Published August 24, 2023

The History of the Hellfire Club

What is the Hellfire Club? Discover the history of this secret society and Emma Frost's connection to it as it evolves for 'Fall of X!'

Long before Professor X even dreamed of the X-Men, the Hellfire Club brought together a secret society for the wealthy and elite. Thanks to leaders like Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, it also evolved into one of the most important mutant-run institutions in the Marvel Universe. 

Using power, wealth, and influence as weapons to bend the world to their desires, the Hellfire Club challenged the X-Men in some of their defining battles. But when their goals aligned, the Hellfire Club and the X-Men worked closely together, especially in the age of the mutant nation Krakoa.   

Since the mutant-hating organization Orchis left Krakoa in ruins, the Hellfire Club has evolved into one of the final bastions of mutant power during FALL OF X. Now, let's take a closer look at the Hellfire Club as it evolves in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2022) #9 by Gerry Duggan, Juan Frigeri, Bryan Valenza, and VC's Joe Caramagna.


The Hellfire Club debuted at the start of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #129 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin. However, the group can trace its origins back to the mid-18th century, when it was established as a secret society for the English wealthy and elite. In the decades after it arrived in colonial America, the Hellfire Club expanded into a global organization, allowing its leaders to influence society through economic and political power. 

While many members simply use it as an elite social club, the Hellfire Club's true power lies in the Inner Circle, a group of leaders also known as the Lords Cardinal. The Lord Imperial acts as the overall leader of the Hellfire Club, but the Inner Circle is further divided into Black, White, and occasionally Red divisions. Each division houses its own ranks, which are signified by chess-inspired titles like King, Queen, Bishop, or Rook. Unsurprisingly, most of the club's notable members have used their Inner Circle status and the club's resources in their efforts to take over the world.

With sprawling estates all over the world, the Hellfire Club remains famous for its lavish parties, where its members dress in 18th-century costumes. Although some of the Hellfire Club's members are invited to join on their own merits, membership is typically hereditary, which means that heroes like Iron Man, Angel, Sunspot, and Betsy Braddock's Captain Britain all inherited their roles in the club.


The Hellfire Club has established several mutants as major forces in the Marvel Universe. For instance, before she joined the X-Men, the telepathic Emma Frost famously reigned as the Hellfire Club's White Queen while she oversaw the Massachusetts Academy, where she trained a group of young mutants known as the Hellions. 

After joining the Hellfire Club as the Black Bishop, industrial tycoon and powerhouse mutant Sebastian Shaw rose through the organization's ranks to become the Black King and Lord Imperial. Together, Shaw and Frost took over the Inner Circle and transformed it into its most recognizable form. 

During "The Dark Phoenix Saga," the Inner Circle also included the mutant-hating cyborg Donald Pierce, who held the rank of White Bishop and White King before his traitorous plans were revealed. With the ability to increase an object's mass, Harry Leland served as the club's Black Bishop until he died helping the X-Men fight Nimrod. 

After the Phoenix Force bonded with Jean Grey, Mastermind and the Phoenix briefly joined the Inner Circle, and the Phoenix served as the Black Queen until the Dark Phoenix persona took over. After that, Selene—an ancient psychic vampire and sorceress—joined the Inner Circle as a new Black Queen. 

On Professor X's request, Sage infiltrated the Inner Circle as Tessa and used her mutant computer mind to keep tabs on Shaw and the club. Shinobi Shaw, Sebastian's intangible son, later joined the Inner Circle as a Black King and Black Bishop, while morally flexible characters like Mystique and Madelyne Pryor have briefly held the respective titles of White King and Red Queen.

When the group's other members were dispatched, Frost, Shaw, and Selene formed their own incarnations of the Inner Circle with new members, including several X-Men. During one of the Hellfire Club's alliances with the X-Men, Storm and Magneto shared the White King title, and Magneto later became the Grey King when he held the White and Black titles. 

