For those of us who are a certain age, nothing will ever hold a candle to the technicolor triumph that was '90s classic X-Men: The Animated Series. However, thanks mainly to Bryan Singer, 20th Century Fox has brought those magnificent mutants to our screens across a whole host of cinematic outings. From the good (X2), to the bad (Apocalypse), and even the ugly (Origins) we have "Marvel-ed" at the #XMen, but then Fox decided that storming the box office just wasn't enough and opted to take over our TV boxes as well.
News that the studio was branching into X-Men for the smaller screen surfaced in 2015, and original reports revealed that network bosses had two exciting projects in the pipeline. However, while Fox moved ahead with a show about Xavier's son David Haller in the series Legion, the property focusing on the sadistic Hellfire Club was left languishing in the proverbial fires of development Hellfire. So, just what happened?
The Losers' Club
As long-standing staples of X-Men canon, the Hellfire Club are the villainous antithesis to Xavier's X-Men and have butted heads with our spandexed heroes a lot since their inception in 1980. With notable members including favorite characters like Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, and even the likes of Howard Stark and Norman Osborn, Hellfire could've offered a smörgåsbord of Marvel greats. Heavily influenced by the '60s spy show The Avengers, Hellfire was undoubtedly set to bring a touch of nostalgic class to the X-verse.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly (via LRM), X-Men film producer Lauren Shuler Donner gave a very simple answer to what happened to the idea and what left Hellfire as a burning heap of ash:
“It was too many characters and not enough depth of character.”
In the end, Matt Nix pitched his idea for a troubled family of mutants torn apart, which eventually evolved into this year's #TheGifted. As for Hellfire, it sounds like the club was sent packing back to the obscure depths of Uncanny X-Men and the various other stalled projects. It is ironic that Donner's words echo many people's sentiments toward the Hellfire Club, from what we have seen of them in the past. In a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, the ragtag band of antiheroes usually falls short of giving us anyone we actually care about or can invest in.
Given the frankly abysmal portrayal of Emma Frost that January Jones "gifted" to us in Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class, fans had hoped for something of a reprieve in Hellfire. First Class's pseudo-sequel Days of Future Past killed off the entire Hellfire Club — including Frost — and it seemed that Fox was queuing up a wholly separate version of the team outside the official movie canon. However, it wasn't meant to be, and with both TV and cinema now left without the either iteration of the iconic organization, we aren't "Sebastian Shaw" if we will see the club again for a while.
When you look at how many TV shows Marvel and DC are churning out in their various production houses, it is hard to see why Fox didn't just go with all three ideas and give us The Gifted, Legion, and Hellfire. If you look over at the X-Men movies, Fox is already going bigger (and hopefully better) with three wholly different movies in 2018, so why not follow suit on the small screen? Thankfully, if Hellfire and First Class have taught us anything, it is probably how not to handle the international club of wealthy elites. Who knows what the future holds, and maybe Fox hasn't completely revoked our membership to the Hellfire Club just yet!
Would you like to see a 'Hellfire' adaptation?