Read Emma Frost’s Full 'Women of Marvel' Podcast Episode
In this episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast, we investigate how the mutant leader—and fashion icon—has left her mark on the Marvel Universe.
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
LEAH WILLIAMS: There's no one side to Emma.
ROBYN BELT: This is what she wants to wear, what she presents herself as. Her clothes are her politics.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Welcome to Women of Marvel. I am Marvel writer Preeti Chhibber. And I have a comics-related injury. I sprained my pinky writing.
ELLIE PYLE: I am Ellie Pyle. And in all my years at Marvel, I don't think I have ever had a comics related injury.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Now, you may know her as the White Queen, an ice princess, or the woman with the skin of diamonds. But across the Marvel universe, whether or not you're a mutant, you know the name Emma Frost.
ELLIE PYLE: We have someone here at Marvel who really knows the name Emma Frost and works it into conversation as often as possible. Hi, Alana.
ALANA HERRNSON: Hi, Ellie. Hi, Preeti.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So, can you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them what you do here at Marvel?
ALANA HERRNSON: Absolutely. Hi, I'm Alana. I am one of the associate managers of social media here at Marvel. And I am known throughout the office as just the ultimate Emma Frost fan who will bring her up in any meeting even when she's not remotely involved in the conversation.
ELLIE PYLE: When is Emma not involved in the conversation?
ALANA HERRNSON: It's embarrassing, in that people know this and roll their eyes. But I like to think it's in a loving way.
But here at Marvel, I do a lot in terms of content creation for social media. So, if you're scrolling through Twitter, whether it's the Marvel page or the Marvel Unlimited page or TikTok or anything like that, I help create the content that's put on those channels. And it's just an absolute blast every day. It never feels like work. It feels like play.
ELLIE PYLE: So specifically, this summer, you put together some content for marvel.com about Emma Frost. Can you tell us about that project and where it came from?
ALANA HERRNSON: Yes, I did. So, every year for the past three years, the X-Men have hosted the X-Men Hellfire Gala, which is this annual event that is basically the Met Gala of the Marvel Universe. All of these heroes and all of these humans are invited to Krakoa where the X-Men are currently -- or not really currently -- living.
And there's this massive party. It's sort of a propaganda scheme for the X-Men to be like, “look how amazing we are and how we're helping humanity. Let's throw a party, so that you love us, please.” But Emma Frost, our queen, has taken charge of this event every year up until this past year where she's handed off the responsibility to her daughters, the Stepford Cuckoos. And on the digital media and social media side of things, it's an absolute blast to figure out how we're going to promote this event every year.
So the first time that it was pitched to us, we thought that it would be super fun to take Emma Frost and sort of make her the celebrity of the day and have her take over the Marvel Instagram Story as a “get ready with me” takeover. And I was very lucky in that I was able to tap one of my just absolute favorite artists of all time, Phil Noto, to do the drawings for it. And he created this collection of five really incredible vertical Instagram Stories that we got to add our own copy to, to make it seem like Emma Frost was actually taking over the handle, like when your favorite celebrity is showing you how they get ready for a big event.
People were very excited about it and thought it was a really cool way to tap into the world building that we really love to do with the X-Men, specifically on social. But this past year, we wanted to figure out a way to continue that narrative. So, with the help of Emily Newcomen on our talent team, we tapped Phil again for an idea that involved a retrospective on the past Hellfire Galas.
So, we've known about the Fall of X for a while here at Marvel. And we really wanted to do a big hurrah to celebrate the Hellfire Gala before everything went terribly wrong in Krakoa. And we were thinking about who Emma Frost is within this sort of world that we've built up on social. And she really is the Anna Wintour of the Met Gala. So, what better way for us to showcase that than by taking the first Monday in May documentary, which is a documentary about Anna Wintour planning the Met Gala and thinking about how we would showcase the in-process world of Emma Frost planning the Hellfire Gala.
So, within this social world that we built up, Phil Noto was a photographer that was assigned the responsibility of following Emma Frost around basically as she has planned the past two Hellfire Galas taking photographs -- or drawings, but “photographs” -- of what she does to get ready for this event. So this included judging Jean Grey's outfit because she has to approve every outfit that steps onto the green carpet at the Hellfire Gala.
It included watching all of the Jamie Madroxes help set up the actual event. Because it was just Multiple Man just on his own helping set everything up, and some other really fun scenes that we created with Jordan White and the editorial team. There's nothing I love more than Phil Noto drawing Emma Frost.
ELLIE PYLE: That's amazing! And I love everything that you all do to build the world out like that to have it exist across all these different platforms is so much fun.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So why do you love Emma so much? Like if our listeners need some convincing -- though, I don't know why they would -- what are your top reasons you would give them for why they should love Emma Frost?
ALANA HERRNSON: Oh, goodness! I will try to narrow it down, darling.
I guess the one thing that everyone knows about Emma Frost off the top of our head, her last name is Frost. And she sort of lives up to that name. She's a [BLEEP] unashamedly. She has a really hard diamond exterior. And she uses it to her advantage when she needs to.
