The Hellfire Club
is a Marvel Comics supervillain team that frequently battle the X-Men.
Although the club appears to merely be an international social club for wealthy elites, its Inner Circle consists of mutants who try to influence world events for the accumulation of power. They dress in 18th century garb and rank themselves in a system of chess pieces (Black Rook, White Queen, etc.).
The Hellfire Club counts among its members many famous and influential members of society. Membership is passed on to descendants, and can be earned through wealth or influence. The club has branches in New York City, Paris, Hong Kong and London. The various branches are overseen by the Lord Imperial.
Many of the wealthiest and most powerful businessmen of the Marvel Universe, including Tony Stark and Norman Osborn have inherited or gained membership to the Hellfire Club. And while many accept the invitation merely for the pleasures that the Club offers, many others seek out to obtain wealth and influence. In fact, the purpose of the Hellfire Club is to obtain and exert power through politics and economic influence instead of outward conquest and domination. Since its foundation, Hellfire Club has been involved in wars and assassinations as long as these helped further the agendas of the Club's most prominent members.
Unbeknownst to most members of the club, the organization is ruled by a Council of the Chosen. This secret group later renamed itself the Inner Circle and assumed the titles of chess pieces. Originally the Inner Circle was composed of normal humans, but was slowly infiltrated and dominated by super-powered mutants of various abilities. Though not always the most powerful of mutantkind, the Inner Circle allowed within its rank only those of exceptional ability. A common theme, though with exceptions, was for the White and Black queens of the organization to possess a psychic ability of some nature; no doubt aiding the organization to further their conspiracies.
The Hellfire Club first came to the attention of the X-Men when agents of the Hellfire Club kidnapped several X-Men and took over the mind of Phoenix. Though the X-Men unravelled the Hellfire Club's scheme, the meddling with Phoenix's mind led her to become Dark Phoenix.
They were eventually defeated and Phoenix returned to her Jean Grey persona. Wolverine inflicted nearly lethal injuries on several of its mercenaries during this time. However, the influential organization continued its activities even after being thwarted by the X-Men. Although the hierarchy of the Inner Circle goes through constant upheaval due to the competing egos and political motives of its members, it continues to exist in the same basic structure today.
The constant intrigue, backstabbing, blackmailing and politicking that plague the Hellfire Club have resulted in many changes of the Inner Circle, as new players seek out membership in order to obtain influence, power and wealth. The following lists the membership of each incarnation of the inner circle and the title they held. Up until his death, Sir Gordon Phillips bore the title of Lord Imperial, and as such he oversaw all branches of the Hellfire Club; He was not a member of any Inner Circle, he was above all of them.
Council of the Chosen
The original Inner Circle prior to Shaw and Frost's takeover of the New York Branch Inner Circle.
Ned Buckman: White King
Paris Seville: White Queen
Sebastian Shaw: Black Bishop
The rest of the membership is never named. Like Paris, they are gunned down by Buckman under Emma Frost's mind control.
Shaw renamed the Council of the Chosen as The Lords Cardinal following his takeover of the NY Branch.
Sebastian Shaw: Black King
Emma Frost: White Queen
Donald Pierce: White King
Phoenix (believed to be Jean Grey): Black Queen
Harry Leland: Black Bishop
Jason Wyngarde: Probational member - presumably intended for White Bishop.
Tessa: Shaw's personal aide.
Following the Dark Phoenix Saga, the title of Black Queen is empty once again. Donald Pierce leaves. New members are:
Selene: Black Queen
Emmanuel DaCosta: White Rook
Friedrich Von Roehm: Black Rook
Originally, Selene planned on creating a new Inner Circle from amongst the Upstarts, yet they turn on her. Believing his father to be dead, Shinobi Shaw briefly takes over the NY Branch of the Club. He offers membership in his Inner Circle to Archangel and later to Storm but both decline.
Shinobi Shaw: Black King
Benedict Kine: White King
Benazir Kaur: Black Queen?
Reeva Payge: White Queen?
Cordelia Frost: Probational member
The titles of Payge and Kaur are not established. When Cordelia Frost applies for membership to the Inner Circle, Shinobi states that the title of White Queen is already taken.
This Inner Circle quickly fades into oblivion and is replaced by Shaw's second Inner Circle.
The Inner Circle of the Club's London branch briefly operates in parallel to Shinobi's Inner Circle. Instead of Black and White, the titles of the London Branch can be Red and Black.
Ms. Steed (AoA's Damask): Black Queen
Margali Szardos: Red Queen
Scribe (possessed by Mountjoy): Red Rook
(Name Unknown) Black King
(Name Unknown) Red King
Brian Braddock: Black Bishop
Brian Braddock's membership is hereditary. He joined the London Inner Circle at Shinobi Shaw's behest, as Shaw wanted to information on the London branch's activities.
Sebastian Shaw retakes control of the Hellfire Club and tries to rebuild the Inner Circle to its former power and glory.
Sebastian Shaw: Black King
Selene: Black Queen
Madelyne Pryor or Queen Jean: Black Rook
Trevor Fitzroy: White Rook
Donald Pierce: Applicant for White Bishop
Tessa: Shaw's personal aide.
