First aired: 17th November 2001
George Newbern – Superman
Kevin Conroy – Batman
Susan Eisenberg – Wonder Woman
Carl Lumley – J’onn J’onzz
Michael Rosenbaum – The Flash
Phil Lamarr – Green Lantern
Maria Canals-Barrera – Hawkgirl
Jason Marsden – Snapper Carr
Gary Cole – J.Alan Carter
Kevin Michael Richardson – The Imperium
Spin Off Specifics:
Where did is spin-off from? Superman: The Animated Series
When did it spin-off from? This season comes after Superman: The Animated Series’ third season.
What is different? There’s a simpler animation style and there is a massively expanded cast.
Was it necessary? Not really but after the success of Batman and Superman, the only place for DC’s animated division was to do everyone.
How did it compare? The larger cast added humour and characterisation and a sense of scale that the other series lacked.
Synopsis: Mars, the Mariner valley and NASA have a manned mission to the red planet. One of the astronauts J.Allen Carter finds a rock that looks out of place. He picks it up, causing a sinkhole to appear beneath him and he falls into a cavern in front of a large door, covered in alien glyphs. He breaks what seems to be the lock and the door lights up. The door opens and something grabs him.
Two years later and Batman is investigating a Waynetech substation in Metropolis. Three staff start speaking in some unknown language and uncover a piece of unrecognisable technology after lifting a bank of computers, using more than human strength. They take this unknown device and place it in the substation’s satellite dish. Batman confronts them, finding out that all three of them are a lot stronger than he expected. It doesn’t go well and even the surprise arrival of Superman doesn’t prevent the dish’s destruction. Superman leaves a signal watch with Batman, who intends to carry on with this investigation, but has no intention of using the signal watch to ask for help.
After leaving Batman, Superman is summoned to the UN by now Senator J.Allen Carter who wants Superman to spearhead a peace initiative leading to disarmament. For six months he does this, disarming missiles, but he’s been getting mental flashes that make no sense. Batman is still investigating the three saboteur scientists. He finds a room with three sort of suspension pods, with people inside that are exact copies of the saboteurs. Or maybe that’s the other way around. As he tries to cut the pods open, he is menaced by a dog, or what looks like a dog, which soon shifts its shape into a translucent creature which walks up the walls to get him. Batman is thrown into some nearby bookshelves and he is crushed beneath them, triggering the signal watch. Very soon after, Superman pulls him out. That’s when the meteor crashes into the heart of Metropolis. Superman flies the injured Batman there and drops him off with a paramedic. She tries to take off his mask, the reply to this attempt being “Don’t even think about it.”
The meteorite cracks open, revealing a black and white tripod with a red eye, reminiscent of the technology the three scientists were using. The tripod walks forward and immediately starts firing heat beams at everything, proving immune to any attempt to fight back, including missiles from the Batwing. Even Superman is less than effective against this monstrous machine. Things get worse, when two more tripods emerge. Superman gets another mental flash and flies off, just as the airforce make their vain attempt to hold off these tripods. Hours pass, this part of the city lying in ruins and what has happened in Metropolis is now happening in other cities all over the world.
Themiscyra, an island far from man’s world and Princess Diana is talking with her mother Queen Hippolyta about how this seems that Man’s world’s is facing its darkest hour, but Hippolyta points out that it will face it alone.
Superman arrives at a military base and starts tearing through it. Through tanks and guards and several very thick doors, he is joined by Batman and finds a green alien being held captive. This alien, a shape-shifter calling himself J’onn J’onzz. Batman is distrustful, so J’onn adopts a more humanoid shape, including a cape, trunks and bucanneer boots. The three try to leave, but find themselves facing a literal army. Superman tries to reason with these soldiers, but they shift into a translucent humanoid shape, similar to the dog that attacked Batman, they inform this trio, that they won’t be leaving.
That’s just part 1.
Themsicyra and a tiara, gauntlets, tunic and lasso are taken from the temple of Athena. It’s Diana and she takes these items and runs away. At the military base, Superman, Batman and J’onn are battling their way through the aliens and make their escape. J’onn sends a telepathic signal, summoning help. As the Batwing is being chased by alien flying craft, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Diana of Themiscyra (whom I will just refer to as Wonder Woman from here on) and the Flash.
