Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 5: Emma Frost

Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 5: Emma Frost - The White Queen

And so… at last, we’ve reached my top five favorite female characters in literature. We start right off with one of the  few women in comics that I don’t mind being sexualized. Unlike my Supergirl rant from the last episode of these posts, sexuality really IS very much a part of the character of Emma Frost… and that’s okay. That’s great, actually… because one of the many things I like about Emma, perhaps the MAIN thing I like about Emma, is that she is very much in control of her own sexuality. Many / most of the other female characters feel like they’re being sexual to please male characters, or male readers. Starfire, anyone? Emma, on the other hand, has been rather consistently portrayed as a woman who does whatever the fuck she wants, in every part of her life. She enjoys sex. She enjoys being the one in control. She enjoys sex because it gives her control.

Frankly, I’m a bit amazed that her character has remained so consistent over the years, throughout many different creator changes. There really hasn’t been much in the way of ditzy Emma, or playtoy Emma… it’s been In Control Emma, and that’s what makes her a valid character.

So, I guess what I’m saying, this time I’m more than okay with the “naughty” aspects, because we’re all playing by Emma’s rules.

This is another of the reasons I like Emma, the way she's always been a high class fully cultured personality, but one who enjoys the company of base plebeians, even if she can't help but be a bitch about it.

It's her decadence that makes her seem more human than most characters. She has all the ingredients of falling apart, but it strong enough to keep herself together. That's her heroism. Not everyone is willing to save themselves.

I'm a huge fan of Frank Quitely. And this is easily one of my favorite images of Emma, the White Queen. I enjoy the insolence in her face and attitude, and I like that all her lady parts are quite obviously intact. That slight bulge down below saves her from being the inhuman barbie doll that is usually illustrated.

Some Frank Quitely designs for Emma. I love seeing artists working out how they want to draw characters, what aspects are to be stressed, what traits to heighten, etc.

Hey! Here's the White Queen hanging out with Frank Quitely! It's good to be king.

And here's a Frank Quitely drawing of Alan Moore. Why? Because... ALAN MOORE IS ALWAYS WATCHING YOU.

"Scott Pilgrim" creator Bryan Lee O'Malley capturing the whimsy and sexuality of Emma Frost all in one go.

I like the art of the cover, but not so much the characterization. Emma ISN'T a fainting frail who clasps the big strong man for protection. Emma IS her protection. Ahh... maybe I'll just write it off as her trying to make Scott feel better. The cover works if we imagine Emma saying, "Oh, you're so big and strong! Who's big and strong? You are, Scott! Yes you are!"

Emma Frost cosplay is kind of... interesting. It's a cross of innocence and decadence that stirs the blood, so I've kind of enjoyed looking on the internet for images of the White Queen, and... uh... wait a second. What is... I don't... arggh!

What the hell, internet? WHAT... THE... HELL?

Let's move on from that horror, shall we? Above is the original art for one of THE key issues in the history of X-Men comics. Uncanny X-Men #129 is the first appearance of the White Queen, and the entire Hellfire Club, and... as a bonus... Kitty Pryde as well. Meaning the issue has the first appearance of TWO characters that made my top 20 female characters of all time. Nice.

"Hello" says the White Queen. "I'm sure we're going to be great friends." And the young ballerina put away her reservations and began preparations for attending a very good school in Massachusetts.

A fake cover by artist Tony Fleecs. I would READ THE HELLFIRE OUT OF THIS BOOK. I'm a sucker for a good pulp novel, and a pulp novel with Emma as the femme fatale would be better than chocolate and peanut butter and puppies and kisses.

Problem-solving... FROST STYLE!

Problem-solving... FROST STYLE!

One can't / shouldn't talk about Emma Frost without talking about artist Greg Horn, who has done a wonderful amount of covers for everyone's favorite white queen.

One of my favorite pieces by Greg. Has a lot of life to it, and Emma radiates such fragility, which I find engaging when we KNOW what a powerful woman she is, both physically and mentally. No wonder the woman can turn to diamond. She's unbreakable.

Four more notable covers by Greg Horn. I really love how she seems like she could actually exist... like there's a real person, so you can read her life, get lost in her adventures along with her, rather than just reading a work of fiction.

My favorite part of this image is thinking of Professor X working with the interior desginers for his Westchester mansion, and telling him, "Looking good. Looking good. Now... we're obviously going to need to have our X symbol on freaking everything! Put it on the toilets. The doorknobs. And, oh... the mirrors. The mirrors for sure."

A sultry Emma by the artist Barry Presh / Rubio. Love that expression on her face.

Honestly, it doesn't look like a BAD world.

Emma is... an understanding and accomodating woman. Scott... you're a jerk.

Spidey, this is a very good question. I am engaged in this conversation.

