, Mampato learns all about the culture of Easter Island, so much so that he desires to travel there. At night, he puts on his special time-travel belt and first journeys back to prehistoric times to visit his caveman friend, Ogú. Together, they journey forward in time to Easter Island to a period pre-European contact.

On Easter Island they meet a little Rapanui girl, called Marama. She is initially fearful of Ogú, believing him to be the spirit Aku-Aku. Marama takes Ogú and Mampato to the moai quarry site of Rano Raraku, where her father is part of a group of men carving out a new statue from the volcanic rock. Ogú believes he can help, but his heavy stone-age club smashes the moai into pieces with one blow. The locals are angry but a man of importance, their "tangata rongorongo" (a leader for reading/interpreting rongorongo) intervenes. He says that in the morning, the "foreigners", Ogú and Mampato, will be presented to the ariki/ chiefs. Meanwhile, they go with Marama to her village, where they eat, are shown and told about the local cuture, and then sleep.

In the morning, a man declares that the sooty tern has arrived, which signals the start of the annual birdman competition. Marama shows Ogú and Mampato around the rock carvings and dwellings of Orongo. As the race begins, Ogú and Marama, who are watching from a cliff edge, are pushed into the sea below by a vengeful tangata rongorongo. Ogú is a bad swimmer and he is initially saved by Marama and then by a turtle. Both Ogú and Marama reach safety on Motu Nui, an island outcrop that is the site of the nesting sooty terns, where Ogú accidentally acquires a coveted bird's egg.

With Marama's help they return to the main island of Rapanui, with Ogú declared winner in the birdman competition. Unfortunately, as the new tangata manu/ birdman, Ogú's head is shaved, so he rejects the honour and tosses away the egg. Ogú is therefore no longer birdman, and he, Mampato and Marama are chosen to die. As Ogú fights back and defends them from warriors, Mampato activates his special belt and the three companions are transported to another part of the island. Marama thinks this is magic, and as they take refuge, the three hide out over night in a cave. The next morning they awake to see the Great Ariki/ King installing a new moai on an ahu/ platform. This he does with his special telekinetic powers, which make the moai fly into position. Marama notes that there is a belief that the blocks of stone used to build the pyramids of Egypt, were moved in the same manner. There is a lack of equal food distribution on the island. Most food is reserved for the ariki and the birdman; it is forbidden for it to be touched by others. Ogú, who is hungry, does not care and steals a basket of food reserved for the birdman, which creates anger from the ariki. The result, however, is a rebellion, led by Mampato, with Ogú especially effective in combat. The Great Ariki/ King uses his powers to raise and hurl large boulders at the rebels, but this leads the sea to retreat and then crash down upon the island as a huge tsunami wave.

The king dies, with his fellow chiefs trying to continue their control over the islanders. Marama again intervenes, with the islanders rejecting the ariki and declaring war. The island is divided with the ariki defending themselves in a zone near Anakena. The ditch that separates the zone from the rest of the island is set on fire. The ariki/ long ears are massacred, and with the Rapanui freed from the orders of the ariki, they topple the moai, despite Mampato's attempts to stop them. Mampato believes there is nothing more that he can do for the island. He says goodbye to Marama and he departs, first dropping off Ogú back in the prehistoric age. He then returns to his twentieth century home. Before he sleeps he reflects on the poor Rapanui, who were later to become trafficked by slave traders and decimated by the diseases of the white man. He happily concludes, though, that the remaining islanders are now a community with dignity and they are free.

Chileans hold Mampato and Ogú, and the work of their creator, Themo Lobos, with great affection. Mampato was introduced in 1971 with Lobos' cartoons first collected into comic albums/ books in 1996. A few years later, Ogú and Mampato's Rapanui adventure was made into a 2002 feature-length animation (see the review above). This Spanish-language comic, 'Mata-ki-te-Rangui', tries hard to be educational with the first few pages detailing the culture and ethnography of the Rapanui, such as a wooden fish carving, known as an ika, which is rarely depicted in moai fiction. Many of the subsequent frames are filled with cultural artefacts and knowledge, such as rongorongo tablets, a ceremonial rapa (paddle), reimiro (breastplate), tangata manu/ birdman wooden carvings and rock petroglyphs, and even a tahonga (an egg carving showing a bird emerging from the top). This continues throughout the comic, with the king speaking in rongorongo glyphs when he invokes his power (something only a few other comics have done). More significantly, at the story's end there is a debate in a building at Orongo and inside is moai Hoa Hakananai'a – its back shown complete with detailed carvings – with the reader told in a side note that this moai is now held in the British Museum. A few other comics have included this unique moai but this one is alone in correctly positioning it indoors at Orongo, where it was originally kept before it was stolen by a British ship.

In contrast, the comic is wrong to show large moai being carved from the volcanic rock whilst completely upright. The skeletal moai kavakava carving was not created following the arrival of the first Rapanui, who supposedly had been starving onboard their boats. Instead, according to legend, this carved figure emerged following a king's dream. Historical timelines in the comic are condensed to create more drama, with so much Rapanui cultural practice packed into the comic, seemingly to showcase the rich heritage of the island during Mampato's visit. It is clear that the comic wishes to be both informed and highly imaginative. In a story about a boy with a time-travelling belt it is perhaps not surprising to see fantasy seep into the actions of the islanders, with the mystery of how the moai were transported solved in the final pages with a king capable of moving stones through telekinesis. It is also not surprising to see a Chilean comic refuse to challenge Chile's continuing colonisation of Easter Island, where in reality the Rapanui have been demanding greater autonomy in their affairs. But it is a very problematic way to end the comic with Mampato saying that the Rapanui today are free. Just how much this statement would jar with a Chilean readership is not known.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘En Isla de Pascua’ [‘On Easter Island’]
(circa. 2000)

Review forthcoming

Jump to contents

‘C’est pas le bout du monde!’ [‘It’s not the end of the world’]
(no.10; text and drawings: Sergio Salma; colouring Bruno Wessel; Tournai: Casterman, 2000)

Nathalie appears as a ubiquitous character across a series of French-language cartoons, in which each new inter-connected sketch – told in either a single or multiple frames – is contained within one page in this bande dessinée. A young girl who is adventurous, creative and sometimes mischievous, Nathalie likes to experiment, play, imagine and satisfy her curiosity. The sketches are frequently centred around her family (mother, father, uncle and baby brother) and a domestic setting – but at the same time they demonstrate an engagement with the cultures of other countries, often far away, such as China, Mexico, Australia and the Marquesas.

Easter Island is part of this comic exoticism, featuring on the cover but also on one page inside, with both as A4 full page single cartoon images. These appear as part of a wider culture of moai cartoons, which repeatedly find humour in specific jokes about the carvings. One popular cartoon strand regards the moai as stern figures, which in this comic leads Nathalie, the tourist on Easter Island, to ask one if it could give a little smile for her souvenir photo. The other cartoon, which appears inside the comic, plays with Easter Island and its humorous association with Easter festivities, with Nathalie deciding that the moai sculptures she has made in her garden out of snow are a good way of recognising Christmas on Rapanui.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Le Journal de Mickey [Mickey's Journal]
'La Poule aux ouefs de Pâques' ['The Easter Egg Hen']
(no.2496, 19 April 2000, Editions du Lombard)

Later reprinted in English in 2005 (reviewed below) and in Greek in 2009 (reviewed below), this French edition presents a cover that removes Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck's nephews from the narrative. The impression is that Donald is alone on Easter Island, except for the moai which are drawn different to those within the comic itself. Unlike the American and Greek releases this issue also contains a two-page historical overview of Easter Island, that is simple and educational, albeit with a number of factual mistakes and an emphasis on "mystery".

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Sir Pyle S. Culape Vol.1
‘Mythecin Généraliste’
(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 bande dessinée 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 bande dessinée 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.

Jennifer Wagner

Jump to contents

Gary e il monito Rongo-rongo [Gary and the Rongorongo Warning]
(March 2000, Lapsis Lapsus)

Gary, an Old English Sheepdog journalist, and his Chihuahua assistant, Spike, fly by monoplane to Easter Island to write an investigative journalism piece for Sensational Geographic on the mysterious rongorongo tablets. They believe that the tablets deciphered by Steven Roger Fischer in the twentieth century are not the only ones, and that other more ancient tablets lie hidden somewhere on the island.

As they begin their exploration of the island, Gary takes out his copy of Fischer’s book. Alas, a strong gust of wind snatches the book away and in their pursuit the duo find themselves on the top of a cliff. There, the book has come to rest on a sacred spot marked by four feathered sticks dedicated to Mikamako. As Gary moves to pick up the book, he falls down a hole and into a cave. In the underground space, which is filled with bones and mice, he discovers some rock paintings dating back to the beginning of European colonisation. Gary thinks that this is where the Rapanui may have been hiding when colonisers first landed on the island.

Spike decides to light a fire. Luckily, Gary quickly realises that the logs his assistant has just set alight are actually tablets of glyphs. After extinguishing the flames and carefully recording the glyphs, he is sure he has found the missing rongorongo tablets. According to Gary’s calculations, these were etched at the time of the construction of the great moai, predating the known rongorongo tablets by over 200 years. The story told by the tablets goes back to the original settlement of Rapanui.

The story rewinds to 420AD when the people began to build their villages and started growing the kumara (sweet potato). The ariki (chief) Hotu-Mati’Ah, who will soon die, left one small stone moai possessing great mana/ power to protect the island and the islanders, while he departed on his white canoe to reach the place of his eternal rest. But a shaman found the small statue and, in order to become the most powerful person on the island, he decided to have one enormous statue built resembling the one that belonged to the departed Hotu-Mati’Ah. He hoped that his mana would increase, as the statue was made bigger. That is how the first moai was built.

A thousand years later, the island is ruled by the long ears people who have enslaved the short ears. Kanu, a scribe, has created a writing system and etched hieroglyphs on to these tablets to warn the ariki against the construction of more moai statues, since this would imply cutting the very few trees left on the island to enable their transportation. Yet Tepah, a shaman, sends Kanu away. Instead, he sends for Goro, the Ariki’s grandson, to inform him that he has been chosen to be the current ‘Bird Dog’ champion to recover the sacred egg. Goro reluctantly accepts. Meanwhile another huge moai has been built and is presented to Tepah and the Ariki. Tepah decides, however, that the statue is too small and orders that the short ears topple it and build another, bigger moai, and this time with a pukao/ topknot. The last trees on the island are thus cut, and Goro and Kanu witness the complete destruction of Rapanui’s forest.

In the meantime, Goro has been secretly meeting with Rahmana, with whom he is in love, but she is from the clan of the short ears, so their marriage is forbidden. However, Goro convinces his grandfather to allow the marriage, but the girl will have to remain secluded in a sacred cave for six months until the ‘bird dog’ competition.

The day of the bird dog competition arrives, and despite the fierce rivalry between competitors, Goro manages to secure the sooty tern egg. Unfortunately, before making his way back to the island, he is surrounded by his rivals, who desire him dead. Luckily, the rivals are attacked by a flock of birds who come to Goro’s aid, following his gifting to them of a sack of fish. Goro thus returns to the island victorious. The short ears rebel against the long ears and a civil war erupts. Kanu and Goro, who is reunited with Rahmana, escape on a raft, while the Ariki manages to flee on his white canoe, an iceberg. On their way to the canoe, Kanu throws the tablets into the mouth of a cave.

Fast forward to the present and Gary and Spike manage to escape from that same cave and head for their airplane with the tablets. But they are surrounded by a group of primitive-looking Rapanui who force them to relinquish the tablets, because they are sacred and cannot leave the island. They then escort the two adventurers to the newly built village of Kevin, named after Kevin Costner who, by shooting the film Rapa Nui on the island, has introduced the locals to the wonders of consumerism.

As Gary and Spike finally manage to fly away in their plane, in the distance two moai, Hotu and Mati’ha, converse and ask themselves whether they will be left alone for another century. That, says Hotu, depends on the mana that the island has in relation to the rest of the world.

As a character first created in 1977, Gary has had considerable success within the Trento area of Italy, where this Italian language comic is published. Originally a street vendor, this sheepdog from Trentopolis is now a researcher and investigative journalist, with his adventures taking him across the globe. This particular issue of Gary is directly influenced by the 1994 film Rapa Nui (reviewed above), with characters and situations adopted and given a canine spin – eg the birdman becomes here the ‘bird dog’ – in a style not dissimilar to the Hungarian children’s book, The Treasure of the Long-Ears (reviewed below). Elsewhere, some of the names and place names have been explicitly changed to fit with the canine nature of the story’s protagonists, with an obvious loss in terms of what the original words might evoke. For instance, Ariki Mau Matua Tane becomes Ariki Bau Matua Cane, with ‘cane’ meaning dog and ‘bau’ representing its verse.

The comic seeks to provide an explanation for the building of the moai, but its main focus is the rongorongo tablets and glyphs, which are employed to convey an educational narrative that addresses the island’s culture and history. Rongorongo is given a greater presence compared to the 1994 Rapa Nui film and, uniquely for moai fiction, the writings of Fischer, an academic respected for his studies of the tablets, become a point of reference. The glyphs, however, are rarely shown and appear only on the cover of Fischer’s book and as a solitary figure at the start of the story next to the comic’s title.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

El Capitán Trueno [Captain Trueno]
'La Isla de Rapa Nui!' ['Easter Island']
(no.25, March 2001, Ediciones B)

Capitán Trueno, a twelfth-century knight who travels the world, was the hero of a highly popular Spanish series of adventures first published between 1956 and 1968. Trueno's Rapanui adventure first appeared as a novel in 1964, which was subsequently reprinted in 1975 (reviewed below). The success of this character has led to various reprints of the original stories, as well as a 2011 film and a video game. Both Rapanui books contained many black and white illustrations by Miguel Ambrosio Zaragoza alongside the text, and these were then abstracted intact and colourised for a comic book first published in 1984 and reprinted with a different cover in 2001.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Anachron. 1 La retour de la bête [Anachron. 1 The Return of the Beast]
(text: Thierry Cailleteau; drawings: Joël Jurion; colouring: Sandrine Cailleteau; Issy-Les-Moulineaux, Éditions Vents d’Ouest, April 2001)

It is the end of the 21st century and the inhabitants of Earth are able to travel faster than the speed of light, and have also established diplomatic relations with extraterrestrials. In Puerto Adolfo, the capital of the small South American republic of San Adolfo, controlled by the Nazi-like General Kriegadler, the protagonist Hugo Varegua is being tortured when he is rescued by revolutionary soldiers fighting against the fascist dictator. Kriegadler flees and Varegua is immediately hailed as the revolution’s hero.

