In 2009, DC Comics published “New Krypton”, a year-long story-arc through the pages of the Superman titles, Supergirl, and various “New Krypton” themed one-shots. The “New Krypton” Saga tied up a year’s worth of story lines in the various S-themed books culminating in a top level Black Ops conspiracy to kill Superman, and the release of one hundred thousand Kryptonians from Brainiac’s most prized Bottled City: Kandor. The conspiracy takes on greater urgency when the Kandorians relocate to Earth’s Antarctica, and only get worse when a pillar of Kandorian society is killed by US military forces.
What is … the CADMUS Project?
Anyone that collected Superman comics in the late eighties and throughout the nineties will have fond memories of the CADMUS Project; the high tech lab that specialized in cloning technologies in the heart of Metropolis. It is difficult to overstate how central CADMUS was to Superman’s mythology. For anyone jumping in to comic collecting, or just cutting their teeth watching Supergirl on television, a quick primer on the CADMUS Project will help strengthen your geek game.
The CADMUS Project is one of precious few contributions that created for the DCU by King Jack Kirby. Originally know as the DNA Project in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970), the labs brought together the essential elements and supporting cast of characters that would come to define the post-Crisis CADMUS. Kirby brought together the Newsboy Legion (now adult scientists working for the Project), and the original Guardian.
After Crisis on Infinite Earth’s, the DNA Project, now renamed the CADMUS Project, was revived and increasingly took center stage. The new CADMUS Project made its first appearance in Superman Annual #2 (1988). Bringing back the Newsboy Legion, the Guardian, and a cloned alien named Dubbliex, the new Project was lead by it’s initial founders Dabney Donovan, Reginald Augustine, and Thomas Thompkins.
The CADMUS Project always had a dubious reputation. It was an organization run by corporate managers and mad scientists conducting ethically dubious cloning experiments. The good work and genuine roles that were played by the Guardian and Dubbilex to protect the institution helped provide it with some PR cover, although Superman was never very comfortable with the Project being inside his city.
Over the years, the CADMUS Project would produce a slew of cloned beings, many of whom would last no longer then a year and die. These beings would move into the former abandoned aqueduct and the vast tunnel network running under it, and eventually launch an all out war against Metropolis and the CADMUS Project. The labs were also the ones that created the post-Crisis Superboy, that first appeared in The Adventures of Superman #500 (July 1993), and their technologies were used by Lex Luthor to clone the first post-Crisis Bizzaro in the Superman: The Man of Steel reboot. CADMUS’ cloning technology would also be used to create a second body for Lex Luthor, allowing him to pretend to be the original Luthor’s son, Luthor would succumb to the clone-plague that was killing all of CADMUS’ creations and lead to the fantastic destruction depicted in the event storyline from 1994: “The Fall of Metropolis”.
The mad scientist Dabney Donovan would make reappearances throughout the years to plague the organization, and creating a close relationship with the ruler of Apokolips, Darksied.
After the “Fall of Metropolis” CADMUS appears to be destroyed with much of the city, and Donovan killed the Director of the organization, Paul Westfield. Only, it wasn’t destroyed, it merely went underground. It would resurface again, this time as a major player in Superboy #57 (December 1998). “The Fall of Metropolis” was the finale of a lot of serious story plots that unfolded week after week and year after year in the pages of the Superman and S-shield themed books, Superboy and Supergirl being two that were consistently published and interwoven in to a Super-verse. It was also the crescendo for a team of Superman creators that left a defining epoch of tales for fans of Superman to cherish.
Dan Jurgans, Brett Breeding, Stuart Immonim, John Byrne, et al, these creators adopted Kirby’s vision of Superman-tales. It is a mythology deeply rooted in Kirby’s love of science fiction, specifically DNA, or genetic testing, cloning research, and experimentation in the post-Crisis DCU. It was fertile ground and it led to nearly a decade of interesting and creative narrative.
There was little where else to go as well because John Byrne ensured that nearly everything written about Superman in the Silver and Golden Eras was completely erased from continuity as well as modern continuity. There is a sense when I pull my Superman titles from the late Eighties and Ninties that this was a team that understood they were building off of King Kirby, and they were committed to delivering those stories in the realist tradition of the artwork. After the “Fall of Metropolis” the core members of the Superman team began to break away.
The Fall of CADMUS
Whereas the CADMUS Project was a vital and serious part of the Superman mythos, the Project succumbed to the silliness of the late 1990’s. All of a sudden it was being run by a Metropolis mook named Mickey Cannon, and a teenage mad scientist protege, Dr. Serling Roquette, who welcomes Dabney Donovan back into the CADMUS fold.
The organization came under the direction of Lex Luthor’s ex-wife, the Contessa, and run under the direction of something called “the Evil Factory”, itself a branch of the Contessa’s larger criminal enterprise: ‘The Agenda’.
As the late nineties gave way to the early 2000s, the CADMUS Project had run out of steam as a narrative device. It fell out of favor, but not before newly elected President Lex Luthor sets his sights on the organization’s science and technology. Increasingly, Luthor puts political and governmental pressure on the organization, making the Guardian and Mickey Cannon uncomfortable. Following the “Imperiex War”, the entire institution vanishes from the DCU.
Once removed from office, Luthor and several of his associates move into the Project’s abandoned buildings and begin working for their own purposes. Still, only whispers of the organization’s continued work exist. For instance, in the Seven Soldiers maxi-series CADMUS is said to have shut down completely, even going so far as to sell the rights to the Guardian’s name and likeness to a Metropolis newspaper.
In 52, CADMUS is confirmed as being operational, and in fact, provides special medical assistance to a number of Earth’s heroes that had been marooned in space adter the cataclysmic fall out of the final battle against Superboy Prime and Alexander Luther in the pages of Infinite Crisis.
“New Krypton” serves as an important bridge between a Superman mythology that developed understanding the Krypton and everything from it except for Superman and chunks of Kryptonite had been wiped from existence. However, by virtue of Brainiac’s bottle cities two Kryptonian cities, Kandor and Argo City, have been miniturized and ultimately rele, freed and whom promptly migrated to Earth’s Antarctica. From my perspective as a collector “New Krypton” represents the most sustained exploration of Kryptonian culture, science, governece, and militarism. Not to mention a period in which artists rendered beautiful and new takes on Kryptonian biofeatures. It was a resurgence in Silver and Golden Age traditions and narratives, and one that would bid a loving farewell to Kirby’s Superman narrative tradition for the time being.