Becoming Superman
With an introduction by Neil Gaiman!In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5, Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.Joe's early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past. To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Becoming Superman Details

TitleBecoming Superman
Author
ReleaseJul 23rd, 2019
PublisherHarper Voyager
ISBN-139780062857859
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography

Becoming Superman Review

  • Jason Snell
    January 1, 1970
    When Joe Straczynski talks publicly about his difficult upbringing, it's easy to insert a generic, TV-movie sort of rags-to-riches story. Only in this book does he reveal, after most of the participants have died, the depths of the awfulness of his childhood and family. It's almost certainly worse than you imagined.The magic of "Becoming Superman," though, is that it's simultaneously horrifying and uplifting, and a great read. It helps that not only is Straczynski an accomplished writer, but tha When Joe Straczynski talks publicly about his difficult upbringing, it's easy to insert a generic, TV-movie sort of rags-to-riches story. Only in this book does he reveal, after most of the participants have died, the depths of the awfulness of his childhood and family. It's almost certainly worse than you imagined.The magic of "Becoming Superman," though, is that it's simultaneously horrifying and uplifting, and a great read. It helps that not only is Straczynski an accomplished writer, but that this is the story he's been training to tell for his entire life. It's funny, sad, infuriating, and inspiring--often all at once.Beyond the horrific family secrets, there's also the story of how Straczynski built his career by ping-ponging from school plays to local newspapers to animation to live-action TV to comics to--in a surprisingly dramatic moment--feature films. By the time he collects a million-dollar check for a spec screenplay, you will be cheering--because you'll see how far he's come from his childhood in New Jersey.The subject matter of "Becoming Superman" is difficult, but the book itself is engrossing and enjoyable. You don't need to be a fan of "Babylon 5" or "Sense8" or "The Real Ghostbusters" or "She-Ra" to enjoy this book. You just have to be an empathetic human being.
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  • Adam
    January 1, 1970
    If there is anything remarkable about my life, it is that I did not come out the other side a serial killer.When I review a book, I’ll highlight passages I’ll want to refer to after I complete it. By the end of chapter two of J. Michael Straczynski’s autobiography Becoming Superman I had already highlighted an obscene amount of passages and notes expressing a mix of shock, incredulity, and an unhealthy amount of swearing. Similar to Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Tara Westover’s Educated, If there is anything remarkable about my life, it is that I did not come out the other side a serial killer.When I review a book, I’ll highlight passages I’ll want to refer to after I complete it. By the end of chapter two of J. Michael Straczynski’s autobiography Becoming Superman I had already highlighted an obscene amount of passages and notes expressing a mix of shock, incredulity, and an unhealthy amount of swearing. Similar to Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Tara Westover’s Educated, the first half of Joe’s life depicts a child raised by… let’s call it unconventional means. But the similarities end there. Joe was raised by his parents and grandmother who were Polish immigrants and Nazi sympathizers. His father Charles is the pure embodiment of evil, a truly sick a vile man whose atrocities are too long to list, and he plays a central role in the story of Joe’s life. Charles is one of the most despicable humans I’ve had the displeasure of learning about, and he takes on the mantle of ‘head villain’ of Joe’s origin story. For Joe to overcome this villain and unearth his family’s various abhorrent secrets, he must rise above their absence of affection, their lack of morals, and their penchant for violence and abuse. Joe must become Superman.The only thing more shocking than the early half of Joe’s life is what happens after. Joe’s story is one that needs to be told. How he didn’t end up dead, imprisoned, or worse is a testament to his strength of will and his determination to never compromise his values. “I swore to never settle for It’s better here, it’s safer here. I would take chances, even if that meant risking everything.” Joe’s life teetered between success and failure for decades, never being able to establish steady work more than a couple of years before it all blows up in his face. Although most of his early life was spent under constant threat of physical violence and emotional abuse, Joe never wavered from his principals, relying on the teachings of comic book heroes to guide his moral compass.The horror stories from his childhood alone would be enough to sell plenty of books. But the fact that Joe became an iconic creator of She-Ra, an author of novels and dozens of short stories, the creator and show-runner of Babylon 5 and Sense 8, and screenwriter of Thor, Changeling, and other Hollywood films, is an incredible story on its own. It’s almost as if we’re getting two different life stories in one book. The writing is infused with humor and wisdom, with a sharp awareness that at times feels like Joe is an outside observer to his own experiences.This book is explicitly detailed, and its many revelations are at times truly hard to believe. But the author addresses why these memoirs are so vividly recalled, especially during his early years:There was no room for me to just be a kid, no place where I felt safe. My early memories are highly detailed because my environment was constantly changing. I became hypervigilant and self-reliant, meticulously logging everything around me and learning the rules that would allow me to adapt to wherever I was being dumped that week.This book isn’t just Joe’s story, it’s a book about stories themselves: how they’re crafted and the process behind their creation, the massive failures, creative challenges, and the incremental successes that feel all too familiar. While I thankfully don’t share many early life experiences with Joe, there are many lessons learned that can easily be applied to any of our lives.Becoming Superman is a valuable resource for those wishing to look behind the curtain to one of pop culture’s most cherished and esteemed writers. While at times painful and horrific, it also serves as a powerful inspiration for fighting through the very worst of situations to test your limits and realize your goals. It is an incredible story of familial abuse and its aftermath, of perseverance and fortitude, of endurance and determination. Highly recommended. It doesn’t matter if you’re seventeen, or fifty-seven--if you come from a poor background or a rich one, if you went to the best schools or the worst. It. Doesn’t. Matter. What matters is listening to the small voice at the back of your head that says this is what gives me joy.9.0 / 10HarperCollins provided an ARC for review. Becoming Superman is on sale July 23, 2019.
