I expect this one to prompt some spit-takes and head scratching.
Character: Stacy X (Miranda Leevald)
Creators: Joe Casey and Tom Raney
First appearance: Uncanny X-Men #399
First encounter: Uncanny X-Men #399. I had read some Wizard special touting the new era for the X-books, with Morrison on New X-Men and Casey on Uncanny. Well, I didn't know either of those guys from a hole in the wall (I've really only started keeping track of creators in the years since I started this blog). What I did know was Morrison made a team of Xavier (don't care), Jean Grey (don't care), Emma Frost (don't care), the Beast (eh), and Cyclops (HATEHATEHATEHATEHATE). Joe Casey had Nightcrawler (they both were using Wolverine, so that's a wash). It was no contest, so I was in pretty much from the start. No regrets.
Definitive writer: Joe Casey. Not exactly a lot of choices.
Definitive artist: It probably ought to be Sean Phillips, but I'm not actually a fan of his art. I suppose it works for the stuff he does with Brubaker, but it isn't really what I like in a superhero book. So, Aaron Lopresti. *Abe Simpson voice* Now there's an art style you set your watch to!
Favorite moment or story: There was that time she got captured by the Church of Humanity and they tortured her for secrets on the X-Men and she gave them nothing (Uncanny 400). Sure, she hadn't been around long enough to know anything, but she fed them a lot of bull until she got tired of that and told them to take a long walk off a short pier. She took out the Blob once (Uncanny 406). We didn't get to see it, but Paige Guthrie and Jubilee both seemed impressed (of course, Chuck Austen came along and made Paige and Stacy rivals for Archangel's affections, 'cause girls always got to fight heatedly over guys, right?). There was the time she helped essentially the Marvel universe's version of Chef Boy-R-Dee, who was a mutant. He had the double whammy of crappy powers: He aged fast, and he was immune to drugs. His crappy cheap pasta was one of her few happy childhood memories, so she agreed to get his body to release so many endorphins or something that he'd be in a blissful haze (or a coma) until he died (Uncanny 408 and 409).
Why I like the character: OK, bit of real talk first. When Brian Cronin first did this "Top 100 Marvel & DC Characters) thing in 2007, he wrapped it up with a master list of every character that received even on point (meaning even a single 10th place vote). I thought he would do that again in 2011, and I wanted to see if I was literally the only person who would put Stacy on their list. Turns out he didn't release the master list this time. I'm not sure if I would have put her on the list without that impulse, but I figure I liked the character enough to care to try it, which has to mean something.
As to the character herself, I have a soft spot for the, I guess, bad girls with a good heart. Tough, cynical, slow to trust but steadfast once you earn their trust, had a shitty childhood, that kind of thing. Faith Lehane in the Buffyverse would be one example, Ryoko in the Tenchi Muyo series would be another. Draw your own psychoanalytic conclusions if you wish. So Stacy had that going for her.
One thing you see looking at the state of mutants in the Marvel U. is that they're OK with regular humans, as long as those humans can exploit them. Nightcrawler is fine as long as they can gawk at him from their seats under the big top. Wolverine is fine as long as he kills the people they tell him to. But there's a limit to how much control the characters have over how they're being used, how far beyond that they're able to safely go (answer: not very far). With Morrison pushing the idea of mutant culture, and their impending ascendancy to the top, I think Casey started exploring how the dynamic might change, and the inevitable pushback from the existing entrenched power structure. You still see some of the old stuff - Chamber dates a pop star who is using him for publicity, then dumps him when there starts to be too much backlash to her dating such an obvious mutant. But now Archangel is important because Warren Worthington is rich, but they can't simply hunt him down and take his money. They have to invite him to economic summits and listen to his suggestions, which are going to involve how they treat mutants and work with them going forward.
Notice all the characters I mentioned above were part of Casey's X-team, as was Stacy. It's never explained who established the "X-Ranch", the mutant brothel she was working at. We learned of it because Worthington found out his company was investing in it, so it's a possibility mutants set it up entirely on their own. Find mutants with powers that can produce euphoric responses, set up a base, attract wealthy customers looking for something new, illicit, expensive. It's exploitation, but if Stacy and the other girls formed it themselves, are they being exploited, or doing the exploiting? It's absolutely a guy's idealized perspective on the sex trade (though there was apparently no actual sex, just powers simulating it), but it allows for a different backstory and perspective for Stacy. She had seen up close how non-mutants regard mutants with curiosity, envy, desire, fear, and she'd seen how it could be used to her advantage. She doesn't have a lot of formal education, but she's learned more through experience than even her teammates seem to realize.
