Created by the Weapons Plus super-soldier program, Weapon XIV, and from the harvested eggs of Omega-level telepath Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos are a hive-mind with infinite mental powers. At first a quintet, they attend Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning at the behest of their creator, Dr. John Sublime, and quickly excel in Emma’s telepathy class. They are soon mentored by Emma herself, who remains unaware of their connection.
The Cuckoos are at first subversive, using their powers to block anyone mentally from knowing or questioning their history, and are successful at keeping their origins secret for a time.
From Test Tubes to Teens
When the mutant telepath Emma Frost lay comatose in the X-Men’s mansion’s med-lab after an attack by mutant criminal Trevor Fitzroy’s robotic Sentinels, the subversive sentient bacteria entity John Sublime removed over 1000 oocytes (egg cells) from Emma and began developing them into clones for the Weapon Plus program under the codename “Weapon XIV.”
Born at “The World” complex, a laboratory part of Weapon Plus, the physically teenaged clones inherit Emma’s mental powers and her ability to assume diamond-like form. Sublime also laces their skeletons with nanotechnology that enables storage and processing of massive amounts of data, which they share with each other via neural link. Working collectively, they can potentially process information and telepathic energy at an exponentially greater power level than any other telepath, and Sublime’s ultimate goal is to use them as a genocidal weapon against Earth’s mutants; however, for Sublime or anyone else to fully control this power, several of the clones would need to be individually trained in their abilities to serve as focal points directing the larger group. To this end, Sublime releases five of the clones from their stasis tubes; via nanotech programming, he mentally conditions the five girls to believe they are orphaned mutant quintuplets and he sends them to the X-Men’s Xavier Institute for training.
In accordance with Sublime’s programming, they use their powers to impose mental blocks on the school’s staff and students, preventing anyone from questioning or investigating the girls’ background or physiology. The quintet call themselves Celeste, Esme, Irma, AKA Mindee, Phoebe, and Sophie, and adopt the surname “Cuckoo,” apparently a private joke on Sublime’s part about how his enemies the X-Men would be parenting his creations for him, just as a cuckoo leaves its eggs in other birds’ nests.
Nicknamed the Stepford Cuckoos (presumably inspired by the girls’ coolly aloof and perfectionist nature), the five soon prove to be top students in Emma’s telepathy class, and she becomes their mentor and surrogate mother.
The Stepford Cuckoos start out as the Five-In-One and share a telepathic hive mind allowing them to combine their individual telepathic powers to form a powerful “supermind.” The Cuckoos can read minds and project their thoughts into the minds of others within a roughly 100-mile radius; alter others’ perception of reality (for example, to make them seem invisible); psionically manipulate others’ minds and bodily actions; emit psionic force bolts that cause pain or unconsciousness; shield their minds against telepathic probes; restore mental awareness; and induce temporary mental and/or physical paralysis, loss of specific memories, or total amnesia.
They can telepathically link others, allowing their minds to meld and even retain information, or “download,” during this process. At close range, the Cuckoos can manipulate numerous minds for simple feats; however, they can only fully possess another being’s mind one at a time, and only if they are within that being’s physical presence. Through their mental bond, the Cuckoos communicate almost instantaneously, often speaking in unison or finishing one another’s sentences; this bond weakens with distance. The Cuckoos’ skeletons are laced with nanotechnology featuring a virtual neural net and a huge capacity for data storage. They can share information stored in this manner with each other, and can also combine their mental abilities to process stored data at computer-like speeds.
Like Emma, the Cuckoos can convert their bodies into an organic, diamond-hard form, greatly enhancing their endurance and durability. They can, however, be damaged or even shattered if a projectile strikes a weak point at the proper angle with sufficient force. The transformation to diamond is virtually instantaneous, and they can remain in that form for an undetermined period until they consciously will themselves back to normal; however, they revert back to their normal forms if rendered unconscious. While in diamond form, their bodies possess light reflecting and transmitting properties, known as adamantine luster, which suppresses their telepathic abilities. Their hearts remain in a diamond state permanently, which, perhaps psychosomatically, inhibits their ability to feel emotions.
