Celeste, Esme, Mindee (Irma), Sophie and Phoebe are daughters of Emma Frost, cloned from Emma's ova cells while she lay in a coma after her Hellions were killed. Aged by a bubble that bent space and time, the Cuckoos joined the X-Men. It was eventually discovered that there were actually a thousand more clones of Emma Frost who had been created by the Weapon Plus program. They were collectively known as "Weapon XIV". These surplus clones were destroyed by the Phoenix Force while it possessed the body of Celeste.
The Stepford Cuckoos were created by Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver. They first appeared in New X-Men #118. Originally Grant Morrison intended the first letter of each of the girls name to spell S-P-I-C-E, but as he never finished naming the girl, the last was named Mindee. This was later corrected by Matt Fraction, who attributed the name Irma to Mindee.
Major Story Arcs
Riot at Xavier's
For further details see: Riot at Xavier's
During the student riot on opening day headed by Quentin Quire - a student, powerful telepath, and the Cuckoos' chief rival who had an unrequited love for Sophie - Emma offhandedly chastised the girls for hiding during the riot rather than assisting to end it, as she felt true heroes should. Inspired by Emma's words, Sophie used Kick to increase the Cuckoos' abilities and used Cerebra to stop Quentin. Although Quentin was defeated, the overexertion and her sister Esme's unknown telepathic suggestion resulted in Sophie's death.
The remaining Cuckoos were later awarded for their bravery and outstanding use of telepathy in line with the ideals of the Institute. After Sophie's untimely death, they began calling themselves the Four-In-One. The Cuckoos blamed Emma Frost for Sophie's death, and separated themselves from her. This hurt her greatly. The Stepford Cuckoos then telepathically communicated with Jean Grey while at a gathering, not only to test the new limits on their reduced powers, but also to tell her about Emma's telepathic affair with Scott. Jean furiously confronted Emma and trampled through Emma's mind, humiliating her. Emma managed to barely hold out against this attack in her diamond form until Scott willingly showed Jean that nothing had happened. Emma was later discovered in her diamond form, shattered in pieces, having been shot by a diamond bullet while in her diamond body, which had one flaw. To help find the murderer, Sage and Bishop came to investigate. They found that Angel Salvador killed Emma, but was being mind-controlled by Esme, who was working for Xorn (Magneto). Deciding to flee, Esme told the other Cuckoos that she desired individuality and that Emma Frost did not care about them, but instead only wanted to make them like her. Bishop and Sage confronted Esme as she was leaving. Esme telepathically defeated both of them and joined Xorn/Magneto.
Xorn, believing himself to be Magneto, began destroying New York, planning to reverse the magnetic poles and leading a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with Esme as a member. Esme believed that Xorn/Magneto reciprocated her feelings of love, but he rejected her. During the chaos, the X-Men joined together to stop him, and Celeste, Phoebe and Mindee used their telepathy to safely guide civilians to safety.
Hurt by his rejection and concerned for Xorn/Magneto's sanity, Esme and the others turned against him. Esme used her telepathy to destroy Xorn's mind. This caused him to lash out and kill her by magnetically ripping out her earrings and forcing them into her brain. Esme died in Emma Frost's arms, with Emma saying, "...you turned into such a wonderful little femme fatale in the end, didn't you? I’m ever so proud of all my girls but you ... I think I’m most especially proud of you, dear." Despite this, Esme's last words to Emma were "...Nothing like you...".
With Esme's death, the girls resolved their differences with Emma and called themselves the Three-in-One.
The three remaining Stepford Cuckoos were members of the Corsairs, until they disbanded following M-Day. The Stepford Cuckoos were instrumental to defeating Blob, whose few vulnerabilities included telepathy. They were also seen going to the dance with Hellion. The three survived the depowering caused by Decimation, and remained as students at the school.
The Phoenix Endsong
For further details see: Phoenix Endsong
Quentin Quire awoke from his psionic stasis when the Phoenix manifested itself on Earth again and revived the recently deceased Jean Grey. Realizing that the Phoenix could revive Sophie, he unearthed her body and confronted the Phoenix, stating that he would give it whatever it wanted. The Phoenix Force revived Sophie, who took one look at Quentin as he professed his love to her, and responded, "Eww." Sophie then reverted to a corpse again, preferring death to being with Quentin. The other Cuckoos assisted the X-Men as they fought the Phoenix Force by using Cerebra to contact all of the X-Men and collecting them to channel positive thoughts and love to Jean Grey. Jean Grey was then able to wrest control from the Phoenix Force and spiritually move onward to the White Hot Room, dying again. Quentin realized that Sophie would never love him and returned to a deep sleep. Meanwhile, a shard of the Phoenix communicated with one of the Cuckoos, who responded "Oh, of course. What took you so long?"