Two weeks later, Varegua is on a distant space station, 750 light years away, in orbit around the planet Anachron, where Kriegadler appears to have travelled in his ship the Nibelungen. Varegua has been authorised to eliminate the Nazi, and travels by spaceship to the surface of Anachron, a planet which is overseen by the ‘Alliance’ – an intergalactic United Nations – which maintains balance between planets and civilisations. There, on a secluded island, Varegua is taken alone to an Edenic garden to meet the High Commissioner, an alien and a petramorph, who is the Alliance’s representative on the planet. But there is nobody to be seen within the garden’s fertile land.

There is, however, across a small wooden bridge a moai, under which Varegua decides to rest and take a nap. Whilst asleep the moai communicates telepathically with Varegua, who awakens rather startled. He then learns that the High Commissioner had been present all along in the form of the moai. Varegua had received guidance whilst asleep in the need to save Anachron, as it functions as an important medieval society, from which the Alliance can learn, and its contact with the technologically advanced soldiers of Kriegadler would devastate the balance of the planet. It emerges that Kriegadler has been drawn to Anachron as he desires to awaken a mighty ancient beast from its tomb within a volcano. The plot which involves battles between contrasting cultures and beliefs has no more references to moai.

This bande dessinée is the first part of a French language two-volume series that unites historical periods, ideologies and genres in a science-fiction-action-fantasy quest (the second part of the story was published in 2002). Once again, Indiana Jones serves as inspiration for a moai-related story with a Raiders of the Lost Ark narrative of ancient powers, the occult and Nazis transformed by a force from beyond. The grand medievalism of The Lord of the Rings is also added to the mix. The moai, which is the only reference to Easter Island, appears on a total of just three pages, and is an abstracted figure, positioned on a faraway planet in a manner similar to other fiction such as Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (reviewed above) and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (reviewed above). The popular myth that the moai of Easter Island are the creation of other worldly beings allows fiction to re-imagine the stone carvings in a variety of places across the galaxy. In these scenarios they can be worshipped, emit power or signals, or in Anachron provide guidance and knowledge as a colossal head associated with all-seeing intellects and immense minds. In Anachron, the High Commissioner, a superior alien that can reside within solid forms has become rooted in an Edenic garden, with vines growing over its surface. Varegua is asked to assist by removing a vine from the moai’s mouth, an almost surreal act which aids a carving with no oral opening and which communicates only by thought.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Gold Digger
‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Gold Digger
‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Go! Go! Gurnalon!!: The Collected Colossal Monsterwar Minicomix
'The Terrible Secret of Easter Island'
(vol.1, August 2001, Dimension Z Comics)

Dick Soderberg and Dr Burton Gleist of the Mystery Defense Institute ("dedicated to protecting North American interests in the international monster race"), arrive at Easter Island. There they meet at an ahu with opposing members of Japan's Monster Control Command, but fail to reach an agreement on their competing interests. The meeting has been called on Easter Island as a result of a unique stone with "psio-active properties". By placing this stone next to their skulls, the Rapanui could enhance their psychic energies enabling them to perform incredible mind-powered tasks, such as the moving of the moai. But all was lost as a result of climate change, which led to famine and death.

A moai within their midst suddenly transforms into The Supreme Psychic, a floating head with an enlarged brain. He has been secretly observing and declares he has "the world's supply of psio-active stone". Japan's Monster Control Commander activates Gurnalon, a colossal creature, that has been battled in previous stories. The Supreme Psychic has anticipated the move and sends to Easter Island a giant robot monster. Dr Gleist joins in with his own creature and reactivates the colossal Cyber-Laserkong to join the battle. The Psi-Troopers fight back and help destroy the great ape who is eventually decapitated by the robot monster. Now Gurnalon and the robot monster fight; after an extended battle Gurnalon is victorious.

A series of battle-orientated action stories – quite a number originally appearing in the comic Bewildering Fantasy – are collected into this single book. These appear as independently drawn fan fictions inspired by the Japanese obsession with kaiju (colossal creatures). King Kong makes an appearance fighting for the American characters, and at one point as a headless monster he hurls a moai at the robot creature; a rare moment in this story where a moai is actively employed. Elsewhere, the brief idea that the stone figures were or can be moved by telekinesis had appeared before in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (see the review above), The Adventures of Ogu, Mampato and Rena (see the review below) and The Easter Island Incident (see the review below). As a location, Easter Island is more of interest to the comic for a supposed psio-active stone. In fact, there is on Easter Island a large ovoid magnetic stone at Te Pito Kura; any connection to the comic book's imagined psio-active stone is most likely accidental.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Joker: Last Laugh
‘Lunatic Fringe’ and ‘Everyone Knows this is Nowhere’
(no.3, 4 and 5, 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, 4th and 5th 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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Spectre
‘Joker: Last Laugh. Laughing at Myself’
(vol.4 no.10, December 2001, DC Comics)

In one of several parallel/ spin off stories to the six-part Joker: Last Laugh comics (reviewed above), the Spectre reflects on the Joker’s global damage that was directed from his Easter Island base. A single page of The Spectre comic offers a companion image to those presented in issues 3, 4 and 5 of Joker: Last Laugh, published the same month. This image is arguably the richest and most insane of these Easter Island-set Joker comics, with a twisted tiki-culture theme of limbo dancing involving supervillains/ monsters and bikini-clad islanders, moving to the beat of drums being pounded by a giant green ‘ape’, tiki torches, ukulele playing, and a fire spit roast. In the foreground, a crazed Joker lounges on a hammock holding a toxic-green coloured cocktail; in the background, a row of moai with permanently altered features, copy the Joker’s inane grin.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Caza Misterios – 4. Misterios de Rapa Nui [Mystery Hunts – 4. The Mystery of Rapa Nui] – Alvaro Flores Sepulveda
(Santiago: Editorial SALO S.A, 2002)

Zack and the ant-man like Zorky take a holiday on Easter Island, where they are impressed by all the archaeology and history. Zack says he also finds the Rapanui people to be friendly. Suddenly, Zorky falls down a hole and into a cave, where he discovers rongorongo tablets and writing on the wall. Soon after Zack and an archaeologist join Zorky in the cave and they marvel at the tablets.

Back above ground Zack asks a Rapanui man if he can read a rongorongo tablet. The man relays that the tablet warns that the volcano of Rano Raraku will erupt and a vengeful moai will rise and destroy the island. The archaeologist advises that they should ignore the superstitions of the islanders. Meanwhile, he takes the tablets into safe keeping in the island’s museum.

Just as a little Rapanui girl is about to teach Zorky a trick, they are startled by a large flock of sooty terns taking flight around the rocky outcrop of Motu Nui. This is quickly followed by the eruption of Rano Raraku, as the tablet foretold. Rising up from within the volcano’s crater is a giant moai. Angry that he has been awakened, he says he will destroy everyone. Zack and Zorky wonder why the moai wants to destroy his own people. They believe the answer will be in the crater and venture towards the volcano.

As they reach the crater they realise it is actually extinct and discover that the eruption was a trick manufactured by fireworks. As they try to solve the riddle, the giant moai approaches from behind and grabs Zack. Elsewhere, the Rapanui man invokes the power of the moai, which together emit a force from their mouths that forms into the shape of the birdman. The birdman punches the moai hard, breaking it apart and revealing it to be a robot, from inside of which the archaeologist crawls out. The archaeologist had conceived the entire plan of the volcanic eruption and the walking moai in order to take precious artefacts from the island that are “protected by law” to then sell them to private collectors.

This well-illustrated Chilean produced comic-puzzle book is aimed at children and is a relatively short but engaging story covering 16 pages. At numerous points, accompanying aspects of the story, are puzzles and activities and tips on making tricks and effects, such as how to make your own miniature erupting volcano using baking soda, vinegar and water, counting how many birds are in the flock of sooty terns, and identifying a path in a maze drawn on the robot moai’s torso. On two other pages, the journey taken by Zack and Zorky to reach the crater is laid out as a game of snakes and ladders.

Throughout the comic, Rapanui culture is included, from the addition of moai Tukuturi – the only kneeling moai – to the snakes and ladders game (landing on its square the player advances by one), to petroglyphs of the birdman and Makemake and rongorongo glyphs adorning the arm bracelets worn by the robot moai. The inclusion of rongorongo is interesting and the glyphs on the cave wall are drawn with some attention to detail. It is not, however, clear if the archaeologist had manufactured the tablets or he had taken the translation to inspire his dastardly plan.

It is a shame that the Rapanui man and girl – the only two indigenous people in the comic – are presented as if they lack modern clothes and wear their traditional and ceremonial costumes every day. Here, the Rapanui man is depicted each time carrying his ao ceremonial paddle, which he uses to invoke the mana of the moai. Robots have appeared on a few occasions within moai culture and can be found, amongst others, in Gaiking (reviewed above), Where Creatures Roam (reviewed above) and Mr Magellan (reviewed above). In contrast, the crooked or evil archaeologist is an archetype of moai culture, with Caza Misterios closest to a Scooby Doo adventure, for which there was a comic (reviewed below), where the Scooby gang visited Easter Island in 2005.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

‘Topolino e l’Isola dei giganti’ [‘Topolino and the Island of Giants’]
(no.2412, 19 February 2002, Walt Disney Italia)

From the diary of Baronet Top de Tops, anthropologist and adventurer and Mickey Mouse’s distant relative. October 1933, Top de Tops, his butler and his friend Taddeo van Marten, are all sailing on a clipper towards Easter Island to investigate the mystery of the moai, when suddenly an underwater volcanic explosion causes a giant tsunami wave, which hits the ship. Luckily, they survive, although the ship is heavily damaged, and van Marten is now lost at sea. As they keep on sailing looking for him, de Tops and his butler manage to reach Easter Island. There, they land at Tonga Riki bay and at nearby Rano Raku they are welcomed by the locals, who start to repair the visitors’ ship. Meanwhile, van Marten, clutching on to flotsam, reaches a mysterious volcanic, deserted island.

Waiting for his clipper to be repaired, de Tops heads north on the island on a donkey in search of his friend. He reaches the moai and pauses to wonder about how and why they were built. While he is contemplating the statues, a local gathering seaweed along the coast arrives by canoe. They start to talk and the man, whom we later learn is called Rata Pipui (“he who tells his adventures in ten different ways”), reveals he has discovered a new island on his way to Mangarawa, which is 2000 km away.

De Tops immediately believes that this island is where his friend may be marooned and therefore goes back to the village to request a plane to reach the island. The next day the plane arrives, and de Tops and his new friend Pipiu fly to the mysterious island. Upon landing they find van Marten, who reveals to them that the island must have re-emerged after the undersea eruption, as the rocks are very ancient. Suddenly the place is shaken with tremors so the three decide to quickly leave, but not before van Marten has shown them something special. Located behind the many volcanic vents is a giant robot in the form of a moai, with its surface covered in spiral symbols and other engravings.

As soon as he sees the robot, Pipiu falls into a trance and starts adoring the idol, pronouncing the words “molok, molok, gondwana land of our fathers”. Tops and van Marten begin to realise that the island may in fact be what remains of the lost continent of Mu and that Pipiu may be a descendant of that ancient race. The spiral symbols on the moai, in particular one signifying the ‘Tree of Life’, all appear to support their thesis. The three fly back to Easter Island, where they can finally look for the connection between the submerged island and its moai automaton and Rapanui’s stone giants.

Ultimately it is the oldest member of Pipiu’s village who reveals to them the mystery of the island. Shortly before they sail back, they are given two magic, speaking rings. Once de Tops makes the rings spin, a voice from nowhere starts telling the story of Mu. This was once a luscious land, inhabited by peaceful and extremely advanced people, who lived alongside domesticated dinosaurs. To protect themselves from the attacks of the people of Pangea, though, they had to build the Molok and place them facing the sea to scare away their enemies. Unfortunately, a terrible volcanic eruption destroyed Mu, with the survivors ending up on Easter Island, where they built the moai to remind them of their lost home. As our protagonists leave the Island on the clipper, in the distance de Tops catches sight of a figure on a rock – it is the Pinapou, the last descendant of Mu and keeper of its lost secrets, including the ‘Tree of Life’.

Whilst not directly involving Topolino (the Italian name for Mickey Mouse) de Tops is essentially the popular Disney character, but with a moustache. The story functions through an employment of the popular fantasies of the lost Pacific continent of Mu and its perceived relation to Easter Island, as originally imagined by James Churchward in the 1890s. In keeping with the notion that the inhabitants of Mu possessed superior technological knowledge and skills (including here flying cars), the authors imagine that the moai are in fact replicas of a lost series of ancient robots. The riches of this culture are contrasted with the Rapanui of the present who are shown living in grass huts (even the police station is a primitive building) with overseas communications limited to carrier pigeons.

Disney has repeatedly turned to Rapanui for its comics, but moai imagined as robots are surprisingly rare in moai culture and have appeared in Gaiking (reviewed above) and Sonic the Comic (reviewed above). Most fascinating, in this Disney comic they acquire an added dimension of Judaica, with the moai robot with inscriptions on its body reminiscent of the Golem, protector of the Jewish people. Moreover, the name Molok has nothing to do with Rapanui culture and appears inspired by the Canaanite idolised god, Morloch.