She knows how to take charge of a situation. She will insult you if she needs to as part of that situation. And she is just so good at taking her power, her secondary mutation, which is to turn into diamond, and also using that to be the leader that the X-Men need. But also to use it to be a little sassy at times. The other thing about --
PREETI CHHIBBER: Emma Frost being a little sassy, I love it.
ALANA HERRNSON: At least a little.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes.
ELLIE PYLE: At least a little.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes. Just a tiny strain of sass.
ALANA HERRNSON: But the other thing about her like hard diamond exterior is that like any good hard candy, she has a mushy center on the inside. So, she uses her hardness that she's built up over time to hide the damage within her. There's nothing that we love more than a woman who is damaged and just trying her best to claw her way out of that. And that's really true of Emma.
She has really had quite a turn as a character. And she still feels pretty bad about everything that she did when she was a quote unquote "villain." And that definitely damaged her on the inside.
But she uses her steely exterior to hide that, except for when it bursts out, often at the most inconvenient of times often with Scott Summers. Yeah, I'm a Scemma fan. I'm sorry to everyone who's not. But it's fine.
ELLIE PYLE: For all the Scemma fans out there, fans of Scott's relationship with Emma, may have to wait a little bit longer because of course, she got married a few weeks ago to someone else.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. Mr Tony Stark himself! We don't know exactly how that's going to work yet, but it'll certainly be interesting.
ALANA HERRNSON: And she's just incredibly messy sometimes. I was on Twitter the other day. And I saw this ship dynamic description, which is “I'm not convinced that these two are capable of a healthy relationship with anyone. So they might as well have an unhealthy relationship with each other.”
ELLIE PYLE: That seems reasonable.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Oh, man.
ELLIE PYLE: That's a very real type.
ALANA HERRNSON: And that really describes the two of them. And I will stop ranting in a second. But the last really incredible thing about this character is the quote when Magneto and Xavier first approached her about the founding of Krakoa as a nation, and she says all right, quote, "for the children."
And throughout Emma's entire history, she has always really cared about being a teacher and being a leader and caring for the next generation, sort of shepherding them to a better future than the past that she has experienced. I always think of when Genosha is destroyed and her secondary mutation of having diamond skin first appears. And she just crawls out of the wreckage holding Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
And she's just completely destroyed by having watched all of these children who had such incredible potential have their lives completely snuffed out. And I think that that has really been a part of her damage, but a part of what she has used to propel herself to try to be better. This is a sneak preview of what it's like being in a meeting with me when no one brought up Emma Frost.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Except we did. And we want to hear it.
ELLIE PYLE: So you mentioned that at times, she has been, as you put it, a so-called villain. Tell us your thoughts on that. Where do you come down on the Emma Frost hero/villain spectrum?
ALANA HERRNSON: I think that any good character has some rough patches. And she uses the fact that-- there's no denying she used to be a villain. She tried to kidnap Kitty Pryde. And the 80s were a rough time.
ELLIE PYLE: For so many people.
ALANA HERRNSON: For so many people. But I think she is definitely no longer a villain. She has used the fact that she has done bad things in the past and has taken many lessons from that and has become a better person because of it.
I would say that Emma Frost would not be the leader of mutant kind that we see her as today if she did not have that past that she constantly feels like she has to make up for. So I am firmly stamping on “hero”. But like I said, still a little bit of a [BLEEP].
PREETI CHHIBBER: But the tiny strain of sass, which we love.
ALANA HERRNSON: Which we love. What do you guys think?
PREETI CHHIBBER: I think landing squarely in the “both” section for me. Lots of bad, lots of good. It's just a little, it's the both, depending upon where we need her.
ELLIE PYLE: But that's what makes her so cool.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Exactly.
ELLIE PYLE: And she's willing to do what needs to be done. That's really where I see Emma's villainous past coming into play even in her choices as a hero is that she is willing to step over lines that others won't when it is necessary to do so “for the children”.
PREETI CHHIBBER: It's the ends justify the means, right?
ALANA HERRNSON: I would say Emma is like the ultimate pragmatist. She's just constantly thinking of, “what is the plan that we can execute that has the most benefits and least drawbacks?” And she's constantly thinking strategically. And she makes those hard choices because no one else can.
ELLIE PYLE: I love it. Thank you so much Alana for coming to yell about Emma Frost. You're welcome in our meetings anytime.
ALANA HERRNSON: I'll remember that, Ellie. Thank you guys so much for having me. This was a blast.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So Alana told us a little bit about the Hellfire Gala with Emma's ‘Get Ready With Me’ Instagram takeover and the retrospective.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. Hellfire is a big theme for Emma. There's the Hellfire Gala, the Hellfire Club, the Hellfire Trading Company. But what does all that mean? Let's turn to writer Leah Williams for a primer.
LEAH WILLIAMS: My name is Leah Williams. And I've written some books within the X-Men universe, most recently X-Terminators, before that, Trial of Magneto, and X-Factor, X-Tremists. Big fan of the muties.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We love that obviously here. We are also big fans of the muties on this podcast. Could you give us a quick recap of Krakoa and the Hellfire Trading Company's role in it for listeners who might not totally feel caught up with the X world?
LEAH WILLIAMS: I would say the most important thing to be aware of when coming into current continuity of X-Men comics is Krakoa, which is this new safe nation for mutants by mutants. And it's the first time that mutants have been able to live free of discrimination and prejudices from humans. And they formed their own society and developed their own free culture for the very first time.