When the Cuckoos are empowered by the cosmic Phoenix Force, it manifests around them as a bird-shaped corona of cosmic flame and enhances their existing psionic abilities. They also have telekinetic control of matter at the molecular level, can manipulate atomic structures on a universal scale, generate and control any form of energy in virtually any amount, absorb energy from sources as great as a supernova explosion, and project psyches (including their own) into the time stream or create space warps, though this was limited by their force of will and breadth of imagination.
Sophie is originally the most dominant mind of her sisters. She works with her sisters to stop class rival Quentin Quire, AKA Kid Omega, who starts a riot at the school over Xavier’s policies (Quire had previously shown interest in Sophie but she rejected him). Sophie then leads her sisters to use Cerebra and a drug called Kick to amplify their powers against Quire. They were able to defeat him with a telepathic shock wave but at the cost of Sophie’s life. Quire, awakened by the Phoenix Force, resurrects Sophie and she rejects him once more before she dies again.
Sophie is later resurrected with her sister Esme into bodies that are unable to contain their psyches and as their bodies die, Esme kills Sophie again. However they both survive and inhabit Laura Kinney, AKA X-23 (later Wolverine), and her sister Gabrielle, AKA Scout. The Cuckoos band together with Sophie/Laura and defeat Esme. Sophie sends Esme far away, but they are reunited, alive and well on the Mutant island nation-state of Krakoa and act as psychic emissaries.
Out of the Stepford sisters, Phoebe is more aggressive in nature and takes a more dominant role after Sophie dies. When she gains the power of the Phoenix and is integrated into Sublime’s weapon, she likes the power it gives her. But when it’s taken away, she retaliates by punching the power grid and it explodes. Later, Phoebe resists the mental manipulations of Kenji Uedo, AKA Zero, who rebels against Hope Summers, while her sisters are not equipped to do so. As such, Phoebe defends Hope which pits her against her sisters.
She is later divided again from her sisters after the X-Men split into two groups, one led by James Howlett/Logan, AKA Wolverine, and the other by Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops. Phoebe wants to join Wolverine in Westchester while Mindee’s wants to remain in Utopia with Cyclops’ team. Ultimately, the final vote falls to Celeste who opts to stay on Utopia.
Irma, AKA Mindee
Despite the hive-mind, Mindee has independent thoughts and feelings from her sisters. For example, Mindee eventually changes her appearance to look different than her sisters and has relationships outside of their hive-mind. She dates Germaine Caruso, AKA Hothead, but their time together is short-lived as he dies protecting her during an anti-mutant riot. She later flirts with Jay Guthrie, AKA Icarus, and shows an interest in Christopher Muse. Mindee also plays the piano.
While the Cuckoos maintain a hive-mind, Celeste is timid and more affected by things than the others. She becomes more and more powerful and good at asserting her power after Esme dies. It’s her final vote that keeps them on Utopia with Cyclops’ team despite her sisters having conflicting desires to join Wolverine’s team of X-Men. Also, when they face a bind, Celeste is the one that reaches out telepathically to Emma for assistance and speaks for her sisters, though becomes angry if Emma does not respond. Though her sisters believe that Celeste thinks she’s better than them.
Celeste is also strong enough to resist outside influences. When the Phoenix Force and Sublime fight over control of the sisters, Celeste resists their respective influences so that the X-Men can intervene. Celeste is then able to separate herself from their control and her sisters’ hive-mind and split the Phoenix into her and her sisters’ hearts. She makes their hearts permanently diamond so they’ll never feel anything, trapping the Phoenix for good.
Celeste has been attracted to and shown romantic interest in Agent Jacob “Jake” Oh and Julian Keller, AKA Hellion.
Esme is the most conniving of the bunch and not interested in being molded by Emma. She grows jealous of her sister Sophie’s influence over their hive-mind and secretly controls her sisters. Esme crushes on Kato Anishiwa, AKA Stuff, another student at the Xavier Institute, but he turns out to be a scout for the Shi’ar Empire’s Imperial Guard, sent to spy on the school by the Mummudrai and powerful telepath Cassandra Nova. At one point, Esme starts using the drug Kick and gets her fellow classmate and one of the mutant brothers known as Xorn addicted.