For further detail see: Phoenix Warsong
In the follow-up series, X-Men: Phoenix Warsong, the Cuckoos origin was revealed, and the Cuckoos, having been contacted by the Phoenix, began manifesting new powers such as telekinesis and the ability to generate fire. The three Cuckoos each handled the Phoenix's influence differently. Celeste feared the power of the Phoenix, remembering how it drove Jean Grey insane, while Phoebe embraced its destructive powers. They went to different staff separately to try to work out their feelings and their growing identities, free of their sisters. However, before the X-Men could effectively intervene, the Phoenix took over and the Cuckoos returned to The World, the headquarters of the Weapons Plus program. Meanwhile, Esme and Sophie mysteriously revived, albeit in decaying forms, and spoke of collecting information and realizing their true mission.
The X-Men followed the Cuckoos and learned that as creations of The World, the Cuckoos have implanted nano-technology that caused them to unknowingly transmit any and all information they encountered back to The World. Thus, Esme and Sophie did not actually return to life, but were rather piloted by their nano-technological systems. In addition, Emma learnt that the Cuckoos were truly her daughters, having been cloned from her eggs, which were harvested by Dr. Sublime while she was in a coma following a Sentinel attack years before. Sublime cloned a thousand Cuckoos, in tanks hooked up to machinery. The original five were released to infiltrate the school and transmit information. Their origins were never questioned due to a strong telepathic block placed in everyone's minds which would cause their thoughts to redirect whenever they questioned where the Cuckoos came from.
Dr. Sublime intended the remaining Cuckoos to return and join their "sisters". The true purpose of the Thousand-In-One (called Weapon XIV) was to combine their minds into one immense psychic weapon and telepathically kill every mutant on the planet. By assimilating the original Cuckoos into the one, Sublime would be able to control the power of the Phoenix through his control of the Thousand-In-One. It was then revealed that every Cuckoo could also turn into a diamond form, but unlike Emma, their diamond forms were flawless. He could then use the Thousand to split the Phoenix between all of them and trap it within their diamond bodies, thus giving him further control. Mindee willingly chose to re-assimilate, but Phoebe attempted to fight her way out. The X-Men attempted to destroy Sublime. When the X-Men severed Sublime's control of the Thousand and deactivated all the Cuckoos' nano-technology (including the original three), each individual clone awoke with their own consciousness and reached out to their sisters and mother.
It was revealed that Celeste was chosen as the primary host for the Phoenix because it heard Celeste "call" to her, as Celeste longed to feel, to live, and to burn with life. Emma reached out to a fearful Celeste and told her that her methods of teaching - trying to make the girls cold and emotionless as a means of protecting them - was flawed and that she hoped the girls would live with passion. She then gave Celeste the confidence to do "what was right" with the Phoenix Force and for her sisters.
However, to Emma's horror, the Phoenix used Celeste to destroy every "sister" of the Weapon XIV and the revived Sophie and Esme in order to end their threat against mutant-kind. The only ones spared were Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe. During the aftermath, Celeste begged the Phoenix to leave her as what it had forced her to do was too much. The Phoenix decided it wanted to stay with Celeste, so to stop it, Celeste divided her into three, and each remaining Cuckoo turned her heart into flawless organic diamond. Doing so trapped the Phoenix within them so that it could no longer wreak havoc. Unfortunately, this also caused the Cuckoos to lose their emotions forever. Thus, the Cuckoos - especially Celeste, who longed to truly live, grow, and love - sacrificed their ability to ever do so for the sake of maintaining peace. In truth, the Phoenix they encountered was merely a shard of the true Phoenix, having been shattered into billions of pieces at the end of X-Men: Phoenix Endsong. Despite this, that shard remained divided in three and sealed within Celeste, Mindee, and Phoebe.
These events devastated Emma, whose thousands of cloned daughters had each just begun to reach out for her with their minds when the Phoenix chose to destroy them. Emma then vowed that the Phoenix would have to contend with her if it ever returned, be it cosmic entity or in the form of Jean Grey.
