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Wait – those things are REAL? – Super Powers #3

March 26, 2010

The title of this post refers, as one can guess from the cover image above, to the statues on Easter Island, the Moai, and no, that wasn’t a question that I’ve asked recently.  I can’t even remember the exact time period that I asked it, though it must have been when I was very little.  But there was a time when I had no idea where or what Easter Island was.  It took me even longer to realize just who this Jack Kirby fella was and longer still to understand that he had a long relationship with those big stone heads out on a small spot of land in the Pacific.

Let’s start with the issue above.  It came out in the fall of ’85, when I was about seven years old.  I think most people would agree that that’s a magical time for a kid to be buying comics – your imagination is never going to be as wide open as it is when you’re that young.  Nothing is impossible.  I suppose it didn’t hurt that I was a big fan of the Super Powers TV show, not to mention that I had a whole pile of the tie-in action figures for which these comics were a shill.  So this comic had me from the get-go, and I just thought those giant rocky monsters were oh so cool looking.  Icing on the cake, as it were.

The story in retrospect is kind of lacking – these were The King’s down years, after all.  His work by this point just wasn’t up to the level of his Marvel or earlier DC runs.  I can remember thinking how different the art in these books was from other books I read back then.  I thought it was a bit ugly.  I’m sorry to say that, but I did.  Now I can see the merit in it as a latter-day effort of a master of the form, but even acknowledging that there’s no getting around that the plot is kind of a paint by the numbers mash-up of things Kirby had done a lot better years before.

Here’s the gist of the plot and where the Moai come in.  The cover is misleading as to their involvement – they don’t come alive and attack GL, WW and Dr. Fate.  Instead our heroes are thrown back in time by a seed of doom or whatever the hell weapon Darkseid and his minions were using to destroy Earth this time around, and while there fend off an invasion of alien living stone giants bent on – you guessed it – conquering the Earth.  Seems to be a popular idea.  Our heroes get the job done, and when they return they find the natives in the past erected stone heads of them honoring there efforts, which GL promptly obliterates, leaving only the statues which are really just the giants that were frozen in their tracks.  And on the miniseries goes from there.  There are some time-travel conundrums created by all this that make my head hurt, so I won’t get into them right now.  Suffice it to say I don’t think Kirby thought things through all the way before he sent this one to the printers.

But man, I loved the look of those statues.

It’s only in recent years, since I’ve been into comics in earnest, that I’ve come to know of Kirby’s association with the Moai of Easter Island and how their inclusion in this book was only a last link in a long history of homage.  Volume 3 of The Collected Kirby Collector goes through it all pretty extensively, from his DC days to the most famous incarnation of his giant stone dudes, Thor’s first nemesis, the Stone Men of Saturn in Journey into Mystery #83.  It’s really a no-brainer that Kirby would mine Easter Island’s most famous denizens so thoroughly.  When you see pictures of them lying on grassy hillsides they look like Kirby creations – blocky, enigmatic, intimidating and ancient.  They’re tailor made. 

As an aside, high up on my wish list for comics I’d like to get my hands on is Tales to Astonish #5, one of the many Stone Men prototype issues.  I just love the cover.  Kirby always was the grandmaster of perspective, and he uses it to horrifying effect on this one – it’s like the stone giant is going to reach through the cover and wring your neck.

So there we go, a short primer of Kirby’s (and my) bond with these guys.  There are a lot of things I want to do before I die, and one of them is get to Easter Island to see the Moai up close and personal.  I have a feeling that when you stare into their shadowed eyes you’re staring into eternity itself.  I have Kirby to thank for first introducing me to them, and hopefully they won’t climb up out of the ground and chase me all over the island.


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