Where's the money coming from?
These words, uttered by Superman in The Doomsday Sanction, succinctly gets to the heart of the Cadmus conspiracy: who's pulling the strings? The person (or persons) bankrolling Cadmus must wield a considerable amount of capital to finance so large an organization, as well as the intelligence and cunning to keep it a secret. Any look at Project: Cadmus would not be complete without an analysis of this sort, so let's take a look at the usual suspects:
Candidate #1: Bruce Wayne
Pro: He's rich, connected, and—as Batman—has plenty of experience fighting covert wars. Understanding that an organization as powerful as the Justice League needs to have limitations placed upon it (as revealed in the JLA story Tower of Babel), his involvement in Cadmus would be a way of ensuring that the League doesn't go the same route that the Justice Lords did.
Con: Where to begin...okay: first, Bruce Wayne is absolutely set against allowing Wayne Enterprises to build weapons for the military. Second, Wayne is very protective of his family name, and would not want to be associated with the type of immoral experiments that Cadmus has been performing. Third, if Wayne was involved with Cadmus, why would he (as Batman) go through that lengthy face-off with Amanda Waller—where it was just the two of them; no reason to put on a show—in The Doomsday Sanction (sure, Waller's house is outfitted with surveillance cameras but, c'mon, in her private bathroom?). Finally, he acted with surprise when Waller revealed that she knew his secret identity, meaning that they haven't been formally introduced.
Odds: Nil. If Batman wanted to sanction the Justice League he'd do it himself.
Candidate #2: Oliver Queen
Pro: A champion of the little guy, Oliver Queen wouldn't want "big guys" like the Justice League to grow too powerful and arrogant. Also, as the Justice League's other resident billionaire, he would also have the resources. Finally, Queen (as Green Arrow) made his first appearance at the beginning of Justice League Unlimited, so there would be a nice bit of symmetry there if he was revealed to be the man responsible.
Con: As a far-left liberal, organizations like Cadmus are the exact type of programs that he would be ideologically against. Following that logic, why sell out the League to an even bigger, dirtier guy? Also, programs like Cadmus require billions of dollars to function and, for a man with only a "billion and a half" to his name, Queen's just not rich enough to be Cadmus' financier.
Odds: Less than nil. No way this commie pinko's selling out to the man!
Candidate #3: Maxwell Lord
Pro: Another rich guy, this time with fewer scruples than Wayne and Queen. Also, we already know that he's involved with Cadmus, as he was a partner in the project involving the Ultimen.
Con: There's no way Waller would order him around if he was in charge. Plus, he admitted to the Ultimen that even his immediate superiors "were small fish" in the grand scheme of things.
Odds: Highly unlikely. He's a P.R. guy, not a criminal mastermind. He also doesn't have the stomach for black ops.
Candidate #4: Darkseid
Pro: Darkseid has a grudge against the Justice League and certainly wouldn't mind getting them out of his way. We also haven't seen the Lord of Apokolips around since Twilight, so he's probably due to pop up sometime soon. Finally, the concept of Cadmus made its debut in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen—the same title that Darkseid himself appeared in (during the same time period as well)—and we all know how much Bruce Timm loves Jack Kirby's work.
Con: Darkseid's ambition to conquer the Earth is common knowledge; I doubt that anyone with anything to lose would be suicidal enough to work with him. Also, his resources are currently in disarray, as his agents are involved in a bloody power struggle to take Apokolips' throne.
Odds: Also unlikely. He needs to get his own house in order before trying to conquer Earth again. Besides, there would have been some kind of foreshadowing on Unlimited if Darkseid was involved, such as a henchman with a ridiculous-sounding name walking around the Cadmus compound.
Candidate #5: Bruce Wayne (Justice Lords Universe)
Pro: Following his encounter with the Justice League, this alternate universe version of Batman may still be feeling a tinge of conscience regarding the actions of the Justice Lords. Following this logic, he may feel he can atone if he prevents the Justice League from going down that same road. Also, this is a different Bruce Wayne, one who may not be bound by the same restrictions that our Wayne is. Finally, it would a novel explanation for how Amanda Waller discovered Batman's secret identity.