Quest for Magik
For further detail see Quest for Magik
The Cuckoos helped Elixir to master biological manipulation by taking all biological and medical information from Beast's head and duplicating it in Elixir's mind. Along with the other students, they were captured by Belasco and sent to Limbo as he searched for Illyana Rasputin. There they, had helmets forced onto their heads which blocked their telepathy. X-23 and Prodigy managed to remove them, allowing them to help defeat Belasco. In doing so, they learned that Belasco loved Illyana, but was only able to revive her soulless body, Darkchild, her soul lost and unreachable. After the defeat of Belasco by Pixie and Darkchild, the Cuckoos and the other students returned to the Institute, which reverted as if nothing had occurred.
For further detail see: Messiah Complex
The Cuckoos helped the X-Men to find a baby mutant, the first post-Decimation mutant child born. Using the newly fixed Cerebra, the three help them also helped to find the Marauders.
Old Ghosts and Secret Invasion
For further details see: Old Ghost and Secret Invasion
Afterwards, the Cuckoos and their fellow classmates rejoined the X-Men in San Francisco. The girls later helped keep the new X-Force a secret by erasing Elixir's memories at his own request. They remained loyal to Cyclops kept their own silence on the subject of X-Force.
During the Skrull's invasion on Earth, the Cuckoos helped defend San Francisco from the Skrulls. When the Skrulls created a psychic blockade, it rendered every telepath useless and attempting to use their powers hurt them psychically. They soon channeled their powers to Emma Frost with the help of Cerebra, in the hopes that Frost would find and destroy the psychic blockade. Emma's psyche was temporarily disconnected from her body as she fought off the psychic Skrulls. The Cuckoos followed Cyclops' orders and used their telepathy to keep Emma's autonomic functions going, thereby animating her empty body. Emma finally destroyed the blockade, allowing the girls to use their telepathy again.
For further detail see: Nation X
When Scalphunter sent a group of Predator X to Utopia, the X-Men were forced to battle the mutant-eating creatures. The Cuckoos served as a means of telepathic communication for the team, but during the battle, the Phoenix fragments that were contained inside their diamond hearts left them. It mysteriously returned to space, leaving the girls unconscious.
Once the Stepford Cuckoos woke up from their comma, they began scanning for the Phoenix. Since they couldn't find any trace of the psychic entity, they asked Rogue to take some of their power so they could try passive scanning, as Mindee believed that since the Phoenix could bend active psychic probes the same way a black hole does with light. They explained to Rogue that she wouldn't just get the power, she'd get the perspective as well, the perspective of triangulating on peoples mind. When Rogue finished with the Cuckoos powers, they said that the silence of little or no telepathy could be deafening. They also told Scott that they didn't find anything on Cerebra. He then asked her if they had gotten a trace of the Phoenix when it left them, and they replied that it got further and further away without actually moving.
The Stepford Cuckoos are powerful telepaths, who can combine their telepathic abilities to create an even more powerful hive-mind. Their telepathic powers include broadcasting and receiving thoughts, mind control, planting illusions, blasts of pure psionic energy, seeing through another person's eyes, and also are so powerful that they are one of the few people able to operate Cerebra. The Stepford Cuckoos are considered to be near Omega-level mutants, though they have never been classified as such, and since the deaths of their two sisters, have reduced in power.
In X-Men: Phoenix Warsong, they were the avatars of the Phoenix. During possession, they displayed new powers related to the Phoenix, such as Phoenix-granted telekinesis and fire generation. It is unlikely that they still possess these abilities, however, especially after their captured Phoenix fragments left them abruptly during the Nation X storyline. It should be noted that avatars of the Phoenix are normally only Omega-level mutants and that the Phoenix in question was merely a shard of the full Phoenix Force. Regardless of this, they are uniquely powerful telepaths and essential to the X-Men. Often, they maintain telepathic communication for the teams via Cerebra when Emma is occupied with other missions.
The Cuckoos have also inherited the ability to turn into organic diamond like their mother, Emma Frost. However, unlike Emma, their diamond forms are flawless, and cannot be shattered. Despite having this ability, the Cuckoos have never utilized it outside of the events of Warsong, where their hearts were transformed into a perfect diamond prison to capture the errant Phoenix shards. While the extent of their psychic powers while in full diamond form is unknown, they have been shown to telepathically communicate in this state, an ability that Emma does not share.
