"Secret Origins" is the series premiere of Justice League. It originally aired as a full-length movie, on November 17, 2001. Subsequent re-runs divided the episode into three parts.
Two astronauts explore the terrain of Mars. One stumbles onto the entrance to an underground cavern, at the end of which is a massive, ornate door. He wedges his pickaxe into the door's lock, and forces it open. The doors open, and something massive rushes out, reaching for him...
Two years later, Batman makes a brief trip to the outskirts of Metropolis, spying on a satellite communications facility operated by Wayne Tech. As he watches, three employees of the facility exchange amiable good-byes with their co-workers, but as soon as they are alone, begin conversing in an alien language and tampering with the equipment. Batman appears and attempts to subdue them, but each of them fight back with amazing speed and strength. Batman corners one on top of the roof dish, but it turns the tables on him. Then Superman arrives and sends it running. Before they can deal with them, Superman sees strange images in his mind and is rendered unconscious. Batman grabs him as the three mysterious scientists detonate the satellite. As Batman watches the three scientists, they twist their bodies back to normal from positions that are inhuman, and they flee into the forest.
The two heroes share a reserved greeting; two years after Darkseid's brainwashing, Superman has regained the majority of the world's trust, but wonders if Batman is still in the minority. Batman explains that this station is the latest in a series that has been sending strange encrypted signals into space. Superman offers his help, but Batman declines. Superman hands him a communicator to use in case he needs help; Batman is skeptical, but places it in his utility belt and keeps it anyway.
In the nation's capital, J. Allen Carter, one of the two astronauts from the Mars expedition and now a U.S. Senator, proposes a bold plan for total nuclear disarmament. He champions Superman as Earth's protector, believing that the Man of Steel is both reliable and more than capable of handing any threat to the Earth. Superman embraces the idea, despite protests from the military and other sources. These even include other heroes, such as The Flash from Central City, who remarks: "I'm the fastest man alive, and even I can't be in five places at once."
As Superman works to disarm the world's nuclear weapons, Batman continues his investigation. He traces the three fake scientists to a warehouse in Metropolis, where he discovers the three real scientists, unconscious, inside alien-looking containers. Then a guard dog appears, which turns out to be an alien creature, and attacks. Batman is outmatched, and calls for help using his signal watch.
Superman arrives, and manages to save Batman, and both of them watch as a meteor comes down from the sky and crashes into the heart of Metropolis. From the crater, a massive alien vehicle appears, and without preamble makes its hostility clear: it begins attacking the police and fire units nearby. More meteors crash, giving rise to more vehicles. Superman and Batman throw everything they have at the creatures, but seemingly to no avail. While preparing to fight again, Superman suffers another psychic migraine; realizing something, he flies away.
The world goes into a panic about the new alien invasion, and the apparent absence of Superman. On Themyscira, Princess Diana notices signs of trouble in the outside world, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta, tells her that it is none of their concern, as the Gods protect Themyscira.
Batman flies after Superman, tracking him to a U.S. Army base. Inside, they find a green-skinned alien being held prisoner. After being freed, the alien introduces himself as J'onn J'onzz. Before he can tell his story, the trio are confronted by a group of army soldiers. Superman tries to explain, but the soldiers morph into white-skinned aliens and aim their weapons at the trio.
On Themyscira, Diana enters the Temple of Athena, and prays for her mother's forgiveness. She picks up a set of armor laid at the altar and puts it on...
At the military base, Superman, Batman, and J'onn flee the scene, with their attackers close behind. Taking to the air, they find themselves pursued by swarms of flying craft. Although they manage to down some, the Batwing is critically damaged, and nearly crashes; however, Batman is saved and the fighters are driven off by the timely arrival of four more heroes: Green Lantern John Stewart, Hawkgirl of Thanagar, Princess Diana, and the Flash.
J'onn tells his story: The aliens invaded Mars a thousand years ago, all but wiping out J'onn's people, and absorbing their telepathic and shape-shifting abilities. J'onn was the sole survivor of a strike mission that incapacitated the invaders, and he sealed them away in an underground chamber five hundred years ago. Unfortunately, some astronauts released them while J'onn was in hibernation. J'onn came to Earth to warn the Earthlings, but was captured on arrival by the aliens. Instead, he used his partially-blocked telepathic powers to summon the heroes. The nerve gas which the Martians used to incapacitate the aliens before is made from a now-extinct Martian plant, and it cannot be reproduced, meaning they would have to find another way to defeat the invaders.
With their presence on Earth established, the aliens set up enormous factories that project an ionizing field into the atmosphere, creating a massive cloud that shrouds the entire planet. J'onn explains that the invaders are nocturnal and wish to block out the sun. The heroes agree that the factories should be investigated and destroyed.
