Melissa is a character I created mid-2007 when I was going through a lot and hoped to deal with it by foisting my issues onto a fictional character. I was learning to cope with an undiagnosed mental illness, just left my primary social circle, and in the middle of college away from my family and support network. I frequently described Melissa as crazy because even if I wasn't sure I was crazy (I didn't think I was allowed), at least she could be. This dogged her through the first half of the comic, where having a mental breakdown, being betrayed by your best/only friend, and intentionally acting unstable equated to "crazy," which I guess is an easy way to bundle all those issues together and dismiss them in one go. The farther I got into the story, the less "crazy" seemed like a good descriptor, and I phased out that facet of her personality. I've avoided giving her some kind of mental health diagnosis; I don't think that's a very good idea, considering I'm not qualified to make one.
Visually speaking, I initially wanted her to look like a JRPG character, hence the weird features like the tails on her vest and poorly mended tears in her pants. Both of those were absent from how she looked towards the end of the comic, because they were pointless and unfun to draw and I kept forgetting to draw them. Her hair color is a direct and unapologetic reference to Louie the Rune Soldier, which is still one of my favorite anime, and I wanted to have a character with a nontraditional hair color. The hairstyle she was stuck with for almost the entire comic was a reference to Rei from Breath of Fire III, an RPG Capcom likes to forget about, which I'd been wanting to use on a character for a long time.
Melissa's name, like most of the characters in the comic, has no special meaning. The less thought I put into a character's name, the more I usually like it.
Lt. Fairchild was me working backwards from Melissa's initial design. I doodled both versions of her a lot on my class notes during my last two years of college. Melissa only eventually got a story and plot to be part of once I'd created the other main characters.