During the fight against Quire who attacks the school, unbeknownst to the others, she kills her sister Sophie, breaking their telepathic link. She then influences her remaining sisters to blame Frost for Sophie’s death and to leave the Institute to restore their abilities. Succeeding, the Cuckoos return to Xavier’s within a week. Esme later telepathically forces fellow student Barnell Bohusk, AKA Beak, to shatter Frost’s diamond form.
Esme flees the Institute after Jean Grey, AKA Phoenix, restores Frost, and joins the Magneto imposter Xorn’s Brotherhood of Mutants. When Xorn destroys the Institute and attacks Manhattan, Esme betrays him and is killed for it.
She and Sophie are later resurrected into bodies that are not able to contain their individual consciousness, and as their bodies die, Esme kills Sophie again. Sophie’s psyche persists and inhabits Laura Kinney’s mind, as Esme’s consciousness is transferred through mechanical means into Laura’s sister Gabby. Esme is ultimately defeated by the Cuckoos, but is later seen alive and well on the Mutant island nation-state of Krakoa.
The Stepford Cuckoos go up against a fellow student, Quentin Quire, AKA Kid Omega, who attacks the school. As such, they lose one of their sisters, Sophie, in the battle.
Esme crushes on Kato Anishiwa, AKA Stuff, but being a part of the Shi’ar’s police, the Imperial Guard, he also attacks the school. Esme herself becomes a foe to her sisters when she kills Sophie and joins the Brotherhood of Mutants with Xorn, who held philosophical beliefs more in line with Max Eisenhardt, AKA Magneto. Though Esme betrays Xorn and he kills her. The remaining sisters, Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe help the X-Men defeat Xorn.
The Stepford Cuckoos are genetic daughters to Emma Frost but were artificially created by Dr. John Sublime for a weapons program and who tries to control them for his own ends. They have over a thousand other cloned “sisters” that they typically do not have contact with. While Emma becomes their mentor, she does not discover their origins for some time.
The Cuckoos attend the Xavier Institute as students to train and hone their telepathic abilities under Emma, whom they often call “mum”. They hide their origin from everyone, placing mental blocks on any who seeks to know more about them. They become a part of the X-Men and later, one of the sisters, Esme, joins the Brotherhood of Mutants and goes up against her sisters.
A Genetic Sequence of Events
When the mutant-organ-harvesting U-Men attacked the Institute, the Cuckoos and other students helped the X-Men defeat them. Later, Esme romanced fellow student Kato until he revealed himself to be Stuff, a spy for the alien Shi’ar Empire’s Imperial Guard who had been dispatched to Earth by X-Men founder Charles Xavier’s malevolent twin, Cassandra Nova, to eradicate mutantkind. The Cuckoos ultimately defeated Stuff, and also helped Frost create a trap for Nova.
While her sisters were happy to be molded in Emma’s image, Esme was not, and she secretly usurped control of the Cuckoos’ group mind. Later, class rival Quentin Quire became infatuated with Sophie, and after he rebelled and fomented a riot at the Institute, the Cuckoos opposed him. Taking the power-boosting drug “Kick” and further amplifying their power by having Sophie use the X-Men’s mutant-locating device Cerebra, they defeated him; however, while under Cerebra’s power, Esme mentally created a brain aneurysm in Sophie’s brain, instantly killing her and breaking the Cuckoos’ telepathic link.
The sisters became the Four-In-One. Influenced by Esme, the Cuckoos blamed Frost for their sister’s death and left the Institute to seek Madame LaFarge’s tutelage in Switzerland to restore their telepathic talents; quickly succeeding, the Cuckoos returned to Xavier’s within a week. Esme later telepathically forced fellow student Beak to shatter Frost’s diamond form. When Jean Grey’s manipulation of the cosmic Phoenix Force restored Frost, Esme fled the Institute, joining the Magneto imposter Xorn’s Brotherhood of Mutants. After Xorn destroyed the Institute and attacked Manhattan, Esme turned against him, but was killed for her betrayal. The remaining sisters Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe became the Three-In-One and helped the X-Men defeat the imposter.
The remaining Cuckoos resolved their differences with Emma and were placed Cyclops’s Corsairs squad of Xavier students. Mindee helped the blind X-Man Remy LeBeau, AKA Gambit, defeat a re-formed Brotherhood of Mutants, and the Cuckoos were instrumental in Fred Dukes, AKA the Blob’s defeat by the Institute’s students.
