The method Morrison uses that conjures prediction is derived from an article in the futurist magazine Towards 2012 written by Iain Spence, which gives a brief overview of his book entitled the Sekhmet Hypothesis: The Signals of the Beginning of a New Identity. Here we enter very speculative territory. Morrison writes, “Sunspot activity follows a twenty-two year cyclical pattern, building to a period of furious activity known as the solar maximum, then calming down for the solar minimum. Every eleven years, the solar magnetic field also undergoes a polarity reversal.” (301) It’s because of this change that cultural trends shift, “like a desert wind carving the shape of its passage into the dunes of fashion, art, and music.” As we shift between the two maximum states, we go from one pole —say, a punk character— to its opposite—say, the hippie.
“In 1955, when our planet was bombarded by cycle-19 solar magnetic waves, young people in the West responded like needles in a groove with rock ‘n’ roll.” (302) This gave way to the Silver Age of comic books with crew cuts and “chemicals and lightning that could have been a song for a band. ” Morrison attributes Barry Allen’s transformation into the Flash to this moment in history. Eleven years later, things tipped the other way, towards the cosmic and psychedelic: “In 1966, the cosmic wave entered the comics, to bring with it the gods of Thor, villains like the Anti-Matter Man, and John Broome’s psychedelic Flash stories. The new heroes were anti-establishment ‘freaks’ and mutants.” (302) What Morrison is talking about here is in the sunspot activity that shifts every eleven years; cultural trends change between the orderly crew-cut nature at the dawn of the Silver Age of comics. The embodiment of that age was Barry Allen, the Kabbalah-like Flash who is blond-haired, blue-eyed, and a police scientist who could run faster than the speed of light. When things changed in 1966, Stan Lee’s socially aware Marvel Comics grew in popularity alongside the civil rights movement. These were the anti-establishment “freaks and mutants” as Morrison says, like the X-Men and Iron Man.
How does this astrological indexing of cultural history connect with the teachings of Pico della Mirandola? Borchardt writes that magic has always been a part of popular culture:
Every indication suggests that conjuring and prognostication have always been a part of the European scene, as they are of most cultures, that fortune tellers and potion brewers as a class have very much more in common with their counterparts in other times and places than they have unique and specifying characteristics. (Borchardt 61).
This concept of conjuring and fortune-telling is something that has been handed down through the European generations and has a rich history from at least as far back as Pico.
In this case, Morrison, as a humanist, reinvents ancient wisdom to be redeployed in his art, something Borchart says is important in Pico’s Renaissance magic: “What makes Renaissance magic a Renaissance phenomenon is, at least in part, its share in the humanists’ compulsion to return to the sources, the claim to have rediscovered, restored and drunk at the lost and forgotten spring of ancient wisdom.” (62).
This comes through in Animal Man, the very first series Morrison worked on in American comics.