The Hellfire Club is a centuries old organization with roots in Britain during the 18th Century. It's members were infamous rakes who used their connections within the club to further boost their social standing and to indulge their sexual excesses.
Over time the club has evolved to include high-flying business men and women, as well as the profitable descendants of royalty and other Hellfire Club members. Being a member of the Hellfire Club is an illustrious boost among elite society. However, there is an even more esoteric sect of individuals who run the Hellfire Club, known as the Inner Circle.
The Inner Circle
The Club is run by a small group of influential members who form the infamous Inner Circle. Named after chess pieces, members of the Inner Circle will take on the titles of the Black and White (and later also Red) Kings, Queens, Bishops, and Rooks. The final position of Lord Imperial is reserved for the most powerful member of the club. Additionally, prominent members have also had assistants that did not have official titles within the club.
The Inner Circle was not always mutant dominated, but few members in several generations were not mutants. The Inner Circle dominates the club and secretly influences the club's activities in order to achieve even more power and wealth.
The Hellfire club was created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and it made it's first appearance in Uncanny X-Man #129.
Claremont was inspired by The Hellfire Club of the '60s British TV series The Avengers in the episode titled "A Touch of Brimstone". One of the protagonists--Emma Peel-would inspire the designs for Emma Frost.
The name of the Hellfire Club can be traced back to socialite clubs in the real world that dates back as far as 18th century of Britain and Ireland. Men of high social standing would gather to take part in "immoral acts" that would remain a secret. This mainly pertained to intercourse with young women who were hired. The first was founded in London in 1719. Over the decades, new clubs would spring up using the Hellfire Club name. The club motto at one was "Fais ce que tu voudras", which translates to "Do what thou wilt". One of the many historically significant figures include Benjamin Franklin during 1758. In 1781, a man by the name of Joseph Alderson created a club based off the Hellfire Club's original ideals while at Brasenose College in Oxford , but his version was called the Phoenix Society (later named the Phoenix Common Room).
The Hellfire Club was originally founded in 18th century England by, Sir Francis Dashwood, Duncan Munro and Scotman John Stuart (Third Earl of Butte). It had some connection to King James I and retained some of his writings on the occult from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 1760s, it functioned as a social club for the elite of British society. The Club not only provided its members with pleasures, often of sorts that violated moral standards at the time, but also sewed as a means for the members to consolidate their Influence over British economic and political matters. During the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia members tried to obtain secret information from Major General Wallace Worthington. In 1859 the club had to align itself with Apocalypse.
A number of the Club's most important members emigrated to the colony of New York in the 1780s, where they founded the new American Hellfire Club. Clemens and Knight served as its first leaders under their Club titles of Black King and Black Queen. The Club's headquarters was an abandoned church that stood on the site of the present day Hellfire Club mansion, located at what is now Fifth Avenue on Manhattan's East Side, only a few blocks away from the Avengers Mansion.
Today's Hellfire Club counts among its members the wealthy, the powerful, and the celebrated from virtually all over the world. Membership is by Invitation only, but such Invitations are rarely turned down, for membership in the Hellfire Club Is universally regarded as the ultimate status symbol. Membership is also hereditary. Tony Stark and Norman Osborne have both been invited into the Hellfire Club.
Major Story Arcs
Council of the Chosen
- White King: Edward "Ned" Buckman
- White Queen: Paris Seville
Edward Buckman invited many people into the Hellfire Club including Howard Stark, Warren Worthington Jr., and Sir James Braddock. Edward Buckman had a secret agenda he held from those in his Inner Circle, which was to eliminate all mutants by releasing the mutant hunting sentinels. After Shaw came under attack and his lover Lourdes Chantel was killed, Shaw had Emma Frost use her telepathy in order to control Buckman's mind and kill his entire council, then himself. With Buckman dead, Shaw took control of his Inner Circle as the Black King and renamed the Council of the Chosen to the Lords of the Cardinal.
Lords of the Cardinal
Shaw appointed Harry Leland to the Black Bishop position, and Leland introduced Emma Frost to the Hellfire Club and she attained the White Queen title. The cyborg Donald Pierce became the White Rook and the mutant known as Mastermind (Jason Wyngarde) joined as well. Shaw was looking for world domination, so he took over the manufacturing of the sentinels. The Hellfire Club tried to eliminate the X-Men because the X-Men fought for coexistence between humans ans mutants where the Hellfire Club wanted a mutant dominated world.
