“Personally, I go for the punch and cookies.”
“They made us redesign all our villain action figures. Now they have to have suits and ties, and we were forced to rebrand them as 'Responsible Role Models of America'.”
The Society for the Intervention and Rehabilitation of Supervillains, known by its acronym SIRS, is an official organization dedicated to helping recently defeated supervillains become productive members of society, so that their skills of planning, initiative, management, research, and maddeningly brilliant organ playing would not go to waste in prisons.
Since villains are routinely defeated by heroes despite all efforts to the contrary, SIRS quickly grew to an international organization within only a few short years of its founding in 1941. Since its inception, it has rehabilitated many villains where they often find successful work as executives, heads of research, and architects.
Lex Luthor, after a crushing, if a bit routine, defeat by Superman in early 1941, considered his options within prison. He decided that he had "had enough of that nonsense", and figured that many supervillains were sharing his frustration with the super-powered side of the law. With that in mind, he created SIRS, an organization dedicated to "helping villains fulfill their potential through legitimate means." In later interviews, he notes that the acronym for the society was fortuitous, given villains' flair for formality.
The organization was small at first, mostly consisting of a few fellow inmates whose sentences were nearing their end. At this time, Lex Luthor was mysteriously broken out of prison by, some heroes claim, those inmates who had joined the Society.
Lex Luthor disappeared for a few months, only later to reemerge as a business man in charge of newly found LuthorCorp, touting the benefits of the society he had created. It was on July 8th, 1941 when the society was officially founded, to coincide with the opening of the newly constructed SIRS Headquarters. A party was held in the Headquarters, where villains who had evidently been inconspicuously rehabilitated joined together, answered questions for the press, and sipped champagne.
The organization proved immensely popular as a gathering place for like-minded former villains who were having trouble easing back into society. Often times, villains would return several times over several years after slipping into spates of villainy, citing the positive attitude and the freedom from the critical judgment of heroes.
The villain rehabilitation program is divided into three stages, called 'phases' to be more villain friendly. While what transpires during these phases is a closely guarded secret, SIRS has released this information to the public.
Usually, Phase One is the most difficult for villains to complete, due to most villains' immense pride and twisted morality. During this phase, intense discussions are usually held, where a group convinces the villain of his wrong-doing. Naturally, there is some contention over this point.
Phase Two points out the villain's strengths. After admitting his wrong-doing, the group points out what skills he used to excellent effect. Since being defeated and getting caught is a blow to morale, here, the group brings it up, noting how effectively he negotiated money for hostages, or how devious his traps would have been if those heroes weren't so damn lucky.
Many villains who have been through the program several times describe this as their favorite part. They consider it as fitting counterpoint to heroes' "You're scum!", or "Give it up, this is the nth time I've beat you!" speeches. This phase gives villains a chance to feel brilliant, skillful, and cunning.
Once villains know what they did wrong and what they're good at, the group decides placement back into society. Using rehabilitated villain's large contacts in the legitimate world, villains are placed back into jobs where the skills they demonstrated in their crimes will be put to excellent use in legitimate areas.
Villains who complete the program end up in a wide range of careers, but popular areas are executives for large corporations typically run by former villains, or researchers in government laboratories. Villains with a flair for flamboyant bases often become architects, constructing some of the most beautiful and functional buildings in the world. Some villains have become professional organists. Others, with a skill for artful oratory, have entered theatre.
The three phases, in total, usually take three or four months to complete, but it varies from villain to villain. Any shorter or longer would make many law enforcers very, very suspicious.
Of course, an organization run by former villains for more former villains that is shrouded with secrecy and lacks heroic oversight raises suspicion. Furthermore, skeptical heroes question the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program, citing numerous villains who, while apparently rehabilitated, quickly returned to a life of crime and endangering citizens. These 'outbreaks', as heroes term them, have raised serious doubts about the organization's legitimacy and benevolence. Some biased heroes accuse SIRS of merely being a front for a global villainous conspiracy.