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

‘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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Fluide Glacial
(no.311, May 2002, Éditions Audie)

Featuring on the front cover only, this cartoon borrows from many previous examples of Easter Island humour, which takes ideas from the island's name and the exaggerated features of the moai. The Rapanui man that sits for a carver to copy his likeness has a large chin and nose which demonstrates the extremely odd appearance of anyone who could ever resemble a moai. The carving in this joke becomes a work of art modelled on a local so distinctive that the task is proving a challenge. The model has been trying to sit still for a very long time (as evidenced by the many discarded cigarettes) and the carver insists that he stops moving. In the background is another common joke of a large Easter egg that has also been carved out of stone.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Let's Go! Wonders of the World – Jo Seong Gyu
(Seoul: Sangseogak, 2003)

A young boy accompanied by a little fairy and a flying, magical encyclopaedia is taken on a trip around the world to see the numerous wonders – natural, ancient and cultural. The boy had acquired the encyclopaedia from a strange man who was selling a number of books from the side of a street. As part of this educational grand voyage, the trio arrive on Easter Island – flying on the back of the encyclopaedia – where they are amazed at the scale and nature of the moai.

The boy asks, "who made these stone statues" and "for what purpose?". The encyclopaedia replies that there is a legend that aliens were involved, but then corrects that by adding "however, research reveals that the moai were built to honour the frigate birds that come here every year". The talking encyclopaedia continues by saying that the Rapanui were able to create the moai as they were carved from porous volcanic rock and then they "transport[ed] them with ease" using logs and ropes.

The encyclopaedia relays a second "legend" about the long ears employing the short ears as slaves to make the moai. But the short ears rebelled and killed the long ears when they were ordered to "clear the island of moai". A third "legend" is that the long ears were Inca (apparently the moai with pukao look like Inca) and the enslaved short ears were Polynesian.

Designed in the style of other educational books that are common in China and Japan this South Korean adventure tries to take the young reader to a wide range of world wonders. Told entirely in terms of images, most are in the style of a comic, with a few embellished photographs scattered in between. Of the near 200 pages, six are devoted to Easter Island.

Alas, whilst the book aims to be educational it carries various mistakes about Easter Island in those six short pages. This is a concern as the book presents itself as educational and the 'facts' are reinforced within the narrative as they are communicated by a talking encyclopaedia. The moai were never built in honour of frigate birds, the long ears were not from South America (Inca) and the moai do not all look out to sea. The drawings of the moai are also largely inaccurate and seem to have been copied from older texts. Just one frame, which shows ahu Tahai, is correct.

Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park and Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Balade Balade [Ride Ride]
(created by Kokor [aka Alain Koch]; Issy-les-Molineaux: Editions Vents d'Ouest, April 2003)

The Earth announces to the four corners of the universe that it is up for sale. A small alien is interested, but first he wants to see the extent and validity of what he would be buying. He travels to Earth, where he is met by a real estate agent, Sullivan Vilette, who suggests they fly over the lands by helicopter. The alien wishes to take a more serene approach and asks that they journey around the world on horseback. Together, in a wide-ranging adventure, they see the world for all its uniqueness and peculiarities.

Part of this world adventure includes time on Easter Island where Vilette reflects on the mysteries of the moai and the alien appears to say he has the same statues on his planet. The two voyagers rest for the night at the foot of a large moai. Vilette asks the alien if his statues also look very strange and whether they listen, as those on Easter Island do not.

As Villete and his alien client ride across the world they are deliberately drawn and depicted as a version of Cervantes' Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The estate agent, like Don Quixote, is rhetorical in much of what he says. The alien, meanwhile, is a small tubby figure, who unlike the witty Sancho Panza, struggles to speak the language of Earth and when he does it is always said in duplicate – hence Balade Balade. In many ways, the alien is like a baby, new to the world, learning to talk, curious, innocent and naïve. A cleverly conceived comic that was published in French, Balade Balade has a distinct surrealist style, which easily incorporates the moai.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Peter Munford

Jump to contents

Munukata Kyōju Ikōroku [The Case Records of Professor Munakata]
'Chapter 11: The Sarutahiko Project'
(Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2004)

Professor Munakata is approached by Hashiba Hideyoshiro, a managing director of the San'oh Tourism company. Hashiba asks Munakata for his knowledge of the widespread belief in the Shinto god Sarutahiko, that has proven difficult to define. Munakata explains that Sarutahiko is known as the herald that appeared to Niniji, the heavenly grandson of the sun goddess, in order to guide him to Earth before becoming caught on a shell in the ocean and drowning. Sarutahiko had a metre-long nose and stood between 2 to 10 metres tall.

As Hashiba takes Munakata to his ship, they also meet Imibe who tells Munakata that whilst Sarutahiko is believed to be a 'herald', the legends may instead be referring to a 'cape' as there are a number of geographical markers with long stretches of land like noses, that could have helped guide ancient fleets of ships. Hashiba states that he has been doing his own research into Imibe's theory, as the ship reaches Niigata.

At Niigata, it is revealed that Hashiba is restoring ruins along the shores of Japan as he believes Sarutahiko may have been an 8-metre tall structure or idol that people could see from the sea, guiding them to shore. They then travel to Kukedo of Kaga, the birthplace of Sarutahiko where they meet Imibe's brother, Shoichiro, who has erected an elephant-like 8-metre structure of the god (funded by San'oh Tourism), arguing that this is the most logical explanation for the god's long nose.

Shoichiro also reveals his theory that Sarutahiko was a god of borders, standing on shores and capes, announcing a province to outsiders travelling by sea. He suggests that the moai of Easter Island may have had a similar purpose along with other Polynesian idols such as those on Hawai'i and Hiva Oa, therefore revealing an ancient custom of creating border gods throughout the Pacific region. Hashiba tells Munakata that he plans to erect other statues of Sarutahiko in Japan, which would "open up a path from the Japanese roots to the South Pacific". He also plans to create a boat cruise to all the destinations containing the so called 'border gods' and will therefore fund Shoichiro's research.

During the Niigata excavations, however, a cave filled with bones is discovered, leading Munakata to realise that the gods were not erected to welcome outsiders and guide the way but instead intimidate them in order to keep out disease. He reflects on the Rapanui, many of whom died with the arrival of Europeans who brought with them their diseases; later, many more died following disease that was transmitted during their enslavement by the Peruvians. With Sarutahiko possibly having such a dark image, Shoichiro expects Hashiba's funding to cease yet the news of a new strain of influenza in Asia cancels the plans for a cruise tour anyway. Reflecting on the moai and the fact they had been built before Rapanui's discovery by outsiders, the Professor proposes that disease may instead have been spread by birds. The birdman cult of the Rapanui is therefore deemed problematic. The wooden Sarutahiko accidentally goes up in flames as the characters watch until it finally plunges into the sea.

Created by the well-known manga writer Hoshino Yukinobu, this series follows Professor Munakata, an anthropology professor from Tokyo who specialises in myths and legends, as he works out the correlation of the ancient stories with actual events and places in history. There is therefore an educational element to the stories. The first Professor Munakata adventure was published in 1996. In 2009-2010, there was a return to the character for Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure, which was promoted in a series of events at the institution.

The idea that the moai had been created to frighten away birds had previously been explored in the novel Motu-Iti (reviewed below). Despite the educational appearance there is a notable degree of fantasy and free-thinking to the manga as observed in the reimagining of the long row of moai at ahu Tongariki, as a supposed island defence.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Mahōtsukai Kurohime [Magic User Kurohime]
'Chapter 7: Asura Part 2'
(Tokyo: Shonen Jump, 2004)

Asura, a fire demon, appears before Kurohime and Zero and tells them she has come to help lift Kurohime's curse. She tries to help Kurohime defeat the 'Mountain God Moai' – a floating moai with an elongated head who throws large shards of rock– but is told to stay out of the way. Kurohime destroys the moai by wrapping him in chains, cutting off his large forehead and then shattering the rest of the head with her sword. Meanwhile, Asura rescues Zero from the falling rocks.

The moai god returns in his second form, this time as two conjoined colossal mountains with moai faces and humanoid limbs. "The real battle begins now!", declares Kurohine, "the power within that mountain is moai's! But the power outside that mountain is not in his grasp". Yet again, Kurohime destroys the foe and the rock monster, now just a feeble frame with a moai head, tries to escape. Kurohime tells Asura to assist her, taking her powers in order to kill the mountain god for good. After the battle, Asura tells the others that her master lives in a far-off land and needs their help.

Kurohime is a manga series written by Masanori Katakura that ran from 2002 to 2011. It follows the titular character as she attempts to kill all of the gods, after they took her powers away from her ten years before and split her into two beings. Throughout the manga, Kurohime changes bodies from an 8-year-old to an adult by regaining her abilities via the power of love. She achieves this with the help of Zero, a young man Kurohime saved before she was divided by the gods, as well as other characters she meets on her journey.

The use of the moai as a mountain god allows the figure to become an immense force of nature, whilst also functioning as a primordial form. Both of the moai's powerful forms highly exaggerate the physical image of the statues. The weakened moai, in contrast, is missing half its face, which along with its feeble body gives it a pitiful appearance.

Felix Hockey

Jump to contents

Kinnikuman Nisei: Kyuuyoku no Choujin Tag Hen [Kinnikuman Nisei: The Ultimate Choujin Tag Arc]
(Tokyo: Shueisha, 2004-2011)

Kinnikuman is a manga created by Takashi Shimada and Yoshinori Nakai, a creative partnership named Yudetamago (Boiled Egg). Beginning in 1979, the Kinnikuman series follows the titular character, Suguru Kinniku, nicknamed Kinnikuman, on his antics as a very poor superhero from outer space living in Japan. Starting as a gag series, Kinnikuman eventually shifts into a wrestling manga, following Kinnikuman’s journey towards inheriting the throne of Planet Muscle. Later it was adapted into a television anime and a series of short feature films, which includes Kinnikuman: Justice Superman vs Ancient Superman (reviewed above).

A wrestling character, Moaiman, appeared in the original manga series. Hailing from Chile, Moaiman belongs to a faction of superhumans known as the Perfect Choujin. While his initial appearance was simply as a background character, he eventually gains more importance later in the story. Kinnikuman Nisei is a sequel series, focused on Mantaro Kinniku, son of Suguru Kinniku. Its final arc was a separate serialisation called Kinnikuman Nisei: The Ultimate Choujin Tag Arc, which lasted from 2004 to 2011, in which Mantaro and company are thrown back in time, to fight alongside his father and other legends to save the future from evil beings calling themselves Time Choujin.

Appearing in this arc is another character, a Justice Choujin called Moaidon. He takes part in the tag team tournament alongside Ortega, with their team called the Carpet Bombings. Despite being completely made of stone, the mouth on Moaidon’s torso is fully able to open and close, which he uses to his advantage to capture and crush opponents.

Jump to contents

Ultraman Tiga
'Return of the Warrior'
(April 2004, Dark Horse Books)

In the year 2049, Earth comes under a new wave of attacks from kaiju eiga (colossal creatures) from space beyond. An international coalition defence force based in Japan is tasked with tackling these creatures, with the first appearing in Outer Mongolia and the second near Easter Island. The latter is identified as Melba, a winged creature which picks up a ship in its talons off the island's coast, before crashing it down amongst a group of moai. Ultraman Tiga comes to the rescue as the all-powerful 100-foot tall superhero that will save Earth from destruction.

Collecting together into one book in English a four-part comic, the front cover presents images of the moai, despite the fact Easter Island appears on just two inside pages. The popular appeal of Easter Island apparently lends itself to sensational covers featuring giants and mighty alien invaders. Ultraman is highly popular in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong, and especially with younger children, but it has never managed to match the global success of the more internationally known Godzilla. First produced in 1966 as a Japanese television series, with Ultraman Tiga appearing in 1996, this superhero has gone through different character types with versions allowing him to harness energy from fellow combatants and to grow in size in a style that predates the Power Rangers.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Friends
'Not distant enough'
(no. 317, July 2004, Gemstone)

Donald Duck's nephews complain to their uncle that they are bored, so he gives them a task in the garden – removing stones. "But that's no fun", the nephews object, to which Donald answers, "the fun is where you find it!". The nephews agree and commence the work. The next day, it emerges that the nephews have found whilst digging in the yard a huge moai-like head buried in the soil. "You were right unca Donald! Digging out stones is fascinating work!" – they declare. Donald is not happy with the mess and becomes even less so when Sholto, "a distant cousin" and "an anthropologist at Goosetown University", appears on the spot.

"Eureka!!! I was right!!!" – Sholto shouts when he first sees the carving. He explains that it confirms his theory on first Duckburg settlers coming from Arbor Day Island. "Only one question remains – how did they get here?!", he adds. "Simple! In a mud boat!", says Sholto's colleague, Professor Grabgrant, who joins the discussion. Sholto questions this assumption, and the professors enter into an argument. Grabgrant forces Sholto to go to Arbor Day Island and build a mud boat to check his hypothesis. Sholto is afraid he is not able to tackle the journey on his own and asks Donald and the nephews to join him. They agree after Sholto reveals that "there's a fifty-thousand dollar prize for proving who first settled this area".

The protagonists land at Arbor Day Island, and find many moai-like carvings similar to the one in their yard. They also see a "nono" bird, a "species of rail unique to this island", and define it as "an odd-looking duck". Sholto and Grabgrant with their teams separate so that each can try and build a decent boat. Sholto, Donald, and the nephews attempt to use the nono's feathers as boat material, but soon realise that "nonos are nonaquatic fliers". They decide to move on and try grass, but that boat does not pass the test either – in the water, the team encounters a vegetarian shark, "another animal unique to Arbor Day Island", which eats the boat. Having fallen into the water, Donald asks Sholto, "Any other peculiar fauna you forgot to mention? A duck-eating octopus, perhaps?".

Grabgrant offers to give everyone "a lift back to Duckberg" in his newly-built mud boat, meaning that he wins the argument. Sholto is upset and disappointed in his professional capacities as an anthropologist. But shortly after boarding Grabgrant's boat, one of the nephews finds out it is not really made of mud, but from wood and fibreglass and covered with mud coloured paint. Sholto refuses to become "a party to scientific fraud", and Grabgrant throws him, Donald, and the nephews off the boat. When the team makes it back to the island, a nono bird attacks Donald. To protect himself, Donald spontaneously lifts one of the face carvings and locks the bird inside this hollow figure. Surprised by his own act, he exclaims: "Oh boy! What's going on here? How'd I even lift that thing?" Sholto notices that not only the carving is hollowed out, but also made of pumice, and he celebrates the discovery.