In a Mental battle with the Phoenix, Emma Frost was defeated and left traumatized for several years. Wyngarde began manipulating Phoenix trying to turn her to there side. When the X-Men tried to infiltrate the Hellfire Club they were discovered and the Phoenix turned on the X-Men and became the Black Queen. Phoenix eventually overcame Wyngarde's influence, which led to the the club's defeat. The Phoenix used her mental powers and left Wyngarde in a catatonic state but the damage to phoenix was already done. Wyngarde's mental tampering transformed her into the Dark Phoenix. Pierce tried to overthrow Shaw's rule and failed, resulting in his exclusion from the group.
The ancient sorceress Selene became the Black Queen, followed by Emmanuelle da Costa as the new White Rook. Leland was later died after a battle with Nimrod forcing the Hellfire Club and the X-Men. Magneto became the White King along with Storm. Differences between Shaw and Magneto led to Shaw's dismissal and Magneto being retitled the Grey King. Magneto would soon leave the club. Selene and Emma soon plan to vote Shaw out of the club. Emma goes on to train her young mutant group the Hellions. Selene takes control and uses the group called the Upstarts to go against members of the inner circle to see who is the best to be in the Hellfire Club. Shinobi Shaw son of Sebastian Shaw, is a member of the upstarts and supposedly kills his father. Fabian Cortez tries to kill Magneto but fails. The Upstarts try to kill Emma Frost but she escapes and her group of Hellions are killed. The Upstarts soon turn against Selene.
Shinobi's Inner Circle
After killing his father and turning on Selene, Shinobi takes over the New York Branch as the Hellfire Club's new Black King. Shinobi offers membership to Psylocke (who inherited her membership from her father), Archangel and Storm, they all decline the offer. Shinobi asked Brian Braddock ( Captain Britain, Psylocke's brother) to join the club's London Branch as a Black Bishop to gain information on there activities. Captain Britain found out that the London branch was trying to harness an ancient evil buried beneath England's capitol. The plot failed. Shinobi lost several battles with other super-humans resulting in the club's lack of confidence in him. The Inner Circle quickly diminished and after finding out that his father was still alive Shinobi deserted his position.
Shaw's Second Term
Shaw resumed his role as the Black King and rebuilt his Inner Circle with Selene, Donald Pierce, Madelyne Pryor and the time traveler Fitzroy(a descendant of Shaw's in an alternate future). Shaw came in contact with Holocaust and had him kidnap X-Force, to get a new containment suit in return. X-Force was brainwashed into hunting down Cable, but instead Cable used his own powers to free his team. After a failed attempt to cure the Legacy Virus he resigned from the Inner Circle. Shaw would soon find out that his aide Tessa had been a spy for Professor Xavier all along. Selene then assumed control of the club and changed it to match her evil nature.
Selene's Inner Circle
Selene approached Blackheart the Black King position and Daimon Hellstrom the White King spot. Selene also approached Sunspot for membership since his father had a seat in the club, then so did he. Selene promised to resurrect his girlfriend Julianna if he became her new Black Rook. Selene only partially keeps her word, she resurrects Julianna's spirit and places it in a comatose patient. Nonetheless he keeps his word and accepts his seat. Shaw soon returns as the Lord Imperial of the entire club. Selene was placed in captivity beneath the the Hellfire Club headquarters.
- Lord Imperial: Sebastian Shaw
- Black King: Sunspot
- Black Queen: Selene
- White Queen: Courtney Ross
- Warrior White Princess: Viper
- Tessa: Shaw's aide
When Sir Gordon Phillips dies from the Legacy Virus, Shaw takes the Lord Imperial seat for himself. Shaw approaches Sunspot to be the club's new Black King claiming that he is trying to reform the Hellfire Club for the greater good. Sunspot accepts the title of Black King. Tessa now Sage (X-Men member) fails to warn Shaw of Pierce's assassination attempt, leaving him hospitalized but not before Shaw knocks his head off. Emma Frost also claims to have never lost the White Queen title around this time. Sunspot becomes the new Lord Imperial and is trying to change the club into a force for good, though Ross and Viper appear to have their own agenda.
