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The Hellfire Club counts among its members the most famous, wealthy and influential members of society. Membership is passed on to descendants, and can also be earned through wealth or influence. While many accept the invitation simply for the pleasures that the Club offers, others seek 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, the Hellfire Club has been involved in wars and assassinations to further the agendas of the Club's most powerful members. The Club has branches in New York City, Paris, Hong Kong and London; the various branches are all overseen by the Lord Imperial (a position long-held by Sir Gordon Phillips). Unbeknownst to most members however is the Club's Inner Circle. Originally known as the Council of the Chosen, this secret group formed around Edward "Ned" Buckman, each member assuming the titles of the major chess pieces. As White King, Buckman financed Stephen Lang's revived Sentinel program with the assistance of probationary member Sebastian Shaw. Shaw, now Black Bishop, began securing allies within the Club, meeting Harry Leland, Emma Frost and Donald Pierce, as well as his loyal assistant, Tessa. Buckman, no longer having a use for the dangerously-ambitious Shaw, ordered a Sentinel attack on Shaw and his allies, resulting in the death of Shaw's lover, Lourdes Chantel. That night, Shaw and Emma Frost purged the entire Council of the Chosen, remaking it as the Lords Cardinal and appointing themselves Black King and White Queen. Shaw's Inner Circle soon turned their attentions to the X-Men, kidnapping several of their number. Mastermind, as Jason Wyngarde, was made a probationary member pending his subversion of the X-Men's Jean Grey into the Hellfire Club's Black Queen, who they believed to be the descendant of Lady Grey. Jean Grey, however, was in fact the Phoenix, a god-like cosmic entity who became unstable after Mastermind's psychic manipulations, turning into the Dark Phoenix. The Hellfire Club had failed, and the X-Men had taken their toll: Phoenix had driven Mastermind insane, and Wolverine had crippled Donald Pierce and nearly killed Harry Leland and several guards. Despite such setbacks, the Inner Circle continued to pursue its agenda. Shaw, using his connections to Senator Robert Kelly to initiate Project: Wideawake, secured a government contract for Shaw Industries to manufacture Sentinels, profiting from the state of fear concerning the "mutant menace" despite secretly being a mutant himself. Frost meanwhile ran the Massachusetts Academy, a prestigious preparatory school affiliated with the Hellfire Club that secretly trained a team of young mutants, known as the Hellions. The Inner Circle also underwent some personal changes, notably the expulsion of Donald Pierce for conspiring against his mutant colleagues and the admittance of Selene as Black Queen. 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. 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. Sebastian Shaw again reformed a variation of the original Inner Circle with a nobler 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 da Costa's usurping the position of Lord Imperial which Shaw had recently claimed. The Hellfire Club is now currently under the leadership of Roberto da Costa 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 da Costa'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. Following M-Day, Sunspot remains as Lord Imperial, while Shaw has resumed his activities, though under Sunspot's close watch. While Sat-Yr-9's whereabouts remain unknown, Viper returned to Madripoor to oversee HYDRA operations and Sage became a member of the short-lived New Excalibur, only to end up as one of the Exiles. When the X-Men and many other powered or depowered mutants came to San Francisco, an offshoot of Club, known as the Hellfire Cult, begins attacking mutants and "species traitors". Officially, their leadership appears to be Empath, but the real power behind the scenes is the mysterious Red Queen. Soon, their activities drew the attention of the X-Men
The Lord Imperial is not a member of the Inner Circle or any particular branch of the Hellfire Club; the Lord Imperial is the true leader of the Hellfire Club and oversees all branches of it. As such, only a few individuals have held the title. Sir Gordon Phillips, while unknown at the time, ruled as Lord Imperial for most of the club's modern history, holding the position from before the club's introduction until his death from the Legacy Virus.
- Sir Gordon Phillips
- Elias Bogan
- Sebastian Shaw
- Roberto da Costa (Sunspot)
Council of the Chosen
- White King: Edward "Ned" Buckman
- White Queen: Paris Seville
- Black Bishop: Sebastian Shaw
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
- Black King: Sebastian Shaw
- Black Queen: Dark Phoenix (later replaced by Selene)
- Black Bishop: Harry Leland
- Black Rook: Jason Wyngarde
- White Rook: Emmanuelle da Costa
- White King: Donald Pierce
- White Queen: Emma Frost
- Tessa, Assistant to Shaw & Spy for Xavier
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 traumatised 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 overythrow 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
- Black King: Shinobi Shaw
- White King: Benedict Kine
- Black Queen: Benazir Kaur
- White Queen: Reeva Payge
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 superhumans 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
- Black King: Sebastian Shaw
- Black Queen: Selene
- Black Rook: Madelyne Pryor
- 'White Rook: 'Trevor Fitzroy
- Unknown Position: Donald Pierce
- Unknown Position: Holocaust
- Tessa, Shaw's assistant & Spy for Xavier
Selene's Inner Circle
- Black Queen: Selene
- Black King: Blackheart
- Black Rook: Sunspot
- White King: Daimon Hellstrom
Selene approached demon Blackheart the Black King position and half-demon 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
- Black King: Sebastian Shaw
- Black Queen: Negasonic Teenage Warhead
- White King: Cassandra Nova
- White Queen: Perfection
- Emma Frost
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.
The Sixth Inner Circle
Sebastian Shaw's Inner Circle has recently reemerged. Wolverine came into confrontation with a new "Inner Circle", under the false impression (by Sebastian Shaw and "Miss Sinister") that they are behind the kidnapping of his son, Daken.
- Black King: Sebastian Shaw
- Black Queen: Miss Sinister
- Mr. Castlemere
- Turner Scholl
- Modeled after the real life British Hellfire Club
- Many names of club members are homages to the British Avengers television series