I've worked with Emma Frost a fair amount in my Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man series. Like everyone in the Adventures line, she was an alternative version, and in this case I was dealing with her when she was a teen, during her first foray into wearing a costume, creating a persona called The Silencer mostly so she could have fun... and also maybe steal a kiss from Spider-Man.

Emma, in her "Silencer" guise, was designed by my pal Chris Samnee, who is INCREDIBLE to work with. Speed and genius... one of those artists who instinctively knew what I wanted.

The beginning of a rivalry, and a new style of fashion for young Emma Frost.

Romantic rivalries are super fun to write. Especially when one side is an innocent, and another side is Emma Frost.

Another alternate Emma. Another winner. She's an endlessly interesting character, because she's strong enough to beat everyone else, and almost strong enough to keep herself at bay.

Another thing I like about Emma is that she IS hurt. Like any of us, she has a wealth of mental problems, and she knows about them, and doesn't worry that much about stepping in or on them. She's not afraid to be hurt again. Not afraid to be innocent. Not afraid to live her life. Aware of the worst of life, but... not afraid.

I am unable to do a post that does not contain at least one piece of Darwyn Cooke art.Â

I think this is the single time that Colleen Coover has drawn the White Queen. Abysmally deficient. What is this world coming to?

Emma always knows how to make an entrance. And an exit. And everything in between.

Emma Frost has a message for us all.


#25: Scarlet Witch

#24: Chance Falconer

#23: Vampirella

#22: Tigra

#21: Jean Grey

#20: Kitty Pryde

#19: Janet van Dyne

#18: Mary Jane Watson

#17: Hermione Granger

#16: Death

#15: Modesty Blaise

#14: Black Widow

#13: Sue Storm

#12: Fantomette

#11: Millie (the Model) Collins

#10a: Blonde Phantom

#10b: Betty & Veronica

#10c: Lois Lane

#10: Wonder Woman

#9: Nancy Drew

#8: Burma

#7: P’Gell

#6: Supergirl

#5: Emma Frost


I’ve been thinking about women, lately. Women characters in comics. Women creators in comics. Female characters in literature. And pretty girls riding around on bicycles or walking along the sidewalk, etc, etc. Because of this, I’ve decided to make An Entirely Useless List. Why is it entirely useless? Because it’s my top 25 female characters from comics and literature, and such lists change at whim and at a breakneck pace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify favorites… the term favorite is far too malleable. A list of my best friends from high school, for instance, would not include anyone with whom I’m currently in contact. Times change. Still… I’m making the list. Why? I suppose I just like thinking about women.


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14 Responses to Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 5: Emma Frost

  1. Dean

    To me, that UXM #498 cover looks kind of like Emma is saying “A little more to the left, Scott.”

  2. Paul Tobin

    That could work! Yeah!

  3. Mark

    There’s a scene where she says “I’m a Diamond, I’m my own best friend.” One of my favourites.

  4. Alice

    Emma Frost USED TO BE a great character, but now she’s just another clone of Jean Grey whose only purpose is to please Cyclops and do as he says. She’s lost all of her personality and what made her great. I can’t stand the submissive Emma Frost from nowadays.

  5. Paul Tobin

    Yeah. That’s classic Emma!

  6. Paul Tobin

    Aww damn. Has she gone submissive? That IS bullshit indeed. I haven’t read for a while, so I missed it.

  7. carl

    Emma is a true classic femme fatale. I don’t think she acts submissively to Scott. She may take a less assertive told with cyclops when in battle but that’s because Scott has made the xmen an army as of late. As a character who became a teacher to make the next gen mutants be strong to survive human oppression she know the importance of following orders to survive ; that’s what a good soldier does – follow orders. If you look at her characterization in interactions with other people outside of the battlefield she is far from submissive. Maybe she has grown kinder towards some trammates but they are no longer

  8. carl

    Emma is a true classic femme fatale. I don’t think she acts submissively to Scott. She may take a less assertive told with cyclops when in battle but that’s because Scott has made the xmen an army as of late. As a character who became a teacher to make the next gen mutants be strong to survive human oppression she know the importance of following orders to survive ; that’s what a good soldier does – follow orders. If you look at her characterization in interactions with other people outside of the battlefield she is far from submissive. Maybe she has grown kinder towards some teammatees but they are no longer rivals but friends. With Scott she isn’t submissive but being a good girlfriend and respecting his decisions. She fell in love with Scott because if his decisiveness and ability to take command – shes shouldn’t pitch a fit or argue with him over who he is when that’s who she fell in love with. That’s like ordering a salad and complaining about lettuce. I see their relationship as a lot more mature than Scott&Jean where only one character evolved and that was Jean (before Emma Scott always wad portrayed slightly wimpy). With Emma both have changed. He had become stronger and shes become softer knowing it’s ok to let people in.