And so with the Hellfire Trading Company, you really see the role that plays in the book Marauders first written by Gerry Duggan, now Steve Orlando. And the way that it has expanded from not just like international shipping routes and trade routes and that kind of thing, but being a way to rescue mutants from otherwise hostile nations that aren't necessarily friendly towards mutants or accepting of them. But also don't recognize Krakoa as its own nation.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Of course, Krakoa is not quite as safe as it once was anymore after this years Hellfire Gala and the Fall of X. But we're right in the middle of that right now. And we have no idea how everything's going to shake out.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. The messages I got after people finished reading the Hellfire Gala, just craziness, craziness everywhere. But we talked about the Hellfire Gala earlier this episode with our friend Alana. What is it like working on the planning side of that event, especially with all of that incredible fashion?
LEAH WILLIAMS: The Hellfire Gala was the first time that we really got to see how mutant fashion is evolving. Because Krakoa is this place where mutants are finally able to develop their own culture, their own music. So it makes sense that fashion would also evolve of its own accord. And it also makes sense that mutant fashion would be different from human fashion because they don't have the same sort of limitations, and also because their power sets lend to more kind of unique opportunities in the sartorial sense.
I remember the first time that we were planning the Hellfire Gala for about, I want to say a year and some change before it ever happened. And we all agreed right off the bat that Emma would have multiple costume changes. And I think one of the potential costume ideas that was floated was just like a white ski mask and diamond knuckle dusters and like a bikini, something super off-putting but also hot at the same time.
ELLIE PYLE: Because honestly, who is more fashionable than Emma Frost?
PREETI CHHIBBER: Nobody.
ALANA HERRNSON: Exactly.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Obviously, we're here to talk about Emma Frost. But what is it about her that you love? What is so exciting about writing her?
LEAH WILLIAMS: So she-- I'll hearken back to this moment of meeting a fellow Emma fan at New York Comic Con one year. Shout-out to RJ. I know you're going to be listening to this because you love Emma. And it was a really profound moment because we were strangers. But we connected because he recognized me in a crowd from my tweets about Emma Frost.
And it was a kind of instant kinship in loving this character so much and not fully being able to articulate all the points why in a single moment. But RJ really summed it up well in a way that I constantly think about whenever I'm trying to explain the allure of Emma Frost, which is like -- she's been written differently so many times across the decades by different writers, that what should have been incongruous and out of character has settled into something more like a patchwork quilt.
She's a very complex character and very nuanced and interesting. There's no one side to Emma. It depends on the context of who she's with and what's happening. But she has kind of a character mythos of traits that we know for sure and are always associated with her. And she's just kind of a deeply profound woman.
ELLIE PYLE: You got to write Emma in X-Men Black: Emma Frost in 2018. How did you balance her icy facade with her humanity? And what parts of her character did you particularly want to emphasize?
LEAH WILLIAMS: So that issue kind of came out of me like a fever dream because it was my first time writing Emma Frost in a single issue. I had written her in a short story before in the Domino Annual. And it was easier to do that, because in the short, she was being viewed through the sniper lens of Domino's gun. So it was kind of a second-hand perspective.
But then writing X-Men Black: Emma Frost, it was almost overwhelming at first because I am such a huge fan of the character. But at that time was so uncool about it that I was sending my editor Jordan D. White essays of emails. Because I had so many ideas. And I didn't know at that time how to rein it in and stay professional despite my excitement.
So I'm fortunate in that Jordan is very kind and patient and didn't just immediately be like “oh, my god, no. Not dealing with this.” And my number one thing was -- I think she should be Black King of the Hellfire Club. And the reason I think this is it's like the top position of authority and power within the organization. They have these titles that are gendered for whatever reason. But also that's not going to stop Emma when she wants something. Because she, in particular, is very-- I don't want to say like cutthroat necessarily, even though she kind of is. But it's always for what she believes is the greater good.
And when it comes to things like bureaucracy and nonsensical logistics that might be standing in her way of something she wants to accomplish, she's just going to be like, “well, I'm going to do it my way then” and completely cut out that whole part of the process. So, in writing X-Men Black: Emma Frost and wanting her to be the Black King first involves taking down Sebastian Shaw who is kind of famously a terrible, terrible influence on her and terrible presence in her life. And finally getting herself into the point of authority where she can do things her way.
And this was before the founding of Krakoa. It was before mutants had a safe place. So, something she has always been a champion of is protecting children. It is one of her most profound character motivations. She has always wanted to be a teacher, and she's great at it.
She loves kids. And she is fiercely, fiercely protective of mutant children in particular. So, getting herself to this position within the Hellfire Club involved a lot of lying and machinations and manipulating people, including the X-Men into kind of complying with her. It wasn't until the end that they realized like, “oh, we were hoodwinked into helping her with this so that she could achieve her own end.”
Her own end was becoming Black King, so that she is now the top dog. And she can establish schools for mutant children where they are safe, where they are protected. And she is in charge and can ensure that her own way.
ELLIE PYLE: Emma started out as the White Queen in the Hellfire Club, right? So can you talk to us just a little bit about the different roles of specifically the Black King and the White Queen, kind of how that differs?
