Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

219 – Brutal Hearts: An Appreciation of Emma Frost (feat. Seanan McGuire, Leah Williams, Tea Fougner, Kel McDonald, and Diana Fox)

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which Jay recruits X-writers Seanan McGuire and Leah Williams, cosplayer Tea Fougner, and innocent bystanders Kel McDonald and Diana Fox, for a night of Emma Frost appreciation.


  • Why Emma Frost is amazing; why we love her; and why you should, too.

NEXT EPISODE: Return of the RCX!



  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz rose elderflower syrup
  • Splash of elixir vegetal
  • Prosecco to fill glass

Top off with:

  • Smoke bitters

No visual companion this week! Go read some comics about Emma Frost!

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  1. I haven’t gotten very far into the podcast yet (although I was able to start it early due to there being no homework this week). But…

    …is this the least WHAT?!!!-worthy WHAT?!!! so far? I mean, will any of your loyal listeners find it shocking that Jay Edidin drinks, or surprising that, when he does, he finds the topic of Emma Frost a enjoyable subject for discussion? 🙂

    1. While I do see the smiley at the end, here, I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation of Miles’ work. That was a good take, even if it was over “how are you going to stay on-task while drinking,” and I’m perfectly fine with convention episodes not having a “What?!”

  2. I always thought that Emma was beyond my league as far as a fan of the X-Men was concerned. She’s great, and those issues of Generation X are still some of my favorite stuff regarding Emma. But she never made sense to me. One day she’d be a villain. One day she’d be a hero. But every day, she was someone that kept you off kilter. I never got a handle on her until I listen to your podcast today.

    I love that she is someone who believes that mutant children should not die and that she would do anything to protect them. I love that everything else is situational. She will be a bad guy. She will be a good guy. As long as mutants are saved, it does not matter what happens to her.

    I think that’s also what makes her so tragic. Her sense of self, her sense of self-preservation, means nothing. She is self-less, but in a way that she will never be happy with what she has or wants.

    I’m going to have to reread those past issues. Thanks for giving me more to think about with Emma.

  3. I would like to discuss the assumption that on a long enough timeline everyone becomes queer. For some reason it just doesn’t sit right with me, especially coming as it did in the middle of a discussion about shedding taboos after you’ve outlived them. I guess it feels like the assumption is that people are only cis-het because they’re afraid of societal norms which, as a cis-het person who has no interest in societal norms, I’m pretty sure isn’t true? Like, the whole idea feels like the inverse of the “this whole queer thing is just a phase” argument, which is also icky and not true.

    Am I reading too much into this? It’s really about the first thing that’s ever been said on this podcast that I wasn’t wholly behind, which makes me feel like I’m getting it wrong.

    1. I think the idea is more that, given a long enough timeline, categories in general seem likely to become less fixed and more fluid.

      1. Actually, this goes to one of my classic soap boxes.

        How mainstream modern Western culture conceives of gender and sexuality is very new. Conceptions of both, and the axioms that exist, change depending on society. For example, any character who is from the medieval era in Europe would have long believed in what we would essentially think of as gender queer people depending on which sperm hit which part of the uterus for conception. (Essentially, more feminine sperm would could impregnate someone and if the baby grew far from the center of the uterus (the masculine area), your kid was part woman, part man). Any man born over 150 years ago likely made out with and jerked off with a guy at some point cause that’s what you did. Same with ladies.

        So not only is it anachronistic for Thor to be cishet (and let’s not even get started on Loki), or Logan to be completely heterosexual, but also the Shi’ar have probably concepts of gender and sexuality (some good, some bad) that we would never have thought of.

        1. I can talk about this endlessly, but I do want to note there are medieval legal documents that support people self-determining their gender and…yeah. Medieval Europe is occasionally more sensible than modern day US…

  4. Hey Miles, I saw you at NYCC but you looked super busy dealing with actual customers, so I chickened out and didn’t say hi, sorry.

    Lots of great tangents this episode. If anyone is interested in seeing the Habsburg inbred ponies, I recommend going to Assateague in Maryland over Chincoteague in Virginia.

