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Publisher's Summary

Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

“J. Michael Straczynski is, without question, one of the greatest science fiction minds of our time.” (Max Brooks, World War Z)

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.

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.

©2019 J. Michael Straczynski (P)2019 HarperAudio

What listeners say about Becoming Superman

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HEART WRENCHING PROSE FROM A PRO

I have been a fan of JMS since I was a small child. As the book points out from He Man, The Real Ghostbusters into Babylon 5 and Sense 8 I have followed decades of his work and this book still caught me off guard. I knew many of the stories as a dedicated fan but there were just as many I didn't know and just as many still that made me feel every emotion a reader (listener) is capable of feeling while reading a book. This book will make you angry at the injustices of the world. it will make you happy at each seemingly insurmountable obstacle that Joe overcame to become the person he is. It will make you sad at the loneliness and hardships that Joe experienced in his life. But, if like me you were a lifelong fan it will make you proud. Proud of the man he is and the work he's done and proud to have supported someone as a fan who has the integrity and drive that Joe has.

If you have never heard of J. Michael Straczynski, buy this book to learn about him and then go enjoy his work.

If you are a lifelong fan of J. Michael Straczynski, buy this book. There are things in here I promise you don't know that will change the way you enjoy his work next time you view it.

Buy. This. Book.

Thank you Joe.

15 people found this helpful

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One of the Greatest Books I've Ever Heard or Read

This book by J Michael Straczynski, a science fiction author whom I had never heard or read before, is an incredible treasure. The book is powerful, illuminating, devastating, inspiring, touching, and thrilling, all at the same time. It features the most evil person I've ever encountered in literature, but that person is real. It's Joe's father, someone who is both frightening and unforgettable, making you believe that Satan is not a fictional character. Yet, this book has compelling lessons about life and perseverance. I have struggled with writer's block for years but feel compelled to write after reading how Joe managed to keep writing his whole life against all imaginable odds. I am going to write a full review of this book soon but for now, just buy this audiobook and get started. You won't forget it and it may just change your life.

10 people found this helpful

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Truth. Humility. Rage. Secrets. Lies and Fear...

Some very difficult emotional parts here. I don't want to go into it because it will dilute what you will read and respond to. The trajectory of Joe's career is amazing in itself, but the foundation of his life and his moral compass are equal parts outstanding and unbelievable, given his childhood of despair. JUST READ IT. You can safely read the Epilogue to get a sense of what kind of man he is. It won't spoil the book.

7 people found this helpful

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Wow, what a book

J. Michael Stracynski's memoir Becoming Superman hit me like a street gang.

I've been a fan of J. Michael Stracynski's work since Babylon 5. What I didn't know is that he'd gotten his start writing He-Man, She-Ra, and The Real Ghostbusters animated series back in the 80s. People of a certain age probably remember those fondly. I'm also a huge fan of his most recent series Sense8.

What I also didn't know is that his squalid upbringing was beyond horrific, with a viciously abusive, alcoholic father, an abusive, twisted grandmother, a mentally ill mother, and awful family secrets hidden for decades. And somehow along the way, he met writers who inspired him, Rod Serling and Harlan Ellison, and even got the opportunity to work with them.

This was an absolutely riveting story about tenacity, integrity, and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of abuse, squalor -- and here's the weird part -- war crimes. How did an abused little boy find his moral compass when there were none to be found in his family? Through comic books.

As I writer, I found the stories of Stracynski's early life heartbreaking, and the stories of his career inspiring and fascinating, hearing what went on behind the scenes of all those shows, all those times he met with infuriating roadblocks that forced him to reinvent himself and start over. I think writers will find this book especially moving and inspiring.

5 people found this helpful

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I am recommending this book to everyone

I don't know if JMS sees these reviews. If he does, I want him to see this message:

Thank you.

