The point of this thesis is to connect the study of comic books, specifically superhero comics, to something that has deep philosophical roots. These roots give new meaning to a literary and philosophical renaissance currently taking place within comics, spearheaded by Morrison. By saying Pico’s Oration is a major influence, Morrison is bridging the gap between a seminal piece of Renaissance thinking and a modern form of expression. Morrison opens the floor to discussion of Pico in conjunction with the study of graphic narrative and so includes the entire medium. In the conclusion to Supergods, Morrison writes that he drew his work from Pico.
Pico’s Oration on the Dignity of Man is still regarded as the foundation stone of the “humanist” movement that strove to cast off the manacles of Church dogma, locked in place since the founding of St. Peter’s Basilica in AD 324, but for all its status as a humanist manifesto, the Oration is without a doubt urging us to reach far beyond the human, into the realms of angels and gods. It asks us to accept the superhuman as an undeniable fact of our nature, and the goal of our future evolution as people. (Morrison 414)
What Morrison is talking about, the push he makes in All-Star Superman, is the capability of a human being to live up to the highest ideals and to raise oneself to a higher order. The journey Superman goes on in the book is about his living up to his ideals and trying to permanently affect the lives of the people he has sworn to protect, even after he passes away. By living up to the highest humanistic ideological standard, Superman stands as a symbol for what humans are capable of if we live up to our core values. To live up to our ideals, which implicitly come from something higher than ourselves, means we attain the ability to become better. Superman does this with Lois Lane, when he gives her a potion and a suit that allow her to mimic his abilities for twenty-four hours, thus giving Lane the ability to see the world from his unique perspective. He does this again with Lex Luthor at the end of the series. This is the central theme within All-Star: that humans can ascend to a higher plane of existence if they embrace their core ideals. Morrison believes that Pico’s Oration details the core of Renaissance thought. In comic books, we can imagine whole worlds and build relationships amongst extraordinary beings and connect with them on a human level, and by creating these things we are able to do what God did.
The number of similarities between Pico’s beliefs and Morrison’s is large: both believe in magic that enhances man’s dignity and strengthens his will; the Oration provides a model for mankind’s ascent to a higher level of being; a higher consciousness is central to Morrison’s themes. Both are heavily influenced by Kabbalah; Pico is regarded as a syncretic, and, in a way that is parallel, as a comics writer Morrison is known for his style that is perfectly in step with his varied artistic partners. In this way, he never lets his tendencies as an individual get in the way of art, and by association the art tells the story he is attempting.