At Duckburg, Grabgrant is presented with a cheque for "proving that early settlers to this area have come from Arbor Day Island" in mud boats. Sholto appears and debunks this, explaining: "That boat isn't made of mud! […] The first settlers arrived from Arbor Day Island in stone boats!", followed by Donald and the nephews docking their pumice boat. The cheque for the discovery is transferred to Sholto. He decides to pass it on to "a very special friend" who helped him, and donates the money to the "save the nono" society.

In this comic, Arbor Day Island is a fictional 'twin' of Easter Island, with both named after holidays and the former a US festivity that promotes the planting of trees (relevant to Rapanui, where the trees were cut down). The stone figures in this comic are abstract versions of the moai bearing sharply pointed noses, but there are enough associations between them and those on Rapanui, with these head shaped carvings also positioned around the perimeter of an island with no trees: "boat-building facilities look rather scarce", says one of the nephews. Moreover, these hollow moai that can be turned into ocean-going craft are similar in concept to the Rapanui boats, which served as rooves for boat-shaped homes when not in use.

Most importantly, the storyline connects with Thor Heyerdahl's ocean expeditions and his attempts to prove the methods of voyaging of the early Rapanui settlers. Integrated into the comic are aspects of Heyerdahl's journeys, where the crew discovered the snake-mackerel fish species and spotted a rare whale shark. In the comic, this is translated into "peculiar fauna" and a vegetarian shark encounter. The Nono, meanwhile, is borrowed from the Indian Ocean and the island of Mauritius, where the dodo, a now extinct flightless bird, was once found.

Kseniia Kalugina

Jump to contents

‘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”.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

'Savage Freaks of Cannibal Island'
(2005, Untamed Comics/ Golly Gee Records)

Mr C accompanied by his "faithful manservant", Big Tiki Dude, has been traveling everywhere trying to find the Hexxers, a legendary band of musicians that disappeared when their plane went missing in Polynesia. In a desire to sign the band and become a great music promoter, Mr C's journeying has become an obsession. They travel to Cannibal Island following reports of unearthly music, where they learn from two talking shrunken heads, the former managers of the Hexxers, that the band were eaten by the cannibals.

Mr C and Big Tiki Dude decide to stay the night to secretly watch the cannibal leader Dambala and his band perform the 'Ritual of the Savage', a cult rock concert embellished with bones and skulls. Dambala and his band is persuaded by an impressed Mr C to travel to the USA to perform as the Hexxers. They first cut a studio album, which is "greeted by rave reviews", leading to stardom and Hexxermania.

A rival music promoter, Omar, who had been searching for the lost band in the Himalayas is angry and envious of the success of the Hexxers. He circulates to the press the fact that the band members are actually cannibals, which creates a moral backlash, a loss of endorsements and an investigation by the FBI, but it also further fuels Hexxermania. So, Omar manufactures a fake competition for a lucky fan to meet the band. Teenager Tammy wins the chance to meet her heroes but instead Omar kills her, with the blame put on the Hexxers, who are arrested by the police. In an attempt to get to the truth Mr C and Big Tiki Dude use strong-arm tactics and eventually find Omar with Tammy still alive but captive. Whilst performing a concert to the prisoners in the state penitentiary the Hexxers are told they are innocent and free to leave. Omar is sent to the electric chair and the Hexxers record their second studio album.

A promotional comic issued by Golly Gee Records in support of the actual band the Hexxers and their 2005 album "Buried Alive!" (see review below), the story functions within a union of garage punk and tiki culture. From the latter it borrows shrunken heads, a Polynesian island and a walking talking moai: a heavy in a sharp suit and a "reject from Easter Island", who accompanies the driven businessman Mr C. Unsurprisingly, this moai has a bone-crushing handshake, is good with his fists and is employed to kick down doors (and dig graves).

It is unfortunate that the Polynesian island is explicitly associated with cannibalism and its natives depicted as savages and freaks. The design of the comic is deliberately crude and heavy in a black pen and ink style that is reminiscent of the adult comics of Robert Crumb.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Horrible Histories Collection
'The Terrific Pacific'
(no.56, 2005, Eaglemoss Publications)

Horrible Histories, which began as a book series in 1993, and was an animated television series by 2001, combines education and humour for a young audience. The title for this issue is the Pacific but Polynesia would be more accurate as the vast majority of its content addresses that region. In particular, the comic focuses on the Maori of New Zealand and the moai and Rapanui of Easter Island, which features on the front cover where the simple humour centres on the extended heads.

As expected of the Horrible Histories franchise the ideas are creative and colourful and the British-styled humour an endless stream of silly puns (and some of it quite political) that fills practically every frame – for instance, the moai heads are a "headache" and another is described as "stone hearted". There are, however, some horrendous mistakes with a map indicating New Zealand as part of Micronesia, and another frame stating that the Europeans took the islanders as slaves. In fact, the research for this comic is sloppy and lacking in the educational strengths that the franchise has exhibited elsewhere. Easter Island dominates three pages with one a double-spread that seems more interested in the social collapse, inter-tribal warfare and the supposed cannibalism that followed. Some statements are deeply problematic such as "[t]he ordinary islanders were so hungry that they killed and ate all the fat folks!" and that the "thinnies" crushed the "fatties" under toppled moai.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's 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, Walt Disney's 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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Friends
'The Easter Mystery'
(no. 326, April 2005, Gemstone)

It is Easter time, and Donald Duck's nephews anticipate the Easter bunny bringing coloured eggs to their garden. They realise that no one has ever seen the Easter bunny, question if it is a rabbit at all and together with Donald Duck decide to hide at night under the garden bushes to figure out who is behind this character. Once the Easter bunny shows up, Donald Duck initiates the plan to grab him, but instead collides with Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge is more interested in selling Easter eggs and therefore perceives the free-giving bunny as unhealthy competition. He also aspires to catch the Easter bunny, but it flies away on its cart pulled by geese. Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck and the nephews hop on Scrooge's new plane to give chase.

The protagonists see the Easter bunny landing and discover they are at Rapanui. "Heh! Now where else would the Easter bunny live but… Easter Island!", says one of the nephews, adding "I think we can be pretty sure we've come to the right place! Heh, heh!". Down below, the moai are surrounded by coloured eggs, and the protagonists assess the isolated environment with its silent stone carvings to be "a spooky place".

Donald Duck suddenly falls into an underground mine, and the rest of the gang join him, whereupon they learn the reason why the bunny hides eggs in people's yards: Henrietta, his over-productive hen, lays millions of eggs once a year, which the bunny cannot make use of alone /eat all by himself. Scrooge buys the hen from the Easter bunny, but fails to fly it off the island as all the eggs that are still being laid by the hen have overwhelmed the plane. Realising the impracticalities of his acquisition, Scrooge gives the hen back to the bunny. Under the gaze of the moai, the Easter bunny dashes off to finish his Easter errands, whilst the protagonists fly back to Duckburg.

In this comic, the association of Easter Island with the Easter holidays and the receiving of Easter eggs is at the core of one long running gag that structures the story. Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen encountered Rapanui on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1722, and renamed the place Easter Island. This has led to popular culture, and especially cartoons, reimagining the island as the home of the Easter bunny and the location of a horde of Easter eggs. The impact is such that Easter Island has almost become the home of the Easter bunny in much the same way that Santa Claus is believed to reside at the North Pole.

The focus of the story is on the bunny, his hen and his eggs, leaving the moai to appear in several frames as background images looking out to sea. However, for a children's comic, it is noteworthy that one frame includes a rock carving of tangata manu/ the birdman as can be seen on the island at Orongo. The story originally appeared in French in 2000 (reviewed above) and was republished in Greek in 2009 (reviewed below).

Kseniia Kalugina

Jump to contents

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. Fewer 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.

Patricia Porumbel

Jump to contents

Les Voyages d'Anna [The Voyages of Anna]
(Emmanuel Lepage; text: Sophie Michel; conception drawings: Vincent Odin; Paris: Galerie Daniel Maghen, 2005)

Young Anna, a solo female traveller voyages around the world from Egypt to Antarctica across a series of adventures spanning seventeen years. She spends three years on Easter Island, arriving from Peru in March 1894, with this part of the book covering 10 pages. Anna recounts her travels to Jules Toulet, a famous painter who had accompanied her for part of the trip. During her time on Easter Island, Anna becomes closely involved with the Rapanui. She tells Jules that she fell in love with an islander and became pregnant, though the child does not survive. In a letter dated March 1894, she writes, “I had my longest experience of family life. Orongo and its inhabitants became everything to me. Love gave me the space that was missing on this little piece of land”.

A French language bande dessinée, 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.

Jennifer Wagner

Jump to contents

Vaero Roa
(text and illustrations: Te Pou Huke, October 2006, Rapanui Press)

It is a time of peace on Rapanui and in Akahanga the clan Nga Ure works hard to build an extension to the ahu/ platform for their moai. As the day’s work ends, Vaero Roa has no time to chat with his clan-folk as he needs to reach the sea before the tide rises to catch a fish. For he is a good fisherman and he plans to take his catch with him to his grandmother’s home as an offering. After patiently waiting to harpoon his chosen fish he arrives at his grandmother’s home with the prey at the perfect time as she has just lit a fire; she is proud of her grandson and grateful for his gift, for which he is blessed. She feels it is the right time to give Vaero a very special gift that is handed to him in a pouch. He is told to now prepare a curanto meal that includes a white chicken and seafood and to then wait for the sun to set. Vaero is yet to open the pouch but he has a feeling that something important is about to happen.

Upon opening the pouch Vaero finds inside an exquisite talisman carved in the shape of a turtle, which he places around his neck. At that moment it shines and emits an incredible force, with a voice instructing him to “free you mind and let yourself be guided by the power of the talisman”. Vaero thinks he may be hallucinating as from afar an old man carrying a rongorongo tablet and riding a giant bird flies down - he states he is “the messenger of the supreme kings” and calls himself “God-Man”. With the dinner to welcome him, the messenger says he is there to give to Vaero any knowledge that he desires. He also conveys that the rongorongo tablet that he clasps is “the key to all knowledge”. Vaero says he wishes to know about the histories and legends of his people and of the time before they arrived on Rapanui. The old man praises Vaero’s enthusiasm and interest in his culture, for which he “will be rewarded”. But first they must eat.

After the meal, the old man begins his story in the time before Rapanui and with the kings that lived on the island of Hiva. Pointing to the glyphs on the rongorongo tablet he says that it records the various kings who ruled that island, as well as the five spiritual advisers, who guided the first king, Oto Uta, through their ability to see into the future. One such advisor, Moe Hiva, foresaw a catastrophic tidal wave that would destroy the island of Hiva. The other four advisors read the skies for clues and concurred that very difficult times lay ahead. The king was advised accordingly, but the prophecy did not come true during the reigns of the next three rulers. In the time of king Roroi, however, many died with the ocean waves swamping the land.

A new king emerged, Ataranga, who instructed his people to cut down trees and build canoes in the search for new land, but years went by without a new place being found. A later king, Ta’ana, asked his trusted servant, Te Ta’anga, to build a boat to be navigated by his three able sons, Nui, Iti and Kao Kao, to find the new land. Te Ta’anga, however, betrayed the king and told his sons that if they found a new place they should stay there and not return. The three sons discovered Rapanui and followed their father’s instructions to remain. As a punishment the king transformed them into the three rocky outcrops just off the Rapanui coast. The king was vey sad at the betrayal but he ordered a new and greater boat to be built, which was called Ruhi. By now the king was old and as he passed away he was replaced by his son, Matu’a.

Matu’a had a son, Hotu, who as a child showed great interest in the boat under construction. When Matu’a died, Hotu, now a young man, was given the responsibility of continuing the quest and leading his people to safety. Hotu’s brother, Oroi, was not chosen to be the successor of Matu’a, as he was obviously evil. A great spiritual man, Haumaka, who used to advise Matu’a, one night had an out of body experience. As he slept, his spirit flew within the astral plane, over the great waters of the Pacific, whereupon he found Rapanui. Realising this would be the ideal new home he set about naming the different important geographical parts of the island. Haumaka’s spirit then returned to his sleeping body. But it is at this point the old man stops telling Vaero the story, saying it is now too late and he is tired. Vaero is a little frustrated, as he wants to know more and especially the mysteries of his turtle talisman. The old man tells Vaero that the talisman is very powerful and contains “eternal wisdom”. He also says that he will continue to act as Vaero’s guide in life.

A pioneering publication, Vaero Roa was the first available comic or fiction novel written by a Rapanui, moreover the first published commercially by the island. In that context it is extremely important, and highlights the significant work of illustrator and storyteller Te Pou Huke. The illustrations may appear a little unrefined, but the story told from a Rapanui perspective shows how the legends and histories of the island differ from the obsessions present in western fiction. The moai are no longer central to the narrative, and nor are the myths of their creation, movement or power. How they were built and moved is not a concern for this comic. Furthermore, unlike so many foreign comics, the Rapanui are not displaced or absent but present throughout. A young man who cares for his grandmother, is told about the past by a spiritual elder, who praises the youth for his interest in his people, their history and culture. It is clear that the comic (backed by a glossary of Rapanui words) has an educational function, with a respect for ancestors and ancestry, identity, family and community communicated as essential values. Unlike other fiction in which Hotu Matu’a is the king that led to the discovery of Rapanui, this comic is keen to make distinct a lineage of kings that all led to the final quest and which stretches back much further in time. The history of the Rapanui is therefore established as much deeper and ingrained in traditions, commitments and cultural artefacts to be passed down from one generation to another.