LEAH WILLIAMS: It's basically like a traditional hierarchy where we have the queens, the White Queen and Black Queen. And then we have the White King and then at the top would be the Black King. And there's also bishops and the inner circle and inner sanctum. There's all these different kind of Freemason-esque levels of secrecy and hierarchy.
So, she was like 19 years old when Sebastian Shaw took notice of her and turned her into his protégé. And they were romantically involved. And he was significantly older than her. And she kind of ousted the former White Queen and took over her position.
So, it's a huge meteoric rise to power from where she began. And as White Queen, she became far more involved in the behind-the-scenes puppeteering that the Hellfire Club has going on. And their whole thing is power.
They want to accumulate power. They want to stay in positions of power. And it doesn't really matter what the casualties are of that. And it's not so much about morality, even though for Emma, it is always there. She just thinks that she can walk the razor's edge of that morality.
And there's also been times where like, Hellfire Club is anti-mutant. And now, because there's mutants in the inner circle like the top ranks, they're pro-mutants. So, it's a complicated history with the Hellfire Club itself. But Sebastian Shaw, himself a mutant, and his son Shinobi, also a mutant, Emma, a mutant, it just seems like there's been countless mutants who have been a part of the inner circle. So, it's hard to reconcile the sort of anti-mutant history that the Hellfire Club might have.
But as White Queen, the way that I tend to think about it is and we're talking about Emma's most famously villainous days like when she was doing really awful things and kidnapping Kate Pryde and running a school for evil young mutants, the Hellions, and that kind of thing, who she loved dearly. But it was all while she was with Sebastian and kind of very heavily influenced by him or later by Magneto.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Do you think of her more of a hero or a villain? Or is it even possible to put her in one of those two buckets?
LEAH WILLIAMS: I firmly think of her in gray territory. And I wouldn't have it any other way. She is no saint. She has a checkered past. I would not take that away from her because I think it makes it more interesting.
There is something fiercely exhilarating about a character who isn't going to let moral scruples restrict her when she's going after what she wants. But she still has kind of the inner core of goodness in her. But she's capable of doing terrible things. And I love that about her. I think it is fascinating. And strangely enough, I think it's empowering.
As someone who grew up in Mississippi, was socialized to be sweet and smile even when I don't want to, it's like an automatic response for me. Watching Emma just like take no [BLEEP]. Take no prisoners. Be bad when she wants something. It is so empowering to me. And I just love that about her.
I joke about Butter Rum, the horse, deserving it. One of her worst acts as a villain was killing Firestar's beloved pet horse Butter Rum. And the kind of twisted logic behind it is that in her own mind, she thought she was doing something for Firestar's own good. And that doesn't excuse it, of course.
That is a heinous thing that she did to a 14-year-old child. But that's the thing that always gets brought up when you talk about loving Emma Frost. People are like, “oh, what about Butter Rum?” And because I'm sick of people saying that, I'm like, “Butter Rum deserved it!”
ELLIE PYLE: If you had to sum up in one sentence why you love Emma so much, why fans of Emma are so obsessed with her, why do you think that is?
LEAH WILLIAMS: I think the easiest way for me to get other people to understand the obsession is the moment in Genosha where she comes out of the destroyed classroom, out of the rubble, holding the dead body of her student, and she's in diamond form for the first time. Of course, I'm obsessed with this woman who has undergone something horrifically traumatic and come out the other side of it invincible.
ELLIE PYLE: I love it. So if people want to see your social media posts about Emma Frost, where should they look for those, if you want people looking for you on the internet?
LEAH WILLIAMS: My most viral work with Emma Frost was on Twitter. So if you go to my Twitter and just search Emma Frost, you'll find me proselytizing about Emma Frost to Jean Grey stans.
ELLIE PYLE: Oh!
LEAH WILLIAMS: I just don't understand. They're both great. Why can't we get along?
And on Instagram, which is pretty much the only social media platform that I use with any regularity these days, I'm handaxe with an E.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, this is awesome. Thank you so much. This was such a delight.
LEAH WILLIAMS: Oh, thank you guys. I could talk about Emma for another two hours.
ELLIE PYLE: Lea and Alana both talked about the Hellfire Gala. Emma initially conceived of it as a diplomatic event that brings mutants and superheroes and human celebrities together on Krakoa to mingle and party, and of course, get dressed up.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We actually have the invitation to the first ever Hellfire Gala back in 2021. Should we read it for our listeners?
ELLIE PYLE: Absolutely. So, it says, “on the evening of the summer solstice, host Emma Frost invites you to celebrate mutant culture and to strengthen Krakoa's friendship with the nations of man.”
PREETI CHHIBBER: And then it has a schedule of events that include a telepathic concert and closing remarks from host Emma Frost.
ELLIE PYLE: When Leah was describing the Hellfire Gala, she mentioned that it was an opportunity to show how mutant fashion has evolved on Krakoa. Fashion is a huge part of who Emma is and why readers love her. It's also a really useful way to study culture, and to broadcast power. So, we brought in an expert to talk to about it.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. I actually got to talk to Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She's a world-renowned pioneer of fashion studies who has written or co-written over two dozen books on fashion history. This interview was amazing. I think I could listen to her talk about Emma's fashion and what it symbolizes for maybe the rest of my life.
