Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, behind the amazing tales of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a host of other well-known characters is the equally impressive story of the challenges, creativity and triumphs of the company that brought those characters to life.Here's my review of this 2010 documentary, from when it was released on DVD:
Secret Origin: TheStory of DC Comics is both a celebration of the best writers and artists in comics and a thoughtful exploration of 75 years of DC Comics history.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a sucker for documentaries about superhero comic books.
Celebrating DC Comics' 75th anniversary this year and narrated by the Green Lantern himself, Ryan Reynolds, Secret Origins: The Story Of DC Comics moves faster than a speeding locomotive in condensing seven-and-a-half decades of comic book history into 90 minutes.
From the creation of Superman out of the melting pit of America's immigrant culture, then the appearance of Batman as a fellow defender of the weak and eventually the rather bizarre origin of Wonder Woman, the documentary charts the ups-and-downs of DC Comics with talking head contributions from some of the mediums creative legends.
With access to archival footage, as well as recently filmed interviews, the film even manages to sneak in some cheeky footage of the that notorious curmudgeon Alan Moore talking about Swamp Thing, alongside old interviews with the fathers of Superman - Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - and a fair amount of input from one of my personal comic book heroes, Julius Schwartz.
Breaking up the highs (e.g. the unprecedented sales of The Death Of Superman and The Dark Knight Returns) and the lows (e.g. the idiotic wave of hysteria provoked by Fredric Wertham's allegations against the comic book industry) are eloquent and entertaining insights and anecdotes from some of DC's greats - from Neil Gaiman, Neal Adams and Grant Morrison to Geoff Johns, Denny O'Neil and Mark Waid.
As a starting point for someone new to comic books, who is interested in finding out "where they came from", or as a refresher for old fans like myself, this is a great documentary.
Secret Origins does a great job of highlighting the various tipping points of the fickle and volatile comic book industry - and its subsequent peaks and troughs - such as the post-war apathy to superheroes and then later the eventual backlash against the grim and gritty heroes that followed the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.
The documentary's only fault is its brevity. Sadly there are no extras on the DVD with additional or extended interviews, but clearly such a broad topic could easily sustain itself over the duration of a series of documentaries (in the style of Ink! Alter Egos Exposed) with more time devoted to the both the internal and external events that shaped the various "ages" of comic books (Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern) as well as the careers and personalities of the creative talents involved.