Stories about people living their whole lives again are not exactly new. Groundhog Day may be the most famous, one man repeating the same day again and again for millennia, but it's hardly alone. Replay, Before I Fall, Naked, Happy Death Day, Russian Doll, All You Need Is Kill, Doctor Who: Heaven Sent, Edge Of Tomorrow, Dark Matter, there's a cottage industry in these kind of stories. And House Of X is the latest, by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz for Marvel Comics. With The Curious Case Of Moira X showing us that Moira MacTaggert has the mutant power to live her life again and again after she dies, making major changes as she goes. And the House Of X is her tenth run around life – and potentially her last.
But the author of one such take, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by World Fantasy Award-winner Claire North, sees a number of similarities to her novel. And has been pointing this put on Twitter – as many of her fans have pointed it out to her.
Now lots of people make claims that someone or other has ripped them off. Usually, such as ddd versus Mark Millar, they are laughable. But in this case, there's a smoking gun.
In a 2016 interview to promote Hickman's comic from Image, The Black Monday Murders, he told Heidi MacDonald,
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.
Looks like he might have gotten an idea from both books?
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. "I nearly missed you, Doctor August," she says. "I need to send a message." This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
UPDATE: Jonathan Hickman responded to earlier enquiry from Bleeding Cool saying
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.