Te Pou Huke said he wanted to “make graphic the adventures of my clan with the aim of spreading the word and preserving it, linking art, culture and entertainment”. For him, the comic became like a film, a visual expression of the oral stories for which he says he “invoked spirits” to help him “find a way to express his art”. The result was an attempt to find a balance between legend and history, following both knowledge and research and the stories passed down through time. There are fascinating comparisons to be made here with the three part Varua Rapa Nui comics – which are also Rapanui publications – and that began in 2012 with El hundimiento de Hiva (reviewed below). Varua Rapa Nui also turns to the histories of the island, the ancestors, spirits, traditions and legends, but the comics are filled with loss and tragedy, death and demise. In contrast, Vaero Roa shows purposefulness, life and continuity.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Myx Stripmagazine
(no.42, March 2007, Edollandia)

Running between 2003 and 2008, this glossy Dutch magazine featured an eclectic group of cartoons and comic strips. The cover for issue 42 connects with just one page of humour inside, with both employing standard cartoon approaches to the moai. Re-imagining the moai of Easter Island as bunny rabbit statues is a common idea, whilst the cartoon inside extends the location and employs the myth of movement. Here, the moai are seen patiently waiting on a hillside until one checks his wristwatch. Down below, by the edge of the coast, another moai appears from a house and shouts "food". The final frame has a group of moai indoors enjoying the company, food and wine. In a fantasy in which the indigenous people are entirely removed, the humanised moai become the local population, whose job it is to stand motionless during the day as statues…and until it is time to end their day's work.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Gli enigmi di Topolino [Mickey Mouse Mysteries]
'Zio Paperone e il tesoro di Pasqua' ['Scrooge McDuck and the Easter Treasure']
(no.1, April 2007, The Walt Disney Company Italia)

It is the Easter holidays. Scrooge McDuck has bought a map to a treasure buried on an Easter egg-shaped island, aptly called Easter Island. Accompanied by Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie, he promptly departs in search of this mysterious treasure. According to the lore, the treasure belonged to Kon Tiki, the son of the Aztec Sun God, who reached Rapanui after many days at sea.

As they land on the island, they are welcomed by a number of big-nosed, moai-like statues. While exploring the island, they come across Professor Kappellus, an archaeologist and glottologist who is trying to decipher some mysterious signs and glyphs which he terms "rongo rongo". After carefully looking close at each statue, the three little ducks notice a trap-door right under the shadow cast by the nose of one of the moai. However, as they open it they fall into a tunnel, landing several meters underground.

Here, they are taken prisoner by some big-nosed men who speak an apparently incomprehensible language, which is assumed to be the rongorongo language Kappellus was trying to decipher. The men take Scrooge and Donald prisoners, but the latter are soon freed by Huey, Dewey and Louie. The fugitives manage to return to the surface but are chased by the big-nosed men. Once more, they run into Professor Kappellus who explains to them that the Pasquini (Easter Men or Pascuan), as the inhabitants of the Island are called, are by no means dangerous but love to play harmless pranks on unknowing visitors. Kappellus also informs Scrooge that the treasure is buried at the bottom of a 3-kilometre deep well which ends in an ocean full of sharks. Despite the unpleasant news, the three little ducks venture forth and manage to decipher the mysterious language of the Pasquini and of the inscriptions on the statues, which amounts to nothing more than simple, ordinary words spelt backwards. The story ends with the three young ducks being awarded a medal and an Easter egg of solid gold, by the Academy of Sciences in Duckburg.

This is one of several stories in a volume that deals with perceived historical mysteries. A brief introduction precedes each adventure providing some factual information about the story setting and the mystery explored. In the case of Easter Island, information is given on the discovery of Easter Island, on the story of the Rapanui people, and on the rongorongo glyphs. It also presents a link to the mythical Lost Continent of Mu and the imagined relationships between the moai and alien civilisation.

The story, however, does not make the most of extending the history and is more interested in humour and puns. Many other Disney comics have turned to Easter Island at Easter time to exploit the ideas of eggs (and bunnies) and this publication is no exception with its egg-shaped island and the award of a solid gold egg. There is a brief reference to Kon Tiki, which rewrites the expedition of Thor Heyerdahl within the legends of the Aztec, but it is the engagement with rongorongo which is most valuable, playfully introducing the glyphs to a young readership. The glyphs are presented as silly drawings and meaningless sounds, or as backward spelt words such as etrom (read as morte, which means death) or itturb (read as brutti, which translates as ugly), giving children access to a puzzle which in reality remains unsolved but within popular culture is within reach. These Disney stories are repeatedly drawn to holes, tunnels, secret doors and secret caves around Easter Island, with the idea appearing also in Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge Adventures (reviewed above), Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (see the review above), and Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Friends (see the review above).

Alessandra De Marco

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(Illustrator: Dan Rodríguez; text: Mané Escobar and Daniel Henríquez; Santiago: Ocho Libros, March 2008)

The sorcerer Kava Kava is concerned that time is running out for a prophecy to be fulfilled. Failure will mean great misfortune for the people of Rapanui. In the quarry, the islanders resume their tireless work carving from the rock, whilst the sorcerer oversees their progress making sure there are no more delays. The carvers, however, find it necessary to pause for another moment and this angers the sorcerer who hurls his “stones of destiny” and thrusts into the ground his staff which emanates immense power, throwing workers into the air. The sorcerer asserts that the carvings, through which the Rapanui will establish their memory and history, must be finished soon as demanded by their god Makemake.

In an age of the ruling clan called the Mirú, they hold power as determined by a designated tangata manu/ birdman, “who enjoyed his reign of terror, regardless of the suffering of the people”. This particular birdman thought he was invincible, until his day finally came. Traditionally, each year there is a ceremony in which men from different tribes compete for a sacred egg of the manu tara (sooty tern). The Miru have maintained their power by ensuring that their man always wins the competition – in particular giving him an advantage by letting him train during the year, whilst other competitors are required to work in the quarries. The tribes/ villagers of the other competitors have given up hope of ever winning. One day, however, an islander who does not fear the Mirú steps forward and declares that he will secure the sacred egg: his name is Rokunga.

With the arrival of the sooty tern, the birdman race begins. The competitors dive off a cliff and into the sea, faced with danger and possible death from the land (one competitor smashes into the rocks on his way down) and from the ocean (another competitor is dragged down by the tentacles of a giant sea creature), all created by Makemake. Meanwhile, the competitor representing the Mirú is breaking the rules in order to secure the win and Rokunga is falling behind, his body weakened by his constant work in the quarries. But Makemake appears to be favouring Rokunga and, as a turtle swims past, he grabs hold of its fin allowing him to speed towards the rocky islet of Motu Nui, where the sooty terns are nesting.

Rokungu is the first on Motu Nui, but the other competitors are not far behind. The others fight amongst themselves with the bigger and stronger representative for the Mirú demonstrating his might. Rokunga is the first to find a sacred egg, which he grabs before setting off back in to the ocean and to Rapanui. The others pursue him, but are killed on route by monstrous sharks. Rokunga climbs out of the sea and up a steep cliff sensing his moment of victory. But just as he is close to winning, the mighty Mirú competitor grabs hold of Rokunga’s leg. Standing above them are the tribesmen, and they express their anger at the rules that have been broken by hurling down stones that strike the Mirú competitor and send him crashing to the rocks below.

Rokunga is victorious and the reign of the Mirú is brought to an end; “from now on all the tribes will be free”, declares Rokunga, who is the new Tangata Manu and the next king of the island. But there is great tragedy to come, with the final page showing the arrival of a European galleon. The people will be divided, enslaved and die in great numbers. Those who return to the island will bring death and there will be nobody to read the sacred rongorongo tablets.

This Spanish-language comic was directly inspired by the Chilean animation short film, Rokunga: The Last Birdman (reviewed above), which was made six years earlier. It extends the film and stretches it out over 59 pages of superbly illustrated large format colour pages in a high-quality production. Motivated by the traditions and myths of the Rapanui, the story focuses on the birdman and the annual race for the sacred egg of the sooty tern.

As with the animation short film, the entire human population of the island is replaced by figures formed by the island’s wooden carvings brought alive. The sorcerer is an animated moai kavakava, as are some of the workers in the quarry. The majority of the islanders – of which there are huge numbers – and the competitors in the race are all animated birdman carvings. Of course, absent from the comic are the movements of the figures, which the film supplies with the live-action effect of rigid wooden bodies. There is, however, a significant degree of artistic licence which permits the illustrator to re-imagine some of the race competitors, and in particular the oppressive Mirú, as hyper-masculine forms in the style of the exaggerated bodies of comic book superheroes and super-villains. Such images are seemingly part of the central appeal of the comic as a decision was made to place the mighty Mirú competitor/ warrior (and not Rokunga, with his less impressive physique) on the front cover, complete with a rapa paddle in his hand.

Unlike the animation, which takes place at day and night, the comic is set in an entirely darkened world with an apocalyptic sky, where oppression and powerful forces are more evident. The moai also make more of an appearance, albeit on four pages where they are depicted as monoliths both static and alive, with functioning arms, legs and eyes. The egg of the manu tara is also embellished, with its shell bearing an imprint of the birdman petroglyph. For this publication is more than a comic; its readership is perhaps a little unclear, but it has been designed as an artwork, giving prominence to the skills of the illustrator who has creatively re-interpreted the culture of Rapanui.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Sgt Frog [Keroro Gunso], Vol. 15
'Encounter 84: Fuyuki's Stone Figure' and 'Encounter 85: A Bitter Battle on a Lonely Island in a Distant Sea'
(Los Angeles: Tokyopop, May 2008)

Whilst reading a book about Easter Island, a miniature moai figure (with carvings on its back similar to moai hoa hakananai'a, held in the British Museum) lands out of nowhere on Fuyuki's bed. Placing the figure into a special machine the moai is located as having come from a very specific point on Easter Island. Fuyuki is mystified by the moai, particularly its small size and says it could be "some sort of souvenir". Fuyuki believes it should be returned to the island; Sgt Frog, an army-styled frog from outer space, thinks the small Easter Island would be "a cinch to invade". Together, these two friends fly on a supersonic jet-bike to Easter Island.

En route, they encounter challenging weather conditions, which send them crashing into the sea. Fuyuki wakes up on Easter Island and not far from the site of the three moai platforms ahu Tahai, ahu Vai Uri and ahu Kote Riku. Fearing they will be caught, as he is an intruder and Sgt Frog is "an alien!", Fuyuki hurriedly searches for his green-skinned friend. But he is too late as an unconscious Sgt Frog has already been found by a native Rapanui child.

This islander speaks in a language so foreign that Fuyuki's special badge is unable to translate. The islander holds Sgt Frog over an open fire and chants "kai, kai", the Polynesian for 'food'. By the morning the islander has disappeared. Fuyuki, carrying a sleepy Sgt Frog, traverses the island until they arrive at ahu Akivi. Suddenly, a monstrous one-eyed creature emerges looming over the moai. Sgt Frog is without his weapons and defenceless, but the duo's helplessness attracts humanoid Alisa Southerncross who battles the giant creature despite their differences in size. Alisa loses and Sgt Frog stops trying to run away to face the creature using his martial arts. Thankfully, Sgt Frog's KRR (Keroro Special Tactics Platoon) arrives in support. They establish that the creature is a "bacterial invasion organism" and attack it with laser fire.

Fuyuki and Sgt Frog follow the Rapanui child to Rano Raraku, whereupon the miniature moai starts to glow. Meanwhile, unable to defeat the creature the special platoon turns to using napalm bombs, which break the organism into many small pieces. A revived Alisa skewers the main piece on one of her devil-wings for eating: "perfectly bite-sized chunks", she declares.

The Rapanui child starts to speak in English. "The moai on this island all exist to seal the aku aku", the child explains, "I am the mana that sealed that aku aku away. I'm part of your moai". The child adds that moai taken from the island lose their power, and an aku aku subsequently is free to destroy the island. The child is revealed to be a "mana", a power with previously no shape. With the creature, or aku aku, defeated, and the miniature moai returned to the island, the mana returns to the stone figure, which glows and walks and turns towards the volcano where it disappears into the rock. As Alisa flies off, a tourist believes he has just seen tangata manu, the birdman.

This Japanese manga from 2007, featuring the popular Keroro Gunso, was first published in English in this 2008 edition. The comic book collects together a number of Sgt Frog's 'Encounters', or adventures, with numbers 84 and 85 set on Easter Island. Compared to many other comics the story reaches some way into the culture and facts of Easter Island but worryingly many are distorted, either for the sake of the fantasy or because of the flawed research of the creators. Despite adding at the end of the story a map of Easter Island, together with many 'facts' and locations marked, it would appear that this comic was created far from Easter Island, with research dependent on printed images and published knowledge – the island's only kneeling moai, Tukuturi, is captured particularly well. The unfortunate result is a jumble of well-drawn but often misunderstood aspects of Easter Island's identity. The birdman is conflated with makemake; the theft of moai hoa hakananai'a by the British in 1868, is attributed here to the Americans; Te Pito o Te Henua, is written here as Te Pito O Te Whenua, with these stones described as "monuments" and the comic asking "maybe they are the birdman's eggs?".

Despite being told the island is populated, just one islander is seen, and this is a child dressed in primitive clothes far removed from the contemporary Rapanui. The later explanation, however, that this is an ancient energy force in human form may explain its depiction from the past. This Rapanui child speaks almost entirely in a form of hieroglyphics, a very loose version of rongorongo. Only a few other comics – such as Bob Morane: Les tours de cristal (1962) and Anamarama (1990) – have done this before and the effect is to render the Rapanui as foreign to the point of being completely unintelligible to any reader. Even Fuyuki's advanced translation device fails to assist. Interestingly, at one point the Rapanui child says "kai", a Polynesian word, which would be beyond most readers. Why this word is introduced and not others is curious.

Beyond Fuyuki, Sgt Frog and their team, there are just two other people on the island, tourists, one of who rightly tells Alisa off for sitting on top of a sacred moai – "they're not for climbing on!", he declares. Fuyuki is himself a tourist, in awe of an island that he had always wanted to visit. During the battle he asks the platoon of frog soldiers to "please be careful of the island's artefacts". The map at the end also acknowledges Japan's support in preserving Easter Island's heritage with the fact that a Japanese company helped with the re-erection of the toppled moai at ahu Tongariki.

