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Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood

4.65  ·  Rating details ·  910 ratings  ·  245 reviews
In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5, Sense8, Clint Eastwoods Changeling and Marvels 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
ebook, 480 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Harper Voyager
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Average rating 4.65  · 
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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
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
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, Ill highlight passages Ill want to refer to after I complete it. By the end of chapter two of J. Michael Straczynskis 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 Westovers Educated, the
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: biography, 2019
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 Im also a big fan of Straczynskis 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, whos written for movies, television,
If I could give J. Michael Straczynskis Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood a million stars, I would. Im 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 hate ...more
Jan Schroeder
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My father was a monster. As a fan whos seen J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) at a number of appearances, Id heard those words and imagined the worst father Id ever known or heard of. I couldnt have been more wrong if Id 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
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
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
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 ...more
Cathy Doyle
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just an amazing book.
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, youve got the idearead Becoming Superman.

Its the story of a guy who went from utter poverty in New Jerseyand from a positively horrendous, abusive family upbringingto 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 also
Michael O.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Look, Babylon 5 is my favorite show of all time, so I didnt exactly go into J. Michael Straczynskis autobiography unbiased. But this book really isnt 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
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 ...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. ...more
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
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 ...more
Michelle Felt
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.
Ryan Stewart
Heartbreaking and enraging, but more so powerful, inspirational and instructive.
John Culuris
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hold
Review to come.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Originally published at Reading Reality

I jumped at the chance to read this book and be on this tour because, well, basically because Babylon 5. Which Ive 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.

Its what makes Loki such a fascinating character, because he represents chaos. While the MCU may equate chaos with evil, it aint necessarily so.
Jason Pettus
2020 reads, #12. I mostly know J. Michael Straczynski (or JMS as his fans call him) because of his TV show Babylon 5, a 1990s sci-fi series that foretold the rise of complex characterization and serial storytelling in the "Peak TV" era a decade later; but he's equally as famous for his record-breaking stints in the comic-book industry, his screenplay for Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated Changeling, and for co-showrunning the Netflix series Sense8 along with the Wachowskis. In any of these cases, ...more
Wayne Santos
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Becoming Superman is a lot of things. It's a story about how one writer undertook the journey to success, but it's also a story about someone who, in his own words, "Should have become a serial killer," due to his inhumane upbringing, but he didn't. And he didn't because he did the most straightforward and yet hardest thing in the world to do; he made a choice not to.

For most of my youth, I didn't know that Joe Michael Straczynski was actually a significant narrative presence in my
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynskis previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the mans 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 Gaimans introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, Im a Gaiman fan,
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Wow, what a horribly traumatic childhood Straczynski survived in this gripping memoir. He uses his many years of storytelling experience across multiple formats to inform readers how he not only survived his abusive, alcoholic, philandering, lying, and violent father, but how he thrived in spite of him. Roughly the first half of this autobiography is about his years growing up and trying to escape his father's cruelty, and the second half is mostly about his extensive and impressive writing ...more
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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 ...more

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