VALERIE STEELE: I'm Valerie Steele. I'm director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology where I organize exhibitions and have written a lot of books about fashion.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So cool. And I'm so excited to talk to you today because this episode is all about Emma Frost who is an extremely powerful and exciting character in Marvel Comics. But one part of her that we really love is that she's sex-positive, and she uses her fashion as a tool. So, can you talk to our listeners a little bit about why fashion is worth studying? And what makes it so valuable, and important, and interesting?
VALERIE STEELE: Well, fashion is really a part of who you are. Even people who think they're not interested in fashion-- and sometimes, I tease them. And I say, “well, does your mom buy your clothes?” “No, no, of course, not. I choose my clothes.”
OK. So you do think it's important because it presents an image of yourself to the world. The image that you want to see. And so it's a way of communicating. And even if you're not particularly conscious of it, you have some sense that certain kinds of clothes look more powerful or more intelligent or more competent than others.
PREETI CHHIBBER: That's a wonderful lead-in actually to the next bit of this, which is when our artists design looks for the characters, outfits for the characters, especially at something like the Hellfire Gala, which has all these extremely important fashion moments. They're not just trying to think of what looks good on the page, but the clothes have to say something about the character to make a statement. So, what I would love to do is sort of walk through some of Emma's looks with you over the past few galas.
VALERIE STEELE: Sure. That sounds great.
PREETI CHHIBBER: OK. So, this first one, which is from 2021 -- describe to me what we're looking at. What do you see?
VALERIE STEELE: Well, she's wearing what appears to be a white fur outfit, which is slit up the front. So you can see her leg all the way up to the thigh. One leg. And you can see one foot, which is wearing a very high heeled, although heel-less shoe.
In other words, it is constructed in such a way that she's lifted up off the ground, leaning on the ball of her foot. And the rest of it is extended. That looks like it's made of ice crystals.
And then she has a similar spiky crown of ice crystals on her head and what looks like an X on the front. It may be that it's a cut-out x over her breasts. So it's very much a kind of Venus in Fur outfit, which is a figure from a 19th century S&M novel where the woman is a very powerful dominatrix. And fur is a symbol of this kind of animal power and vitality.
The fact that the high heels are also, as is the crown, symbolic of power and specifically usually thought of in terms of the image of the phallic woman. So, it's not just that the high heel shoe is hard and erect, and it elevates you up. But it's a symbol of erotic femininity that nevertheless has kind of phallic overtones.
And then the crown also is, again, a sort of phallic symbol. So, she's got this kind of large silhouette, powerful animal-like silhouette. There are elements of hyperfemininity like the exposed leg and the high heel, but also everything with the emphasis on power symbolism. So, a mixture of feminine sexuality that is itself powerful in a phallic masculine way.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I love how much gets across. That's so cool. I think Emma Frost can go toe-to-toe with any of our male characters in the universe. And that is exactly who she is. She's extremely powerful, extremely sexy. So, let's look at the next one.
VALERIE STEELE: All right. Now, this has got a lot more body exposure to it. So this one reads as more sexy than powerful. However, because it's sort of long flowing fabric down the front, and then down the back with the nakedness on either side, her hips, her arms, the legs, it does sort of make her body into this one sort of phallic shape.
And then you've got the curves and the nakedness kind of peeking out on either side. Of course, again, she has high heels. She's got the long hair, which also has this whole kind of vertical dynamic.
So here, the emphasis is more on erotic body exposure and the kind of peekaboo mystery of what's covered and what's exposed. Because you figure if she's going to move, surely that dress is going to move. And we'll be seeing more of the body.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I love these teeny tiny little gloves on her hands.
VALERIE STEELE: Yes. Is it gloves or rather -- it's not entirely clear. It could be that she has actually a totally sheer bodysuit on. And her hands are the only part which are exposed. Her face is blue. All of her is blue.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, part of it is that Emma Frost can cover herself in this like diamond-like exterior. And it changes her skin literally.
VALERIE STEELE: There you have it! And of course, fashion is referred to as a second skin with the idea that it protects, it communicates, it feels. And the idea that you have a second skin in part because you need one.
But she's so powerful that she just transforms her very own skin into something that's like a second crystalline skin. Her skin is armored as it were. And the clothes then can be very fluid, and soft, and revealing because her entire body is armored.
PREETI CHHIBBER: All right. Let's look at this 2021 Russell Dauterman.
VALERIE STEELE: All right. Well, this again has the kind of fur-like garment. But it's just a cape that she's holding behind her. And her actual clothes are these high heeled shoes. But they're more boot-like because in front they have this certain kind of armor where you're covering the ankle and the bottom of the calf, a greave.
It's like a greave or a kind of soccer protection at the bottom. So, the legs are made very powerful, emerging, sort of erupting out of this very powerful shoes. And then you still have the blue skin on the legs and bosom.
But the top is a bodice, which is very low cut in front. So, her breasts are popping out. And here, the little top is just draped around her emphasizing the curves.
