Uggggggh! That’s the sound most of us diehard comic fans make when we hear that a character will be rebooted from the ground up. It means another rehash of an origin story that, in all likelihood, will never, ever compare to the original. No Spider-Man comic has ever told the origin better than Amazing Fantasy #15. There have been more Superman origin stories than I can count, and all but a few are terrible. Wonder Woman, Thor, and Captain America have never seen a comic that drastically improved on their Golden Age origins—and that’s saying something.
But occasionally, a diamond is cut from rough coal. Sometimes, an origin story reboot either improves on the original or adds something unique and special to it.
These are my favorites.
A few caveats before I begin my list: These are origin retellings, not origin first-tellings. That’s why Amazing Fantasy #15, the single greatest comic of all time, isn’t on here. It’s also not a list of reboots. DC’s new 52 is largely forgettable, but the great Wonder Woman title doesn’t count as an origin story since it really hasn’t told her origin in a single story: It’s parsing out backstory issue by issue, without a grand “origin story” that unveils all you need to know about the character’s inception in one fell swoop. That’s why Grant Morrison’s Action Comics wouldn’t apply here either (also, it’s not quite good enough).
And finally, the classic retelling is from Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, it’s one page that looks like this:
But that’s not an origin story. That’s a summation. A recap page. It isn’t a blown-out origin tale. Same thing with Morrison’s “Animal Man” work: No real “origin story,” just lots of little bits and pieces dropped throughout the stories. In both of these cases, the overall story was much more complex and satisfying—but it wasn’t an origin story.