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  • Stewart Tame
    January 1, 1970
    Full disclosure: I won a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. And I’m also a big fan of Straczynski’s work. I was first exposed to it in an issue of Teen Titans Spotlight, but I didn't really start to take notice of it until my wife and I started watching Babylon 5 around about season 3 or so. Anyway, yes, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion I was going to like this. You have been warned. So. This is an autobiography of J. Michael Straczynski, who’s written for movies, television, Full disclosure: I won a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. And I’m also a big fan of Straczynski’s work. I was first exposed to it in an issue of Teen Titans Spotlight, but I didn't really start to take notice of it until my wife and I started watching Babylon 5 around about season 3 or so. Anyway, yes, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion I was going to like this. You have been warned. So. This is an autobiography of J. Michael Straczynski, who’s written for movies, television, radio, comics, newspapers, and pretty much anything that will hold still long enough to be written on. Unless you're very young or incredibly isolated, you’ve almost certainly experienced something he’s done. Heard of it at the very least.He’s certainly led an interesting life. He survived childhood abuse and crushing poverty. Honestly, there are many aspects of his childhood that made me cringe in horror. While the events of his life shaped him into the person he is today--a fine human being and a talented writer as far as I can discern from his work--I still wouldn't wish some of them on my worst enemy. It's incredible that he survived and didn't grow up to be a serial killer or an alcoholic or something (Note: I am certainly not trying to liken the two in any way except in that they are both forms of destruction; one is just inwardly focused.)Fortunately, you get to experience the high points of his life as well as the lows. This book was compelling to the point where I almost literally couldn't put it down. It's a good thing I didn't have to work today, because I don't think I could have borne having to read only on my breaks.This one is highly recommended!
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    Holy cow.The first 16 pages are unnerving; the next 12 pages will curdle your blood. And it doesn't stop. Chapter after chapter, the evil, the depravity, of the author's family (mainly his father) beggars belief. For plenty of people, this is all they need for a five-star memoir. My Horrific Childhood could be the title of any number of popular books.This one is different. Yes, the author wants to lay bare the details of his family history, but it is only because he wants to speak the truth. He Holy cow.The first 16 pages are unnerving; the next 12 pages will curdle your blood. And it doesn't stop. Chapter after chapter, the evil, the depravity, of the author's family (mainly his father) beggars belief. For plenty of people, this is all they need for a five-star memoir. My Horrific Childhood could be the title of any number of popular books.This one is different. Yes, the author wants to lay bare the details of his family history, but it is only because he wants to speak the truth. He tells his story in the most matter-of-fact way, sometimes with dry humor, completely lacking self-pity or even pathos. (It doesn't need pathos because it is awash in horror - but even the horror is not the point.) No, the point of this book is to tell us how and why Joe Straczynski became a successful writer. Of course, part of his becoming a writer involved surviving his childhood. And then surviving Hollywood. The remarkable thing, of course, is that he survives with his integrity intact, hence the title: Becoming Superman (a title with many layers of significance in this many-layered book).I especially appreciate Straczynski's style. So many memoirs read like fiction, a quality I despise. I distrust plot arcs in nonfiction; I find it alienating. Now, Straczynski does have a sense of dramatic tension, and to keep the story from flagging does dole out some facts more slowly than others, but the overarching quality of his writing is that of utmost honesty. His effort to be accurate as possible to historical facts and his own internal experiences lift this memoir above the rest, along with his clear goal of making meaning and creating value in his life.This is an amazing, almost incredible tale with the strongest possible moral core. A recurring point of reflection is how bullies use victimhood narratives to justify their abuse of others, and that, moreover, the only way the real victims can survive and succeed is by casting off victimhood itself. There's so much more to it, too. The focus on personal agency and choice in the face of unbelievable odds is certainly my favorite part, but there are also themes of emotional connection/alienation, rage, responsibility, loyalty, self-expression, and courage. And then there's all the crazy stuff, not just his horrible childhood but oh, you know, the cult, the censors, the shady dealings, the "murder, madness and mayhem" of the title. All glued together by a focus on what writing is for, the writer's craft, what Harlan Ellison called a "holy chore." And an abiding love for comic books, super heroes, and science fiction.What a fantastic book for 2019.
