The 30 Best Retellings of Superman's Origins

By Greggory Basore in Comics, Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Friday, February 10, 2012 at 8:08 am
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Hey. Did you know that Superman is actually from another planet named Krypton? That his father Jor-El put him in a rocket and shot him into space right before Krypton exploded? Or that the baby landed on earth, was found in Kansas by two kindly folks named the Kents, then raised in Smallville before moving to the big city of Metropolis? Or that sometimes he puts on tights and cape and helps people as Superman?

Of course you did. That's Superman's origin, and everybody knows it. Not just nerds; your mom could tell you Superman's origin without thinking too hard about it. Chances are your grandmother could, too. It's just one of those things that's become completely ingrained in the collective pop culture.

However, that doesn't stop people from explaining it to us... over and over again. When DC announced that Grant Morrison would tell Superman's origin again in Action Comics #5, Rob jokingly mentioned someone write a top 45 list of Superman Origins to highlight how overdone it is. Having a whole lot of time and nothing to do with it, I undertook that task but came up short of 45 entries... but not by much. A special thanks goes out to Tom Foss at "Fortress of Soliloquy" for compiling a list of Superman origins back in 2010. which was a great help in researching this article.

3o) Action Comics #5 (2012)
The most recent issue to tell a story that every nerd already knows by heart. This comes onto the list at dead last because it's part of the "New 52" bullshit which is the most poorly planned of DC's many, many tedious line-wide reboots. Grant Morrison adds little to the DCnU Superman's new DCnU origin, other than implying that this time Krypto died on Krypton with Superman's parents.

29) Man of Steel Movie (2013)
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Zack Snyder's forthcoming film reboot is a favorite punching bag for nerds, due to Henry Cavill occasionally looking like a super-powered hobo (amongst other reasons). While obviously the movie isn't out yet and we haven't seen how the origin will be portrayed, we're putting it here on principle, because no one needs yet another retelling of Superman's origin (as this list will prove).

28) The Amazing World of Superman: Metropolis Edition (1973)
This is one of the many comics that simply retell the story of Superman's origin without offering much new information. It's ranked lower than others like it because I couldn't find a decent synopsis of it, which suggests that it's not even an interesting enough retelling to be worth talking about.

27) Superboy TV Series, "Abandon Earth" and "Escape to Earth" (1990)
Although most people feel that having young Clark Kent flying around in costume would have made Smallville a better TV show, it didn't do the Superboy TV series any good, which somehow managed to stay on the air for four seasons. Superboy boy actually didn't know his origins until his parents Jor-El and Lara stopped by to finally clue him in. As it turns out, these two aren't his parents at all, but oddly well-informed aliens who want to put Superboy in their space zoo.

26) Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman TV Series, (1993-1997)
Warner's own initial attempt at doing a Superman show didn't turn out much better. For some reason the idea of turning the story of America's best known superhero into a romantic sitcom wasn't a runaway success with the comic nerd crowd. The show sloooooowwwly teased out bits of Superman's origin over the course of the entire series, with Ma and Pa Kent eventually revealing their found Clark in a spacecraft, then Superman finding some recordings from Jor-El, and so forth.

25) Action Comics #500 (1979)
Martin Pasko celebrated the 500th issue of the comic that started it all by... having Supes hanging out at the Metropolis World's Fair and retelling the story that pretty much everyone knows. Meanwhile there's a forgettable subplot where Lex Luthor creates a Superman clone to do his bidding.

24) Superman Returns Movie (2006)

People love to give Bryan Singer's film a lot of (mostly deserved) grief for not having enough action and being so much of a tribute to the Richard Donner's classic films as to not stand on its own merit. This makes his decision to re-tell Superman's origin in the movie's opening scenes -- which was already wonderfully covered in Donner's 1978 Superman movie -- even more annoying. Superman Returns assumed every viewer had seen Superman and Superman II... except the origin part? Guh.

23) Superman: Secret Origin (2009)
Meant to be the new "definitive" origin of Superman after Infinite Crisis, this mini-series is unique for not having any scenes on Krypton. Otherwise, it's largely the same old story, reinstating previously abandoned Silver Age elements like Clark having been Superboy.

22) Super Friends, "The Planet Splitter" (1973)

This beloved cartoon introduced a version of Superman, and the rest of the Justice League, which for several years would stand as one of the most recognizable versions of these characters. Unfortunately, Super Friends decided to tell Superman's origin through Marvin, instantly rendering it one of the worst retellings ever simply on principle.

21) The New Adventures of Superman TV Series (1966-1970)

A short-lived series on CBS which served as the first cartoon presence for Supes and his supporting cast since the '40s. The origin was summarized very briefly in the show's opening credits, so it was repeated every episode for all four seasons the show ran. This series is notable for including the first TV versions of Superboy and his dog Krypto, and also notable because it paved the way for our next entry.

20) More Fun Comics #101 (1945)
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This otherwise forgettable issue of an unremembered comic is notable only because it marks the moment that Siegel and Shuster introduced Superboy to the world, without realizing that he would someday punch a literal hole in DC continuity.

19) Superman Movie Serial, "Superman Comes to Earth" (1948)

This movie serial was the first live-action version of Superman. It began with a rather basic origin with the standard details, except for both of Clark's foster parents (this time named Eben and Martha) dying before he moved to Metropolis. It also paved the way for...

18) The Adventures of Superman TV Series, "The Last Son of Krypton" (1952)

This TV series had pretty much the same premise as the movie serial from a few year prior, but being on TV gave it 1) more time to tell more stories and 2) a wider audience to tell those stories to. The first episode was devoted to Superman arriving on Earth and deciding to become a superhero. It also established Clark Kent as moving to Metropolis and becoming Superman after the death of his foster father, which would later be used in Superman: The Movie.

17) Superman for All Seasons (1998)
While being meant as a stand-alone tale, this series doesn't actually contradict anything in Byrne's Man of Steel origin, which was still canon at the time (see below). Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale set out to reexamine the disturbingly thick-necked Superman's early days in four season chapters narrated by Johnathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang.

16) Adventures of Superman Radio Serial, "The Baby from Krypton" (1940)
This long-running radio serial (it ran from 1940-51!) was the first appearance of Superman outside of the comics. His origin here includes odd bits like Krypton being a planet in Earth's solar system on the opposite side of the sun, and Supes maturing in space then emerging from his ship as a fully grown adult. Most importantly, the radio show is where his weakness kryptonite was introduced for the first time.

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