Unused to working together, but resolved, the heroes split into three groups to destroy a factory each. Superman and Hawkgirl head to Metropolis, but they are captured. Flash and Green Lantern attack another, but are forced to retreat; J'onn, Diana, and Batman attack a third. While inside, Batman discovers that the aliens are vulnerable to the sun's rays, which is why they are creating the cloud cover. They also manage to steal the crystal powering the factory.
Then the trio is attacked, and though J'onn and Diana escape, Batman, who stayed behind to hold the invaders off, is cut off and apparently killed.
The four remaining heroes regroup in Metropolis and prepare to free Hawkgirl and Superman. J'onn warns that they do not have much time, as the Imperium — the leader of the Invaders — will be arriving soon. While Flash creates a diversion, J'onn, Diana, and Green Lantern breach the facility. Managing to fight off the aliens, they find Superman and Hawkgirl in a holding cell, but it's a trap. The two heroes are actually aliens in disguise, and the rest of the heroes are captured.
As the six heroes are held captive, they are shocked to see Senator Carter appear alongside their captors. It turns out that Carter is actually an alien in disguise; the real Carter perished on Mars. Using his persona, the aliens learned as much as possible about Earth's defenses, and also tricked humans into disarming their most powerful weapons.
With no effective obstacles to their invasion left, the aliens signal a mothership orbiting the Earth, and receive their leader, the Imperium. The Imperium remembers J'onn, and begins to torture him. The Imperium calls on J'onn to surrender, saying that he has finally lost, but J'onn lets slip that he still has a secret. Suddenly, Batman appears, surprising everyone. J'onn explains that he telepathically shielded Batman from detection until then. Batman had used the time to sabotage the ion crystal, reversing the field's polarity. The clouds part, and the sun shines through the opening in the factory's roof.
Exposed to the sun, the aliens begin to burn and die. Batman explains that the aliens have no resistance to ultraviolet radiation as he helps free Diana. Superman, having regained his powers thanks to the sun's yellow light, frees himself with his heat vision. He then frees Hawkgirl, who frees John, while Diana frees Flash. Afterwards, they all engage in combat with the aliens, smashing large holes in the roof to kill off the remaining aliens. The Imperium, with its skin blistering, grapples with J'onn, then hastily retreats back into its shuttle, leaving the Carter doppelganger to die, and makes for the mothership. However, Diana lassoes the shuttle, which Hawkgirl further damages with her mace, and swings it into the factory, destroying both the factory and the Imperium.
The other heroes quickly evacuate the captured humans being held there, just before the factory explodes. The mothership flees into space.
Earth rejoices over the repulse of the invasion, but several skeptics, including General Wells, states that they got lucky this time; if the aliens or a similar threat return, the Earth has no means of advance warning. Watching the report, Batman ponders this remark...
A short time later, the heroes assemble aboard a large space station orbiting the Earth, built and launched in secret by Wayne Enterprises. The station will provide warning in advance in case of another alien invasion.
Superman addresses the assembled heroes, saying that the invasion has proved to him that even he isn't powerful enough to safeguard the Earth by himself. He proposes the formation of the Justice League. Four of the other heroes agree (in his or her own way); Batman, used to operating solo, is reluctant to join a team, but assures them that he'll be on call when they need help. The last holdout is J'onn, who is near the windows by himself, gazing at the stars. When Superman goes to him, J'onn says he is the last surviving member of his race. Superman says that he can relate, and assures J'onn that he doesn't have to be alone anymore.
- Superman and Batman last teamed up in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Demon Reborn".
- Diana's absence from Themyscira ends in "Paradise Lost" when she reluctantly returns after several months with the Justice League.
- Superman's dialogue about his hard work in earning the people's trust and General Wells' distrust are references to the Superman: The Animated Series finale "Legacy".
- Batman only joins the Justice League as a part-time member, a fact mentioned in the Batman Beyond episode "The Call".
Home video releases
- Justice League - Secret Origins (VHS)
- Justice League - Secret Origins (DVD)
- Justice League Collection (DVD 3-Pack)
- Justice League Triple Feature (DVD)
- Justice League - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League (Mini-DVD)
- Justice League - Season One (Blu-ray)
- In the beginning of part II, Superman throws a tank at the Invaders, causing an explosion that is reused footage from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, when the console that the Jokerz tried to steal blows up. This is used again in part III, when Hawkgirl administers the final blow to the Imperium mothership.
- In part II, when one of the Imperium jets crashes in the gorge, footage of the explosion of the Jolly Jack Candy Factory from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, is used.
- In part III, when Flash gets the first walker to blow up, the resulting explosion is reused footage from the scene of the Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest" in which one Wayne/Lex T-7 blows up another droid.
- Wonder Woman says they have to destroy the "factories" despite never seeing them and wondering what the smoke in the horizon is just prior.
- It does not seem plausible that:
- The aliens would be able to entrap Hawkgirl in the substance with her Nth metal mace in her hand, nor John Stewart with his ring still on.
