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Becoming Superman

My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood
Narrated by: Peter Jurasik
Length: 16 hrs and 6 mins
5 out of 5 stars (263 ratings)

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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

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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.

7 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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do not hesitate buy this

the narration from Peter is outstanding and the story of straczinski is tremendous and harrowing.

1 person 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.

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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.

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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A tale so intense that I...

JMS's autobiography told a tale that I had to frequently stop and put it aside whlie I contemplated and absorbed it all.

To say that Becoming Superman is a fitting title is an understatement. This is a story that begins in the depths of human depravity, but does not live there. Rather it takes the reader on a trip out of that pit and carries them along on the way up up and away.

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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.

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It Doesn't Seem Real

I kept expecting that this would take a turn and be revealed as fiction, an exercise on how believable characters making believable choices can make even the most absurd situations seem reasonable to a reader. But it isn't. JMS has lead one of the most low key stunning lives you've never heard before and somehow created some of the best, most enduring fiction. And now, nonfiction. Peter Jurasik reads with a simple candor that brings the story to life and sounds like the narration of a poor kid from Jersey without dipping into stereotype. It's just...there in the tone. When it was done, I wasn't sure how to feel, but I know that I can do more with my life. I don't know what yet, but I can. And if we can't learn more about ourselves from the lives of others, then what are stories for?

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Captivating and concerning

This was my first autobiography listen. I saw J. Michael Straczynski at a panel during the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. it was aware of the man due to his comic book writing and had briefly met him previously at a convention.

Listening to the abusive environment in which he was raised in the struggles he overcame to become the success he is today is empowering.
Some components of this book were extremely difficult to listen to. I openly admit that I was moved to laughter and tears throughout the book.
There were many things during my childhood that he was associated with that I had no idea He had worked on. I want to go back and revisit those things.

I understand that the book is geared toward being a motivational tool to help people who may be struggling with some of the same things that he did throughout his life. Unfortunately a huge chunk of the book comes across as bitter, angry, and spiteful.

This was a captivating listen and I will continue to support his efforts in whatever medium he chooses to work in through the future. As long as you don't have a weak stomach I recommend 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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  • Mortimer
  • 10-17-19

An amazing life.

The fact that JMS even reached adulthood seems remarkable. That he went on to achieve what he did, in the face of so many obstacles, should inspire all of us to make the most of our time on this planet. A wonderful book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-08-19

Harrowing and Inspirational

A story so dark you wonder how anyone could survive it.
But he did and he thrived.

Breaks your heart then heals it with pure determination of spirit.

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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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-04-19

Yikes.

With a side of goddamn. Incredible. Wonderful. Heartbreaking and just oof the whole way through.

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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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  • NICK DE SOUZA
  • 09-16-19

The best autobiography I have ever read/listened to.

Narrated superbly by Peter Jurasic, J Michael Straczynski’s autobiography takes us on a gruelling, heartbreaking and brutal journey that ultimately ends in triumph. Every chapter, each one full of highs and tragic lows, had me utterly gripped from start to finish. It is so beautifully written.

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  • Mr. C. Brenchley
  • 09-16-19

The most incredible purchase I have made in Audible

An amazing story of focus and determination in the face of incredible odds. JMS has had my attention since Babylon 5 but I knew very little about him.
Peter Jurasik is the perfect narrator.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-13-19

Inspiring

Joe is honest and candid about his life. A lot of the events are so extraordinary that it’s a surprise he made it out alive.
I for one am inspired by this story.

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  • Mr Craig Ware
  • 09-12-19

No ordinary autobiography

Millions of people are aware of this guy's work even if they don't know it. I've been a fan of JMS for as long as I can remember but I was totally surprised by what he recounts in this frank and touching memoir. The narration by Peter Jurasik was slightly distracting because I kept imagining him going through the ordeals rather than JMS himself.

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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.

1 person found this helpful