So again, the cape is it's almost like she's dropped part of her cover up. And this is what she's revealing. And she has a very interesting headdress, which again looks sort of weapon-like, sword-like pieces are coming up out of her hair.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Let's look at the 2023 Kris Anka fashion moment for Emma.
VALERIE STEELE: Now, this one is very interesting because the outfit is really playing with a kind of trompe l'oeil, fool the eye thing, which parts are clothes and which parts are her body. So on the one hand, she seems to be wearing a set of white thigh-high leggings, which seem to merge into high-heeled shoes at the bottom. And then we seem to have her naked body exposed on the upper thighs, much of the torso and bosom, but with selective crisscrossing white fabric, which will conceal just enough to make it not pornographic.
But with a lot of emphasis on the contrast between the covered parts and the exposed parts. But her arms are also all covered. It's high in the neck. It's got a kind of cut-out lower sash-like cape from the hips down to the ground.
And here, it seems to be playing again with this idea of naked exposure and covered up. And it's a very interesting phenomenon that people who have studied sexuality from Casanova to Freud agree that selective covering is erotic because it arouses curiosity in the viewer and the desire then to take off the part that's covered up.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I'm so curious about what you're going to say about our last one here.
VALERIE STEELE: All right. Well, here we have almost the very covered up and bejeweled look which, on the one hand is a sort of red carpet trope, but also is something that implies a kind of striptease. First of all, she's wearing a very large and again fur-trimmed coat in this kind of icy blue color, which seems to be her favorite shade. And then that's over a pair of trousers or a jumpsuit. Because it looks like it's bifurcated in the bottom.
It's trousers on the bottom. So presumably, a jumpsuit or pants and a top. The top of which is mostly cut out in front with crisscrossing straps and then double straps around the neck. So again, it has a bondage feel to it. And she's wearing very brilliant diamond-like earrings.
The long hair is swept over on one side. So, it's like a kind of ponytail effect. And again, sort of emphasizing this one long vertical-- and hair is itself a very, very sexual part of the body and one strongly correlated with feminine sexuality too.
And then for the jewelry, which is, again, symbolic not only of things which are precious and rare, but also of sexuality. And we talk about the family jewels. So the glittering part is very fetishistic. And it catches the eye. It's like a lure for the eye.
And speaking of which, her eyes are also enveloped in kohl. So they've got very heavily made up, dark, mysterious cat's eye look. So, it's very much a femme fatale look. Of course, again, the very, very high heeled heel-less shoes that she's balancing on. The kind of shoes that you really have to know how to walk in them or you just can't even walk at all.
I tried on a pair of shoes. And I could wear it for 20 minutes before my-- I was in so much pain in my calves and ankles that I couldn't do it anymore. So it's something that Lady Gaga had practiced wearing, but not very many people in real life have.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. There's an implication of strength there with that shoe.
VALERIE STEELE: Yes. Absolutely.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Looking at these designs, is there anything you would see making an appearance in the real world, something like a fashion event like the Met Gala or something like that?
VALERIE STEELE: Sure. There are elements of all of these, which could potentially be part of it. And you have had on red carpets clothes, for example, where the slit up the front has moved with the person. For example, a couple of Versace dresses, one that Gianni did, the safety pin dress, where every time she moved, then you could see the inside of her thighs. Or another one that Donatella Versace did that Jennifer Lopez wore where again, the movement showed flashes of the skin of the inner thigh.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We, of course, mentioned at the top how sex positivity is very important to a character like Emma Frost. What do you think sex positivity in fashion means?
VALERIE STEELE: Well, that's a very complicated question because no one person can decide dictating this is a sex-positive look. It's always going to be something which is both individually subjective and culturally constructed. So, for example, a few decades ago, there was a woman who was raped. And the rapist was acquitted because his attorney showed the jury the clothes that she had been wearing at that time.
And one of the jurors said she was asking for it. And so, then a law was passed saying that they couldn't show the clothes of the rape victim. So, I think that whenever you have clothes which are body-exposing, you're going to have a wide range of responses to those.
Some people will find it sexy and empowering. And other people will find it disgusting and sluttish. So, you have to-- in real life as opposed to in a fantasy world-- you have to figure out what you can do to actually protect yourself. Because you cannot control what other people are thinking.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Do you find that there's a relationship between that self-sense of sex positivity in fashion and power, and exhibiting power?
VALERIE STEELE: Well, power can mean two things. Power can mean freedom. So if a woman feels empowered, she means she's free to walk at night on the street without being afraid. So power can mean just freedom from your point of view.
It can also mean though, of course, power to oppress other people. And there you have again, not only a differing definition of power, but also the complexity of dealing with other people in the real world, on a street at night, for example. And of course, there's no way that concealing clothes are going to protect you either. It's a myth that the clothes you wear are what's actually going to be attracting. Rape is not so much sexual as it is about power and aggression.
So I think that there's a lot of generational differences and a lot of cultural differences in how sex positivity in dress is perceived in terms of power and freedom. And probably the safest way to express that is with other people who share your view of sex positivity and what power means to them. So that one of the great things about, say, pride parades is that people can wear outrageous clothes and express real feelings of sex positivity and body exposure, but they are protected in a group.
So, I think that those are issues that you have to weigh when you're trying to express yourself. But definitely from a subjective point of view, feeling of sex positivity makes you feel more powerful and more free.
