Becoming Superman: A Writer's Journey from Poverty to Hollywood with Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War Crimes by J. Michael Straczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
J. Michael Straczynski has been on my radar ever since Babylon 5 aired. Being a writer, myself, I liked to pay attention to stories and attach them to their creators no matter what the medium was, and Joe Straczynski had quickly become a superstar for me.
Honestly, I would have just read this book for all the cool projects he had been involved with, from a large handful of He-Man and She-Ra, to the first (good) season of The Real Ghostbusters, to Babylon 5, to his writing and short acting debut within Thor (being the first man to find the hammer), to his long comic runs of Spider-Man and Superman, to even Sense8. And all of this is included, and a lot more besides. I wanted to rage, cry, and whoop for joy with Joe. I STILL can't get over the fact that he's never seen a cent out of Babylon 5.
But this book, strangely enough, is NOT really about that or any of the other projects. There's a lot of detail, sure, and it was fascinating as hell, but the real story is Joe's life.
His LIFE is ONE HELL of a STORY.
I can't even really BEGIN to tell it. But suffice to say, he has gone through some major shit. His father was a real piece of work, and just let me mention this: I've read a LOT of books and this asshole ranks up there with fictional douchebags that are written AS sensationalized assholes.
I'm frankly amazed. By any normal standards, Joe should be a broken man taking the usual route of continuing the old tragedies, but he consciously used his parents as a model of what not to do and broke a completely new trail.
My words cannot do any of this justice. Joe writes one hell of a good story about his own life and backs it up with a lot of supporting research, but the spoilers are VERY hardcore. I can't just come out and SAY them because this was not just an autobiography -- it's a THRILLER.
Suffice to say, I think this book belongs on everyone's bookshelf. It not only demands respect in and of itself, but so does the man. He is a model of perseverance at all costs. He has NOT had very good luck, no matter how self-effacing he is in his prose. He's gracious, a good man, and not only is he an utter nightmare behind a typewriter, but he's also one of the most prolific writers out there. He wrote almost every episode of Babylon 5. But most importantly, he knew how to take a beating and NEVER BACK DOWN even when the big boys in the networks or the censorship brigades demanded that he change the basic story.
He never settles for less than the story he was made to write.
Of course, this strength had to come from somewhere. He went from having Superman in the comics save him as a kid to having saved Superman as an adult. I'm telling you, this man knows how to tell a FINE story. :)
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