Which was another reason I liked Stacy, because she took a lot of crap from some of her teammates. Not Nightcrawler so much, because Kurt's a generally cool guy (even if Casey wrote a traumatized Kurt), and Chamber wasn't entirely on board with being there, so he wasn't going to judge her for similar doubts. But Archangel and Iceman, especially. It was kind of interesting to see a couple of the original X-Men, ostensibly so dedicated to fighting prejudice against people on basis of genetics, be so prejudiced towards someone on the basis of their career choice. Not everyone can be born into money, Warren. There's a point where Warren comments that people are just scared, and Stacy says they should be, mutants are the next step, they're on the way up, non-mutants are on the way out. Warren says something to the effect that he wouldn't have expected someone in her line of work to have opinions on such things. I don't know if Casey was making a statement about the arrogance of dudes with privilege, or if it was just meant to portray Archangel as a douche, but it certainly put me in Stacy's corner. Logan tried to give her a speech about if you want people to stop treating you like a whore, don't be a whore (his words). Except he uses himself as an example, how he was afraid to let the X-Men see him as anything other than a killer. But Logan, it's not like you stopped killing people, you just did it where the rest of the team couldn't see it. But they don't boot you out, and they're still your friends (some of them, he butted heads with Warren a lot), so what's the problem if Stacy earns some dough for herself? She's supposed to remain dependent on Xavier's charity?
I can't decide if Casey was arguing Stacy didn't have to apologize or feel shame for what she did to make a living, or if he agreed with all the dudes. Certainly if the X-Men wanted her to stop having clients, they shouldn't keep encouraging her to use her talents to their benefit in the same way. Like when they have her seduce the Vanisher (who has decided to become a big drug lord selling Mutant Growth Hormone, a mutant trying to get in on the exploitation), and basically pheromone him into a stupor for 2 weeks. But Stacy went along with it, so maybe that's her way of saying she's not ashamed of how she used her powers, and yeah, she'll use them to help the team stop this guy before anyone else dies using his product.
Another thing, perhaps owing to her life experiences - or maybe the fact that the second the X-Men entered her life, it was destroyed by bigots - was Stacy never bought into the X-Men thing. She went on missions, helped them out, but I don't think she cared about the idea of mutants and humans coexisting peacefully. Watching humans kill her friends with flamethrowers may have something to do with that. She signed originally to track down the Church of Humanity guys responsible for that, and then hung around because she liked some of the team (she almost had a sibling thing going with Chamber, the two that aren't true believers banding together), or because she didn't have anyplace else to go. She gets involved because she likes a fight, or someone attacked her first (the Blob), or she wants to help someone she cares about. The reasons are personal, rather than any larger ideals.
Doesn't make her a bad person, just makes her reasons for getting involved, and her goals in doing so, are possibly different from the X-Men. She's not looking to betray them - I figure if the team got involved in something she disagreed with, she just wouldn't go, rather than go and hamstring them - but she doesn't let big picture stuff run her life. She can be aware of it, but the impression we get is her life since her powers emerged has been her trying to survive and find a situation that isn't terrible, which tends to focus one on immediate matters. Like Faith, who didn't worry whether the source of her Slayer powers was dark, or if it was wrong to steal weapons when you need them, because she was on her own (or had crappy enough parents she'd be better off alone) and needed to focus on, you know, not dying. She might have thought about it, just as Stacy contemplated mutants being the future, but it wasn't immediately relevant to the problems at hand, so it was on the backburner. Buffy - with the comfy home, gainfully employed mom, support network of a half-dozen friends - she could spare the time to navel gaze over that stuff, and then cast judgments on the other person for not being so obviously concerned with it. Just like Archangel, I guess, casting aspersions from a comfy seat in the balcony.
One last thing. Chuck Austen couldn't wait to get Stacy out of Uncanny X-Men once he started writing it, and as we all know, Austen wouldn't know a good character, idea, or story if it walked up and kicked him in teeth. So his desire to get rid of her is a sure sign of her positive qualities. You can't argue that, it's science.