  9. Emma Frost is an example of a failure of product packaging. I’ve never had the slightest bit of interest in finding out more about the character or reading any stories featuring her. “She’s smart, a capable leader, a shrewd operator that commands the respect of her peers…and she dresses like a girl in a Benny Hill sketch. Right.”

    It’s a separate thing from not liking the character or the stories she’s been in. Her traditional design sends off so many warning bells of Bad Comics that I’ve never cared to proceed any further. It’s the same reason why I’ve never read any Winter Soldier stories. “He’s the classic superhero’s long-lost partner! Whom everyone thought was dead! Only against all rational logic, he’s alive! And he was brainwashed by the hero’s enemy to become, like, this assassin guy! OH! And he’s a cyborg, too!!!!”

    PASS. It’s a plate of cooked broccoli. Every time I’ve tried that stuff before I’ve hated it. Why in God’s name would I try it again?

    I’m having a hard time thinking of female characters with overtly-sexy costumes whom I’ve found actually interesting. Tigra doesn’t count. She’s covered in thick, heavy fur and the minimalist outfit reads more like a practical choice. Catwoman: the modern take is at least a credibly practical outfit for a street fighter. Classic Wonder Woman? Definite maybe, though when she’s written well the costume reads more like “warrior from another age” than “sexy.” Power Girl comes close. Again, good writing makes the difference. The effect is “She’s a grown woman who can wear whatever she wants, and any man more than 6 months past puberty shouldn’t be focusing on her chest.”

    Sexy is a function of attitude, not wardrobe. Sue Storm would have to be on any Top 25 List of sexiest comic book women and she’s covered from the neck down. Did anybody think the “Invisible 4” bathing suit costume was the Invisible Woman at her sexiest?

    Back to Emma Frost. Has any character ever commented on the fact that (a) Diamonds are routinely broken by elderly jewelers, and (b) Many people in the Marvel Universe are actually quite a bit stronger than an elderly jeweler?

  10. Paul Tobin

    Any comment that references Benny Hill gets extra points! And, I have to admit that I like Emma in spite of her costume. That said, I know a few women who dress like her on occasion, or wear even less, so possibly I’m just more geared towards overlooking her costume entirely and judging her from a pure persona standpoint. When she’s written well, the strength of the character meshes well with how she dresses, in my opinion; the costume is almost a taunt. It’s like when an innocent looking girl turns out to be a badass, except that in Emma’s standpoint it’s when the sex toy turns out to be a strong and interesting character, with an enormous amount of depth. I keep being tempted to add in “when she’s written well,” but I suppose that I could say the same for literally every character in the entirety of comics’ history. Everything works well when written well… and nothing does when it ain’t. And… I totally agree with you about Sue Storm. She’s sexy / interesting as all hell. DEFINITELY one of my favorite characters to write. I would have written her entirely wrong without a few words of guidance from Jeff Parker, and then I saw her in a whole other light… as the natural leader.

    If I ever get a chance to introduce Elderly Jeweler to the Marvel Universe… I’ll definitely give you all the credit. The character possibilities are ENDLESS! And, yeah… Emma would fear him.

  11. I liked your take on Sue Storm, even if it didn’t completely click with me. I’ve always perceived Reed and Sue as an inseparable unit, two people who are so in tune with each other that they essentially co-lead the team and don’t need either one of them to wear a flashing LEADER hat.

    It’s the same reason why I flinch a little when I hear her described as the most powerful member of the team. I think of Reed and Sue as a powerful couple. It seems gauche to list the ways in which Sue’s more useful than Reed, or the situations in which Sue’s most valuable contribution is to make sure the coffeemaker in Reed’s lab is stocked with plenty of K-Cup packs.

    (I imagine a battleboards-style showdown between Reed and Sue starting and ending with either one of them addressing the viewer and saying “Fight? Why on earth would we do that?” and the other saying “Yes, honestly, what do we have left to prove to each other?”)

    Good point on “…when written well.” Still, there’s a way of conveying a character’s attitude so that the clothes are an expression of her personality, instead of the skin being the sum total of her personality.

  12. Paul Tobin

    I definitely see the Fantastic Four as a team. More so than any other team in the history of comics. Each of them have their role to play, and if I was Doctor Doom, I would NEVER think in any other terms than “divide and conquer.”

  13. They’re the opposite of the Avengers, in that regard. I think an Avengers book is strongest when the core is “of the 20 heroes who are on-call, which six are the most effective combination for the team’s current mission or mandate?”…a dynamic flow of personalities. It allows for great lineups where you can have two characters who would never hang out with each other socially and who don’t even particularly respect what the other does, but have to work together towards a common goal.

    But the FF book is always about these four people. The more people in the cast, the bigger the risks.

  14. Pingback: Paul Tobin loves Emma Frost!

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