Lurking within this comic is a political message, which promotes cultural heritage and preservation. The moai are not to be removed from the island, for their power would be lost, and ultimately those that have been taken need to be returned.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Aspen Splash 2008 Swimsuit Spectacular
(no.3, June 2008, Aspen Comics)

Clearly inspired by the annual collection of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit specials of photographs of bikini-clad models, Aspen Comics began their own version in 2006, which was literally illustrated/ drawn. Contributors to this issue include Michael Turner, the creator of the comic Fathom (reviewed above). These are full page hyper-real images of scantily-clad women posed in the water or on the shoreline of an exotic location. Within the realm of comics, the fantasy element can be advanced and this can be seen in the artwork of Micah Gunnell, who positions a woman atop of a sunken moai's head, as brightly-coloured fish pass by. It can be compared with the double-page illustration for The Voyages of Anna (reviewed above), which is a more romanticised image of innocence and depicts an indigenous culture. There are, in fact, no sunken moai around Easter Island, although Aspen Splash does not make the location explicit.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Kapitän Starbuck [Captain Starbuck]
'Das Rätsel der Osterinsel' ['The Mystery of Easter Island']
(vol.3; text & drawings: Philippe Forester; Hamburg: Carlsen Comics, December 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.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Simpsons Comics Present Bart Simpson
(no.46, 2009, Bongo Entertainment)

The Simpsons have returned to Easter Island and the moai many times for sight gags and humorous references (see the review above). In this comic, the moai appear only on the cover and do not feature within a story inside. The cover is a joke that has appeared often before in cartoons, with a moai remodelled to promote a new icon, one that is often the carved face of a famous figure from history or popular culture. In this instance, Bart is the remodelled moai to be idolised, a "rock star" as the comic puns. Homer Simpson's reaction to his son's vandalism shows that the effort or creativity has certainly not been appreciated.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Walt Disney Komie
(no.250, April 2009)

A reprinting of the story, 'The Easter Egg Hen', that had originally appeared in French in Le Journal de Mickey (April 2000; reviewed above) and later reprinted in English as 'The Easter Mystery', for Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Friends (April 2005; see the review above). Unlike the latter, this reprint for the Greek market featured a representation of the story on the front cover. The original French publication also featured a related image on its cover but it was not as faithful to the story as this version.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Blast 1: Grasse Carcasse [Blast 1: Fat Carcass]
(Manu Larcenet; Paris: Dargaud, November 2009)

Polza Mancini, a small and obese man, alone, filthy and stinking sits in a prison cell. As he ponders silently, he looks up and perceives a large moai head behind him. He rests against its neck, thinking. All part of his inner world, the two policemen who peer through the window of his cell door can only see him sat there thinking.

The moai returns twice. The first time is when Mancini contemplates hard a new life free of constraints. At which point a huge moai appears and Mancini places his hands on its stone body and appears at peace. The second time is in the last few pages of this 200+ page comic, when Mancini sees himself transcending the elements and being able to float effortlessly in front of the colossal moai. He compares himself to the moai, which he sees as a “subtle giant”. In the final image, as Mancini sits in the police interrogation room, and declares “the truth is easier said than heard”, the giant moai looms in the background.

In this existential noirish French comic – which was titled Blast 1: Dead Weight, for its 2010 English release – the possibly deranged Mancini begins by telling the two policeman his story which involves his despair at life and his subsequent freedom and escape from civilisation into the wilderness of nature. The blast is the moment in which the incredible force of an explosion is felt and for the protagonist it is defined as the power which allows him to transcend existence and achieve perfection in life – it is the trigger to begin his new and purer life, “born again”, alone. The moai is an esoteric figure, a silent colossus on the margins of the known world, with which the protagonist feels affinity and solace. It also appears to represent a hyper-human figure and a superior form of intelligence. The Blast story continued for a total of four volumes.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

51 Delta
(2010, Arcana Comics)

Relaxing on a beach in Miami, Kirby Simon is knocked unconscious by bikini-clad identical twins, who are undercover operatives for the American government. A military plane takes him to Area 51, where Kirby's estranged father, a Professor, was working at the secret base. But he went missing three weeks before and the government urgently needs Simon younger to continue the work. In particular they need him to control his father's subjects, a group of unruly aliens that only responded to the Professor. These aliens are the "problem children" and are housed in Delta hanger. As Kirby and his guide, Sergeant Nikki Wheeler, open the doors to the hanger, a flying-car bursts forth, with aliens on board and a beer-swilling, farting, very strong female moai, called Dusty, on the back seat. They are heading for Vegas but are halted by Kirby riding a flying mobility scooter with a pink blob-like alien, called Narc, in the front basket. Kirby convinces the aliens to return to base.

During the night, Kirby is visited at the base by another alien, McQueen – a blue mist that is formed into the shape of a woman. She asks Kirby to follow her, whereupon he is formally introduced to the Delta group of aliens. Professor Simon had created a "crude dimensional gateway" through which he rescued members of galactic races. Then a few weeks ago, the dreaded Clardarians – the race that the other aliens had been trying to escape from - tried to arrive through the gateway. The Professor fought back and with his last shot of his space gun destroyed the controls to the gateway shutting it down. But the Professor was gone, lost on the other side. With Kirby's help, the team plan to rebuild the generator so they can rescue the Professor.

On the other side, the Clardarians have forced the Professor to build another transporter and a creature arrives on Earth at the base. The Delta team mobilise and tackle the creature with little success until Kirby shuts it down (stopping its nervous system) with his father's self-built space gun. The military decides the team must now act fast and an alien contingent, using the General's modified flying car, gathers at the entrance to the new gateway. They are pulled through at high speed and are met on the other side by Clardarians, whom they battle with guns, though Dusty the moai uses her fists. As this group of Clardarians are being defeated, the Professor arrives with a race of flying birds, the Bajanian. The Professor reveals that he does not wish to return to Earth, as the chance to experience alien worlds is a dream come true. He also wants to help alien races fight the Clardarians. The Professor tells the Delta team to return to Earth and as they depart he destroys the gateway.

The two issues of this comic were collected into a 2010 volume, which has an ending that leaves the way open for further adventures. An entertaining, humorous and well-illustrated comic (in the French-Belgian clear-line style, and not dissimilar to Guardians of the Galaxy in concept), it has numerous pop culture references from Mork and Mindy, Magnum and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, to the Creature From the Black Lagoon. This positions the comic within a rich combination of 1980s and 1950s American film and television, and reveals much about the interests of the story's creator. The publication is devoted to the writer's father, who passed away the year before and there is a strong theme within the story of father-son relationships, memories and growing-up. It ends with the father on the other side, having departed Earth, though in a touching final image he is still able to communicate with his son by email.

The aliens are presented as unruly youths, who are enjoying their time on Earth, much within the manner of a frat house. An image of the moai carrying a beer keg under each arm, Americanises the stone creature within a college culture of drinking and partying. The revelation mid-comic that Dusty the macho moai is actually female is unexpected, and it suddenly turns this 'lad' into a 'ladette'.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Hewligan's Haircut
(writer: Peter Milligan; artist: Jamie Hewlett; Oxford: Rebellion, November 2010)

Anything is possible in a world that has become insane or "untuned". Hewligan, a young man with an incredible upright haircut that has a hole in the middle, has been declared sane by a crazed doctor and released from an asylum. Committed to the asylum for hearing voices and for his haunting "visions of huge stone faces" he sees a poster promoting Easter Island in a travel agency and realises he must travel there immediately. With his new travelling companion, Scarlet, they board a number 8 ½ London red bus "going all the way" to Easter Island, which miraculously and fortunately floats on water. Attacked by fighter planes the bus sinks a few hundred miles from Rapanui, leaving Hewligan and Scarlet to swim the rest of the way. The chasing planes then drop nuclear bombs on Easter Island which change into giant mushroom stools growing out of the hillsides.

The slumbering moai are now awake and begin to speak to Hewligan. He notices that in the centre of the main moai's forehead is a glowing outline of his crazy haircut; "how does the shape of the most ludicrous haircut in all creation find its way onto the third eye of the giant heads of Easter Island?", asks Hewligan. The moai invites Hewligan to step inside its mouth in order to learn everything. "Come on, I won't eat you", the moai says reassuringly. Hewligan and Scarlet step inside the open mouth and find themselves falling deep down into a void.

There at the bottom they discover they are between dimensions on a blue-sand landscape in front of endless moai, who advise that they each wait patiently until assigned a dimension or zone to look after. They have a responsibility to make sure the dimensions or zones remain in tune, otherwise "all sense of reasonable reality goes out of the window". And they further reveal that Hewligan's weird haircut is a symbol that shuts down the modulators for a dimension. The haircut is therefore the cause of the madness in the dimension called Earth. Hewligan and Scarlet are faced with the decision of either going back through a moai's mouth and returning to the world, or becoming adventurers exploring other dimensions through the gateways presented by the heads. Scarlet insists that Hewligan returns to the world, whilst she will go exploring. Before they part she cuts off Hewligan's striking haircut.

Hewligan goes back through the moai's mouth and finds himself at Trafalgar Square in central London. The moai starts retuning Earth and stopping the madness. But Hewligan finds a punk nearby with an identical version of his once unique haircut. He urgently tells the punk the haircut will need to be changed, and then starts to alter it himself, which leads to him being arrested and put back into the asylum. He tells the asylum doctors his story in the hope they will believe him, but there is no such luck. Suddenly, a wall of his padded cell transforms into a moai. Its mouth opens wide and out pops Scarlet, who embraces Hewligan and says they should travel. The moai's mouth closes shut.

A highly inventive comic that builds an adventure so drenched in the bizarre and the impossible that it leaves the reader wondering whether everything experienced in the story is within Hewligan's head or the haircut indeed has special powers. The story was originally published over eight instalments or "partings" in the British comic 2000 AD in 1990 and was collected into a book in 2010. The creators, Peter Milligan (a prolific writer for cult comics) and Jamie Hewlett (the co-creator of Tank Girl and the artist behind the virtual band Gorillaz), lend their names to the protagonist, Hewligan (that sounds like 'Hooligan'), an anarchic individual whose presence is threatening order and normality. They exhibit an artistic style of collages, cut-outs and pop art, that is rich in popular culture references and faithful to the subcultural look of independent fanzines.

Having a protagonist around whom the world appears insane allows the story to engage with endless narrative possibilities of which the moai are central. They are the voices in Hewligan's head and the source of endless journeying. For they facilitate inter-dimensional travel and act as regulators keeping zones tuned and not unbalanced. The all-powerful moai, with the haircut symbol glowing like a "third eye", follows a vein of popular culture in which the stone carvings are imagined possessing immense knowledge of life and the universe (see for instance Papa Moai in the comic strip Red Meat by Max Cannon). This is far from being the first comic to combine the moai with time travel. Furthermore, others have imagined the opened mouth of the moai as an entrance (see, for instance, the review below for The Adventures of Basil and Moebius, and the above review of Les Aventures de Neron et Cie), but in Hewligan's Haircut the oral cavity is given greater human qualities such as teeth. Scarlet even questions the idea of entering the life-like moai mouth: "but what if he's got bad breath?", she asks.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

(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.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Ushuaïa. Les Aventures de Nicolas Hulot [Ushuaia: The Adventures of Nicolas Hulot]
‘Le Trésor des Moai’ [‘The Treasure of the Moai’]
(no.1; text: Pascal Bresson; drawings: Curd Ridel; colouring: Pierre Schelle and Sandrine Fricot; Grenoble: Éditions Glenat, September 2010)

Review forthcoming

Jump to contents

The Ineffables
‘All of Creation’
(March 2011, Mystery City Comics)

Accidentally travelling back in time from the 21st century to “the dawn of creation”, scientist Alan Wolfe triggers the big bang. His biology influences the shape of the Universe and the fabric of space. An immortal man he then drifts for “trillions of years” until a planet “forms upon which he can stand”. On that prehistoric Earth, where Wolfe is surrounded by dinosaurs, he meets one day a wandering moai called Mason. They say nothing. “Hundreds of millions of years later” the two wanderers meet again and are puzzled by a spaceship hovering in the sky. The two are broken down into their atoms and reassembled aboard the spacecraft where they encounter a giant bug-eyed alien. That alien releases a terraforming device that destroys all the dinosaurs and converts them to a crude source of energy. Wolfe and Mason find themselves deposited back on Earth where it is beginning to get cold. The two wanderers go their separate ways.

Ancient civilisation and a giant robot is terrorising the ancient Greeks, having arrived through a “tear in time”. The Greeks prepare their Death Ray of Archimedes, which fires solar rays at the monster. Pleased at the monster’s destruction, Archimedes converses with his “old friend”, Mason the moai, who has given this human race expert knowledge. Mason says that “the thrill of discovery, the joy of unravelling mystery” gives him purpose, and he is happy to observe Greek civilisation as it develops. Mason and Archimedes are part of an early version of the group The Ineffables, which includes the demi-god Heracles.

The disturbance in time has not settled, leading to The Ineffables of 1865, which includes another version of Mason, a mermaid called Sylvia, and a sci-fi Abraham Lincoln, suddenly arriving in Greece. The two teams fight each other, with the two Masons facing off by challenging the opposing self to complex mathematical equations, but they soon conclude that they are “too evenly matched”. The future Ineffables advise that a Dark Age is necessary, in which the knowledge of the Greeks and others must be hidden, in order to delay the aliens’ takeover of Earth, which they had primed for their future control. It will be hidden with the Church as they “are well versed in suppressing knowledge”.

Fast forward in time and off the shore of Mystery City a giant sea creature emerges and attacks a fishing boat. An android Ronald Reagan, on a robot horse, rides to the rescue, but other monsters erupt from the ocean. Mason and Wolfe, now known as Chet, fly to the shoreline where they find Reagan has the battle under control as he defeats the final monster. They find a map washed up on the beach, on which is written “Here Be Dragons”. In order to investigate further, Clarity, a member of the team and a sentient piece of abstract art transforms herself into a painting and has herself delivered to the office of the Director of the Intelligent Design Institute. The director, a Creationist, catches Clarity snooping in his office and she asks him why he is teaching alternative scientific beliefs, such as “the sun orbits the Earth”.

Suddenly the sky turns completely black. As Mason explains, “the Creationists’ manipulation of reality resulted in a universe only six thousand years old”. Above them a spaceship arrives and Chet and Mason project themselves on board. There they encounter a robotic alien, whose head opens up and from which a floating pair of lips holding an eyeball emerges. It attaches itself to Chet’s forehead creating a “psionic interface”. The alien reveals they have travelled “to the centre from whence all life emanates” seeking “the maker of all things”. Mason manages to divert the aliens’ interest away from Chet and to the Director with the Creationist beliefs. The aliens transport up the entire building of the Intelligent Design Institute, with the director inside, and disappear. Mason states that “with them gone, their influence on the schools’ curriculum has faded”; Clarity calls the Creationists “obstinate zealots”.