    I’m reading Generation X for the first time right now and one thing I noticed is that Emma seems to be drawn much younger than she was previously. I definitely started by thinking of her as a contemporary of Professor Xavier. With Generation X, she’s being played as a contemporary of Banshee, so still older but not quite as old. I feel like, as she became a good guy, they made her younger and younger but it could just be my imagination. I’ve always thought of her as a little older than Scott but at least relatively similar in age.

  5. The question of potential bodies for Emma to inhabit was interesting and I concur that Jean is the one I most want to see. Written well, Emma and Jean have a relationship that is among the most fascinating to me in the X-Men, in part because I think Jean is the closest person Emma has to a true equal. Emma gets everyone’s number at some point, even other telepaths like Xavier, so she’s not easily impressed. But I feel like Jean is the one significant person Emma has never had a solid answer for. Emma’s been in all the X-Men’s heads and knows how they tick, but she doesn’t know what it’s like to be Jean (nor has Emma sincerely connected with Jean at any point where the Phoenix wasn’t looming directly overhead). I feel like the experience could be revelatory for both of them.

    And Jean used Emma’s body once, so there’s that.

  6. Loved the episode! 😀 I definitely need to seek out more Emma stuff.

    (Fun fact, the PTSD Lesbians are exactly the ones I thought of when I started listing my favorite X-characters and realized I had a type…)

  7. I’m always fascinated by Emma disussions, because her first appearance was one of the first comics I ever bought. As such I am probably pre-programmed to view her first and foremost as sadistic and power hungry, given how much she seemed to actively enjoy torturing Ororo, just because she could.

    Her early interactions with her first team of Hellions weren’t particularly encouraging either, as she seemed to view them as her personal weapons-in-training, or possibly new Inner Circle members (Though she muses she will have to have Empath killed if he doesn’t learn to control himself) and it’s not about the students, or the mutant cause, it’s about HER and what SHE wants.

    So, on the one hand, I am extremely pleased that later writers have given her so much more depth and nuance and made her so much more interesting.

    On the other hand, I’m sort of left wondering how many dead bodies have been left in her wake that are conveniently overlooked, by herself and others. Not the Hellions, that was it’s own wretched thing, but casual Hellfire Club employees who stood in her way, or were pawns in her larger plans.

    (I mean I know it’s not an uncommon thing in villain redempetion arcs to underplay the bodycount a bit, but I’m never quite comfortable with it.)

    Fabulous conversation here though!

    1. Yes, I don’t think that Claremont would ever have brought Emma as far down the path that other writers have taken her. With Claremont’s Emma, I think it’s:

      1) Stage 1: Straightforward villain. The Anti-Xavier: same job, same powerset, different dress sense. She falls into that category of Claremont villains where mind control, sometimes with icky dimensions, is in the hands of someone who is directly not a good person. She was, obviously, in the great original of such stories, the Hellfire Club one, and was the plot mechanic used to enable Mastermind to do icky mind control.

      2) Stage 2: I’ve created the Hellions, and they’re not just antagonists, they’re also the rivals as a school story trope. Plus I have this Firestar miniseries to write. So I’ll add a bit of nuance. But only a bit.

      Because Claremont did what he did with Magneto (eventually: his first Magneto is an exuberant celebration of the Silver Age villain), there’s a tendency to think of him as generally being into making his villainous figures more complex. He’s really not; it’s just one thing that he does. He also creates an awful lot of characters who are there for you to hate.

      But I think that makes one of those comics characters where considering her as a single character in the traditional sense is less appropriate than just accepting that she’s been around a while and has been different people in different eras. There are the high body counts and other early “straightforward villain” stuff (it is, for instance, less easy to view Emma as having stronger ethics than other telepaths when it comes to the use of her powers when one considers that she was originally introduced in the context of the Mastermind-and-Jean stuff – it apparently didn’t bother her to facilitate something with… well, you can hardly even call them overtones of nonconsensual sex) early on. But those have to be put in a separate box as “sort of happened, sort of didn’t happen.”

      1. “The Anti-Xavier: same job, same powerset, different dress sense”

        And now you have put an image of Charles Xavier wearing a bustier, fur-trimmed cloak, thigh high boots, a thong and a smile and I will never quite forgive you for that… well, maybe eventually… but it’ll take a while… maybe a week…

        I have a very hard time believing that Emma could be considered to be particuarly ethical about the use of telepathy, even compared to other telepaths like Jean “I’m going to rewrite Kitty Pryde’s parents memories so they send her to our school instead of Emma’s” Grey and Charles “Where do I even START on that one” Xavier.