PREETI CHHIBBER: This has been such a thoughtful and interesting conversation about a part of Emma that I think as comic book readers sometimes we just take in and don't necessarily think through. So thank you. Thank you so much for all of your answers and commentary on her and what she wears. Is there anything you'd like to promote or talk to us about that's going on in your work right now?
VALERIE STEELE: I'm working slowly on a book and exhibition about fashion and psychoanalysis. And I did a book years ago “Fetish: Fashion, Sex, & Power”. And so now, I'm looking back again at not only what's sexual about clothes, but also other emotional aspects of it.
What makes people anxious or angry about clothes? And it's looking at it from a variety of different perspectives. Because sometimes people do become really sort of deranged with anger when they see certain kinds of fashion. And just the fact that fashion arouses such intense emotions is something that interests me.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Very cool. Dr. Steele, thank you so much. This was amazing.
VALERIE STEELE: Thank you so much.
ELLIE PYLE: I love how well she was able to pinpoint Emma's character based on just her clothes. That really speaks to the amazing design work done by the artists who have worked on Emma in these issues. But to give us a little bit more context on how Emma's character feeds into these fashion choices, we want to welcome back Robyn.
ROBYN BELT: Hey, Preeti. Hey, Ellie.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Hey, Robyn.
ELLIE PYLE: Robyn!
PREETI CHHIBBER: We are very excited to have you here to talk about Emma Frost, of course. Because in 2021, you wrote an article on marvel.com running through Emma's best looks over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about which looks you chose to highlight and where listeners should head next if they want even more Emma Frost?
ROBYN BELT: Absolutely. And I will start off by saying I could talk about this fashion icon forever and ever and always. But yes, we wrote this article around the first Hellfire Gala where of course, Emma Frost is our mistress of ceremonies. And we'll start off with her very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men Issue 129.
This is from the very first volume of The X-Men. It's our introduction to the Hellfire Club, the White Queen, the inner circle. And Emma makes her debut in this gorgeous crisp white outfit, of course, with a beautiful huge billowing cape, thigh-high boots, corset, the whole nine. She is every ounce of supervillain in this look and a very stylish one, probably one of the most well-dressed baddies in the entire Marvel Universe canon.
ELLIE PYLE: I don't want to say that's a prerequisite for being a supervillain. But it never hurts.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I was just thinking that.
ROBYN BELT: The thigh highs or the--
PREETI CHHIBBER: Just a good fashion sense.
ELLIE PYLE: Just the style. But the thigh highs, we can throw those in there. Yeah. Doctor Doom in thigh highs. He isn’t not wearing those. They're just armor.
PREETI CHHIBBER: He isn’t not wearing thigh highs. [LAUGHS]
ROBYN BELT: But he does have this fur mantle sometimes. And that's something that Emma has also modeled.
ELLIE PYLE: There you go.
ROBYN BELT: So yeah, she incorporated the fur mantle into the look a bit later in the run. And I absolutely love this. It put her on the map as so distinct. And the whole Hellfire Club really had this visual language nailed down from their first appearance. I would argue that part of her appearance is very much about power, control, command. You can't peel your eyes away from her. And that is very much part of her power set.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. We had a fascinating conversation earlier with Dr. Valerie Steele about what we can surmise from Emma based on what she's wearing. Because it fully gets it across.
ROBYN BELT: Yeah. I mean, it's overtly sexy. And that is a mode that she uses to enforce her beliefs and also to command respect and attention. So I think it's a total power move.
ELLIE PYLE: And in a way that rarely feels exploitive. Like it absolutely feels like it is her power move.
ROBYN BELT: Yeah. Fully her agency. This is what she wants to wear, what she presents herself as. And I think at the core of her character is her need, deep-seated need to be in control, always. Our next issue is from New X-Men 2001. This is a fierce look for Emma. And it's also when she starts wearing the X-Men insignia. So she becomes a member of the team.
This 2001 run is an excellent starting point. She's rocking these chunky platform boots with the X insignia. She has a beautiful long trench. She's wearing a pantsuit, very sensible, with some kind of bralette corset atop.
I love this look for her, but I also love this run. It's when she establishes herself as an X-Man, as a key and integral part of the Xavier Institute. And it's also a devastating moment in her life because this is right after the destruction of Genosha, which I think we talked about in the Jean Grey episode, right?
Genosha was this paradisiacal mutant island that was basically wiped out by Cassandra Nova, Professor Xavier's evil telepathic twin that duked it out with him in the womb. It's a story. You just got to read it in full.
But this is a very cool look for Emma. And again, her clothes are her politics. She is proudly wearing the X insignia here because this is a new chapter for her, right? She can't go back to being bad, ever. [LAUGHTER]
Our next issue is another brand new chapter for Emma Frost. We're looking at X-Men Black: Emma Frost issue 1. This is a one shot from 2018. And it's after the Avengers versus X-Men event when Emma and Cyclops were both hosts of the Phoenix Force, part of the Phoenix Five.
And after this whole event, she started to rock an all-black design and had a structured overcoat. She had this power X insignia on the shoulder. This is Emma's dark age. And interestingly enough, she also became the Hellfire's Black King after ousting Sebastian Shaw from the position.
