Becoming Superman/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
on July 23, 2019
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Published by Harper Voyager
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
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.
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.
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.
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