While there are a bunch of articles on DC’s 1995 event “Underworld Unleashed”, there is next to nothing that tells the tale of Metropolis’ Underworlders. Those Underworlders’ are part of a creative legacy left behind by the great Jack Kirby. During his short tenures with DC, Kirby created the DNA Project (renamed post-Crisis to Project Cadmus) where scientists experiments on all manner of genetic experimentation, but the Project’s bread and butter has always been cloning. As with any area of leading edge science, the Project Cadmus produced more cloning and genetic mistakes then success. Those failures would come to inhabit the deep tunnels beneath Metropolis, and later launch an attack that would help reduce Metropolis to ruble.
The ‘Battle of Metropolis’ also happens to be a much better tale then “Underworld Unleashed”.
The tale of the Underworlders in the post-Crisis DCU is one of those examples of serial storytelling at it finest. Sometimes some of the best stories and interpretation of concepts in comic books are told over multiple issues and moving from one panel or half page introductions to the main protagonists of a major celebratory story arc. The Underworlder’s first appeared in the post-Crisis world in 1992 when scientists in the real world were revealing that they now possessed the ability to replicate life on a cellular level.
Cloning was a big topic in the news and twenty-four hour television brought different perspectives that would eventually divide along scientific and moral absolutes. The creative team brought together to work on the Superman titles under editor Mike Carlin re-introduced many of Kirby’s creations and concepts, such as: Project Cadmus, Dubbilex, the Newsboys, and the Guardian to the Superman mythos in the years immediately following the Crisis.
Under new management, Director Westfield fires the Project’s chief mad-scientist, Dabney Donovan, and releasing (or exiling, depending on your read of the land) the genetic failures into Metropolis’ underground. In an effort to kill those Underworlders, Westfield had the tunnels flooded. The flood took many, but many survived only to consumed by a plague that was sweeping through their population, making them sick and eventually dying.
Convinced it was Project Cadmus that flooded the tunnels and made them sick, the Underworlder’s begin to arm themselves with the now illegal Toastmaster’s (created by John Henry Irons, Steel). Once armed they launched a massive attack on Project Cadmus and Lex Luthor’s tower before spilling through the streets of Metropolis, and becoming part of Lex’s final attack on “his” city.
This is a story line you need to have in your long-box.