The Stepford Cuckoos, also known as the Three-in-One or Five-in-One, depending on how many are alive at the time, are a set of Marvel Comics characters created by Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver, first appearing in New X-Men #118 (dated November 2001).
Introduced as a mutant quintet comprised of Celeste, Esme, Irma, Phoebe, and Sophie, as The Cuckoos are genetically-engineered clones of Emma Frost. Conceived as "Weapon XIV", they were an attempt to create a mass-killing weapon against mutantkind, specifically through telepathic assault.
Outside of comics, the Cuckoos have appeared in other media. Most notably, they (specifically Esme, Sophie, and Phoebe) appear on FOX's X-Men drama The Gifted, portrayed there by Skyler Samuels. These versions of the characters are shown to be mutant extremists working with the Hellfire Club, eventually getting caught up with the efforts of the Mutant Underground.
The Stepford Cuckoos appear in:
- New X-Men (2001 — 2004)
- Generation Hope (2011 — 2012)
- All-New X-Men vol. 1 (2012 — 2015)
- Uncanny X-Men vol. 3 (2013 — 2015)
- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The Stepford Cuckoos provide examples of:
- Back from the Dead: Sophie and Esme died relatively early in their history, and have since returned from the dead on a number of occasions, only to die again at the conclusion of the plot. While they were meant to be Killed Off for Real in X-23 #5, it's since been revealed that Sophie and Esme have been resurrected again by Krakoa as part of House of X and Dawn of X.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The triplets: Celeste, Irma, and Phoebe, respectively, spent time as this under Brian Michael Bendis. They're all natural blondes, but later Irma and Phoebe dyed their hair. They eventually reverted back to their original appearances.
- Catholic Schoolgirls Rule: When not in X-Men uniforms, they tend to wear schoolgirl outfits, mostly a plaid skirt, a shirt or blouse with suspenders and boots or leather shoes.
- Cain and Abel: Esme and Sophie, respectively. Sophie was the most unambiguously heroic and powerful of the five, while Esme was the most overtly villainous and cunning. Phoebe, Mindee, and Celeste are more generally in the middle, though leaning towards "good."
- Cloning Blues: Cloned from Emma Frost's ova cells while she lay in a coma after her Hellions were killed. They have often expressed extreme distaste of being cloned from her and have at times tried to establish their own identities through betrayal or just dying their hair different colors.
- Creepy Good: When they're fighting for good, they're firmly this trope. Despite their good intentions, other characters can't help but remark how disturbing and off-putting the Cuckoos can be, especially when they speak in unison.
- Creepy Twins: Or rather, quints, at least initially. There are five of them, they're all identical, and they're creepy enough to have been named for a bunch of famous fictional creepy children.
- Emotionless Girl: A part of their creepiness is their general emotional distance as a gestalt. Their diamond form also dampens their emotions until they're completely gone.
- Fun with Acronyms: Their initials were intended to spell "spice", as an Easter Egg. Unfortunately, this was never made explicit and one sister was left unnamed at the end of New X-Men. The next writer named her "Mindee". Her actual name was later revealed to be "Irma", restoring the acronym.
- Hive Mind: Their whole thing is being an "[X]-in-One", bolstering their mental abilities by pooling their powers.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Esme was killed as a result of her own machinations.
- Manipulative Bitch: Esme was the most manipulative of the sisters. Emma herself even lampshades it when she notes that Esme was the Cuckoo who was most like her. In recent stories, the rest of the Cuckoos seemed to have followed the example of their clone mother and increased their habit of manipulating people for their own agendas.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: It's revealed there's actually thousands of them. The majority of them end up destroyed however, leaving only the ones already introduced.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Which name Irma goes by tends to be rather inconsistent since her proper name was never given when the girls were originally introduced. As a result, sometimes Mindee is treated like a name she gave herself, other times she only ever goes by her proper name. Sometimes Mindee is used as if it were her real name.
- Partial Transformation: Unlike their genetic donor, Emma, they're capable of only partially assuming their diamond form as they wish. They have since overcome this limitation and can fully assume a diamond form.
- Psychic Link: The Cuckoos form a psychic gestalt, linking all their minds together to magnify their powers.
- Psychic Powers: 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. Additionally they have some level of telekinesis though they seldom use it.
- School Uniforms Are the New Black: The Cuckoos often wear various prep school inspired outfits despite the Academy having no official dress code.
- Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: As a part of their purpose as weapons against the Phoenix they can turn their hearts into unfeeling diamond to seal slivers of it away within themselves.
- Shout-Out: Of course a group of creepily affectless, powerful psychic girls are named as The Stepford Wives + The Midwich Cuckoos.
- Status Quo Is God:
- For a time the Cuckoos were reduced from Five to Three-In-One, as Sophie and Esme were both killed as a result of Esme's machinations. Since then, the two sisters have been resurrected a number of times, only to die again as the plot concludes. Sophie and Esme are back again in Dawn of X, but it's anyone's guess whether it will stick this time.
- After a stretch as a Blonde, Brunette, Redhead, Celeste, Irma, and Phoebe reverted to their original blonde appearance.
- Tyke Bomb: Yeah, they're not exactly the most physically intimidating people around but they can still be considered Super Soldier or Living Weapon. They're actually one of the last elements of the Weapon Plus program, the same one that made Capain America and Wolverine.
- Twin Telepathy: The Cuckoos are a telepathic Hive Mind, which amplifies their powers. They feel incomplete whenever one or more of their number is missing, to the point of taking extreme measures (including pulling a Grand Theft Me on X-23's sister) to get one of them back.
- Younger Than They Look: The Cuckoos were artificially aged to their current state.