        Even leaving aside her earlier Hellfire Club era approach to things, post GenX, just as Genosha was destroyed, she was teaching a class of telepaths with the instruction “I propose we spend today’s telepathy period hacking into the minds of our favourite screen idols. A gold star for the first girl who finds out the awful truth about Tom and Nicole”.

        What it remotely ethical about that sort of behaviour?

  8. Oh, and Jay, you mention that you were taking part in a panel on making safe spaces on the internet at the Con. Would you have any resources you could point towards on that topic please?

    As part of the Mod team on another community, we certainly try to maintain that outlook, but some advice from experts certainly couldn’t hurt.

    1. We’re closing invites for a little while to handle some admin catch-up. I’ll post on the blog when they’re reopened!

  9. My choice for who Emma might inhabit would be the Scarlet Witch. They’ve never interacted very much, but Emma was pretty firmly on the “she needs to die” spectrum before House of M. Given that Emma’s primary goal is mutant safety–her defining characteristic, I certainly agree–I think having her in Wanda’s position could lead to a really great story about power, temptation, victims becoming abusers becoming victims, revenge–all the best elements of a really great antagonist story.

    1. Didn’t Emma sort of get that story during her time as one of the Phoenix Five?

      And given that Wanda had to be retconned into being long term mentally unstable to make Avengers Disassembled/House of M/M-Day work, I”m not sure it would bear much of the sort of focus Emma’s outlook and skillset would bring to it.

      1. I admit, I haven’t read AvX. I mostly want to see Emma in Wanda less for Wanda’s focus–these stories are mostly always about the person Emma takes over, which is great for their agency, but I want to see the other side of that. I want to see Emma with all Wanda’s power and the temptation to fix everything.

  10. Is it weird that – aside from Morrison – one of my definiitve Emma’s is Floating Hands? Rudely blunt, but also usually right on calling out other characters’ BS (my Emma is very much a “B*tches get it done.”

    This kind of leads to my one wish if there’s ever a sequel: I’d either like Jay to talk more about – or have another queer dude on – to talk about queer male identification with Emma…because I definitely feel like that’s a thing (since Emma over performs traits not only used against women but also stereotypically against queer men). I think Morrison’s Emma hit at a really key time for me (I came out to myself like, a couple months before New X-Men 114 hit stands) in that regard.

    Anyway, I’ve been flirting with a mutant tattoo for a while (I already have the phoenix force on my chest – for very personal reasons which I can go into if anyone ever wants to know) – I’ve been considering Magneto’s helmet (potentially with “we are the future, not them” around it) or Cyclops doing the x-pose, and now I love the idea of doing something with that quote. If you do end up hiring an artist for that (and wouldn’t be weirded out by me piggy-backing on it), I’d happily venmo to the artist’s fee.

    I’d forgotten if Jay had before addressed his thoughts on how to make Kitty explicitly queer, but I like his reasoning (rather than doing a reheated version of Iceman’s narrative…which I like but I’d be worried about becoming THE way to out characters). And hell yeah to everything he said about how reactions to fictional characters coming out mirror those to real people (my husband got so much BS for having had girlfriends in teh past…).

  11. I had to comment on Jean Grey’s “Eve of Destruction” team of X-Men. The only character who was forced into that team was Frenzy, so I think Jay focused on that because Frenzy is a favorite. Everyone else was recruited in Giant-Size X-Men fashion. Hector Rendoza was saved from an angry mob. Paulie Provenzano joined the team for his own sleazy reasons, despite being homophobic and on the same team as Northstar. Northstar initially refused, but came anyway and stuck around because saving the world from Magneto was too important. Jean wasn’t even expecting Daazler, who showed up because Mojoworld is terrible. Sunpyre forced her way onto the team.

  12. I’m just now getting to this episode, and after listening to it, I totally want to do an Emma Frost cosplay.

    I’m sure being a 13 year old being exposed to Firestar Emma and being a eggy transgender lesbian has nothing to do with this fact whatsoever…

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