Justice League episode
JL line-up
"Secret Origins"
Airdate: November 17th, 2001
Production Number: 01; 02; 03
Airdate Order: 01; 02; 03
Animation Services by: Koko Enterprise Co., LTD.
Written by: Rich Fogel
Directed by: Dan Riba and Butch Lukic
Episode images (23)

"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.


Part I

Imperium released

A menace is freed.

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 mind and is rendered unconscious. Batman grabs him as the three mysterious scientists detonate the satellite. As Batman sees the three scientists, they twist their bodies into positions that are inhuman, but they flee into the forest.

Secret Origins weapons disarmed

Superman disarms nuclear weapons.

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 Central City's The Flash, who remarks: "I'm the fastest man alive, and even I can't be in five places at once".

Imperium walker

An Imperium walker emerges.

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.

Superman arrives, and manages to save Batman, but then 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; entranced, he flies away.


Earth's last hope.

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 inside. 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 soon the soldiers morph into white-skinned aliens and aim their weapons at the trio.

Part II


Diana makes her choice.

On Themyscira, Diana enters the Temple of Athena, and prays 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.

Martian Imperium war

The Martian-Imperium war.

J'onn explains: The aliens invaded Mars a thousand years ago, all but wiping out J'onn's people, and absorbing their telepathic and shape-changing abilities. J'onn was the lone survivor of a strike mission that incapacitated the invaders, and he sealed them away in an underground chamber five hundred years ago. Unfortunately, the astronauts released them while J'onn was hibernating. J'onn came to Earth to warn them, but was captured on arrival by the aliens. Instead, he used his partially-blocked telepathic powers to summon the heroes together. Unfortunately, the nerve gas which the Martians used to incapacitate the aliens before is made from a now-extinct Martian plant, and cannot be reproduced.

Imperium factory cloud

Let there be darkness.

With their presence on Earth established, the aliens set up enormous factories that project an ionizing field into the atmosphere, creating a cloud cover that shrouds the entire planet. J'onn explains that the invaders are nocturnal, wishing to block out the sun, and 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 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 J'onn and Diana escape, but Batman, who stays behind to hold them off, is cut off and apparently killed.

Part III

Imperium coming

Imperium's approach.

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 plan. Then Batman appears, surprising everyone. J'onn explains that he telepathically shielded Batman from detection until then. Batman has 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.

Imperium end

Imperium's end.

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 to free Diana. Superman, having regained his powers thanks to the sun's yellow light shining through again, frees himself via his heat vision, then frees Hawkgirl, who frees John, then Diana frees Flash. Afterwards, they all engage in combat with the aliens, while smashing large holes in the roof to kill off the remaining aliens. The Imperium, its skin blistering grapples with J'onn, then hastily retreats back into its shuttle, leaving the Carter doppelganger to die, and makes for the mother ship. However, Diana lassoes the shuttle, which Hawkgirl further damages with her mace, and swings it into the factory, destroying both it and the Imperium.

The other heroes quickly evacuate the captured humans being held there, before the factory explodes. The mother ship flees into space.

Earth rejoices over the repulse of the invasion, but several skeptics, including General Wells, warn that they got lucky; 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 advance warning in case of another invasion.

Justice League formed

The Justice League is formed.

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 off by himself, looking out at the stars. When Superman goes to him, J'onn says he is the last surviving member of his race. Superman says he can relate, and assures J'onn that he doesn't have to be alone anymore.


Background information

Home video releases

Production notes

Production inconsistencies

  • Wonder Woman says they have to destroy the "factories" despite never seeing them and wondered what the smoke in the horizon is just prior.
  • It does not seem plausible that the aliens would entrap Hawkgirl in the substance with her Nth metal mace in her hand.


  • 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 Jonzz 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 super-heroes as "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", a subtle nod to the Marvel Comics super-hero 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.


Actor Role
George Newbern Superman
Imperium soldier (uncredited)
Kevin Conroy Batman
Technician (uncredited)
Susan Eisenberg Wonder Woman
Mother (uncredited)
Carl Lumbly J'onn J'onzz
Michael Rosenbaum The Flash
Protester (uncredited)
Martian (uncredited)
Phil LaMarr Green Lantern
Ed Reiss
General (uncredited)
Rioter (uncredited)
Maria Canals Hawkgirl
Little Girl (uncredited)
Corey Burton Bald technician
Doctor (uncredited)
Max Brooks Howie
Clyde Kusatsu Japanese ambassador
Asian technician (uncredited)
Gary Cole J. Allen Carter
Wanda Christine Female technician
Paramedic (uncredited)
Kevin Michael Richardson General Wells
Imperium Leader (uncredited)
SCU Officer (uncredited)
Squadron leader (uncredited)
Bikers (uncredited)
Susan Sullivan Hippolyta
Jason Marsden Snapper Carr
SCU officer (uncredited)

Uncredited appearances


J'onn J'onzz: I came to warn you, but I was captured and imprisoned. They wouldn't listen.
Batman: Big surprise.
J'onn J'onzz: I sense you don't trust me. Perhaps this will help. (Shape-shifts into humanoid form) I am J'onn J'onzz.
(Offers his hand, which Batman doesn't take.)
Superman: Don't take it personally, J'onn, he doesn't trust anyone.
J'onn J'onzz: A wise policy.

Flash: Whoa! Where have you been all my life?
Wonder Woman: Themyscira.
Flash: Huh?
Hawkgirl: The home of the Amazons. I always thought it was merely a legend.
Wonder Woman: I assure you, it's as real as the ground on which we stand on. I am Diana, Princess of the Amazons.
Flash: Pinch me, I must be dreaming. (Superman elbows him) Ow!

Wonder Woman: So, J'onn J'onzz, you came from Mars to warn us?
Flash: This is just too weird.
Green Lantern: I've seen stranger things.

Flash: What's the problem? Can't you just whip up another batch of that nerve gas?
J'onn: Unfortunately, no. The gas can only be made from a rare Martian plant. I brought a sample with me, but it was destroyed when I was captured.
Flash: Uh, what's Plan B?

Green Lantern: Lady, this is no job for amateurs.
Wonder Woman: We Amazons are warriors born! Want to test me?
Superman: Lets not fight among ourselves. John, we're going to need all the help we can get.
Green Lantern: Fine. Sorry, "your highness". Tactically, we'll have multiple objectives. We'll need to split into teams.
Flash: Dibs on the Amazon!
(cut to Flash and Green Lantern)
Flash: You are no fun!

Superman: Are you always so eager to fight?
Hawkgirl: My homeworld, Thanagar, is a war-like world. There, one must strike first or die.

Imperium: You're hiding something. A secret in the recesses of your mind. Is this another of your Martian tricks?
J'onn J'onzz: Do I sense fear?

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.
Flash: What, like a bunch of Super-Friends?
Superman: More like a Justice League.
Flash: Do you have any idea how corny that sounds?

Batman: I'm not much of a "people person". But when you need help—and you will—call me.

Previously produced episode:
Episodes of
Justice League
Next produced episode:
"In Blackest Night"
Previously aired episode:
Next aired episode:
"In Blackest Night"

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