An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel
Art by Simone Bianchi. (Astonishing X-Men #29)
Welcome, gentle reader. Thank you for joining me for another installment of White Queen Wednesday. This week I would like to discuss Emma’s history with our favorite friendly neighborhood weather goddess, Ororo Munroe AKA Storm.
It’s not surprising that Emma and Storm would initially butt heads and then become close friends when you stop to consider how truly similar they are. Similar yet not identical. They both left their families behind at an early age, Storm’s parents died in a tragic building collapse which left her with a claustrophobia that haunts her to this day and Emma having walked out on her father and family to make her own way in the world. They both began with next to nothing, Emma as a runaway rich girl determined to prove herself in the big city and Storm as an orphaned street urchin on the mean streets of Cairo. They both began their careers as self-made women in less than illustrious ways, Emma as an exotic dancer (to put it politely) at the Hellfire Club and Storm as a common thief. They both eventually found their way into positions of power, Emma as a corporate CEO in the world of big business and boardrooms and Storm as a tribal weather goddess. They both translated those talents for leadership into roles as leaders of men and mutants, Emma leading her Hellions and Storm leading the X-Men. And they are both seemingly allergic to clothes, with their original costumes consisting of little more than a few scraps of lacy lingerie in Emma’s case and a daring cutout bathing suit in Storm’s case along with some thigh high hooker boots and a billowing cape for them both; although for very different reasons, Storm normally gets nude to strengthen her connection with nature and for the sense of freedom it confers while Emma shows off to give her a tactical advantage by distracting her opponents and also because she seems to be something of an exhibitionist as well.
Art by Bob McLeod. (Uncanny X-Men #152)
They first met when Emma kidnapped the X-Men, stripped them to their underwear and kept them locked up in cages when she wasn’t telepathically torturing them during the Dark Phoenix Saga. But Emma really left an impression on Storm when she later used a body-swapping gun she devised to trade minds with Storm in order to infiltrate the X-Men and enroll Kitty Pryde in her Massachusetts Academy. In a classic example of Chris Claremont’s frequent kinkiness, Emma seemed to take perverse delight in the violation of Storm’s body and mutant weather manipulating powers, rapturously lighting a cigarette after unleashing a violent tempest over the peaceful Massachusetts countryside. Of course Storm was not pleased with these proceedings and was driven into a murderous rage after she managed to take control of Emma’s telepathic abilities and switch their minds back into their rightful bodies. Ironically enough, it was the X-Men’s resident wild man Wolverine who talked Storm out of killing Emma on the spot for this outrage. Interestingly, when Kitty Pryde then asked Storm if she should call the police, Ororo replied “No, Kitten. We cannot expose the Hellfire Club without exposing ourselves. But neither can they expose us. In our mutual fear of discovery lies mutual… safety. Is that not so, Emma?” to which Emma vowed to keep silent about the X-Men. There’s a certain poignance in their mutual fear of being outed as mutants that gay readers especially might find familiar.
Art by Bob McLeod. (Uncanny X-Men #152)
Much later, Emma invited Storm’s X-Men to the Hellfire Club in order to propose an alliance against their mutual enemy the Upstarts, whose murderous game threatened both organizations. This was not a magnanimous offer, but one born out of cynical self-preservation. However, it’s still interesting to note that it was Emma who initially offered the olive branch. Perhaps the seed of her eventual reformation can be traced back to this moment. But Emma was still not quite ready to join up with the team just yet. Her tactics were still much too brutal for the X-Men as Ororo objected to Emma’s cruel telepathic torture of this Upstart.
Art by Whilce Portacio. (Uncanny X-Men #281)
When next they met in the pages of X-Treme X-Men, Emma was no longer the villainous White Queen of the Hellfire Club. But she was still very much the conniving Bad Girl of the X-Men, and Storm was struggling to find a new purpose for her offshoot X-Treme team of X-Men. Again they clashed spectacularly while Emma was possessed by the evil Bogan, which allowed Ororo to unleash all of her pent up frustrations and remind Emma once more that she could easily kill her if she so chose. While this was by no means my favorite chapter in Emma and Storm’s storied history, I do appreciate the fact that it seems to have proven cathartic for Ororo to get all of those negative feelings out once and for all.
These days Emma and Storm enjoy a supportive friendship in the pages of Warren Ellis’s Astonishing X-Men. It began when Storm complained that she had grown bored with her glamorous new life of “guilt-free shopping and constant lovemaking” as the Queen of Wakanda with her King the Black Panther. Emma was surprised to hear someone else voice those sentiments, with which she obviously agreed, but also suggested that Storm had returned to the team to reconnect with everyone else and not her. Storm corrected her, explaining how much she had missed Emma’s catty remarks while ruling in Wakanda where none dared argue with her, and promised to “drink champagne with you and let you insult me until the sun grows dark”. I admire this new dynamic which is not beholden to ancient animosities but instead acknowledges them and then moves beyond them. Then in a later issue, Storm and Emma found themselves in the presence of some kind of power inhibitor which gradually robbed them both of their mutant abilities. Storm expressed concern for Emma and how she might cope without her telepathic powers and diamond form. Then Emma reassured Ororo when her creeping claustrophobia kicked in. It was all very sweet and I’m so happy these two queens finally get along!
Art by STORM!
Finally, I would like to spotlight this wonderful sketch which STORM was kind enough to draw for me on Free Comic Book Day at the Isotope Comic Book Lounge last year in which Storm and Emma have swapped costumes in a callback to that earlier story where they traded bodies. The caption “Scissor Sisters Forever” is also a reference to the cover of Uncanny X-Men #152. I love this sketch and it hangs in a place of honor on my bedroom wall.
Well that’s it for this week’s White Queen Wednesday! Come back next week when I examine Emma’s complicated relationship with a fiery redhead who Emma crossed long ago but who has since grudgingly forgiven our White Queen.