Cassandra Nova's Inner Circle
This incarnation of the Hellfire Club didn't exist in the physical world. When the Sentinels attacked Genosha, Cassandra Nova offered Emma Frost a means to survive. In return for igniting her diamond secondary mutation, Emma Frost's mind became host to a portion of Cassandra Nova. She was then mind-wiped to prevent her from fighting Nova's subsequent plans.
Using Emma Frost's telepathic powers, Nova made the X-Men believe that they were fighting an assault of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle inside the mansion. Her ruse was ultimately to use Kitty Pryde's phasing powers to retrieve what was left of her body.
The other members of this incarnation of the Hellfire Club were based on figures buried into Emma Frost's psyche. Perfection was an old out-dated reflection of herself, as the White Queen who had originally confronted the X-Men during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Sebastian Shaw had always been Black King while she was a member of the Inner Circle. Negasonic Teenage Warhead was one of Emma's students on the day that the Sentinels attacked Genosha, and who's lifeless body Emma carried out from the rubble.
New Age of the Hellfire Club
For more information: Schism
The Hellfire Club has currently been taken over by the 11 year old Kade Kilgore who has just murdered his father and taken over his company. Kade consults with the elder members of the club as they state their new objective being to purge the club of any mutants. Kade frees Quentin Quire from his cell on Utopia so that he may incite the riot at the UN conference which leads to the activation of Sentinels.
The Hellfire Club is next seen trading with aliens from brain slugs. The new White Queen slaughters the aliens and keeps the brain slugs as the Club packs it in. They attack the X-Men at an unveiling of a mutant museum. They take down Magneto, Namor, Colossus and Emma each with specific tactics before attaching the alien brain slugs to them. Though Idie is able to save the X-Men the Hellfire Club unleashes an enormous Sentinel which gains mass magnetically from surrounding materials. The Hellfire Club watches on from the shore while the Sentinel heads towards Utopia. The Sentinel is defeated but the events leading up to it have caused the X-Men to split.
Welcome to the X-Men. Now Die!
For more information: Wolverine and the X-Men
During a visit from the New York State Department of Education to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the Hellfire Club launches an attack on the school. Kade first formally informs Logan of what he's done so far and that he plans to destroy everything Logan's built. The Hellfire Club unleashes a group of small "Bamf" like creatures and awaken a grandchild of Krakoa upon which the school is built. They also turn the reps from the Dept of Education into a Sauron and Wendigo. Maximilian developed guns which fire mortars loaded with miniaturized Frankenstein troopers armed with flame throwers. Quentin Quire takes control of the situation by calming Krakoa and defeating the Frankenstein monsters. The Hellfire Club leave, defeated but are served by Matt Murdock for the repairs of the school.
Kade is later seen hiring Sabretooth to terrorize the school.
It was revealed that the Phoenix Corporation, headed by Quentin Quire, owned the East Coast branch of the Hellfire Club. Quire, himself, became the new White King of the Hellfire Club.
In the Ultimate Universe the Hellfire Club is an offshoot of the Church of the Shi'ar Enlightenment, a group that worships a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. While the Church believes the Phoenix to represent both destruction and rebirth, the Hellfire Club believes that the Phoenix entity is only associated with destruction. The ultimate hellfire club is also an enemy of the X-Men.
The Hellfire Club in Del Rey's manga version of the X-Men is still an elite club of privileged individuals. However, it no longer revolves around the chessboard-based Inner Circle in high society. Instead, the Hellfire Club is a group of spoiled boys who attend Xavier's Academy for the Gifted. The members included Angel, Forge, Havok, Longshot Pyro, Quicksilver and Kitty Pryde. All of them, bar Kitty, had advanced beyond Epsilon-Delta level to Beta level, and often taunted others who they saw as below them.
