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Project Cadmus

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Project Cadmus is one of the most auspicious government-operated research institutions in the world. The Project was an attempt to better society by learning the intricacies of the human genome.

The Project was founded by the creators of the original Newsboy Legion, with a new scientist, Dr. Dabney Donovan, who believed there should be no limits to experimentation of the human gene.  He ultimately created several genetic experiments. The first was the Hairies, a group of mentally enhanced hippies who developed a unique habitat that blended super-science with lush greenery. Another group became known as DNAliens; These were genetically enhanced beings who appeared alien in appearance, but possessed amazing paranormal abilities.

Superboy escapes Cadmus, as recounted in SUPERBOY #0 [1994].

Cadmus’ research continued with little interference from the government. They cloned and recreated the Newsboy Legion, as well as the Golden Age hero, Guardian, whom became their head of security. Cadmus’ crowning achievement was the successful creation of a Superman clone – the entity that later became known as Superboy.

Cadmus has benefited humanity in countless ways – such as saving genetically altered people from dying of the clone plague. But Cadmus is not without its dark corners and secret cabals; A faction of Cadmus stole Superman’s dead body from his tomb to see if they could clone him… a feat that made Superman a bit bitter towards Cadmus in his future dealings.

Cadmus goes public in SUPERBOY #56 [1998].

Formerly a covert, unchecked, nearly out-of-control program that spewed forth monsters, clones, and other such biological troubles, Project Cadmus was later reorganized under Mickey “the Mechanic” Cannon and Colonel Adam Winterbourne. After the reorganization, Cadmus went public and devoted much of its time and resources to help the general public, including discovering the cure for the Hourman virus and recapturing the project’s legacy – genetic monsters and creations of Dabney Donovan that still roamed free. While Cadmus bases were scattered throughout the world, the main facility was located in the hundreds of miles of caverns within the Kirby County mountains north of Metropolis.

Project Cadmus was later shut down by the United States Army, who confiscated all of Cadmus’ equipment and cloning technology.

Serling “Doc Rocket” Roquette and Guardian, from SUPERBOY #58 [1998].


 Cadmus Project Personnel

Dubbilex: Dubbilex the DNAlien – a Cadmus-created paranormal creature incubated from a human DNA strand – was gifted with telepathy and telekineses. Tasked with monitoring Superboy on behalf of Cadmus,  the isolated and introspective Dubbilex learned the benefits of friendship and humanity. Tragically, he was later murdered by the mercenary known as Codename: Assassin.
(see separate entry)

Guardian: Originally a Metropolis beat cop during World War II, Jim Harper became the shield-weilding Guardian to protect the residents of Suicide Slum. After his death, Cadmus used Harper’s cell tissue to produce a series of clones, all who continued his heroic legacy while protecting the security of Cadmus Labs. Guardian later discover he was great-uncle to Roy Harper, aka Arsenal.

Director Paul Westfield: The double-dealing director of Project Cadmus during its darker days, Westfield approved many dubious projects, including the cloning experiment that resulted in the creation of Superboy. It was believed that Westfield’s DNA was used in creating Superboy, but the Teen of Steel’s DNA donor was later revealed to be the nefarious Lex Luthor.

Dabney Donovan: One of the first Cadmus scientists, the deranged Dabney Donovan was responsible for creating countless beasts and monsters that terrorized the tunnels of Cadmus as well as Metropolis. Having cloned himself multiple times, Donovan has been reportedly killed on numerous occasions only to reappear later.

Serling Roquette: The youngest member of the Cadmus team, child prodigy Serling “Doc Rocket” Roquette found a niche for herself in Cadmus’ recombinant genetics labs. The brilliant yet sheltered teenaged scientist nursed an unrequited crush on Guardian, but began to see Superboy in a new light after witnessing his bravery and courage.

Mickey “the Mechanic” Cannon: Active in covert operations since the late 1940s, Mickey Cannon’s reputation as “the fixer” is well founded. Complex problems — mechanical, organizational, or personal — all are worked out with Cannon’s magic touch. The government asked Cannon to head up Cadmus when it went public.

