Sunday, May 17, 2015

Force, Fire, and Omega

Art by Chris Marrinan

Organizations with flashy acronyms are a staple of superhero comics and spy movies; acronyms like Subversive Hierarchy for Autocratic Dominance Over the World or, as another example, Secret Echelon for the Rapid Propagation of Ecumenical Nihilism and Terrorism.  They are such a fixture of the superhero genre that they appear even in generic settings.  The 'setting' of Superworld is no exception.

The Free Investigatory Research Enterprise (FIRE) was created by morally rudderless scientists and it controls “cover corporations and professional associations, all of which have many members who have no idea of FIRE's basic motivations.”  According to page 9 of the Gamemasters Book, “They have existed for many years in total secrecy, with no outside awareness of their megalomaniacal plots for world domination in the name of science.”  You know, because science is evil.  In contrast to their well-hidden existence, their private security force wears “a combat uniform of yellow with red trim and a red flame insignia on [the] breast.”  The FIRE motto is, “For every ember dying, two flames will grow – no one extinguishes FIRE.”  This is reminiscent of the oath for Marvel's Hydra, “...cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place...”

The description of the Federal Organization for the Registration and Certification of Exotics (FORCE) includes a political history that was current when the second edition of Superworld was published in 1983, but which now – three decades later – seems quaint.  FORCE began in the Carter administration.  Due to lobbying efforts and Reagan-era budget cuts, FORCE's scope is substantially reduced.  Law-abiding superpeople can register with FORCE and gain access to FBI and police records as well as “a computer message board on which they can receive messages and contact other heroes and agencies.”  Registered people can receive training “on proper police procedure and constitutional rights of citizens.”  Reliable heroes can become Special Deputies with “full federal police powers” and yet can still maintain their secret identities.  Finally, “FORCE...maintains a special team of heroes ready for transportation anywhere in the country as an instant response group” called 'The Flying Squad'.

The Omega Institute “was established by a major philanthropical foundation to scientifically study mutants and accidental mutations...”  The institute 'hires' superheroes and reformed villains; however...
...the institute's security has been compromised several times, and...some scientists engaged in institute research may be spies for other nations or supervillain groups.  Because of this, secret hero identities and special weaknesses may become known to underworld contacts when the institute uncovers such information.

Art by Lisa Free


  1. I wonder if the Omega Institute is related to the Köln Institute.

    1. This is a good question, but I don’t think there is much of a relationship. Köln is more of a superhero support organization whereas the stated purpose of Omega is the study of superpowers. (I get a ‘Project Pegasus’ vibe from Omega.)