I experienced two origin stories in close succession and it provided me with a nice glimpse of how to do handle the origins of a main character in two different ways.
In one corner we have the film version of "Superman" (1978) directed by Richard Donner. The film is split into three distinct parts. The first takes place on Krypton. This tells the viewer where Superman came from and what his possible mission was. The second portion shows him as young man growing up on the Kent farm and coming into his powers. The final section is his first major adventure against Lex Luthor and breaking one of the laws his father set down.
This movie is actually mostly exposition, especially in it's first section. In a way these stories are interesting to watch, but don't really have a drive to them. The third section is driven by Lex Luthor's plot and Superman's interaction with Lois Lane. Overall the movie is effective and for a long time was considered one of the best adaptation of a comic book character to the screen.
In the other corner is Stephanie Plum and her origin story in "One for the Money". The book only gives us a little bit of exposition, telling us that Stephanie is broke, has been laid off and is getting desperate. We get a bit of her history with Morelli (which comes into play later). The minute she becomes a bounty hunter and attempts to track down the rogue cop the story is cooking. What is great about this book is that Stephanie's actions, dialogue and reactions give us plenty of backstory and explanation. The book moves along at a brisk pace, keeps you entertained throughout and covers the basics of character introductions along the way.
So there you have it, two ways to bring the origins of a character to life. Which way do you think is more successful: starting the story at the beginning of the character's life and going into a brief first adventure or giving the reader the adventure and revealing elements of character as you go? Was Richard Donner's approach in "Superman" dictated by the fact that he was making a movie and it was based off a comic book? Was "One for the Money" handled differently because it was a book?