Now it’s exposition time.
1000 years ago, these aliens arrived on Mars, home to J’onn’s people who were peaceful and welcoming and then began a war for survival. It didn’t go well for the Martians and over the centuries, the aliens took their psychic energy and their ability to change shape. 500 years ago and the last handful of Martians used a gas to knock out the aliens and J’onn, the last of that number has kept watch on them ever since. Two years ago, whilst he slept, J.Allen Carter woke them up.
Back in Metropolis and the last surprise from the meteor takes a shape, a factory pumping dust and debris into the air, blocking out the sun and plunging the city into darkness and there are two more around the world doing the same. In South America Flash and Green Lantern bicker their way through an unsuccessful team-up. In Egypt, J’onn, Batman and Wonder Woman go after another one of the factories, the Metropolis one is attacked by Superman and Hawkgirl. Superman and Hawkgirl don’t fair any better and are even kidnapped. The energy core of the Egypt factory is destroted, but at the cost of Batman’s life.
A huge alien ship is approaching the Earth. In Metropolis, the remains of this band of heroes meet up and break into the factory to rescue Superman and Hawkgirl, but as they do, the main alien ship arrives, carrying their leader, the Imperium. Green Lantern cuts into the factory to find Superman and Hawkgirl and when the other three arrive, they also find it’s a trap. They are all knocked out.
They awaken to see J.Allen Carter, who reveals that the original Carter, never returned from Mars and he’s been weakening Earth’s defenses to prepare for the Imperium’s arrival. The Imperium arrives and attacks J’onn using his tendrils to bore into his skull. Too late, the Imperium learns that J’onn had an ace up his sleeve, when he announced Batman had fallen, he lied, Batman destroys this factory’s core too, bringing sunlight back to the world. A hole is blown in the factory’s roof, bringing sunlight back to Superman. Before long the entire group is freed and the aliens cower from the sunshine. The tables have turned and now the aliens are on the run. The team rallies and run the invaders off the planet. But the question becomes what happens now?
On a Wayne Enterprises built orbital Watchtower satellite station, Superman puts forward the idea of this group staying together. Like a sort of Justice Leage. Batman is not keen. “I’m not really a joiner, but if you need help… and you will. Call me.” The rest are in and Superman offers his hand to J’onn, welcoming him to the world he has helped save. He offers him a home.
Notes: This was a natural extension of the Superman and Batman animated series of the 90s. Those series coupled great animation and fantastic voice cast to produced almost quintessential versions of the World’s Finest team. Secret Origins, is a title from the comics offering insights into pre-established origins, so it sort of works as a title and apart from a couple of logic problems (how did J.Allen Carter avoid direct sunlight for 2 years, including a senatorial campaign) and the sort of cliched tripod alien things, I really had to struggle to find things wrong with it.
The animation style is a little on the simplistic side, but all this does is make the animation smoother and the character designs more iconic. The only weird thing there is Superman’s face looks so very tired, with barely open eyes with lines underneath them. The voice cast is amazing, including George Newbern as the older Superman and Kevin Conroy is once again Batman. The rest of the cast is great and all sound like exactly as you imagine they would.
The story is tight, with the second and third parts moving along at a brisk speed and at no time was I bored. Crucially for a kids TV show, it was a hit with SuperSam, who had no problem with any part of the story and enjoyed it throughout. It had a solid story, well-written and performed and either as three separate parts or one hour long story was well pace and it was enjoyed thoroughly.
Does it work? Yes, it follows the success of the Superman and Batman shows and moves its connected universe forward.
Does much need fixing? Not at all it’s an origin and status quo in one package.
Does it stand up? Very well, even with several viewings.
Do I want to watch the next one? Both myself and SuperSam are in the midst of a watch through and both are enjoying it,
Did I enjoy it? Very much so.
Overall: 5 out of 5. This is the ideal adaptation of a comic series, including all of the things that make the comics cool, but making it accessible for newer viewers. This is my preferred version of the Justice League.