When the mad Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, altered reality to create a mutant-dominated global “House of M” regime, the Cuckoos were briefly restored as a quintet and part of the New Mutant Leadership Program at the United Nations; however, when the Scarlet Witch restored conventional reality and many mutants lost their powers in the process on “M-Day,” the Cuckoos were reduced to triplets again, though they retained their powers.
Later, when the cosmic Phoenix Force returned to Earth, its presence influenced Quentin, whose physical form had discorporated, to reconstitute himself. Creating a new body, he sought out his beloved Sophie, exhumed her corpse and located the Phoenix Force to help resurrect her. The Cuckoos and X-Men trapped the Phoenix Force, but Quentin clashed with them and freed the Phoenix Force, and it granted Quentin’s wish, resurrecting Sophie; however, upon seeing Quentin, a disgusted Sophie chose instead to return to death.
The Phoenix Force departed after merging with Jean Grey to search for its missing pieces, one of which later visited the Cuckoos, and a heartbroken Quentin returned to his disembodied state. Possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and unconsciously acting on long-dormant aspects of their nanotech programming, the Cuckoos returned to the World complex, the laboratory created by Weapon Plus. An artificial intelligence version of the long-gone Sublime showed the triplets their thousands of fellow clones still in stasis and that Frost’s ova was the genetic template used to clone the Cuckoos. Sublime also revealed the Cuckoos’ ultimate purpose as an anti-mutant doomsday weapon, and encouraged them to take their place as directors of the Weapon XIV clone collective.
Apparently more influenced by her nanotech programming than the others, Mindee proved most receptive to Sublime’s influence, while a power-hungry Phoebe wanted to give herself over completely to the Phoenix Force regardless of its destructive potential. Trying to foil both of their would-be controllers, Celeste resisted both the artificial Sublime’s influence and the Phoenix Force with the aid of Emma Frost, the other X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jake Oh, in whom Celeste had taken a shy romantic interest. When Sublime’s machinery forced the triplets into linking with his Weapon XIV collective and briefly harnessed the Phoenix Force through the clones’ collective power as well, Celeste resisted her programming long enough for the X-Men and Oh to disconnect the triplets from the collective. A fully Phoenix-possessed Celeste then incinerated all the other clones except for Mindee and Phoebe, the genocidal Weapon XIV’s destruction having been the Phoenix Force’s ultimate goal during these events all along; however, before the Phoenix Force could take any further action, the triplets neutralized it by converting their hearts to diamond permanently and trapping a third of the Phoenix Force within each heart, though this apparently stripped the triplets of their capacity for emotion.
During the “civil war” over federal superhuman registration, the Cuckoos briefly were considered as potential recruits for the Fifty State Initiative. Afterwards, the Cuckoos telepathically downloaded their teacher Henry “Hank” McCoy, AKA Beast’s medical knowledge into their classmate Josh Foley, AKA Elixir’s brain, allowing him to maximize the use of his healing power’s utilization.
Later, the Cuckoos helped fellow students the New X-Men battle Belasco when he teleported the Institute into limbo and assisted Excalibur, New X-Men, X-Men and X-Factor in battling the vengeful Hulk, who had returned from being exiled in space by Charles Xavier’s fellow Illuminati. Fellow Xavier student David Alleyne, AKA Prodigy, once able to absorb knowledge and skills from those around him, had been depowered on M-Day; the Cuckoos telepathically restored his mental connections to all the information he had previously absorbed.
After the birth of the first mutant baby since M-Day, the X-Men, the super-assassins from the Marauders and the anti-mutant Purifiers all sought its whereabouts. The Cuckoos, while unable to locate the baby, helped locate the Marauder who took her; however, the resulting war over the infant’s fate left the Institute destroyed and Xavier seemingly dead. Cyclops disbanded the X-Men and sent all the students home. When the team was reinstated in San Francisco at Graymalkin Industries, the Cuckoos moved there to serve as support staff. During a subsequent Skrull invasion, the Cuckoos helped the X-Men oppose the aliens in San Francisco, using Cerebra to channel their telepathic powers into Emma Frost to help destroy a psi-blockade that prevented all telepaths from using their powers beyond a 10-foot radius.
