Marvel Comics' revival of the X-Men franchise under the direction of scribe Jonathan Hickman has earned many fans for its drastic changes to the popular squad of mutants. Last week's release of House of X #2 with Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia introduced a major retcon to the character of Moira MacTaggart that reframes much of her impact on the X-Men canon in a major light, revealing she's a mutant with the power of reincarnation.
However, because of Hickman's previous comments in an interview for one of his other comic books, novelist Catherine Webb has made it clear that she's uncomfortable with aspects of her novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August possibly being plagiarized by the new X-Men writer.
People have rightly pointed out that ideas are rarely original. I have been fed on my culture; so has X-Men. Sometimes this is a glorious sharing of stories, sometimes it can feel like standing on each other's toes. In this case... depends where you're standing, I suspect. /2— Claire North (@ClaireNorth42) August 11, 2019
However! It's been kindly pointed out that the scribbler on House of X has been asked the same questions I'm asking, and while these things may never be clear, his reply has been generous and courteous. /3— Claire North (@ClaireNorth42) August 11, 2019
If you are loving the current run of House of X, please check out the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.
And if you loved Harry August, you're probably gonna dig House of X!
And if you've never read either, give 'em both a go. Every reader finds something new to you alone. /6— Claire North (@ClaireNorth42) August 11, 2019
Webb, who published the novel under the pen name Claire North, pointed out the similarities to Moira-centric issue of House of X and even pointed out Hickman's praise of her novel, prompting many of her fans to accuse Hickman of plagiarizing Webb's work. It should be noted that Webb has since supported the work.
Much like in House of X #2, the title character in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August lives his life and then is reincarnated, attaining all of the memories and knowledge he's gained in his previous experiences. And after Hickman's comments about praising the book, this seems like a smoking gun.
During an interview with fellow comics writer Bryan Hill for The Beat in 2016, Hickman spoke about Webb's novel while revealing his inspirations for his creator-owned title The Black Monday Murders.
"I came up with the idea for the book when I was on vacation at the beach with the family. I was reading a book on economics (I mean, that wasn't all I was reading. It was my 'serious' book. If I remember correctly I think I was also reading Claire North's, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August [which is just fantastic], and the latest Expanse novel, Nemesis Games) and there was a section on the contrast of what money used to represent and what it represents now," Hickman said.
Hickman has since issued a statement in response to Webb's concerns, denouncing any claims of plagiarism. After all, similar stories have used the exact same plot device: Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Russian Doll, and Happy Death Day, for example. But plot devices and narrative are two different things, so the accusations of plagiarism won't be cleared until more issues of the comic has been released.
Here's what Hickman wrote in response to Bleeding Cool's request for comment:
Well, this is unfortunate. The times this has happened to me, Pax Romana probably being the most prominent, it's impossible not to feel like someone is trying to steal your kid, so I sympathize with Ms. North's reaction.
Let me just say that I absolutely have read Harry August and think it's wonderful, but I completely disagree with any idea that the narratives are similar.
In regards to resurrection/reincarnation stories, I'd argue that, in terms of story, style and stakes, this is much more in line with something like Live Die Repeat than Harry August. The thing that it absolutely does have in common — and where the comparison is both accurate and fair — is that it repeats a lifetime instead of just a short period of time, but even that's something that Replay did thirty years ago.
These are all just plot devices to tell a particular story. And while I hate to say this now as we're only three issues into a twelve issue story, what we're doing in the X-books isn't a story about reincarnation. That's just a plot device we stuck in there to make the first act retcon go down easier. When this is done, it'll be very obvious to anyone who reads both that the two aren't the same.
I would, however, tell everyone to go read Harry August if you haven't. It's about a rivalry between two men that goes on for several lifetimes against a backdrop of a secret society of people who reincarnate. Everyone should read it.
Powers of X #2 will be released in comic stores and online this Wednesday. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is available in stores now.