Fast forward and two astronauts land on a planet with “the ruins of an ancient civilisation”. As the astronauts take off their helmets they are revealed to be roosters. As they wander the ruins they find buildings adorned with monuments to Mason the moai. Apparently, the Ineffables left Earth after millions of years when “the human empire finally crumbled”. The Ineffables then emerged on other planets “stretching out into the cosmos” aiding and shaping the evolution of these civilisations to the eventual point at which they collapsed and then they moved on to another world. Deep down in the catacombs of the ruins the astronaut roosters find a device on top of an altar. It is a portable boom box and as they touch a button music is emitted and Clarity emerges.

Clarity tells the astronauts that a “demonic force arrived in the form of a new kind of music” which corrupted youth and destroyed civilisation. Taking the form of the music, Clarity was able to imprison it in what she calls a “doom box”, but now she is released so is a giant monster. Clarity flees with the astronauts to their spaceship and they manage to escape. The rest of the Ineffables are somewhere further out in space and Clarity suggests that the astronauts transmit her in the form of music so she can speed on ahead and find them.

Chet stands alone on a rock, where he has stood “for trillions of years” – all life, planets and stars having disappeared. All matter has been pulled back to the centre and the big bang has become the big crunch, which will then ignite a new universe. But Chet comes across the ruins of a city, and there, on its surface, he is unaware he is being watched by Mason. Further down below he encounters “the Council of Ghosts”, three “shades” who cling to what is left, and who desire to pass on their accumulated Universe knowledge to the next Universe and for this they need Chet. His mind will be wiped clean to hold all the knowledge. As the ghosts begin the process, Chet’s facial features change into a moai. With much passing of time a new Universe begins, and a cycle of life recommences with dinosaurs. Chet has remerged on this new planet, where “in a universe filled with new mysteries” he meets a moai on a hill.

An epic comic in terms of its size (81 pages), ambition and scale (covering the big bang to the big crunch and the next big bang), ‘All of Creation’ is a smart and entertaining read which was published to mark 10 years since the first comic of The Ineffables. Later editions continued in a similar vein, as can be seen in the issues for ‘Political Science’ (reviewed below) and ‘Face of the Monster’ (reviewed below). In ‘All of Creation’, there are numerous attempts to provide a back story and explanation for The Ineffables, with the appearance that all life and knowledge revolves around a moai, who is the link between one universe and the next, and is perhaps the god to Chet’s Adam.

Chet is part Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a curious and naïve observer (Chet suffers from short term memory loss so he is often unable to grasp the full relevance of events), who journeys through the Universe and time trying to comprehend surreal situations. This comic also appears inspired by The Planet of the Apes, with its time travel and cause and effect relationships for human civilisation. In particular, the astronauts who remove their helmets to reveal their identity as roosters, references Escape from Planet of the Apes, with its revelation that the astronauts are in fact chimpanzees. Such a fantasy positions it in opposition to the American Conservatism of Creationists who are directly criticised within the comic and happily sacrificed to aliens.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Rapa Nui. 1 Découvertes [Rapa Nui. 1 Discoveries].
(text: Mikael; drawings Fabrizio Russo; colouring: Yann-Gaël Clémencau; Marseille: Éditions Claire de Lune, September 2011)

The story begins with a historical account of the arrival of Polynesian settlers, under their leader Hotu Matua, at Anakena beach on an island they call Rapanui. As they head inland, the new settlers, who call themselves “Maori”, discover that the island is inhabited with people who live in a settlement which resembles Mesoamerican architecture. The Polynesians subsequently kill the locals in battles, take possession of the island and pay homage to their god make-make. As the leader of the victorious invaders prays to make-make, a meteor falls from the sky, covering the island in an intense light. The meteor hits Rapanui near the volcano Rano Kau, burying itself deep into the ground. The ensuing clouds of black dust blocks out the sun making the land fall into perpetual darkness. The survivors are desperate in the darkness and the leader of the newcomers concludes that they have been abandoned by their god make-make.

Hotu Matua, however, does not give up and appoints himself Tuu Ko Hiu, a god-king. He and his men enslave the surviving first inhabitants and force them to carve seven stone statues from the rock of the volcano Rano Raraku, as symbols for the seven important but disappeared stars, as well as acting as guardians for his people and the island. All cultural traces of the defeated first inhabitants are systematically removed. The final traces of the black dust disappear, but Hotu Matua is suddenly struck by a strange illness and dies. On his deathbed, he passes his empire to Tangata Manu, his son, who now leads a birdman dynasty, but also rules as Tuu Ko Hiu ensuring the successful establishment of the seven moai. This ahu of seven moai at Akivi is completed with the final stage being the positioning of eyes made of coral into the carvings. As the king becomes increasingly obsessed, he orders the slaves to create even bigger moai, this time facing inland to protect him and all his family. Moreover, he decrees that all royal descendants should continue the work pushing further the construction of moai, but cutting down many trees in the process.

Fast forward to July 2017, and a man is being driven through the Chilean Atacama Desert. This man wants to view the VLT (very large telescope), an astronomical installation on top of the mountains of the Atacama Desert, to participate in a secret project. He has to leave his family behind – which he will probably not see for several years – and sever all communication. In the later course of the comic, this thread is returned to by following a conversation in the observatory in the Atacama Desert, three years later in March 2020. The man, named Jean-Pierre Dupré, wants to prevent the publication of a groundbreaking observation which has implications for humanity. He is in handcuffs and being interrogated by the chiefs of the VLT, when helicopters land with militants from a religious group. Jean-Pierre manages to secure the most important data and flee, while the observatory is destroyed in an explosion.

It is now July 2073, and a young woman, called Namata, drives through a destroyed city in New Guinea – passing by a fanatical preacher who warns of Earth’s impending complete destruction – to an airport to help load a large transport plane belonging to the aid organisation ISR (International Safety & Rescue). At the same time, Ed, the head of ISR's relief mission in New Guinea, is informed that he is terminally ill and has only a few weeks to live. Meanwhile, it has been announced that ISR will end its relief mission in New Guinea, which has been destroyed by extreme weather conditions. Namata is outraged by this decision and argues with Ed, her adopted father, without knowing about his illness. She refuses to leave with the team and walks defiantly out of the base. Just outside, she is stopped by the fanatical preacher, her claims of being able to help rejected, and knocked unconscious by a violent blow from a copy of the Bible that he is carrying. When she awakens, Namata is airborne and in the ISR cargo plane which is about to fly into a category 4 cyclone. With few options, the pilot decides to land the plane on Easter Island, which has been uninhabited now for twenty-three years. A crew member reassures them that their 150 ton cargo plane will be able to land on such a small island as a runway was developed in the past in case it was needed by the American space shuttle programme. The plane lands in heavy rain and unfortunately damages a wheel and part of its fuselage in the process (it is later revealed they have also lost satellite communication, which will force an even longer stay on the island). Soon after landing an earthquake rips an opening in the ground, and the team comment that it is like other severe earth tremors in the last month across the south Pacific. Meanwhile, Namata has been distracted, as she has briefly seen a strange man looking at her, from between two moai. The team members comment that she has possibly seen a phantom from the past.

The next day, Ed finds Namata sitting at the foot of a moai and strikes up a conversation, for it becomes clear that they have a special relationship with each other and the island. Ed had visited the island twenty-three years earlier as part of a rescue team, which had tried to evacuate the Rapanui residents, due to an extreme cyclone. However, two of the three helicopters deployed had an accident and crashed. Ed survived as did Namata, who was a child on board Ed’s helicopter. One of the last of the Rapanui, and now an orphan, Namata was adopted by Ed. Both are deeply moved; Namata thinks of her family, Ed of his colleagues who had died in the helicopters.

Suddenly, looking down the cliff to the sea, Ed sees a piece of metal on the shore. They drive to the beach and find other parts of wreckage that appear to be recent as they show no corrosion. They decide to pursue the matter further, in the belief that there may still be survivors in the wreckage on the seabed. Although the focus should be on repairing the aircraft, Ed and Namata start a sea-search employing a mini-submarine, which they have on board their plane. Maneuvering past much metallic debris, they reach an undersea plateau, where they find the remains of one of the crashed helicopters from long ago. Meanwhile, above ground, the team is anxious as satellite data shows that a new and much stronger cyclone is heading their way and the need now is for Ed and Namata to return immediately. The team is also concerned that the piece of metal that Ed and Namata had retrieved from the shore is of a material not yet invented.

But as the mini-sub looks to return it is hit by metal debris that damage it and cause water to pour into the vessel. At the same time, radio contact between the submarine and the aircraft crew is lost. The two passengers decide to leave the submarine, but Ed is held back, his leg trapped. Since Namata cannot free him, they decide with a heavy heart to say goodbye to each other. Ed urges Namata to leave the sub, which she manages to do just before it explodes. However, the force of the explosion knocks Namata unconscious and she sinks to the seabed, where she comes to rest next to an extraordinary alien-looking metal construction.

This French-language story has three time-narrative strands, covering nearly a thousand years, which it moves between often. These strands provide more questions than answers, and they are continued in the second volume of the comic (reviewed below). The comic contains an eco-narrative subtext with climate change and extreme weather patterns affecting vulnerable communities and giving a reason for Easter Island’s abandonment by its population in the year 2050. However, a surviving Rapanui girl, now grown-up, becomes a crucial protagonist and a determined figure who is focused on helping the vulnerable.

The designers of the comic have drawn on researched images of the moai for their illustrations, including the unique kneeling moai, Tukuturi. The research, however, was clearly done from a distance as the moai are often positioned wrong, with ahu Akivi shown on a coastal edge looking out to sea. At the top of each of the three sections in the comic in which ancient Rapanui is conveyed, a line of rongorongo hieroglyphs appears, which adds little other than a decorative frieze. What is most significant in these sections is the idea that a Mesoamerican culture, including a grand step pyramid, was on the island before the Rapanui, and that these people were destroyed and enslaved by the newly arrived Polynesians. Normally in moai culture, the Rapanui are not the outsiders or the foreign aggressors and instead they are the ones enslaved by unwelcomed voyagers.

Hermann Mückler

Jump to contents

Cyborg 009
'Treizième partie: Les dieux' ['Part thirteen: The Gods']
(Grenoble, Éditions Glénat, 2012)

A moai features on the cover of this French-language edition of a manga that was originally published in Japanese. Alongside the moai stands Cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura, and from an overcast sky, rays of light shine down, with an alien spaceship in the top left corner, suggesting a connection between Easter Island, gods and outer space. This volume collects together all of parts 13 and 14 (chapters 76 to 92), with Rapanui featuring mainly in chapter 83.

Joe visits the island in chapter 83, where he asks the moai to speak: "what do you know? What have you seen?", open your "stone lips" and reveal who is "behind the gods". With the wind constantly blowing around him, Shimamura moves across the island, from Rano Raraku to Orongo, where he also asks who was the birdman. Amongst the moai, a young Polynesian woman appears from nowhere in a grass skirt and adorned with flowers around her head, neck and waist. She releases a swarm of butterflies and then disappears. Joe wonders whether what he has just experienced is a dream or a hallucination.

Cyborg 009 is a series of story arcs that stretch over several decades (from 1964 to 2002) in terms of their creation as manga, and which return to regular themes: the great ancient wonders of the world are viewed as unsolved mysteries; these hold the answers to mankind and its beginnings; Earth had once been visited by gods from outer space. The moai and the petroglyphs of the birdman are some of those ancient wonders, and were revisited in the anime Cyborg 009: Conclusion God's War (reviewed above) and the associated manga (reviewed below), where Joe once again thinks he may have been dreaming/ hallucinating.

The only Rapanui to appear is in this vision, with the Polynesian woman exoticised and sexualised, in an appearance that is more stereotyped than traditional. She represents an element of the island and her relation to power and nature, birth and beauty is symbolised in the swarm of butterflies that are released from her hands.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Varua Rapa Nui: El hundimiento de Hiva [Spirit of Rapa Nui: The Sinking of Hiva]
(text: Bernadita O. Labourdette; drawings: Ismael Hernández Tapia; Rapa Nui: Rapanui Press, 2012)

A skeletal moai kavakava, here called Ivi (Bones), and a turtle, called Honu, float above the island of Rapanui and wonder if it will ever see humans. Faraway to the west, on the island of Hiva, the people are troubled as a volcanic eruption and impending natural disasters will destroy and sink their land. The ariki/ king agrees to let three of his sons sail out to find new land. On route, two boats are lost at sea, so the men carry on together in the last remaining outrigger. They follow a turtle, and with the help of Makemake they are guided to Rapanui. But as the men celebrate finding new land, moai kavakava/ Bones, who does not desire humans on the island, casts a spell, destroying the boat and the three men, who are either drowned or crushed against the rocks. Honu is livid at Bones’ actions.

Back on Hiva, the ariki, who has sensed the loss of his sons, turns for help to Haumaka, a shaman, who meditates, sending his spirit from his body, high into the sky and across the ocean to Rapanui, baptising/naming lands as he flies in his search. Arriving at Rapanui, a place where he senses the navigators were last, he communicates with Bones, who points towards the rocky outcrops of Motu Nui and Motu Iti as places where answers can be found – there, Haumaka discovers a necklace that had belonged to one of the navigators, hanging on a rock. Bones tries to harm Huamaka, but he is protected by Makemake. Humaka warns Bones he will be back with many people – too many for him to control – and that will be his punishment.

As Haumaka’s spirit returns to his meditating body on Hiva, he learns that the ariki has died. A funeral is held and Hotu Matu’a is named the new ariki. Subsequently, seven navigators – the children of Haumaka and Hautava – sail for Rapanui to explore the land for a second time. Each of the navigators has the mark of Makemake painted on to their chest to protect them from “a spirit that looks like a skeleton”.