Alternate versions of the Cuckoos have also demonstrated the power of precognition. This may or may not be true for the Earth-616 Cuckoos.
The Stepford Cuckoos also exist on Earth-15104, known as Here Comes Tomorrow. In this reality, there were only three of them left - Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe - and they called themselves the Three-in-One. They also seem to have a self-destruct sequence within their consciousness, and this is the first reference to the sisters being Weapon XIV. The Three-In-One assisted the new team of X-Men in this apocalyptic future. When the Sublime-controlled Beast reawoke and controls Jean Grey as the Phoenix, they alert the others. Sensing that the crazed Phoenix will burn away their minds, they initiate a self-destruct sequence, committing suicide.
On Earth-58163, House of M, all five Cuckoos were alive and well. Sophie still seemed to be the more dominant Cuckoo and still had the urge to be a heroine. When she found out that David and Nori were going to Japan to find Nori's father (who was labeled as a human terrorist by S.H.I.E.L.D, who were also looking for him, but to put an end to him), Sophie decided that she wanted to help them and left her sisters to go to Japan.
Sophie proved to be quite an asset to the team that went to Japan (which included Prodigy, Surge, Jubilee, Dust, Wallflower and Mercury). Even though most of the human terrorists were shielded from psionic attacks, Sophie still had enough power to manipulate some of their thoughts, and make them do as she commanded. She also helped the New Mutants in a premature face-off with the Hellions, and when Quill attacked Prodigy, she commanded Quill to surrender to her, which he did. She also was able to scan minds, which was how she learned that Wallflower was really working with the people of an experiment known as 'Project Genesis' which was what the New Mutants and the human terrorists wanted to shut down.
Wallflower quickly used her pheromones to make all the parties involved (New Mutants, Hellions and the human terrorists) hate each other so much that they would fight to the death. This brawl was ended by Mercury, who was immune to Wallflower's pheromone manipulation, when she killed Wallflower. Wind Dancer of the Hellions, cleared the pheromones in the air with her wind-manipulating powers, and Sophie, knowing that the pheromones only fueled hatred that was already there, started to use her psionics to strip the hatred so there would be no more fighting. Tragically, Sophie was gunned down by a human terrorist who was immune to her psionic manipulation, as she was trying to make peace, but the gunman refused to be at peace with mutant-kind and wanted to fight them.
On Earth-91172, a world ravaged by the Hulk, three of the Cuckoos are alive. Mindee and Esme are the Two-in-One and Sophie has broken away and developed precognitive abilities. They are members of the Next Wave of Heroes - the last heroes of Earth led by Quentin Quire. Other members are Patriot, Wiccan, Lightspeed and Speedball. Sophie dreams of a team of dimension-hopping heroes who can help them (the Exiles), which leads to Quentin trying to reach them and create a new team, the New Exiles. In this reality, Quentin and Sophie are a couple.
X-Men: The End
In X-Men: The End, a possible alternate future, Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe, call themselves the Spikes. They all have individual appearances, such as curly blonde hair or a shaved head and golden glowing eyes, instead of blue or white as they are usually depicted. The girls assist the X-Men, working with Martha the Mutant Brain to keep the team informed and also assist during the battle against Cassandra Nova.
Wolverine and the X-Men
In Wolverine and the X-Men, the Stepford Cuckoos are members of the Hellfire Club and were used by Emma Frost to release the Phoenix from Jean Grey to prevent the destruction that will be caused by the aforementioned entity. The Cuckoos had difficulty releasing the Phoenix and were consumed by the entity. They went on to cause trouble in the city and Emma, Scott, and Jean had to join forces to fight them. Scott blasted them with his optic blast to capture their attention, then Emma and Jean used their combined powers to trap the Phoenix Force in Emma's diamond form, freeing the Cuckoos. As confessed by Selene to Scott, the mysterious explosion in the Institute that caused the X-Men's temporary disbandment was caused by Emma with the help of the Cuckoos. Wolverine also sensed a vision of Emma and the Cuckoos taking Jean.
X-Men Legends 2 Rise of Apocalypse
The Stepford Cuckoos appear as boss battles in the game X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. The player encounters the Cuckoos in the Madri Temple as they fight alongside Holocaust.