Due to his father's role as the White Rook, Sunspot inherited his role in the Hellfire Club. However, Roberto da Costa surpassed his father by taking on multiple leadership roles within the club, including Black Rook, Black King, and Lord Imperial. After Frost reorganized the Hellfire Club's resources to form Krakoa's Hellfire Trading Company, Kate "Kitty" Pryde, Bishop, and the Stepford Cuckoos all took on leadership roles as well. 


Since their first encounter, the Hellfire Club and the X-Men have been both bitter enemies and unlikely allies. At the start of "The Dark Phoenix Saga," Mastermind lured the Phoenix into a complex fantasy with his hallucinatory powers as part of his efforts to join the Hellfire Club. Around the same time, the X-Men and Emma Frost both tried to recruit a young Pryde to their respective schools. As a result, the Hellfire Club briefly captured several X-Men in a fight that cemented Frost and Shaw as major threats. 

Just as Mastermind manipulated Phoenix into joining the Hellfire Club as the Black Queen, Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men took down the Inner Circle. At this critical time, Phoenix's Dark Phoenix persona emerged and broke Mastermind's mind.  

After briefly swapping bodies with Storm, Frost assembled and trained a group of young mutants called the Hellions, who became rivals to Professor X's New Mutants. Following a bitter battle in Central Park, the X-Men and the Hellfire Club teamed up to take on Nimrod, a highly advanced mutant-killing machine from the future, in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #209 by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr., and P. Craig Russell

During Magneto and Storm's brief tenure on Inner Circle, the Hellfire Club went through several upheavals as Shaw and Selene's influence on the Inner Circle fluctuated. After the murderous time-traveler Trevor Fitzroy killed the Hellions, Frost left the Inner Circle and joined the X-Men, where she went on to train Generation X and become one of the team's primary leaders. 

The Hellfire Club's Inner Circle went through several short-lived incarnations, including one group of wealthy mutant-hating children led by Kade Kilgore. When the mutant nation Krakoa came together, Frost took control of the Hellfire Club's resources and reorganized them into the Hellfire Trading Company. Under the leadership of Frost, Shaw, and Pryde, this operation oversaw all of Krakoa's economic activity through the import and export of various goods.


In X-MEN: HELLFIRE GALA (2023) #1, Orchis launched a devastating attack on Krakoa that left most of mutantkind dead or missing. To protect themselves from both this anti-mutant organization and a world that hates them, the surviving X-Men went deep underground. Now, Emma Frost has become one of the X-Men's few surviving leaders, as well as one of the most wanted people on Earth. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, she has also laid the groundwork for a new Hellfire Club built around several unlikely allies. 

Before the attack, Orchis leader Feilong purchased Tony Stark's business and developed mutant-hunting "Stark Sentinels" based on Iron Man's technology. After the Stark Sentinels were used as a primary weapon in the attack, Iron Man found his old associate Frost, and the two heroes helped each other evade Orchis in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2022) #8 by Gerry Duggan and Juan Frigeri

Frost also maintained control over several Hellfire Club resources, which she signed over to Wilson Fisk, the ex-Kingpin and former Mayor of New York City. Despite Fisk's villainous history, he was granted Krakoan citizenship because of his marriage to a mutant, Typhoid Mary. When Mary went missing during the gala, Fisk helped the X-Men escape, and he now works with Frost as the new owner of the Hellfire Club. 

With a history of investing in Sentinels to enrich himself, Shaw financially supported Orchis' plans and avoided the Hellfire Gala alongside Selene. But after taking over the club, Fisk and Frost kicked Shaw out and took the respective titles of White King and White Queen in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2022) #9 by Duggan and Frigeri. Alongside Frost, his soon-to-be-wife, Stark is set to become the new Black King, and the renewed Hellfire Club may just become one of mutantkind's last, best hopes for a better tomorrow.

Behold the next evolution of the Hellfire Club in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9, now on sale!

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