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  • Robert Greenberger
    January 1, 1970
    I first met Joe in 1984 when we both attended a talk by producer Dan Blatt about NBC's V series. We were both fairly terrified at his pronouncement that SF could be anything, without being grounded in, you know, science. We became friends and would run into one another at east and west coast conventions over the next few years before he blossomed into a prolific writer/producer in TV.At one point, he expressed interest in comics which led me and/or Marv Wolfman offering him an issue of Teen Tita I first met Joe in 1984 when we both attended a talk by producer Dan Blatt about NBC's V series. We were both fairly terrified at his pronouncement that SF could be anything, without being grounded in, you know, science. We became friends and would run into one another at east and west coast conventions over the next few years before he blossomed into a prolific writer/producer in TV.At one point, he expressed interest in comics which led me and/or Marv Wolfman offering him an issue of Teen Titans Spotlight, followed by my offer of an issue of Star Trek.But I had no idea about his background so when NetGalley offered me a chance to read a galley of his autobiography I snatched it up. Somehow I missed the bits and pieces of his past he has been publically discussing since his father died in 2011 so this was all revelatory to me. They say an author is the sum of his experiences and let me tell you, this man has endured much which goes to explain why he's such an interesting writer regardless of medium. He grew up on the move, relocating annually if not more frequently, unable to form friendships or even excel in school. His parents were dysfunctional, wth dad outright abusive to all around him. The extended family also harbored secrets, which he doles out throughout the narrative. The summation is horrifying and I pity Joe and his sisters for enduring all of this.He goes on to explore how he became a writer despite the above and his experience as a journalist, animation and live-action television writer prior to moving into a production role. He doesn't shy away from the Baylon 5 vs. Deep Space Nine controversy or the demons that afflicted several of the B5 cast.This is an open and honest examination of the past, with some advice for writers sprinkled throughout. I felt compelled to keep turning the page, a sign of a well-told tale. If you like anything Joe has produced, this is a worthwhile read.
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  • Joe Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    This book is really good, an autobiography about someone whose work I knew, but not his personal history. Straczynski digs deep into both, discussing everything from his work on some of my favorite TV shows, Real Ghostbusters, He-Man, and his creation, Babylon 5. He details his comic book work, including writing the issue of Spider-Man where the Marvel heroes (and villains) reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. JMS gets to all that, but first, he discusses how he rose from poverty and su This book is really good, an autobiography about someone whose work I knew, but not his personal history. Straczynski digs deep into both, discussing everything from his work on some of my favorite TV shows, Real Ghostbusters, He-Man, and his creation, Babylon 5. He details his comic book work, including writing the issue of Spider-Man where the Marvel heroes (and villains) reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. JMS gets to all that, but first, he discusses how he rose from poverty and survived a rotten childhood, and how he dealt with horrible family secrets that he didn't find out about until he was an adult. His recollections of frankly awful things are stark and bleak, and his rise beyond them is pretty inspiring. The book is equal parts personal stuff and professional stuff. I came away with a desire to binge-watch Real Ghostbusters, which is an admirable goal for anyone.
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  • The Kawaii Slartibartfast
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of Becoming Superman from HarperCollins Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.Wow, this book was exceptional. The beginning was horrifying but somehow entrancing in a way that all survivor stories are.Joe Straczynski made a choice and by Grabthars hammer he stuck with it.The raw determination espoused is nothing short of inspiring. I don't think I can put into words how much this book touched me and I am so glad to have read it.
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  • Jan Schroeder
    January 1, 1970
    “My father was a monster.” As a fan who’s seen J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) at a number of appearances, I’d heard those words and imagined the worst father I’d ever known or heard of. I couldn’t have been more wrong if I’d been picturing Mr. Rogers.Year by year, step by step, JMS describes every conscious decision he made, even while extremely young, that would form him into the man he wanted to be, not what seemed destined by family and society. Leavened with snark and humor, the book is grippi “My father was a monster.” As a fan who’s seen J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) at a number of appearances, I’d heard those words and imagined the worst father I’d ever known or heard of. I couldn’t have been more wrong if I’d been picturing Mr. Rogers.Year by year, step by step, JMS describes every conscious decision he made, even while extremely young, that would form him into the man he wanted to be, not what seemed destined by family and society. Leavened with snark and humor, the book is gripping and avoids the unrelenting grimness that it might otherwise have had.While the family secrets and the odds against JMS’ success are a major thread, never think that that’s what the book is about. The real story is about the man, his decisions, his determination and willingness to face fears and do the right thing. Whether you’re a fan of his work or never heard of him before, this is a book well worth your time.