Colonel Adam Winterbourne: Cadmus’ government-appointed military liaison, Winterbourne returned to active duty after being rescued by Superboy from the “Wild Lands,” an island populated with human/animal hybrids. In that capacity, the ever-efficient Winterbourne was responsible for assuring the safety of Cadmus field operations.

Dr. Helen Angelico [Doc Angel]: Formerly romantically linked to Mickey Cannon, Dr. Helen Angelico made a name for herself as the world’s foremost expert in meta-human medicine. Known to her grateful patients as “Doc Angel,” she joined Cadmus at the behest of Mickey Cannon. Doc Angel has an ongoing rivalry with Dr. Sarah Charles of S.T.A.R. Labs.



 Essential Reading

Star-Spangled Comics #7: First appearance of Guardian
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #136 [1971]: First appearance of Dubbilex.
Superman Family #191-193 [1978]: Mal and the Newsboy Legion discover the fate of Guardian
Superman Annual (second series) #2 [1988]: First modern appearance Cadmus and of Dubbilex.
Adventures of Superman #500-501 [1993]: Superboy escapes the confines of Cadmus Labs.
Adventures of Superman #506 [1993]: Superman rescues Superboy from some Cadmus DNAliens and the two, along with the Guardian, decide to return and confront the Cadmus brass to get some answers on Superboy’s origins and powers. Superboy relinquishes the “Superman” trademark back to the Man of Steel. Dubbilex is tasked with monitoring Superboy.
Superboy Annual #2 [1995]: Superboy is summoned back to Cadmus, which has discovered the lab containing the twelve prior failed attempts to clone Superman. Superboy learns that his cell-stock came from the slimy and now deceased former director of Cadmus, Paul Westfield
Superboy #56-57 [1998]: Cadmus is put under new management, led by Mickey “the Mechanic” Cannon, a former Suicide Slum resident with a reputation for being able to “fix” anything. The new head of genetics is Dr. Serling Roquette, a teenaged genius with a crush on the Guardian and Superboy. Dabney Donovan is also brought back, under armed guard. Superboy is also reunited with friend Dubbilex, who is now head of genetics. Cannon makes Cadmus more open to the public.
Superboy #69 [1999]: Superboy visits Hawaii and brings Krypto back to Cadmus
Superboy #70-75 [2000]: The next story arc creates further significant changes for Superboy as the Agenda returns to take over Cadmus (“The Evil Factory” in Superboy #70-74) featuring the return and death of Superboy’s first love, Tana Moon, and the loss of Superboy’s powers. Superboy’s personal upheaval continues over the next several issues, with his powers returning in Superboy #79 as Kesel and Grummett wind down their notable second run on the title.
Superboy #81-82 [2000]: The Titans help contain Roxy, who has been possessed by Pyra. Guardian and Arsenal meet for the first time and learn they are related.
Superboy #100 [2002]: Dubbilex reflects on his time with Superboy.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Special [2008]: Jimmy Olsen, would-be star reporter, doggedly investigates the mystery surrounding Superman’s newest foe, Atlas! But the secrets behind the titan of yore lead Olsen across the country and into great danger as he must survive attacks by none other than Codename: Assassin! True origin of Guardian revealed. Death of Dubbilex.


Superboy breaks from Cadmus in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #500 [1993].


Karl Kesel on Cadmus

Unpublished Karl Kesel Interview
[from Titans Companion 2, by TwoMorrows Publishing – 2008]

TTC: So what brought you back to the series with # 50?

KK: Somewhere in there I’d been talking with Ron Marz on the phone, and Ron had been doing, I think, some really great stuff on Superboy. I was very impressed that he would take teenage problems like acne and give it a super-hero spin. I really was impressed by that, because it seems really obvious, but I never did that with Superboy, and he was doing it really well. But for whatever reason, Ron told me that he was thinking of moving on.