Con: Like it or not, Batman's secret identity can be deduced through simple detective work; if Ra's Al Ghul can do it so can the government. Besides, would currency from a parallel universe be considered valid here?
Odds: Possible. When the concept of Justice Lords Batman replacing real Batman in A Better World was brought up on the Toon Zone message boards, Bruce Timm denied it, calling it "an excellent twist" and something they wish they thought of, but not something that they were going to do (see here and here). Well, who says that they have to pull a "Spider-Clone" plot twist to bring him back when a guilty conscience would be so much easier?
Candidate #6: Vandal Savage
Pro: In Fearful Symmetry, the Question made reference to the Illuminati, a "single cabal of powerful individuals that are directing the course of human history." Well, according to DC Comics history, Vandal Savage founded the Illuminati and, by default, would already has extensive, secret ties to the government (all governments, in fact). He's also probably sick of the Justice League constantly foiling his plans for outright world domination and would love to get them out of his hair.
Con: He hasn't appeared on Unlimited as of yet.
Odds: Also possible but, again, he hasn't appeared on Unlimited. While they share a common timeline, the creative team considers Justice League Unlimited to be a television show independent from Justice League, and unless Savage makes an appearance in the next couple of episodes it would feel like a cheat.
Candidate #7: Ares
Pro: The embodiment of war and conflict from the Greek pantheon of gods, Ares has the motivation to cause a rift between the Justice League and the people they protect. He also has a grudge against Wonder Woman, and promised her that he would return "sooner than you think." Finally, one of Project: Cadmus' immediate goals is the retrieval of the Annihilator armor from the League's custody, which he commissioned Hephaestus to forge.
Con: If Ares was involved in the Cadmus Project, why wasn't he at that meeting in The Doomsday Sanction? Also, he probably would have outed Tala as a demon by now.
Odds: Oh, he's involved...but is his involvement in the physical sense or the metaphysical sense?
Candidate #8: Lex Luthor
Pro: As a captain of industry (he may not run LexCorp any more, but I'm pretty sure he still owns it), Lex Luthor has the technology and the funding to sufficiently prop up Cadmus. As it stands, Luthor's scientists pioneered the Kryptonian cloning experiments that Cadmus used to create Galatea and Doomsday, and much of the technology that Cadmus uses in their activities (such as the jetpacks and solid hologram generators) are items that were used by Luthor's forces on Superman. He has established ties with the government and the military and, as a presidential candidate, Luthor may want to eliminate the competition that the League poses, especially considering that they are already wary of his activities. And then there's the matter of the shadowy figure who appeared in Fearful Symmetry...
Con: He may be involved in planning and development, but is he financing Cadmus?
Odds: Even if he's not the mastermind, he's definitely involved somehow. One way or another, Luthor would love to take Superman and his team down before he dies of cancer.
Candidate #9: The U.S. Government
Pro: In The Doomsday Sanction, Superman claims that the federal budget offers no mention of Project: Cadmus. This is incredibly naive; surely an investigative reporter like Clark Kent is familiar with the concept of black projects—top secret government programs that are unacknowledged by the government, the military, or defense contractors (like LexCorp). Black projects are not disclosed as part of the official budget, but receive funding all the same. Involvement with a black project would also necessitate the "disappearing" of key figures involved in the project, such as Amanda Waller. In addition, Cadmus is involved with the U.S. military (as evidenced by the presence of General Eiling) and Amanda Waller's office features a direct line to the President of the United States. In theory, this is a storyline right out of titles such as The Authority and Kingdom Come: fearing the enormous power and influence that the Justice League currently wields, the government is developing a defense system to either provide a counterbalance to the League or to destroy them outright...and the latter seems to be the case, considering their recent actions.
Con: The Earth is constantly being invaded by alien forces and has numerous world conquerors attempting to take it over. Considering how vital the Justice League's involvement has been in the past, would the U.S. Government really be crazy enough to cut off the nose to spite the face? Oh, wait...
Odds: Spot on. If you answer to the President and are affiliated with the military, you're a government program. Case closed.
Images courtesy of Toon Zone and The World's Finest.
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