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  • J.D. DeHart
    January 1, 1970
    From comic books to real life, this author engages the reader. This book is a rarity — the chance to get to know the life of a creative voice, the reality that exists behind authorship and invention.
  • Cathy Doyle
    January 1, 1970
    Just an amazing book.
  • Dominic
    January 1, 1970
    Some of us might know Joseph Michael Straczynski through his work on Babylon 5. Some of us came to know him through his time on the Spider-Man and Superman comic book lines. Some might have found Joe by browsing on Netflix and finding Sense8. Some of us might even know him primarily through his always amusing and often insightful Twitter feed. Well, unless you've read this book, you don't know Joe.Becoming Superman is a surprisingly intimate, honest, and at times raw look back on Straczynski's l Some of us might know Joseph Michael Straczynski through his work on Babylon 5. Some of us came to know him through his time on the Spider-Man and Superman comic book lines. Some might have found Joe by browsing on Netflix and finding Sense8. Some of us might even know him primarily through his always amusing and often insightful Twitter feed. Well, unless you've read this book, you don't know Joe.Becoming Superman is a surprisingly intimate, honest, and at times raw look back on Straczynski's life, especially his youth. Reading this book, I felt like I was afforded a peak inside the mind of a brilliant writer sometimes haunted by demons from his past. Straczynski's life story is in parts both depressing and inspiring, sometimes all at the same time. And being a master storyteller, Straczynski knows exactly how to tell his life's story to keep readers engaged. I'm reluctant to talk too much about Straczynski's life in this review because there are details that I think need to come directly from him. That said, readers should be warned that Becoming Superman is an intense read. Straczynski did not have a stable and supporting family (to say the least!), and Becoming Superman contains detailed accounts of physical and psychological abuse.It's become a truism to claim that life is stranger than fiction, but Straczynski's Becoming Superman certainly ranks amongst the most interesting stories he's ever told. I feel as if reading this book I've vicariously experienced both the best and worst that life has to offer. The fact that it's true only increases my admiration for the man. I'd long admired Joe Straczynski as a writer, but now I admire his perseverance and accomplishments in the face of such adversity. Becoming Superman easily ranks as one of the most meaningful books I've read in years. Highly recommended for readers interested in any of Straczynski's work, as well as anyone interested in compelling life stories.Becoming Superman goes on sale on July 23, 2019. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Not always an easy read -- there is a lot of dark and terrible things in Straczynski's life -- but an absolutely compelling read. I did not want to put this down. (These original reading dates say it took me almost a month; in reality, it was more like two or three days, just separated by several weeks of classwork.)I personally became aware of Straczynski because of Babylon 5, which is obviously discussed, but not particularly in-depth. I suspect this is because he covered it all quite thorough Not always an easy read -- there is a lot of dark and terrible things in Straczynski's life -- but an absolutely compelling read. I did not want to put this down. (These original reading dates say it took me almost a month; in reality, it was more like two or three days, just separated by several weeks of classwork.)I personally became aware of Straczynski because of Babylon 5, which is obviously discussed, but not particularly in-depth. I suspect this is because he covered it all quite thoroughly in his 15-volume scripts collection. So if you're looking to find out all the nuances of making that show, you won't find that in Becoming Superman. What you will find is the source of that show's belief in the power of individuals to change themselves and the world around them and the sense of hope in the future.
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  • J. Dotson
    January 1, 1970
    I've tried to come up with the words you describe how I feel about this book. I even wrote a blog post about it here: Becoming Superman by J. Michael StraczynskiBut the shorter version is this: Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski is the most incredible story. And especially because it's all true. That this man endured STAGGERING abuse and somehow moved up, up, and away from it to become likely the most prolific writer of our time...it will startle yo I've tried to come up with the words you describe how I feel about this book. I even wrote a blog post about it here: Becoming Superman by J. Michael StraczynskiBut the shorter version is this: Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski is the most incredible story. And especially because it's all true. That this man endured STAGGERING abuse and somehow moved up, up, and away from it to become likely the most prolific writer of our time...it will startle you, leave you breathless, and transport you. Read it now, and share it with the world. It's worth it. And so is he.
