She first appeared in a comic about twenty years before we found out who she really was, as part of Chris Claremont’s longest-running subplot/hastily cobbled together plot twist. As Claremont would have you think it, Sage was originally ‘Tessa’, Xavier’s main spy within the Hellfire Club. For years she stood alongside Sebastian Shaw, watching carefully over him to make sure he didn’t do anything dangerous like set the Dark Phoenix upon the World oh wait. So after that massive failure which must’ve made her cry nightly for years and years; she eventually left the Hellfire Club and joined up with the X-Men.
According to Claremont. Other people may say that she was a side-character loyal to Shaw who caught Claremont’s gaze one day, at which point he decided to write in a bizarre convoluted backstory for her which meant he could put another lingerie model into the X-Men. That’s what people might say. Eventually changing her name to Sage, she joined the X-Men – specifically the X-Treme X-Men, Claremont’s mirror-book to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. In this scenario, Sage reflects Emma Frost, another former Hellfire Club model who was written into redemption. Sage was notable for never actually going for redemption, however – she frequently ignored orders so she could pursue her own agenda (succeeding almost every time in achieving her goals) and did whatever she wanted to.
At times her dodgy past came back to get her, but she was generally overcome these attacks through her power of ‘willpower’. Which is second only to Domino in terms of plot-handy power bullshit. Sage stuck with the team until the end of the series, and then followed the characters across when Claremont took over Uncanny once more. Claremont then went to New Excalibur, and Sage went too. Then once he moved to New Exiles, so did Sage. If Chris Claremont was the man who made the X-Men, and Sage was his favourite character, then doesn’t that make Sage the greatest female character in X-Men history?
9: Moira MacTaggert
That’s right – in keeping with tradition, Moira is part of the “every British character drinks too much” pantheon. But enough of such talk: let’s discuss why Moira is one of the most important X-Men of all time. For one thing, she’s the most important non-mutant character in their history. Despite never getting powered (and having said that, how great is it that editors refused to ever power her?) she knew how to defend herself and her people, and was ultimately the person to cure the crippling Legacy Virus which had killed hundreds of mutants worldwide.
She also has autonomy. While Xavier was conducting questionable teaching methods on his group of kids, Moira had her own team of young mutants – including Vulcan, Petra, Sway and Darwin. She taught them well, until Xavier grabbed them from her, used his tutoring on them, and they promptly all died on their first mission. Moira rightly kept away from Xavier for long periods of time after that, operating her lab from Scotland. She frequently helped the X-Men, however, and sheltered Excalibur and mutants like Jamie Madrox on several occasions. Although Moira was killed by Mystique and had weird astral ghost sex with Xavier on the way up to Heaven, she recently returned alongside her true love – Banshee.
Wherever those two are right now, there’s a hefty bar tab following.
8: Emma Frost
But she’s an X-Man now, so let’s look at everything she’s done. For one thing, she provided Cyclops with perhaps her first interesting storyline ever during New X-Men. After she was first introduced as a ‘hero’ in the pages of Generation X, her rise to power has been great fun to watch. First as she seduced Banshee and became the leader of the ‘alt’ branch of the Xavier Institute and then as she transferred across to Genosha and became headmistress of the school there. Then that got destroyed so she moved to the main Xavier Institute, kicked Jean and Xavier out, and became Headmistress of that too.
Her ability to climb up the social chain is second only to her ability to make even the most boring characters seem slightly relevant. After joining the X-Men she was forced into appearing alongside characters like Iceman, Havok, Surge and Wither – tasked with the impossible role of making them readable. And thanks to Peter Milligan’s perhaps definitive take on the character, she almost succeeded in doing that. She became the most powerful woman within the X-Men.
Claremont subsequently tried to one-up Frost first with Storm (that failed, as she was shipped off to a marriage no X-Men fans really wanted), then Sage (who was trapped in an alternate dimension) and finally Kitty Pryde (who was thrown into a bullet and fired through the Earth). Such is Emma Frost’s power, she has defeated every X-Woman who has come up against her. Emma has recently become a dependant lovesick bore, but we should never forget the time she forced the X-Men to build tea-making functionality into Cerebro’s programming.
7: Charles Xavier
Despite all the attention, he’s only ever had one child – the villain Legion, who can warp reality. Xavier’s true legacy is the X-Men. From the original Cyclops/Jean/Sage six through to the additions of Storm, Wolverine and Sunfire, Xavier has shown an uncanny ability to pick mutants who are not only smart, interesting and visually fun – but also highly marketable. Look at the mutants Xavier hired for the X-Men, then look at the mutants Cyclops has hired. Which ones are most marketable and most fondly-remembered by fans? Certainly not Hellion!
Xavier’s past has recently been abused by creators, making him into a more conflicted and unsympathetic character. And yet, he is still the character who makes an X-Men book feel ‘authentic’. A new series is never truly accepted by fans until Xavier shows up and gives it his blessing. The role of mentor is a difficult one to keep interesting, but the complex, endlessly interesting Xavier has given writers more material to work with than perhaps any other character. He has a dark side, he has a pacifist agenda, and he has weird eyebrows. Name one other character who can claim those three attributes.
He’s definitely not a villain. Bishop comes from the future, y’all If he says he’s doing something for the benefit of mutantkind, then you best believe him! ‘The Coming Of Bishop’ was the first story to introduce Lucas to the X-Men, and paved the way for several years of time-jumping wiseness.
Bishop is mostly remembered for being the first major black X-Man, carrying a giant gun and equipped with a series of iffy haircuts. He was, essentially, the perfect Rob Liefeld character. But he was more than just a cool visual and no feet – his character was dominated for years by the need to make sure that his timeline never came into existence. He was born into a mutant concentration camp, you see, and jumped back in time to our present so he could make sure that never came to pass. Unlike Cable, who was enigmatic about his timeline, Bishop was pretty open and revealing about everything.
Or so we thought! Eventually it turned out that he’d been waiting all along not to save Xavier – although he did do this during X-Cutioner’s Song, and countless other times – but to wait for the birth of Hope Summers. As soon as he found out she’d been born, he went off to execute her. Apparently she is the one who leads to mutants being persecuted in the future, and her death would save everyone. The X-Men couldn’t understand this, which led to the exit of Bishop from their ranks. But remember – if Bishop is right, then he’s doing more to help the X-Men than they could ever realise. Anyway.
Let’s also not forget that Bishop saved the X-Men many times over, even before he started hunting down redheads without mercy. He showed up during The Twelve, and had his own solo series for a short while. He’s a vision of the X-Men’s future: they may be scared of it, but eventually they’re going to have to face up to what they need to become if they’re going to survive.