Once again guided by the turtle, the navigators find Rapanui and this time land ashore. The seven men explore the island and at night rest on the beach; as they sleep, Bones hovers above. The next day one of them plants sweet potatoes within the soil and to protect the land a miniature moai is also placed in the ground. The men conclude that the island is “a beautiful place”.

Unfortunately, the spirit of Bones is ever-present. When the men are on the beach they see the giant turtle and when one man says he will kill it for food his body/ spine snaps as he tries to lift the creature. His comrades place him in a cave and two of them remain on the island with him, as the others return to Hiva. The next voyage sees Hotu Matu’a, Haumaka and the people of Hiva arriving at Rapanui. The people are joyous upon landing on this new island, but of the three navigators who had remained behind, just one is still alive. He is Ira, son of Haumaka, and he is now crazed and skeletal in form from being left alone on Rapanui. For he is possessed by Bones/ moai kavakava, and as Haumaka steps ashore he is immediately stabbed and killed by Ira; the evil spirit has now had his revenge on the shaman. The story continues in volume 2: Varua Rapa Nui: Luces y Sombras (reviewed below).

In this pioneering book, which is only the second comic published by Rapanui, the story covers over three volumes (originally it was four) the early history of the island, with moai kavakava given a central role as a dark spirit that is part of the land and was present before the first settlers. The turtle too is an important figure and here it is a symbol of good fortune but also a bad omen when it is grabbed for food. In the foreword to the book, it is stated that the graphic novel is an excellent form for engaging with the myths of Rapanui as it is capable of communicating much information in a short space whilst also being entertaining. Some of the history has been “adapted or summarised” but the comic remains close to the legends and the stories of the past.

A well-illustrated and finely produced publication, written in Spanish, this prestige comic would appeal to children and adults, as it educates the reader in the culture and history of the Rapanui. Unlike so many other comics, it is authentic in terms of its production and origins, with the author a social anthropologist based at the University of Chile, studying the legends of Rapanui. It is part of an emerging body of publications – see, for instance, Te Pito o Te Henua (reviewed below) – that address early Rapanui and its first discovery from the perspective of the indigenous people and without the science fiction, fantasy and western-style adventures that have dominated popular culture. The comic is supported on the final pages by extracts of sketches showing the design of the characters and the evolution of the illustrations. There is also a glossary, and a discussion of history and the oral tradition of Rapanui, by Cristián Moreno Pakarati.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

The Invincible Iron Man
(no.515, June 2012, Marvel Comics)

One of two variant covers released by Marvel, this is for an issue that contains no Easter Island images or story inside. Variant covers are often limited edition collectibles with some scarcer than others. The idea has been much repeated by fan publications, with DC Comics producing a moai variant cover of their own in February 2015 (see the review below).

As well as a moai carved in the image of Iron Man, the cover for this Marvel comic presents moai remodeled as other members of the Avengers: Thor (foregrounded), Captain America, Hawkeye, the Hulk and Black Widow. Such idolising had already been done before by DC, in their Wonder Woman comic in 1954 (see review above) and in an issue of Super Powers (1985; see the review above). The effect is to deify these superheroes and to fix them in stone as figures beyond human. In this barren landscape, presumably any worshipping will be done by fans of the comics.

Thor and the Hulk had already visited Easter Island respectively in 1982 (see review above) and 1981 (see review above). Hawkeye and Black Widow were to visit in 2016 (see review below).

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Crossover: Atómica/ Manu-Tara Grupo de Contencion [Crossover: Atómica/ Manu-Tara Containment Group]
(June 2012, Mitomano Comics)

A news crew is filming on Easter Island, when a group of monstrous fish-men emerge from the sea and stride ashore. A young Rapanui couple, Pablo and Iro, are sat in a café and arguing about their relationship. On hearing of the sea monsters, they quickly transform into their respective Rapanui superheroes – Rapahango and Hiva. They rush towards the creatures, with Hiva declaring "For Make-Make!". As they begin fighting the monsters, Hiva tries to connect with them using her powers of telepathy, but without success. The two superheroes are wondering where the rest of their group are when suddenly, Ranok, the moai, emerges – he was delayed as he was having his picture taken by tourists – and he uses his great strength to bash the creatures. Manu-Tara arrives next, flying in whilst screeching at a frequency that is painful to the fish-men. Manu-Tara points out that the sea creatures were not attacking but fleeing. Behind them is a giant winged cuttlefish monster, Hecatónquero, an ancient entity that predates mankind and that had been banished to the underworld. Manu-Tara and Ranok will try and stop it, whilst Hiva will attempt to contact the Ancients.

The group does not realise that the sixteen year old girl, Javiera, a student who has been with them is actually the Chilean superhero Atómica. She has been told by Rapahango to stay out of the way to avoid being harmed. But realising that the group needs her help she flies to Concon, Chile, to grab a powerful stone that had been given to her by a vagabond. Meanwhile, Manu-Tara tries to attack the monster but is held tight in its tentacles. Ranok tries to intervene but he too is trapped in the tentacles, finding the creature incredibly strong. Rapahango helps to free Ranok who now goes after the creature's tail, but again without success. Ranok is thrown through the air by a lash of the creature's tail but is saved in time by Atómica, who brings him down safely to the ground. The Ancients have advised that the creature is trying to get to the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku, to drain the island of its mana (power). Atómica says that she was told the strange stone/seal she has would be required on Rapanui and she has to place it on the creature, but first she needs it to be distracted. Ranok offers to help.

A fight ensues between the creature and Ranok, who tries to make it swallow its own tentacles. But the tentacles with sharp barbs pierce through Ranok's stone body, splitting it into parts that crumble to the ground. Atómica manages to place the glowing stone on the creature, who is defeated and disintegrates into a whirling storm. Ranok's head lies on the ground, apparently detached from his body, but he is still alive. Suddenly he erupts from the ground intact and declares that whilst he remains on the island he is indestructible. Hiva says he gave them all a scare. Atómica is thanked for her help, before she flies back home.

As Chile-based Mitomano Comics has continued to build its Mitomanoverso, with superheroes from across Latin America, it turned to Rapanui where it introduced four characters, in a Spanish-language crossover story with the Chilean superhero, Atómica. The four superheroes from Rapanui – belonging to a Containment Group collective – are Ranok, a muscular moai, with a pukao; Manu-Tara, a birdman, and a demi-god, who flies and screeches and whose name comes from the sooty terns that nest on the island; Rapahango, a tourist guide by day, who transforms into a warrior that fights with his Rapa paddle that carries immense energy; and Hiva, a dance teacher by day, who transforms into a female warrior whose main power is telepathy. Rapahango and Hiva are relatively undeveloped here as fighting characters, which is a shame as they have rich potential as superheroes who draw on traditional Rapanui culture for their appearance. Manu-Tara is also rather undeveloped, and his bird mask can be removed, leaving this demi-god, that has returned to Earth as a protector, with a human appearance underneath his costume. Hiva does, however, appear later in her own comic (July 2014; reviewed below) and the Mitomano website has given each superhero a detailed profile and backstory.

Of the four, Ranok, a golem-like protector of his people, appears to interest the creators of the comic the most and he is the one that has the greatest engagement in battle with the tentacled monster. As a superhero, he is the only one in this comic that has no human identity, but he is drawn with much expression and character and it is not surprising that he was to have his own crossover issue soon after (in January 2013; reviewed below) and given his own comic in May 2016, Ranok: The Moai Protector of Rapa Nui (reviewed below). By then he had evolved – like superheroes do – with his body more muscular and granite-like in form. Instead of the trunks that he wears in this comic, in the later version he wears a more befitting pair of shorts, and he was given chunkier wristbands and an arm tattoo. In all versions, Ranok fights in the mold of Marvel Comics' the Hulk, or the Thing, a barrel-chested hyper-muscular hero, who uses his massive arms and fists to smash and wrestle his foes. Mitomano Comics are clearly inspired by American comics and this is stated in the editorial at the start of this issue, where the idea for the crossover for superheroes is explained. They are also inspired by Japanese popular culture, with some of the creatures that their superheroes fight not out of place amongst the kaiju eiga (colossal creatures) that Japan has produced in abundance.

At the end of the comic there is a three-page explanation for its creation. Interestingly, the tentacled monster, which was designed to be part cuttlefish, is a fusion of cultures: Greek mythology with its Titans, H.P. Lovecraft's tentacled cosmic entity Cthulhu, Dan Simmons's Caliban from his novel Olympos, and a reference borrowed from Robert Browning's poetry where in an encounter between Caliban and Setebos, the latter is described as "many-handed as a cuttle-fish". Setebos is a mythical demon of Patagonia, and was picked up by Shakespeare for his play The Tempest, following the monster's first published record in 1536, after it had originally been noted during Ferdinand Magellan's round the world voyage. The legends of the Hecatónquero, the ancient colossal creatures banished to the underworld, appear to have also formed the basis for Guillermo del Toro's film Pacific Rim (2013), another Pacific-focused fantasy in which the monsters emerge from an opening in the ocean floor to attack human civilisation.

This comic was only published online and is available at this link.

Ian Conrich

Jump to contents

Rapa Nui. 2 Révélations [Rapa Nui. 2 Revelations]
(text: Mikael; drawings Fabrizio Russo; colouring: Yann-Gaël Clémencau; Marseille: Éditions Claire de Lune, October 2012)

Continuing the story begun in Rapa Nui. 1 Découvertes (reviewed above), three distinct timelines are maintained of a historical Rapanui pre-European contact, a future setting of 2050, and another of 2073, with the latter dominating the narrative. As with the first volume, the story opens in Rapanui’s past, this time with the construction of the moai, the cutting down of trees to facilitate their transportation and the running of the annual birdman event to decide the ruling clan for the year ahead. At that year’s birdman festivities, the ariki/ chief’s daughter questions why the Rapanui do not venture far from the island when their ancestors were great navigators. She also questions the construction of the moai and the birdman competition, which she says is cruel.

Siberia, March 2050, and scientist Noah, the son of Lémec (aka Jean-Pierre Dupré from the first volume), conveys that in three years’ time the planet will have heated by 10 degrees and humans will be forced to adapt to the brutal conditions. Today’s world is one of extreme environmental events – giant cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – and governments of the past had avoided responsibility by denying humans were to blame for climate change. As Noah and his colleague, Sylvia, converse a rocketship takes off from their base.

2073 and the ISR (International Safety & Rescue) team that landed on Easter Island are now at the water’s edge resigned to the loss of two of their colleagues – Ed and Namata – during an undersea exploration in a mini-sub. They do not have time to dwell on the accident as a giant cyclone is approaching and they must repair their airplane and depart without delay. A crew member, Albert, re-asserts his astonishment that the bits of metal wreckage they have found around the shoreline is extraterrestrial. The new commanding officer, Thor, allows Albert to stay behind to complete his studies of the metal, whilst the team continues to prepare for the plane’s departure.

Not too far away on the ocean bed, Namata is still alive but very low on oxygen. She does not have enough oxygen to make it back to the surface so she decides to enter the immense alien-looking construction that is nearby and which is resting in a crevice. This wreckage has been there for some time, but Namata finds an opening and inside an air pocket where she is able to finally take off her helmet and breathe properly. There is a light above which she decides to climb towards in the hope of finding a way out. There she finds a flaming torch and in the surrounding rubble a hand sticking out. Clutched in its palm is a small device, and Namata is astounded to see on its side a stamp: ‘Made in China’.

The very same day in Siberia, a now older Noah is welcoming the last of the volunteers to the research base, where he is the head of a secret project. They are to depart on a rocketship, along with Noah, who is gifted a small device by Sylvia – she says it will never run out of power and it is a recorder complete with a camera and 3D projector. Noah’s journey will be long, so he will have ample time to record his memories, thoughts and a history for future generations. It is the same device which Namata has just found in the wreckage off Easter Island.

On Rapanui, whilst nighttime welding work is undertaken on the ISR aircraft another team member, Scott, ponders on a row of moai and exactly what are they looking out towards. His colleague says that the Rapanui long ago had tragically exhausted all of the island’s resources. Suddenly, Scott sees an old man crouched between the moai; jumping down from the plane, Scott gives chase. The man manages to hide, disappearing just in time into a small hole at the back of the ahu/ platform on which the moai are positioned.

Meanwhile, inside the alien craft, Namata manages to switch on the device which presents a date of September 3128. She clicks on a file, which gives a journal of the rocket’s original voyage. The recorded message is from Noah, aged 67, who departed Earth on a rocketship, their ‘Ark’, in April 2074. Noah says he has just witnessed the end of life on Earth. The scientists at the research base had tried to warn the world of the impending climate change disasters but to no avail so they decided it was best to start a new humanity on another planet. Back in 2017, Noah’s father Lémec had travelled to the Atacama desert in Chile to use the VLT (Very Large Telescope; the biggest ever constructed) to answer his questions about whether three planets found ten years earlier by European astronomers could indeed support human life. In 2050, they sent a rocket to the abandoned International Space Station to reawaken it and serve as their home port.

As the initiators of the project grew old and died, Noah rose to become the head of the operations. Travel into deep space was enabled by their technological developments of cryogenic sleeping chambers for the crew, an inexhaustible nuclear energy for the engines and a ricochet mechanism using the gravity of planets and black holes to propel the craft at great speed. However, they had a saboteur on board from a fanatical religious group, called O-2R, who years earlier had destroyed the VLT and viewed this space voyage as an affront to the holy scriptures. With the rocketship redirected by the saboteur to travel straight into the heart of the first black hole, it had the effect of altering the vessel’s time-space continuum. Consequently, the rocketship crashed back on earth on the edge of Easter Island but with an onboard year now of 3128. Namata concludes that the wreckage from the future has been on the island for 1055 years.

As Namata is listening to the device she hears a noise and observes an old man (the same man Scott has seen earlier above ground). The old man snatches the necklace which Namata wears around her neck and which is in the shape of an old sailing ship. As the man disappears into a hole, Namata gives chase and finds herself now in a cave with two mummified bodies. The man, called Casimiro, a Rapanui survivor who never left the island, tries to tell Namata that the two mummified bodies are her parents. Indeed, this is her mother and father, of the Pakomio family, who were left behind years ago with Casimiro as Namata became separated and the last helicopter abandoned the isl