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  • Lisa Wright
    January 1, 1970
    Joe Straczynski is a superhero. He must be to have survived a brutal childhood and a roller coaster of a writing career. The story of his childhood is harrowing. Beaten by an alcoholic, abusive father and nearly killed by a mentally ill mother, Joe turned to Superman in TV and comic book form as the one good thing in his life. Here was a man who never threw the first punch, who kept every promise he ever made, who was kind and generous; everything his father was not.This would have been a great Joe Straczynski is a superhero. He must be to have survived a brutal childhood and a roller coaster of a writing career. The story of his childhood is harrowing. Beaten by an alcoholic, abusive father and nearly killed by a mentally ill mother, Joe turned to Superman in TV and comic book form as the one good thing in his life. Here was a man who never threw the first punch, who kept every promise he ever made, who was kind and generous; everything his father was not.This would have been a great book even if he had ended it when, in his teens, he was finally able to escape, but this is only a part of the larger story. J. Michael Straczynski can really write and he has one hell of a story to tell.
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  • Meghan
    January 1, 1970
    This book was received as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I was so intrigued from the start to read this book because it's main focus was the original TV show which I remember watching a long time ago as a child. The episode that Straczynski reflects on in the episode I remember clearly and thought it was the sweetest thing he will ever do for anyone and when I read that in the book, I got very excited! I am a huge fa This book was received as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I was so intrigued from the start to read this book because it's main focus was the original TV show which I remember watching a long time ago as a child. The episode that Straczynski reflects on in the episode I remember clearly and thought it was the sweetest thing he will ever do for anyone and when I read that in the book, I got very excited! I am a huge fan of entertainment biographies because they give you first insight of behind the scenes work and they are always understand expected and interesting. I also found his story very inspiring of how he started with nothing and with hard work and dedication you can always achieve your dreams.We will consider this book for our biography collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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  • Mindy
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate enough to win an advanced copy of this book here and i'm so glad I did.Quite honestly this was one of the best memoirs i've ever read. Very engaging and of course you have to love the sarcastic bits which definitely had me laughing a lot in some parts. I'm a huge fan of Joe and even more so now after reading this one. So much respect for this brilliant man.Inspiring on so many levels. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.
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  • Woody
    January 1, 1970
    However crappy your family is, it's highly likely they don't hold a candle to the mess Joe grew up with. I don't know how he didn't turn out a serial killer.* He probably had one of the worst upbringings a 20th Century straight white American man could've had. Now I thought I was familiar with his work. While I never saw Babylon 5, I knew about it and I read some of his work in comics (Midnight Nation being an all-time favorite) but I kept saying "I had no idea he did that!" Most writers would k However crappy your family is, it's highly likely they don't hold a candle to the mess Joe grew up with. I don't know how he didn't turn out a serial killer.* He probably had one of the worst upbringings a 20th Century straight white American man could've had. Now I thought I was familiar with his work. While I never saw Babylon 5, I knew about it and I read some of his work in comics (Midnight Nation being an all-time favorite) but I kept saying "I had no idea he did that!" Most writers would kill to have one writing career. JMS has had five. FIVE distinct, ridiculously successful writing careers. I don't know how that's possible but if anyone could pull it off, it would have to be Joe. This memoir is full of, and fueled by, the same heart and humor that infuses all his works of fiction and every aspiring human, writer and/or human writer should give it a read.*honestly, I don't know for sure he's not a serial killer but he's so busy, I don't know where he'd find the time.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating memoir, inspiring life of an individual who persisted past a horrific family life to become a successful writer of comic books, animated series, television shows and movies. 'Just keep getting up. It's possible. Keep going. Keep believing. Bravo Joe.
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  • Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Just wow...
  • Becka
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciate receiving an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for my honest review.Up front, let me say that this book jumps right in from page 1, so be aware that the description of the abuse suffered in the author’s childhood is specific and difficult reading. However, it is a vital part of the story, showing the resilience of the human spirit.Straczynski doesn’t use his traumatic childhood to excuse bad choices in adulthood. He instead shares how he has been able to rise I appreciate receiving an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for my honest review.Up front, let me say that this book jumps right in from page 1, so be aware that the description of the abuse suffered in the author’s childhood is specific and difficult reading. However, it is a vital part of the story, showing the resilience of the human spirit.Straczynski doesn’t use his traumatic childhood to excuse bad choices in adulthood. He instead shares how he has been able to rise above these experiences and other life challenges to succeed in his life’s passion of writing.Difficult reading? Yes. Worthwhile reading? Absolutely.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    The journey that was traveled and the horrific truth of childhood travels is rivoting. Becoming Superman is a book I won from goodreads and is a story of pure determination and overcoming lifes diverse twist and turns. Most excellent book and is a must read! The obstacles he has overcome is harrowing and at the same time the progress to success is uplifting. Love this book and is definitely a must read!