So, from an all-white look to an all-black look, this is Emma at her most daring. And again, the color, her politics, no other character I can think of expresses herself so succinctly through what she's wearing.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. Leah talked to us all about X-Men Black. And I am really excited for people to put that on their reading lists.
ROBYN BELT: This next issue is one of my all-time favorite looks and one of my favorite series. We're looking at House of X issue 3 from 2019. This is that Jonathan Hickman saga House of X, Powers of X that overwrote all of the rules for Marvel's mutants and established the nation of Krakoa, their sovereign mutant state. But at the inception of the Krakoan age, Emma really established herself as a power player.
In issue 3 of House of X, she is wearing this amazing shift dress with a signature fur cape. She's wearing the gold X fasteners again. And she's got this layered blowout. She's got these amazing sunglasses.
And of course, she enters negotiations with humanity with a personal entourage, her Stepford Cuckoos. I love this. And we're going to include other comics in the reading list that speak to this series a bit more and just how influential and pivotal Emma was to the creation of Krakoa.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. I love this look. And in fact, this is a look I have pulled out as reference for artists at times when they're like, “what should Emma wear?” And I'm like, “this vibe.”
ROBYN BELT: It's a little different, right? It's kind of looser fitted. I like it because I think it's almost like her playing ball with humanity. It's a little more assimilative of a look. It's still very daring, very fashion forward. But she's a master diplomat and tactician. And she knows how to dress for the part.
The next look on our list is just as dramatic. It is from Marauders issue 2. This is the 2019 run that was part of the Dawn of X lineup, so after House of X, Powers of X, Krakoa is established. Mutantkind has their own government, governing body. They have a brand new relationship with humanity.
And Emma as one of the co-leaders of the Hellfire Trading Company co-founded with Sebastian Shaw is rocking this incredible feather-plumed look. It is an all-white bodysuit, of course, with one very dramatic sleeve. And it was established that this was designed by Jumbo Carnation. So Jumbo Carnation is a important figure in Emma's life on Krakoa because he is her personal fashion designer. And the fashion designer behind the Hellfire Gala too.
Emma, the diplomat, very sleek with a bit of drama with that beautiful, plumed sleeve. So, we ran through Emma's best looks. But there's a few more comic issues that I think are pivotal to her comic book origins.
So, after going through her best looks, I highly recommend that you read X-Men Origins: Emma Frost. This is a one shot from 2012. And if you want to learn how Emma Frost became White Queen, leader of mutantkind, strategic mastermind, this is it.
We see her childhood. We see her adolescence. We see her develop her mutant powers. We see her first meeting with Sebastian Shaw, which is a troubling dynamic but very important to her story because I think it is the motivation behind her need to assert and influence control. So, I love X-Men Origins.
This issue also talks about why Emma Frost is a teacher and what sparked that journey for her. And yes, so remember, we were talking about House of X and Powers of X. Another issue that we can read outside of House of X issue 3 is issue 5. The reason I chose this issue, the last issue of that House of X run is because Emma basically mind controls the United Nations. She is the reason why Krakoa was established.
There was this landmark vote at the UN and Professor X is like, “wait. All of a sudden, people have turned to our side?” And Emma's like, “oh, yeah, I got you. I showed up and I ‘inspired’ everyone.”
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. But I like that they present that as not without cost.
ROBYN BELT: Big time.
ELLIE PYLE: There definitely consequences to her using her power at that level.
ROBYN BELT: Yeah.
ELLIE PYLE: And sometimes you need somebody to bend the rules a little bit in service of a greater good, let us say, which is one of the things that is so much fun about Emma as a character that she's willing to do that.
ROBYN BELT: Yeah. She'll go where others won't. She definitely lives in the gray. OK. So after going through Emma's best looks, you can check out this Marvel Unlimited reading list, which we will link out to along with this episode, so you can follow along. I recommend reading in chronological order since we're starting from Emma's first appearance through her pivotal history.
But if you want to go headfirst into the new mutant age, start with House of X and Powers of X. That is an intertwined event. And it's actually collected as a reading guide on Marvel Unlimited. So you can read it in order.
And that will get you prepped and ready for the Dawn of X, which kicks off in X-Men 2019. And Emma starting series is Marauders 2019. So I recommend if you want the new mutant age, just start there.
ELLIE PYLE: Thank you so much, Robin, for coming to talk to us about all this today.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Next week on Women of Marvel, get out your umbrellas because the Storm is coming in.
ELLIE PYLE: Preeti that may be the most Marvel thing I have ever heard you say. With puns like that, you're ready to be a comic book editor.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Sign me up, boss. Let's go.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Until then, Women of Marvel is produced by Isabel Robertson, Zachary Goldberg, Ellie Pyle, and Preeti Chhibber. Our senior manager of audio development is Brad Barton. Production manager is Emily Godfrey. And our executive producer is Jill DuBoff.
ELLIE PYLE: Special thanks to our comics correspondent Robyn Belt.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Listen weekly on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Preeti Chhibber.
ELLIE PYLE: I'm Ellie Pyle.
PREETI CHHIBBER: And this is Marvel.
ELLIE PYLE: Your universe.
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