Book Review: Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
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Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood
Hardcover | Kindle | Audiobook
By J. Michael Straczynski
Published: Harper Voyager
Release Date: July 23, 2019

You think you know a writer by the works they produce. And oftentimes, this is spot on. However, in this case, I was sadly mistaken. Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood is a harrowing tale that will break your heart and uplift your spirit, all at the same time. I have never met J. Michael Straczynski, but I hope to meet this amazing man one day. But before I give you an overview of his autobiography, let me just say I will not be able to do this book justice. But I will try my best.

Born into a family that offered him no true love, Straczynski suffered in ways most of us can only imagine. Even reading the horrors that he went through cannot convey the damage done to this man at such an early age. He tells of his mentally ill mother and physically abusive father, but does not fail to tell us how horrific his grandparents were as well. Moving constantly, running from and to things that no child should know about changed him in ways that we can only scratch the surface of. He learned to adapt, to overcome, to hide in plain sight. My biggest takeaway from this part was how he lost a childhood by having to grow up so quickly. His survival obviously depended upon it.

He luckily discovered a way to reach beyond his situation. This was through his appreciation and connection to Superman and other fictional stories and heroes. With a drive to succeed at all costs, he started down a path that was shaky and loaded with potential turmoil. But having decided to never give up or settle pushed him to reach ever higher. The stories he tells herein are scary and horrific, but oddly encouraging as he bares his soul and his past for strangers to read. I must admit, however, that after reading this that he has often left bits and pieces of his soul, his passion, in his storytelling. I believe that is why his writing enables readers and viewers to connect to the characters and tales so well.

This autobiography is less an exploration of his massive body of work and more about the trauma and tribulations that led him to where he is today. Even after escaping the terrible familial situation in which he grew up, life was still difficult for Straczynski. The burden he shouldered stays with him even to this day; it shaped who he is and gave him focus. He vowed to do something and like always, he kept to his word. Just read through his list of books, comics, movies, shows, and more; you will see dedication to profession and self.

I will not tell his tale, that is something best left to expert himself. But I will ensure that you understand that this book is chock full of stories, many terrible in nature, some even contain slightly humorous parts. All of them resound at some level with the reader, for Straczynski is master of his craft. You will find yourself drawn in, curious and appalled.

I found the book inspirational and poignant, just as I believe virtually any other reader will. So whether you enjoyed Babylon 5, Thor, his work in comics, or any other television or film work that he has done, you cannot know the man behind the words like you will once you have read this book. J. Michael Straczynski may have once been a broken soul, but he has done amazingly well putting himself back together. And I for one appreciate not just what he has produced for his audiences, but how he got there. in truth, he is the hero of his own story.

Read. This. Book.

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.

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.

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