General accusations are that the Society quickly reseeds villains into positions of power, where they can almost immediately engage in villainous activities again, circumventing the need to amass fortunes, recruit minions, and establish bases, which is estimated to reduce the times between villains' active crime sprees by 80%. They claim that rehabilitated villains who remain in that state protect their active counterparts by redirecting criminal investigations, establishing laws that limit superheroes' ability to fight crime, and gifting fruits of research to active villains through irresponsible security measures in top secret research labs.
Any attempts by heroes to investigate the Society have been met with legal barriers. Attempts to illegally investigate the Center have met with conviction and imprisonment. Heroes state that this is one of many tactics to kidnap superheroes, noting the growing number of missing heroes, imprisoned or otherwise.
The 1973 SIRS Fracture
In 1973, the organization came under intense scrutiny when many former villains simultaneously returned to villainy. Each villain launched separate attacks on government infrastructure, monuments, and financial centers. While acting individually, the pattern of attack, some heroes have noted, exhibits a concentrated effort by supposedly rehabilitated villains to take the country down and the heroes who protect it. Each villain, who only coincidentally was returning to villainy at the same time as thirty others, was defeated, and heroes lobbied for federal investigations into the Society and demanded it be taken down. It was only through the efforts of rehabilitated villains who held seats in Congress that the Society still remains today.
Damage control became a top priority of the Society, attempting to save face after such an enormous disaster. The Society organized press conference after press conference, answered the tough questions by the news media, and vowed to reform the SIRS phases to make certain that such a failing never occurred again. Said Lex Luthor on the matter:
|I understand that most of the country is deeply disturbed by the past few weeks, and it's easy to see why. There's no putting a pretty face on this issue. We failed, and the country almost crumbled as a result. There's nothing I can say that will regain SIRS lost faith; the only thing now is to go forward, reform the whole system, make sure that this never happens again, and regain our lost faith through our actions, rather than through empty words.|
While heroes remain suspicious of his intent (and they always will), the Society has ostensibly improved their program. The rogue rate of former villains has significantly decreased since the events of 1973, though some heroes claim that villains have gone quiet rather than any improvements in the program.
Superhero Relocation Program
In the early 1990s, the superhero population in New York had risen to extremely high levels, such that crime fighters were left only to solve crimes they committed. In response, SIRS set up the Superhero Relocation Program in 1992 in order to "spread the crime fighting across the nation to cities that need defending and give unproductive heroes the opportunity to do their job."
The plan was acceptable and popular to both the normal populace and superheroes, even though some claimed that SIRS had ulterior motives by removing large amounts of superheroes from the proximity of their headquarters. However, details of the program were leaked to the public and a backlash against the Society soon followed. Candidates for the program objected to the requirement to reveal their secret identities. Superheroes were loathe to let their most valued secret fall into the hands of those who had tried to kill them.
A court order from a villain judge forced many unwilling and unfortunate heroes into the program with disastrous results. Heroes in the program complained that their families were held hostage by villains and claimed foul play by SIRS. Other heroes were "lost during relocation".
Once these stories were publicized in newspapers and on TV stations across the nations, the Superhero Relocation Program dropped the secret identity requirement, and no more heroes went mysteriously missing. After that, the program functioned much like it was pitched, though some heroes complain that fighting crime lost its charm after losing the interesting backdrop of New York City.
While many criticize the organization and attempt to place it in a bad light, the Society is indirectly responsible for much of the world's success. Rehabilitated villains are directly responsible for revolutions in technology, art, economics, and public service.
Indeed, since its foundation in 1941, correlative data has shown the Society to be an immense positive force. Crime has dropped significantly, the standard of living of most of the world has greatly increased, the economy has grown tremendously, unemployment is at a sixty year low, and world conflict is almost a thing of the past.
Perhaps more indicative of the Society's effect is that when a person travels to the busiest section of his or her city, half the buildings were designed by former villains, half the products on the billboards were designed by villains, half the cars driven today were designed by villains, half the songs on the radio were created by villains. Villains, it seems, have created a world half of their design. And they are not likely to be satisfied with only half the world in their hands.