I wasn’t thinking, “Oh! This is my chance to come back on the book!” That really was not my intention, but I’m telling the honest truth when I say I actually woke up one morning, and I said, “My God, I know what I would do if I was back on the book! I would do ‘Jack Kirby does Jonny Quest!'” And as soon as I thought of that, I just could see the book so clearly in my head. Luckily, that transition between Ron and I could be worked out, because we had enough time to work it out, and it was, I think, a very smooth transition.


TTC: When Superboy returned from the Wild Lands, you brought him back to Cadmus, and you brought in different supporting characters. What were your goals there?

KK: Like I said, it was “Jack Kirby does Jonny Quest.” What I wanted was a young kid who traveled the world and met all sorts of weird monsters, and stuff like that. That’s what I wanted. I love Jonny Quest; I love Jack Kirby; let’s put ’em together and see what we get.

TTC: And Cadmus gave Superboy a platform to do that.

KK: Exactly.

Superboy’s Cadmus origin is recounted in SECRET ORIGINS 80-PAGE GIANT #1 [1998].

TTC: I want to run through some of those supporting characters one by one, and get your impressions on them. First of all, Guardian.

KK: I’ve always loved the Guardian, and I’ve always thought that he’s an underused character that has a lot more potential than we’ve seen, so I enjoyed having a chance to play with him, to some degree. I think in many ways he becomes a father figure, [or] an older brother figure, for Superboy. He certainly becomes a mentor character, and I think that’s a very important role in Superboy’s life at this time in the book.

TTC: Mickey Cannon, “The Mechanic.”

KK: Yeah, I always loved him. I just loved his really clunky leg brace. I always liked him because he was gutsy and he wasn’t a wallflower. Really, the thing about Mickey Cannon is he wanted to be a super-hero, but because of his leg, he never would be able to, and I liked that angle to him. I enjoyed that character tremendously, actually.

TTC: Did you see him as the everyman in the group?

KK: I don’t know. Did I? Maybe. It’s hard for me to say. I can’t say that I ever really thought that, but maybe that’s how he came across. I do see him as a very grounded character, and in that way he would be very everyman. He is not the scientific genius, you know what I mean?

TTC: He’s blue-collar.

KK: He’s very blue-collar. There’s the word I’m looking for. He’s definitely blue-collar.

TTC: Dr. Serling Roquette

KK: She’s the wacky, colorful gal, the young genius that gave us some interesting colors to play off of Superboy, and set up a semi little triangle between Superboy and Guardian and her. It just was some interesting paces to put the character through, and she was a fun character. She was a lot of fun.

TTC: Dabney Donovan.

KK: Dabney’s a great character. Dabney’s great because you can’t trust him as far as you can throw him, but sometimes you need him. Obviously, we played a certain Hannibal Lector role with him for a while. I just loved that Dabney was totally, totally irredeemable, and you just never knew what he was going to do next because he was really crazy.

TTC: Colonel Adam Winterbourne.

KK: I will say he was the least developed of the characters, and I never really quite got a grasp on him. I felt we needed a military presence, and quite honestly, I thought it would be nice to have someone who wasn’t lily white in the cast. But I will be the first to admit, I never really got a handle on him, and that’s one of the reasons we wrote him out of the book.

TTC: Did you keep Dubbliex around to establish some continuity between Superboy’s old life and his new one?

KK: Well, yes and no. Certainly, there was that connection, but obviously, Dubbliex has a longer, stronger connection to Cadmus than Superboy does, and Dubbliex is just a great character. He’s great because he’s the Alfred sort of character. He isn’t an action-oriented character, thank God, because he’s so damn powerful Superboy wouldn’t even need to be in his own book if Dubbliex actually was a heroic character. He’s just visually great.


Sources for this entry: DC Universe Role-Playing Games: Sourcebooks and Manuals [ West End Games], DC Secret Files, supplemented by – Special thanks to Scott Redding for the information on this entry!

End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author

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