3 people found this helpful

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A true story by a world class raconteur - stunning

I was introduced to the works of JMS because I started watching Babylon 5 randomly when it first hit the air. I was hooked and years later discovered some of his other writing, but I knew little of the man behind it. His story is inspirational, heartbreaking and a testament to the desire to tell stories, make a difference and stand apart from the darkness from whence you came.

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Powerful and inspirational

Joe has become one of my favorite writers. I had been aware of Babylon 5 during its run, but for one reason or another did not watch it. My husband recommended we binge watch the whole series, movies and all. I am hooked. Joe’s story made me sob several times. the arc of Citizen J’Kar is so poignant. So I took a chance and read Joe’s biography. I found myself crying several times. Do yourself a favor and binge B5, and then read Becoming Superman.

2 people found this helpful

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  • MG
  • 07-30-19

I'm a better person because of JMS

Straczynski taught me to be a better person because of his choices. Thank you Sir.

2 people found this helpful

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Well written & Insightful, but listen w/ Caution..

This might be a difficult book for those traumatized by childhood violence and emotional abuse. JMS goes into great detail about his childhood, what forged him as a writer, and it is a great look into the outward circumstances that allowed him to look inward. However, it is a dark and bleek upbringing to get through, filled with traumas that could easily trigger anyone who has experienced similar pains--it runs from his earliest memories through his twenties. In fact, I found myself stopping multiple times while listening since I had a similar upbringing. I started the audiobook nearly four months ago and only in the last two days did I get through the last seven hours because it finally got into his adult years, which was minimally traumatic compared to what came before. I am not saying that a work like this is invalid, but I would air on the side of caution before listening if you are sensitive to child abuse.

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Great behind the scenes, bad conclusion

I loved getting to know the origin story of a real superhero of creativity. JMS or "Great Maker" as he's playfully known to Babylon 5 fans has, to put it mildly, gone through some shit. This book has nazis, cults, near death experiences, drug trips, and long dark nights of the soul.

It also has a metric fuckton of survivorship bias. That's that thing where someone whose efforts were rewarded with material success believes that anyone who tries as hard can succeed, in this case. So take that part with the whole shaker of salt and draw your own conclusions, because you get plenty of facts and major life events to do so from.

My own conclusion is no diminishment of this man's legacy: he was both lucky and good. There isn't an atom of mediocrity in his makeup, even his failures are spectacular. And he has a habit of facing up to them, which everyone would do well to learn from. His work contributed greatly to my life, and it was a pleasure and privilege to learn more about where it came from.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Chapman
  • 10-08-19

An Origin Story That Fiction Can't Compete With

Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski is one of the best books I have read in years. And I want to recommend it to you. It is a masterclass in autobiographical writing and the best origin story of a writer I've ever read. I was blown away by it.

If you haven't heard of him you might have heard of some of the things he's written. Here's a list of some of the highlights.

Cartoons:
He-Man
She-Ra
The Real Ghostbusters

Television:
The Twilight Zone
Babylon 5 (he singlehandedly wrote 92 of the 110 episodes)
Murder She Wrote
Sense 8 (new to Netflix)

Comics:
The Amazing Spider-Man
Thor
Superman
Fantastic Four
Wonderwoman
And many others

Novels:
Three novels including Demon Night

Films:
Changeling
World War Z
Thor
Godzilla vs King Kong (coming next year)
And so much more.

The point is, this guy knows what he's doing. But the reason I want everyone to read it is for his personal story. He tells his life story with suspense and intrigue. His skill with prose is up there with the best.

I won't spoil things here because every revelation and dark turn is worth discovering for yourself. But I think it's safe to say if he hadn't become a writer he would have become a serial killer. His history is full of murdered pets, a family of criminals and psychopaths, nazis and a terrible family secret, incest, violence, and madness.

The narration of the audiobook is outstanding. At the beginning of the book there is a short and funny conversation between Straczynski and the narrator explaining why Straczynski isn't allowed to narrate his own book. You know from the moment you press play that you are in for a treat.

There is a worry that I've hyped this book up far too much and it couldn't possibly live up to expectation. But it can, and then some.