They use the Danger Room for their own needs, including turning it into a nightclub complete with simulated girls for them to flirt with. They would often skip classes and break curfew to meet outside and roast marshmallows over a bonfire. Their rule breaking was often over-looked as they were favorites of Magneto. As a new student, Kitty wanted to study, but the other members of the club would steal her books to force her to play with them. If she ran away, they would spend hours chasing her around the mansion until she phased into the crawl space between walls to hide from them.
- X-Men: The Animated Series - The Hellfire Club appears in the multi-part "Dark Phoenix Saga" storyline. Much like in the comics, the members of the organization seek to manipulate the Phoenix and bring her under the control. The group is renamed the Inner Circle to fit the network TV broadcast standards.
- Wolverine & the X-Men - It transpired that they were hunting down the entity known as the Phoenix, who had inhabited telepaths on Earth throughout history. They had kept many archaic pieces of art which told the story of the Phoenix. They had organized a telepathic assault on Jean Grey, which caused the explosion which tore the X-Men apart at the start of the series. Emma Frost used her telepathic powers with the powers of the five Stepford Cuckoos to attack Jean Grey's mind and force the Phoenix out of her body, which caused the explosion. When the X-Men had located & retrieve Jean Grey, Emma Frost used her powers to disable the other X-Men allowing the Inner Circle to abduct Jean. They explained the history of the Phoenix to Jean, claiming that they wanted to eradicate the Phoenix. However, once inside Jean's mind, the Cuckoos followed Sebastian Shaw's order to unlock all of the barriers placed there by Professor Xavier. They intended to release the Phoenix, contain it's power and use it for themselves. As occurred previously, the group is renamed the Inner Circle here.
- Marvel Anime: X-Men - The members of the Hellfire Club appear as antagonists in the series. In a departure from the comics, Mastermind acts as the leader of the Inner Circle.
- The Gifted - In the show's first season, it is revealed that the Stepford Cuckoos are actually agents of the Hellfire Club. Several of the show's major characters, including Polaris and Andy Strucker, join the Hellfire Club as the series progresses.
- The Hellfire Club appears in the 2011 origin movie X-Men: First Class, where they are the primary villains. The members of the club in the film are Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Azazel and Riptide. In 1963, Shaw attempts to manipulate the United States and the U.S.S.R. into starting a nuclear war that will decimate the planet, believing that the ensuing chaos will allow the Hellfire Club to rule the new, mutant-dominated society that will arise from the ashes. The X-Men seek to stop the Hellfire Club, leading to a pitched battle between both teams in Cuba. Shaw is ultimately killed by the young Magneto, whose mother had previously been murdered by Shaw back during World War 2. After Shaw's death, Magneto offers the remaining members of the Hellfire Club a place at his side, leading to the creation of the first Brotherhood of Mutants.
- The Hellfire Club appears as a stage in the X-Men game for the Sega Game Gear.
- The Hellfire Club is also a stage in X-Men 2: Game Master's Legacy.
- The Hellfire Club appears as antagonistic force in Wolverine: Adamantium Rage, with the group's mansion serving as a stage. Selene and Shinobi Shaw serve as the boss characters for this segment of the game.
- Hellfire Club mercenaries appear as enemies in X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse.
- Hellfire Club mercenaries appear as enemies in the Facebook game Marvel Avengers Alliance. The members of the Hellfire Club appear again throughout the game, enlisting the help of characters like the Living Monolith and Bullseye.
- A Hellfire Club guard was featured in Diamond Select's Minimates line as part of a two-pack with Jean Grey as the Black Queen.
- The Hellfire Club guards were featured in the HeroClix figure game. Various members of the organization, such as Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Selene, Donald Pierce and Harry Leland also appeared in the game. A special Team Base that can be used to display Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce and Selene was also released.
- The Marvel Legends Series IV Wolverine figure from Hasbro came packaged with a display base that featured a pair of unconscious Hellfire Club guards.
- The Marvel Legends Pyro figure from ToyBiz was supposed to include a Hellfire Club guard as a special bonus figure, but this ended up being scrapped for cost reasons.
- Emma Frost and Jean Grey as the Black Queen were both featured in the Marvel Legends line from Hasbro.
- The Marvel Select Emma Frost figure from Diamond Select included a Hellfire Club display base.
- Sideshow Collectibles released a statue depicting Emma Frost in her Hellfire Club costume.