When the ghostlike Madelyne Pryor, AKA Red Queen, and her Sisterhood (Rita Wayward, AKA Spiral, Regan Wyngarde, AKA Lady Mastermind, Martinique Wyngarde, AKA Mastermind, Yuriko Oyama, AKA Lady Deathstrike, and interdimensional pirate Chimera) revived the dead body of Kwannon, AKA Revanche, using Betsy Braddock, AKA Psylocke’s life essence, it created a massive psychic backlash for the Cuckoos and other mutant psychics; however, Pryor’s ultimate goal was to use Jean Grey’s corpse to house her consciousness. The Cuckoos helped the X-Men trick Pryor into possessing a different corpse, resulting in Pryor’s dispersal and the Sisterhood’s retreat.
While the X-Men were headquartered on Utopia, the Cuckoos used the mutant detector Cerebra, and provide telepathic communication to the team. They go up against mutant eating creatures, Lobe, Scalphunter and Predator Xs, though during this battle, the Phoenix fragments in their hearts returned to space through unknown means and left the girls in a coma. When they came to, they let mutant Anna Marie, AKA Rogue, absorb and borrow their telepathy to search for the Phoenix to no avail. Losing their Phoenix powers, they fell into a depression.
When the X-Men split over philosophical differences, Wolverine leads a team in Westchester while Cyclops’ heads a crew on Utopia. The three sisters have conflicting desires but the final vote falls to Celeste who chose to stay on Utopia with Cyclops’ team due to Quentin Quire’s presence in Westchester.
The Phoenix Force returned to Earth leading to a war between the X-Men and Avengers. The Cuckoos were detained in the Avengers Compound and after the war was over, they attended the new Jean Grey School, though reluctantly. There, they were in charge of Cerebra as well but did not like the school. They jumped at the opportunity to join Cyclops’s mutant rebellion along with Warren Worthington III, AKA Angel. The tried to help Emma defeat Xorn (Jean Grey) but they were defeated, and eventually Cyclops disbanded the school, which left them to form their own group. They battled an angry mutant named Blake who was suffering from her mutant-hating father, and Celeste was injured but healed by Christopher Muse, AKA Triage. The battle put Fabio Medina, AKA Goldballs (later Egg) in the public eye and as such someone attacked him. The Cuckoos came to his defense and nearly kill the attacker. They eventually returned to the Jean Grey School as they realized the world was not ready for them nor they for it. Later, Mindee dyed her hair black to gain some individuality from her sisters and with the same intention, Phoebe dyed her hair red.
When the sisters felt lonesome for Esme and Sophie, they mentally manipulated a genetic regeneration specialist, Dr. Helen Marks, who worked at the Facility that created Wolverine’s clone Laura Kinney, AKA X-23. Marks created clone bodies from the fallen siblings and the Cuckoos pulled their sisters’ consciousness from the afterlife but the bodies rejected their psychic imprints and deteriorated quickly. The dying Esme manipulated her sisters again and murdered Sophie. Her plan was to plant her consciousness into Gabby, an X-23 program subject and sister to Laura. With the help of the Cuckoos and Marks’ mental transference device, Esme successfully transferred her consciousness to Gabby. Though Laura tried to intercept the experiment, she ended up with Sophie inside her mind. The soon got Mindee on their side. A battle between Sophie/Laura and Esme/Gabby raged on where Phoebe was stabbed with Gabby’s bone claw, while Mindee used Cerebro to amplify her sisters’ powers (Phoebe and Celeste). The Cuckoos then expelled Esme and Sophie out of Gabby and Laura. Sophie sent Esme’s psyche far away and the remaining Cuckoos spent time recovering in Paris.
When the island and nation-state of Krakoa was created by Professor Xavier and his allies, the Cuckoos joined as temporary staff and psychic emissaries at Krakoa’s Jerusalem Habitat. Resurrected by the Five, Sophie and Esme welcomed United Nations ambassadors from China and gave them the grand tour of Krakoa’s ecosystem, and the Stepford Cuckoos were reunited once more.