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    I've seen a lot of J. Michael Straczynski's work.  I watched He-Man and She-Ra in the 1980s.  I'm a huge fan of Sense8.  But I didn't know who he was until I read this book.  Becoming Superman refers to many things in the author's life.  He eventually was able to write the Superman comic which fulfilled a lifelong dream.  More importantly, it refers to his ability to survive and then thrive despite of his chaotic home life.  He was raised by very manipulative people.  His family tree is a list I've seen a lot of J. Michael Straczynski's work.  I watched He-Man and She-Ra in the 1980s.  I'm a huge fan of Sense8.  But I didn't know who he was until I read this book.  Becoming Superman refers to many things in the author's life.  He eventually was able to write the Superman comic which fulfilled a lifelong dream.  More importantly, it refers to his ability to survive and then thrive despite of his chaotic home life.  He was raised by very manipulative people.  His family tree is a list of people who did what they wanted in order to get ahead with no thoughts to how their actions would impact anyone else.  Content warnings for this book would include genocide, rape, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence, and animal abuse - and that is just talking about his father.  Michael built his life on the simple premise that he was going to do the exact opposite of what he believed anyone in his family would do.  It has served him well.  He was able to build a successful career (or four) as a writer in journalism, television, movies, and comics.  He deliberately distanced himself from his family but curiosity about the secrets that he knew his family was keeping made him dig a little deeper.  What he found out shocked even him.  This isn't an easy book to read but it is worthwhile.  Pick it up if you like stories of people overcoming horrible childhoods or if you just like some of the shows that he was written.  You'll be amazed.  Purchase Links HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble   About J. Michael Straczynski J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.Follow him on Twitter. Tour schedule:   Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand Monday, August 5th: Tina Says… Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story
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  • Marlene
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published at Reading RealityI jumped at the chance to read this book and be on this tour because, well, basically because Babylon 5. Which I’ve watched more than once, and have frequently cited in regards to its treatment of chaos vs. order in the Shadow War. Because that dichotomy rears its head, over and over, in SF, in Fantasy, in life.It’s what makes Loki such a fascinating character, because he represents chaos. While the MCU may equate chaos with evil, it ain’t necessarily so. T Originally published at Reading RealityI jumped at the chance to read this book and be on this tour because, well, basically because Babylon 5. Which I’ve watched more than once, and have frequently cited in regards to its treatment of chaos vs. order in the Shadow War. Because that dichotomy rears its head, over and over, in SF, in Fantasy, in life.It’s what makes Loki such a fascinating character, because he represents chaos. While the MCU may equate chaos with evil, it ain’t necessarily so. There’s a reason why seemingly every mythology has a chaos avatar – because chaos and the response to it pushes us forward.It’s what makes Ben Franklin’s quote about sacrificing freedom to obtain security so powerful, as freedom is generally a bit chaotic, while security generally aligns with order. But too much of either, no matter how well intentioned, is always a bad thing.The surprising thing about this autobiography is just how much chaos swirled around the author’s early life. And that his adult response seems to have been, not to fight against the chaos, but to embrace it. To grow stronger from the fight – no matter how much it hurt.And it’s a fascinating journey from beginning to end – even if – or especially because – it (and the author) took a very long walk through some very dark places.Reality Rating A+: I opened this book, fell completely into it, and didn’t emerge until I turned the last page. Sort of like the first time I watched Babylon 5, somewhere in Season 3, and got so deeply entranced – or entrenched – that I went back to the beginning to catch up then waited with the proverbial bated breath for each episode thereafter.One of the fascinating things about the author’s life is the way that he knows and addresses the fact that he might not be the most reliable narrator of the early parts of it. Not because of lies or embellishments – or at least not because of his own lies or embellishments. Rather because the people whose memories he is forced to rely on for the parts that take place before his birth or during his early childhood were themselves far from reliable. His family’s story is a story of lies and coverups hiding multiple essential and nasty truths.All families have secrets. All families centered around any kind of abuse have particular kinds of secrets designed to protect the abuser from the consequences of their actions. All of that is in this life story.But the dark heart hidden underneath all of that is even more rotten than most people have to deal with in one lifetime. And it left the kind of damage that makes all too many people not merely dysfunctional, but sets them up for a lifetime of perpetuating their abuse.What makes this story so special? For one, the book is compulsively readable. I started and absolutely couldn’t put it down until about 2:30 in the morning – and not just because I wanted to get to the good parts. I felt so compelled because the man is a consummate storyteller, no matter how painful the story is. I was hooked and I stayed that way for 5 hours of reading, just as I stayed that way for 5 years of B5.The story begins as a shitshow of epic proportions, travels inexorably from endless defeats to seeming victories to yet more defeats, only to rise and fall again and again, until the end is, not so much a triumph as a paean of gratitude for all the chances that came, and for all of the million-to-one shots that surprisingly and delightfully paid off.And it’s an absolutely marvelous read every step of the way. Even the hard parts. Especially the hard parts. Because the author spares no one, particularly not himself.My one and only regret about this book is that I didn’t have time to listen to the audio, which is read by the actor who played the clown-turned-emperor Londo Mollari on Babylon 5. The only way that could have been better would be if G’Kar were still with us to participate. And now, I think it’s time for a rewatch.
