In numerous interviews, J.K. Rowling has admitted to being influenced by British folklore, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, the Bible, and even the Iliad, but never comics. The similarities between her Harry Potter novels and the X-Men as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby however, suggest otherwise with numerous points in common.
That said, nothing exists in a vacuum and there’s very little in pop culture that either hasn’t been thought of before or that hasn’t been built on an earlier concept. For instance, although the X-Men were created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby in 1963, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they drew inspiration from earlier sources. Both men have acknowledged interest in science fiction in general and the pulp magazines of their youth in particular. There, science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt and Henry Kuttner made their reputations exploring the idea of mutants living among us.
van Vogt’s classic novel Slan, published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1946, is generally credited with popularizing the concept of the mutant. In it, Slans are a mutant race hunted to near extinction by homo sapiens with a young Jommy Cross using his inborn telekinetic power to stay alive.
With the growing awareness of nuclear power in the post-war era, more stories began to be written featuring mutants including Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Again featured in a series of stories for Astounding over the course of the late 1940s, they featured a mutant called the Mule who had the power to affect emotions.
Then there were the Baldy stories by Henry Kuttner.
Written in the mid-1940s, the Baldy stories take place in the future after a new mutant race of telepaths arise who must defend themselves against the threat of a possible pogrom by the more numerous humans. In the stories, mutants are referred to as “homo superior,” conduct an underground war between good and evil mutants, and of course, the outward symbol of their difference is being bald. All concepts that became part and parcel of Lee and Kirby’s X-Men.
Flash forward to the mid-1970s when the X-Men strip was retooled as “the all new, all different X-Men” and placed in the control of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. The mutant heroes caught on big, became a sales juggernaut, and by the end of the century had become household names.
Thus it’s not out of the question that, like Lee and Kirby’s familiarity with Asimov and Kuttner, Rowling may have been familiar with the X-Men characters, if only through one of their watered down animated versions. How else are we to explain the following too close for comfort similarities between Prof. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and Prof. Dumbledore’s Hogwarts…?