- One of the alien parasites could successfully impersonate a prominent American politician for two years without ever stepping foot into direct sunlight—especially considering only brief exposure to the sun is exactly how the impostor ultimately died.
- A civilization as advanced as the Martians could be at war with the invaders for decades and never stumble upon their weakness to solar radiation.
- After the destruction of the Imperium, when the seven heroes are shown from behind, Hawkgirl's legs are miscolored in a flesh tone.
- This is the first DCAU appearance for four of the "original seven" Justice Leaguers: Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, J'onn J'onzz, and Green Lantern (John Stewart). Batman and Superman debuted in their own respective series while Flash first appeared in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Speed Demons". A Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, previously appeared in Superman: The Animated Series. Superman and Flash, however, are now voiced by George Newbern and Michael Rosenbaum, replacing Tim Daly and Charlie Schlatter, respectively, while Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman.
- This episode implies this is the first adventure for both Wonder Woman and J'onn J'onzz as both are given brief origin stories, and indicates that John Stewart and Hawkgirl have been active for a while.
- The Imperium invaders and their equipment show a tribute to H.G. Wells's classic War of the Worlds (General Wells's character may be an indirect reference to the author). Like the Imperium, Wells's Martians use three-legged war machines equipped with ray devices that easily overwhelm Earth's military, and a "black smoke" that blots out the sun.
- One obvious difference is that the Imperium invaders come from Mars, but are not actually native to that planet. Several later adaptations of War of the Worlds have been based on the same premise.
- Another reference to popular Martian-themed science fiction is the way Senator Carter is replaced by an identical Martian agent similar to the way the Martians of Gerry Anderson's series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons advanced their war against the Earth. In fact. the primary antagonist in that series was an astronaut who was replaced by a Martian and sent back to earth similar to Senator Carter's "sleeper twin".
- The Imperium invaders also bear a strong resemblance to the White Martians in DC Comics, a violent genetic offshoot of the peaceful "greenskins" who share all of J'onn's powers, and use them in an attempt to take over the Earth. The story featuring the White Martians' first appearance also bears strong similarities to this episode. Before actually attacking, the White Martians shapeshifted into superhero personae to win favor with Earth and easily bypass certain defenses (as the invaders impersonated Senator Carter and some scientists to do the same). The same story was also intended to restart the Justice League with the "original seven" (with some small changes) as well. In both stories, Batman is thought killed by the enemy, rescues his captured teammates, and discovers the enemies' weakness to use against them.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Showtime" (which aired on January 7, 2003), Andrew mentions the Justice League putting "their differences aside to stop the Imperium and his shape shifting alien horde".
- Superman disarming all the world's nuclear weapons was the plot line of the movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. In the movie, however, Superman threw all the world's nuclear weapons into the sun.
- When Stewart was knocked out by the sleeping gas, the color of the gas was yellow which seemed to bypass John's shield with no trouble. This could be a reference to mainstream comics, where, up until recently, power rings had no effect on the color yellow.
- The Imperium posing as Senator Carter called the six captured superheroes "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", a subtle nod to the Marvel Comics superhero team, The Avengers, who are also known by this name in the title of their comic book.
- Flash's sarcastic suggestion that they call themselves "Super Friends" is an obvious reference to Hanna-Barbera's animated TV series Super Friends (also based on the Justice League).
- To coincide with both the 25th anniversary of The Death of Superman comic book storyline and the 16th anniversary of the Justice League TV series, the DC Extended Universe film Justice League was released on November 17, 2017, the same day in which "Secret Origins" premiered in 2001.
|George Newbern|| Superman|
Imperium soldier (uncredited)
|Kevin Conroy|| Batman|
|Susan Eisenberg|| Wonder Woman|
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|Michael Rosenbaum|| The Flash|
|Phil LaMarr|| Green Lantern|
|Maria Canals|| Hawkgirl|
Little Girl (uncredited)
|Corey Burton|| Bald technician|
|Clyde Kusatsu|| Japanese ambassador|
Asian technician (uncredited)
|Gary Cole||J. Allen Carter|
|Wanda Christine|| Female technician|
|Kevin Michael Richardson|| General Wells|
Imperium Leader (uncredited)
SCU Officer (uncredited)
Squadron leader (uncredited)
|Jason Marsden|| Snapper Carr|
SCU officer (uncredited)
J'onn J'onzz: I came to warn you, but I was captured and imprisoned. They wouldn't listen.
Flash: Whoa! Where have you been all my life?
Flash: What's the problem? Can't you just whip up another batch of that nerve gas?
Green Lantern: Lady, this is no job for amateurs.
Superman: Are you always so eager to fight?
Imperium: You're hiding something. A secret in the recesses of your mind. Is this another of your Martian tricks?
Superman: I once thought I could protect the world by myself. But I was wrong. Working together, we saved the planet. And I believe that if we stay together, as a team, we would be a force that could truly work for the ideals of peace and justice.
Batman: I'm not really a "people person". But when you need help—and you will—call me.