STUDIO: Warner Brothers
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

The Pitch

A documentary about DC comics made by DC and distributed by their parent company. Spoiler: they’re the good guys.

The Humans

Ryan Reynolds, Neil Gaiman, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Dwayne McDuffie

The Nutshell

The history of DC comics is a huge and extremely varied one, something that a ninety minute documentary could barely scratch the surface of. In Secret Origin we get a corporate approved cliff notes version of the publishing house’s seven plus decades. Going from the creation of Superman to his death in the mid nineties alone would take the average comic nerd four to five hours of intense conversation. Here it’s handled in less than an hour, with about twenty minutes actually devoted to The Man of Steel. It’s really strange that this disc is being sold by itself, on it’s own it’s essentially worthless, but it seems like the perfect extra for one of DC’s many animated films. If you’re a hardcore comic fan Secret Origin is going to be full of factoids you’ve already memorized. But hey, at least they kept the Geoff Johns exposure to a minimum.

“Oh, that is not a good smell.”

The Lowdown

If BP made a documentary about their history, I could bitch about it and be totally cool, but since this is DC Comics, I have to tread carefully. Internet comic nerds learn from Kevin Smith, so talking bad about DC would probably get me twitter spam wishing me ball cancer. But this is silly, it’s nothing more than a quick selective scan of the very varied and sometimes rocky history of DC. There is so much more they could get into, but instead the film just jumps from era to era highlighting how awesome DC comics is and how they were on top and big movers in every single social change in America.  It never quite reaches revisionist history, but it has about as much actual information as the average press release.

This is a History Channel lite fluff piece for aspiring nerds. Talking heads praise the alter of  DC and it’s many creations. A company producing a documentary on their own history has to be looked at skeptically, and Warner Brother’s hardly tries to hide the fact this is nothing more than masturbation for one of their major money makers. Every major creation DC has done is factoided to hell, but there is no mention of Siegel and Schuster’s lawsuit over Superman and they have Alan Moore sounding happy when he talks about working for DC. Also, The Quest for Peace doesn’t exist in their version of Superman film history, but that one I can understand. DC has been a powerhouse in the industry and when they reinvent themselves everyone takes notice, but this documentary treats DC like they are the only publisher of comic books in the world. And as a studio that has done nothing but good things over the course of it’s history, save for a few missteps from people long dead. They even praise the shit out of Super Friends. Over clips of The Wonder Twins. I’m not expecting them to talk about how stupid it was to bring Jason Todd back to life or anything, but at least admit Super Friends is silly. That should be easy when a clip of a boy turning into an ice gondola is what you chose to showcase.

“In my directors cut of The Spirit everyone was a Nazi, Sam Jackson was in a monkey
suit, and Eva Mendes was tied up the whole time. It was great.”

Ryan Reynolds narrates, which means absolutely nothing. The real draw here is the list of talking heads they got for the documentary. Lots of geek heroes show up here. Names like Neil Gaiman, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mark Waid, Paul Pope, and Jim Lee have serious comic cred between them. And people like Bob Kane, Julius Schwartz, and Alan Moore show in archival footage. Not a bad list of names here, but they don’t really say anything we haven’t heard before. I don’t know what to recommended here, because it’s cool to see Bob Kane explain how he came up with Batman, but the story has been told on pretty much any Batman related DVD already. There isn’t any new information or essential interviews, especially since DC/Warners has already been doing a great job of packing long form documentaries into their comic related releases. The film manages to take a few brief unexpected turns. But they never stray into unfamiliar topics for long. They get into the creepy bondage that dominated the first run of Wonder Woman, complete with an awesomely NSFW motion comic montage. It doesn’t really save the film from being worthless though, unless you’re a complete pervert. Burt Ward codpiece shows up too then, if that’s your thing.

Remember kids, when you swallow it, it’s dieting. When you smoke it, it’s meth.

Unless your comic knowledge is next to nil, or you have some weird costume fetish, this documentary is not worth the asking price. Twenty dollars is a lot to ask for something that will probably end up as a special feature on a future Blu-Ray. If you’re honestly interested in the history DC, you’d learn more from their Wiki entry. It’s kind of sad really, they have multiple comic book legends and instead of an actual open discussion about their time in the business they are pretty much reduced to corporate talking heads. You could walk away from this documentary thinking DC is the only company in media history to have nothing but amicable partings with it’s creative staff, something that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you want your history copied from Wikipedia and read to you by some comic geniuses
well paid for their time, then Secret Origin is for you. Otherwise, just watch Comic Book Confidential and fill in the missing twenty years yourself.

Aquaman is big in Japan.

The Package

The disc is all bones, not even a trailer is included. Missed opportunity, you’d think Warner Brother’s would leap at the chance to pimp the fifty billion DC related releases they have. I guess if the movie is one big giant advertisement,  it’ll get the pimping done on it’s own.

3.5 out of 10