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  • Nathalie
    January 1, 1970
    JMS is one of a kind. A writer, and a really good one. Hooked to Babylon5 from the start in the mid 90s, I still refer to him as the guy I insulted most when I watched the series, as he made me go through such a rollercoaster with his series. I was in a way mad at him for good reasons : I didn't know where the show will go, what will happen to the characters, and many times I was fooled when I thought I knew what will happen next. That was the most epic and humanistic science-fiction show and in JMS is one of a kind. A writer, and a really good one. Hooked to Babylon5 from the start in the mid 90s, I still refer to him as the guy I insulted most when I watched the series, as he made me go through such a rollercoaster with his series. I was in a way mad at him for good reasons : I didn't know where the show will go, what will happen to the characters, and many times I was fooled when I thought I knew what will happen next. That was the most epic and humanistic science-fiction show and in some ways, still is to me (and I'm a huge Star Trek fan, alongside with Farscape, Doctor Who, and now the Expanse.. ). There was writing in there. I saw that. Now I know. I know that the man who wrote some of the lines that struck me in the past, because the words were so close to what I just lived, or experienced, in my life. The hope I needed to go on, the broad vision of humanity I love to build dreams upon, all this was out of a terrible childhood and conditions which would have killed some or even make them cry and stay in bed all day. JMS is bold, fierce, human and overly stubborn. Then he gave credits to the one figure that manage to help him build values that were totally different from his family's. Superman. Fiction saves lives. He realized that and wanted to be a writer. Writing saved his life. Then he decided to help others by giving them what he received : good stories, inspiring heroes that can shift destiny in a good way. Now he did the last move : sharing his own story so people can see that as awful your childhood might have been, there's always hope. Cling on to what's important and gives you joy is his main advice (amongst others). Humility is here. And hope. This book is a must read, even if you don't know the work. If you know some of it, you'll have flashes of fiction memory coming in.. G'Kar torture beating scene, Cartagia, Delenn's hope and despair when she lights a candle. Love, friendship, madness, violence, all that makes us human. Chapeau bas, M.. Straczynski.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman fan, as well, so the combination was an automatic win-win for me, but getting to peek into the brain of someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for so long was a special experience.Special… and often harrowing. I’m not one to spoil plots. I don’t even typically include a synopsis in my own thoughts, but JMS did not have an easy childhood, and there were moments when I wanted to reach back through the years and give that isolated, odd child a hug.The moment when he discovered Superman is one I completely understood. My childhood was not nearly so traumatic, but we all have our moments – especially those of us who are geeks, or creators, or both – when something clicks inside us, and we recognize a kinship with something, even if that something is a fictional character in a red suit and tights. Superman is so iconic – is there any American kid who didn’t want to meet him or be him at some point in their life? – but that moment set the tone for the rest of the book, and the rest of this man’s life.It’s a very honest narrative overall. Straczynski is clearly incredibly self-aware of who he is, where he’s from, and where’s he’s ended up. Like so many gifted people, he’s a little bit broken, but he’s made that work for him – and turned it into a gift for us.This book isn’t a casual read, but if you’re a fan of JMS’s work, I’d highly recommend it.Goes well with chicken shawarma and craft beer.
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  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    Screenwriter, novelist and comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski reveals his origin story in BECOMING SUPERMAN, and it's more harrowing than most superheroes endure. The creator of TV's "Babylon 5" and "Sense8" was conceived in a whorehouse and raised by a raging, abusive and alcoholic father and mentally unstable mother who tried to smother him as a baby and pushed him off a rooftop when he was six. His family moved 21 times over 18 years. When his grandmother tries to seduce him, he realize Screenwriter, novelist and comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski reveals his origin story in BECOMING SUPERMAN, and it's more harrowing than most superheroes endure. The creator of TV's "Babylon 5" and "Sense8" was conceived in a whorehouse and raised by a raging, abusive and alcoholic father and mentally unstable mother who tried to smother him as a baby and pushed him off a rooftop when he was six. His family moved 21 times over 18 years. When his grandmother tries to seduce him, he realizes that she had done the same thing to his father growing up. Brutalized at home and at school, his escape was through superhero comic books. "That ethical core meant everything to a young kid trapped in a family that operated without any sort of moral compass," he writes."And that, ladies and gentlemen," he explains later, "is how I trained for a career as a television writer." Writing for TV was almost as painful. His first three animated TV series ("She-Ra", "The Real Ghostbusters" and "Captain Power") each debuted as the top-rated kids' show. But network demands for misguided retooling made Straczynski jump ship after single seasons. By putting his self-worth first, he continually found success. He began writing graphic novels for Marvel Comics, which lead to screenplays for feature films (including Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" and Kenneth Branagh's "Thor").This hard-hitting and fearless gut-punch of a memoir will inspire future writers to follow their dreams and value their instincts. BECOMING SUPERMAN is an amazing story, told with verve, humor and bravery. In this inspiring, reflective, shocking memoir, a screenwriter recounts how a love of superheroes led him out of an extremely abusive childhood.
