Friday, June 19, 2009

Emma Frost, looking back...

Emma Frost was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne and as you can see here in this picture by Jim Lee there wasn't a lot to her costume. Emma has already violated both rules #1 and #2 with her thong, and at this point in her career she's very vulnerable to bullets, knives, punches, and other physical violence, provided you could get close to her. It doesn't make a lot of sense considering the male members of the Hellfire Club wore period clothing that looked 18th century while the female members wore 19th century corsets and modern day thongs with riding boots and fur trimmed capes. Maybe all comic book artists should be required to wear thongs if they draw women in them so they can understand, at the least, how distracting or uncomfortable they can be. Nevertheless this look has proved incredibly popular despite it's many inherent flaws and continues to be portrayed in other media. She wore this outfit in the 1990s X-Men cartoon and has been seen in it again as recently as Whedon and Cassaday's run on Astonishing X-Men. There was a comiquette (designed by Adam Hughes) that features her in this outfit. She is of course dropping her cape to reveal her thong, and as if the naked flesh wasn't enough they've used a glossy paint on her skin tone so it looks like she's been oiled. While she may have spent some time as a stripper whilst infiltrating the Hellfire Club she was Chairman of the Board and CEO of Frost International which helped to fund the Hellfire Clubs' activities and you expect me to believe she would dress like this? There must have been some deep seated need for attention she was gratifying in order to justify wearing this that being the CEO of an International Corporation and one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet couldn't provide. What that was, you'll have to ask Claremont and Byrne, because I have no clue. To put it in perspective she is also running a school for "gifted students" (aka mutants) and this is her battle gear? I don't think so. Emma's school was destroyed and the X-Men found her in a coma and through a series of events chronicled in the X-Men TPB "The Phalanx Covenant" she winds up becoming a teacher again, this time with the help of Charles Xavier and X-Man Banshee. Being a good guy caused her to have a costume change which resulted in what is probably my favorite White Queen costume. It consisted of a white corset, white pants, white thigh high boots, white jacket and for teaching purposes a white riding crop to use as a pointer. Finally it seemed she had come to her senses, but after some familial conflicts that led to her murdering one of her pesky sisters and Banshee's uncontrollable drunkenness the school closed down and she moved to Genosha to teach. Unfortunately Genosha was completely destroyed shortly thereafter and Emma was presumed dead, but she had developed a secondary mutation. Now able to transform her body into a diamond hard substance she joins the X-Men in part to replace fallen X-Man Colossus. As an aside using Emma in the X-Men was suggested to writer Grant Morrison on his website and he developed this secondary mutation to give her a place on the team. Of course joining the team meant a new costume and artist Frank Quietly was only to happy to comply. The costume he created brings us to Warrior Woman Rule #3 "Just say no to camel toe" which not even artist Greg Horn could render without still leaving me cringing. There was really no logic to it and I constantly wonder how her breast cups are supposed to stay on. Are they adhered somehow? And if so what happens to the adherent when she changes to diamond form? I just can't imagine fighting would be remotely comfortable in that outfit, and would question any member of my super hero team if they showed up for work dressed like that, ex-stripper or no. Thankfully it didn't last long and she was given pants and a trench coat to at least cover part of her shame, but did nothing to insure her top stayed on. It seems like no matter what Emma wears there must always be a level of erotica but please lets try and avoid the sleaze. It wasn't long before she was a leading X-Man and had successfully stole Jean Grey's husband (?) and someone must have pointed out the impracticality of breast cups or perhaps some sort of divine inspiration and she decided it was time for yet another outfit change. Don't kid yourself and think she's constantly changing outfits because of a limited colour palette, it just seems some superheroes change costumes more than others. While I might question the combo of corset and cape if for no other reason than sheer weight, the look is a definite improvement, seen here in a drawing by Michael Turner. She has pants, which I'm a big fan of and the cape can drape around her giving her slightly intimidating look. On the other hand she is wearing an off the shoulder top and midriff baring corset/cape ensemble and while she can read your mind and turn into a diamond she can't do both at the same time and all it takes is one lucky shot. Throughout most of this period she wears white lipstick, as seen here in a still shot from "Wolverine and the X-Men". White lipstick troubles me. On the one hand it certainly gives her a unique look as one of the few if not only women in comics to make that lipstick choice, and yes she is the White Queen, but white lipstick always calls to my mind images of 1970s hookers. This costume has been tweaked and appears with slight variations in several X-titles as well as the animated television series Wolverine and the X-Men (which is pretty awesome). However as of X-Men #513 all of this is changing as Emma Frost becomes leader of the all new, all deadly Dark X-Men. While the issues have yet to be released I've seen the cover and a sketch by Terry Dodson and I think the outfit looks good. This time she's changed her nom de guerre to the Black Queen and accordingly she's wearing all black. It seems Emma likes to work with a monotone colour palette. Once more we have a cape/top combo only she's added an inverted triangle midriff peekaboo and black shiny pants and seemingly a pair of boots/shoes. It will be interesting to see how this fashion choice affects her as former Black Queens Selene and Emma Steed are both still wandering around Earth 616 and might take issue with it. On the other hand, her Black Queen outfit is better than either of theirs, at least in my humble opinion. Choosing to become the Black Queen will also likely cause all sorts of problems for Emma in her relationship with Scott Summers, but I suspect that's the point. At least this new outfit commands some respect and if she's going to add Leader of the Mutants to her long list of titles she needs to make sure she doesn't look like trash because she has to appeal to more than just the western world. It definitely looks like it'll be a very interesting read, as most of the Dark Reign stuff has been so far. Marvel is doing some really interesting things and I look forward to seeing what will come not only of Emma's fashion choices but her other choices as well. In my next post I'll reveal a couple of my own designs for possible Emma costumes--but I'm still in love with the White Queen. In the meantime, here's a couple more pictures of Emma through the ages...


















(Image credits going clockwise from left to right: Frank Quietly, Phil Jimenez and Terry & Rachel Dodson for the last two--I apologize to inkers and colourists whose names I don't know)

Emma Frost, the White Queen, the Black Queen, the X-Men and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of Marvel Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of Marvel Comics

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