Ella: Selene's personal servant
Ms. Hoo: Associate
With Pierce expelled, Madelyne gone and both Shaw and Fitzroy retired, Selene reforms the Inner Circle to mirror her evil nature and attempts to create her own demonic Inner Circle, though her reign is short-lived:
Selene: Black Queen
Blackheart: Black King
Daimon Hellstrom: White King
Sunspot: Black Rook
At the time, Adrienne Frost shows up in Generation X, claiming the White Queen title for herself. However, she was merely using the White Queen moniker. Besides, the nature of her powers did not fit with Selene's new demons, fire and brimstone theme.
Following Selene's defeat, Hellstrom remains as White King. Though he hasn't appeared again as a member, there has been no White King since him.
Sunspot joined the Inner Circle after Selene and Blackheart's defeat. She had always shown an interest in the young DaCosta and blackmails him into taking up his hereditary membership.
In Grant Morrison's New X-Men, it is revealed that Shaw is back in power, though the NY Branch has apparently been turned into a strip club. Deadly Genesis reveals that the strip club was part of the Hellfire Club's properties at least since the days of Emma Frost's youth.
The Fifth Inner Circle
With Sir Gordon Phillips dead thanks to the Legacy Virus, Shaw positions himself as the new Lord Imperial and, as such, he oversees the entire Hellfire Club. While he claims that he's trying to reform the Club, his motive, as always, is not what it seems.
Sebastian Shaw: Lord Imperial
Sunspot: Black King, later Lord Imperial.
Courtney Ross (actually Sat-yr-9): White Queen
Viper: Warrior White Princess
Tessa/Sage: Shaw's personal aide, Sunspot's personal advisor
Selene: Black Queen
Red Lotus: Associate
During a confrontation between Sat-yr-9 and Emma Frost, it is revealed that the latter maintained her membership all the time, though she loses it.
Selene remains trapped beneath the Hellfire Club's HQ and is not actually part of the New Inner Circle, though her title remains untaken. How she managed to present herself before Sunspot remains unexplained and its possibly an error by the writers.
A confrontation with Donald Pierce leaves Shaw gravely injured. Sunspot takes over as Lord Imperial, which was Sage's plan all along. Despite their good intentions, Sat-yr- 9 and Viper have their own less than noble agenda.
Although the Inner Circle is fairly secretive, there are a number of characters that have access to or are part of the circle despite lacking an official title. Mastermind was a probationary member of the club for a long time and often worked closely with the Inner Circle. Tessa, later known as the X-Man Sage, served as an advisor to Shaw and then Sunspot. Angel and Iron Man are hereditary members of the club, although they have rarely visited, and are not aware of the plans of the Inner Circle.
Magneto briefly took the title of Grey King after Sebastian Shaw was voted out of the Inner Circle. It is unclear why Magneto later neglected this position. Possibly his agenda did not mesh with the precepts of the group or he may simply not have valued the organization and its influence enough to continue managing it, as he is vastly powerful and resourceful in his own right.
The club since then was subject to an upstart rising instrumented by Shinobi Shaw and Selene. It appeared that Sebastian Shaw was killed. The new group, named the Upstarts, held a competition to see who could kill the most mutants. Points for each kill were awarded by the Gamesmaster and the group quickly turned against Selene as well.
During this time the Inner Circle of the London branch was working behind the American branch's back and was influencing Parliament and the secret government agency Black Air. Captain Britain (Brian Braddock) held a position for a short term on Shinobi Shaw's advisement to investigate its activities as they had mutual objectives. Excalibur collected evidence of their crimes and the Inner Circle was either arrested or went into hiding.
The Upstart's uprising was quashed by Sebastian Shaw. He reinstated some of the old Inner Circle until he disbanded it due to his own invested interest in business pursuits. The Club still continued loosely partly due to Selene's influence, although it never had the same prestige as the original.
During Grant Morrison's New X-Men run, the New York premises of the Hellfire Club were turned into a high-class strip club and a neutral place in which everyone was welcome, even Sabretooth.
Sebastian Shaw again reformed a variation of the original Inner Circle with a more noble outlook posing as a force for good, which may have been a deception on his part. Tessa/ Sage rejoined the Inner Circle to observe this and to assist Roberto Dacosta's usurping the position of Lord Imperial which Shaw had recently claimed.
The Hellfire Club is now currently under the leadership of Roberto DaCosta as the Lord Imperial aided by Sage. Sat- yr-9 (under the guise of Courtney Ross) is the new White Queen although it is unclear if she will fall in line with the Inner Circle's new position for good under DaCosta's influence. She is aided by her assassin Viper, her "Warrior White Princess". As with many members in the past, both Sat-yr-9 and Viper have their own personal agendas.
To Date Members of the Clubs Inner Circle Include (via our room rp)
Black Queen: Selene
Black King: NightShade
Black Princess: Glimmer
White Prince: Halo
Black Rook: BlackHeart
Black Goblin: Norman Osbourne
At such time other positions are either unknown or unrevealed.
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