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  • Julie Capell
    January 1, 1970
    Ever since I encountered JMS through Babylon 5, I have known he was a helluva writer. I've gone to hear him speak several times, read his scriptwriting book, and followed him through all his teevee shows, movies and comic book series. So I began reading this autobiography with pretty high expectations. In typical JMS fasion, he blew past my expectations in the first chapter, revealing that in his family, deeply held secrets formed the rotten core of an abusive upbringing that began with his bein Ever since I encountered JMS through Babylon 5, I have known he was a helluva writer. I've gone to hear him speak several times, read his scriptwriting book, and followed him through all his teevee shows, movies and comic book series. So I began reading this autobiography with pretty high expectations. In typical JMS fasion, he blew past my expectations in the first chapter, revealing that in his family, deeply held secrets formed the rotten core of an abusive upbringing that began with his being conceived in a whorehouse. Then in each subsequent chapter, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse for this toxic family, a new revelation would show that I was wrong. If the book only chronicled the abuse heaped on JMS by his father, it would be compelling but just another in a long line of memoirs that shock but add nothing helpful to the world. Here is where the JMS magic comes in. Because he finds hope along the way. He finds people who believe in him. He believes in himself. And he sends that encouragement out to the reader, saying look, if I can overcome impossible odds to become one of the most successful authors around today, then you can do incredible things with your life, too. If you're already a JMS fan and think you know pretty much everything there is to know about him, you should read this book anyway because I guarantee you don't know the half of it. And if you have never even heard of JMS or his shows, you should still read this book because it will inspire you to do more with what you have been given.[I listened to this as an audio book performed by the amazing Peter Jurasik]
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  • Jonathan Cassie
    January 1, 1970
    If I didn't know this was a JMS autobiography, its writer's voice would have given him away. Only JMS sounds like JMS, and this is definitely his book! I think any reasonable person would be surprised to read the story of his appalling childhood and then note that far from breaking the author, it turned him into the fierce, principled writer, colleague, show runner and friend he became. Ups and downs in equal measure are handled by the author with the same level of honesty and at times it's easy If I didn't know this was a JMS autobiography, its writer's voice would have given him away. Only JMS sounds like JMS, and this is definitely his book! I think any reasonable person would be surprised to read the story of his appalling childhood and then note that far from breaking the author, it turned him into the fierce, principled writer, colleague, show runner and friend he became. Ups and downs in equal measure are handled by the author with the same level of honesty and at times it's easy to see him typing so loudly that it could be heard in another county. I for one am thankful for Babylon 5, Rising Stars and the peerless Sense8 and look forward to whatever he's got next.
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  • Molly
    January 1, 1970
    Really good biography. Bad things happen to cats, thoughJMS had a very shitty dad who did horrible things to JMS' cats. It's handled well in the text, but you may want to know going in so you don't get blindsided. It's not graphic and it's necessary to the story.Obviously there is other difficult material, but the blurb warns you about that already. Even though I'm in the demographic that gets distraught by animal cruelty in my reading, I loved this book and recommend it. I've been a fan since I Really good biography. Bad things happen to cats, thoughJMS had a very shitty dad who did horrible things to JMS' cats. It's handled well in the text, but you may want to know going in so you don't get blindsided. It's not graphic and it's necessary to the story.Obviously there is other difficult material, but the blurb warns you about that already. Even though I'm in the demographic that gets distraught by animal cruelty in my reading, I loved this book and recommend it. I've been a fan since I was a teenager watching Babylon 5.
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  • Mike Crate
    January 1, 1970
    For anyone who knows J. Michael Straczynski through his various work be it Babylon 5, Sense8, Comics, Graphic Novels and much much more this memoir is a revealing insight into the life and times of Joe as he lived through circumstances what many would find difficult to understand. The economic and personal brutality within the Straczynski household is beyond my comprehension but it gave us a man who never gave up on his dreams and chose to be so much more than those who raised him. A truly wonde For anyone who knows J. Michael Straczynski through his various work be it Babylon 5, Sense8, Comics, Graphic Novels and much much more this memoir is a revealing insight into the life and times of Joe as he lived through circumstances what many would find difficult to understand. The economic and personal brutality within the Straczynski household is beyond my comprehension but it gave us a man who never gave up on his dreams and chose to be so much more than those who raised him. A truly wonderful read albeit heart wrenching and shocking in places but inspiring in others.
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