I very rarely feel the urge to read a book twice but I'm eager to start again from page one already.

3 people found this helpful

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  • John Collins
  • 02-05-21

Joe's father

To steal a line from another victim of a narcissist / sociopath father, David Milch, Joe's father needed murdering every day he drew breath. Experiences like these create living Gods. The unaccountable omniscient and omnipotent father (Zeus) creates sons who understand and create justice (Apollo).

He may have himself been a victim of abuse, but he still had a choice.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Alex
  • 09-21-19

Loved it, Loved it - Fantastic

I've been a huge J Michael Straczynski fan since falling for Babylon 5 - the outstanding sci-fi programme from the mid 90's.
Read by the great Peter Jurasic who played one of the main characters from Babylon 5 was an added bonus.
I thought this would be an interesting book and had no idea of the history of Mr Straczynski so was shocked to hear his background and what he had to grow up with. The fact that he made such a success of himself is unbelievable considering his background. The comics, books, movies and TV he has created are amazing.
Loved this book!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Richard
  • 07-26-19

Excellent

An excellent autobiography with excellent reading. Joe clearly had a difficult background i'd kind of guessed from the plots of Babylon 5 which he wrote, that stuff came from te heart and wasn't just made up. Becoming superman has taken the presumptions and guesswork away and Joe has told his story, firing a powerful silver bulle at the real life monsters, monster so many of us will in some way relate to. Thanks Joe. You're an Inspiration..

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  • Colin P
  • 03-11-22

What can I say?

It’s absolutely brilliant and it didn’t want it to end. I think that’s a positive enough comment to add.

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  • James
  • 03-01-22

Only an hour left and I don't want it to finish

I knew JMS (as I now believe we all call him) as "the guy who created Babylon5" - first TV show I remember watching that had a great big story arc planned across multiple series. Before Sopranos, before Lost (well attempted it), before Game of Thrones had another crack and stuffed the landing - and all the rest we take for granted today. Making a modesty-budgeted TV show with greater world-building ambitions, greater than a film franchise.
I loved that world and story.
More recently, his retelling of issues on set reminded me how much I loved that show - and that he might be a decent human.
So when I saw he had a book and it was well reviewed, I just added it to my consumption queue.

I don't think I've ever read or listened to any book, where the reason I bought it, was one of the least fascinating or important aspects of the content. It's there. It's good - but everything around it just blows it away.

Loads of the other reviews cover the content - all I really want to add, is my +1, that it's just a great book.

What JMS has done is sharded over a multitude of creation, leading us all here from various disparate paths.
Listening to the book explains why all of it.

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  • Tahir Nasser
  • 02-18-22

Amazing

This was just an unbelievable and brilliant life, beautifully written and powerfully read. recommend to all.

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  • Alex McFaden
  • 02-16-22

Inspiring

A fantastic book by my favourite screenwriter who also created my favourite TV series, Babylon 5. A tale of an horrendous upbringing that, unexpectedly, has managed to inspire me to finally go ahead and do things I truthfully have been too afraid to start. Most probably the best book I have ever listened to. Thank you Joe.

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  • Umar
  • 11-16-21

Spectacular

Quite simply, the best autobiography I have ever read. And the narration was superb. Don't think I've got through an audiobook this quick before.

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  • Kenny Park
  • 10-12-21

Heartily recommended

As a fan of Babylon 5 I was sure I’d find this interesting. I didn’t expect it to be so moving, inspiring and illuminating.

The performance by Peter Jurasik is fittingly excellent.

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  • Mr. A. M. O'donnell
  • 08-03-19

Harrowing and inspiring.

Some parts of this need to be endured rather than enjoyed. Straczynski's recounting of his family life left gobsmacked. I'm amazed that he managed to survive his upbringing as mentally intact as he was.

As a huge Babylon 5 fan I found the story of its creation fascinating. A great listen, I would recommend this book to everyone.

2 people found this helpful