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Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood

4.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,138 ratings  ·  295 reviews
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 wri
ebook, 480 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Harper Voyager
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Average rating 4.65  · 
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 ·  1,138 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Jason Snell
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Greenberger
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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,
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a journalism course in college, we were assigned an in-depth piece on a business issue. Being a fan of sci-fi pop culture, I decided to marry my love of two new series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon Five in my assignment. Both shows were in their early days (B5 was about six to seven episodes into season one) and I decided to look at the business aspects of what kept a syndicated genre series on the airwaves.

At the time, B5 creator J. Michael Stracysnki had an open dialogue with the
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Baker
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, biography
In this book, author J. Michael Stracyznski (JMS to his fans) tells the story of his family and his life. Starting with his grandparents, he gives us some background before telling us about his childhood under an abusive father and a distant mother. In between moving every few months to stay ahead of creditors, JMS discovered ways to escape via TV shows, comic books, and science fiction. As he discovered the power of words, he vowed to become a writer. That desire eventually lead him to a career ...more
Stewart Tame
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,
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The most meaningful autobiography I've ever read is hands down David Zindell's Splendor. Zindell's Requiem for Homo Sapiens has made me who I am more than any other book (save for The Neverending Story). Reading about the life that made David who he is was merely an extension. (Also, Splendor culminates with an epiphany. How many nonfiction books have a climax? ;))

Becoming Superman shot straight to the same stratospheric height with its first pages. Here's why:
Wow. Just wow. Normally, a book in Goodreads with an average rating higher than 4.5 is suspicious to me. Not this one. It deserves it.

I came blind when starting this book. Oh okay, some memoir by a geeky screenwriter, I thought. Little did I know that JMS created The Real Ghostbuster (which I adored as a kid), Babylon 5, Sense8, wrote the first Thor movie, helped to lift up Marvel comics by writing Amazing Spiderman, and then finally DC with Superman, and many other geeky stuff out there. He wor
If I could give J. Michael Straczynski’s Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood a million stars, I would. I’m pretty hard on the books I read so when I gush, the book has to be phenomenal. That is this book. Straczynski (hereafter JMS) has written an autobiography that exposes his dirty family secrets (even framing the biggest one as a mystery), his own fears and anxieties, his personal and career battles and does it all with humor, compassion, intelligence and is even (and I ha ...more
Jan Schroeder
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
The Kawaii Slartibartfast
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.
Joe Crowe
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
I remember very well watching and loving Babylon 5. Apart from that I did not know much about Joe Straczynski but I was drawn to this biography simply because of his last name. Unfortunately it turned out that his father and grandfather aren't anything to be proud of. It's a kind of miracle that Straczynski survived his horrific early life. If you want an example and a motivational story of how to never give up, he is your man. All the readers concentrated on this part of his story rightly so bu ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If JMS' father weren't dead, I'd want to kill him myself.
Cathy Doyle
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just an amazing book.
John Culuris
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hold
Review to come.
Mark Stevens
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Writers, read Becoming Superman.

If you plan to write, read Becoming Superman.

If you wrote once upon a time and decided to stop writing for one reason or another, yes, you’ve got the idea—read Becoming Superman.

It’s the story of a guy who went from utter poverty in New Jersey—and from a positively horrendous, abusive family upbringing—to a guy who wrote the pioneering sci-fi series Babylon 5, movies directed by Clint Eastwood, comic books, plays, graphic novels, novels, short fiction ... and who
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
J. Michael Straczynski's Becoming Superman is much more than a rag-to-riches story — and not only because he goes from rags to riches about half a dozen times.

Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood is a touching, devastating, unexpectedly funny memoir about a man born into a destructive, abusive environment who went on to overcome his demons — both physical and psychological — and forge a trailblazing career in animation, television, comics and movies. This memoir is simultaneou
Michael O.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Look, Babylon 5 is my favorite show of all time, so I didn’t exactly go into J. Michael Straczynski’s autobiography unbiased. But this book really isn’t about the shows and movies and comics, and I got a lot less of that than I thought I wanted. Instead what I got was what the cover promised: the story of a man who triumphed over what seem like impossible odds, just by doing many of the things I did as a kid - reading comics, looking for Hugo-awarded novels to read, dreaming of being a superhero ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Clay Davis
Many of the family's dirty laundry details would have been better left to the imagination. I wonder if the ex-wife Kathryn should not have been a co-author with the pages she wrote in the book. I would have liked more details about writing and the Babylon 5 show. Very disappointing that the actor and director Stephen Furst who played Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 who died in 2017 was not mentioned in this book while other actors who died were written about in this autobiography. Surprising that the aut ...more
J.D. DeHart
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have known Straczynski mostly as being the master who created and wrote most of the stories that make up the amazing show, Babylon 5. It turns out he is connected to so many more things that I am a fan of, including:
*episodes of the original He-Man cartoon
*co-creator of the original She-Ra cartoon
*co-creator and writer of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon
*writer for Jake and the Fat Man
*writer for Murder She Wrote
*writer of the film Changeling
*writer for the movie Marvel's Thor
*long-time writer of
Lisa Feld
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hebrew-college
It's rare and wonderful to read a book that makes you want to grab everyone you know by the lapels and say, "You have to read this."

JMS is always a good writer, but his honesty and openness, his choices of what he says and how, are perfect here. His story in itself would be an engrossing read, but I also loved getting snippets of what had gone into the various twists and turns in his career writing so many shows, movies, and comics I've enjoyed at different periods in my life, from The Real Ghos
Kieran McAndrew
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joe Straczynski spent his childhood being moved across the States by an abusive father and struggled to outgrow society's expectations of the son of a blue collar worker.

He became one of the most legendary SF creators in the world with the birth of 'Babylon Five', but his life and career is not defined by the groundbreaking series.

There is a certain style to a misery memoir and Joe has conveniently covered all the bases, urging his readers to persevere in anything they wish to accomplish. Recomm
Chris Aylott
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
Writer of many things I like Joe Straczynski stakes a convincing claim on having the Worst Mid-20th-Century American Childhood Ever. He perhaps tries a little too hard to put all his experiences together into a artistic progression that was worth all the suffering at the end, but I can understand that as both literary device and psychological self-defense. There is also enough left out (his relationship with Pat Tallman, for instance) to make it clear that this is only one interpretation of his ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Wow. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted after reading this. It is very, very hard to put down. It's not just the horror of Joe's childhood that gripped me; his writing career is also an enthralling roller coaster ride in and of itself. I picked this up mostly because I am a fan of Babylon 5 and currently going through a re-watch of the series. I did not know much at all about the other shows and comics that he's been associated with (although Sense8 had been recommended to me some time back) ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you love the heart of J Michael's work it's a must read. If you're not familiar with him, it's a great introduction.
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Joseph Michael Straczynski (born July 17, 1954), known professionally as J. Michael Straczynski and informally as Joe Straczynski or JMS, is an American writer and television producer. He works in films, television series, novels, short stories, comic books, and radio dramas. He is a playwright, a former journalist, and author of The Complete Book of Scriptwriting. He was the creator and showrunne ...more

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