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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 (190 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

What members say

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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 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • MG
  • Earth
  • 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 of 2 people found this review 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 of 1 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thank you.

Thank you Micheal for sharing and Peter for reading it. Thank you for helping shape the way I look at the world around me - in all it's beauty, and in all it's flaws.

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A good, well-read biography full of child abuse

I basically like and respect J. Michael Straczynski. I admire his achievements. More than admire--let me say, profoundly, and deeply admire what he has been able to do. And I do admire him all the more because of what he grew up with, which was horrific child abuse at the hands of a violent, sadistic alcoholic. In the first, say, quarter of the book, I had to stop listening to it because it was emotionally painful. So I took a break and listened to something less horrific, like a book on stoic philosophy or something. Then I came back, and get to hear how his father murdered his cat. Break time, listen to some other book. Then his mother tries to throw him off the roof. Mmmkay, listen to something else for a while. Then ANOTHER cat murder (always by his Dad, not our hero.). Jeezus Christ. I listen to some other thing. Maybe Mari Kondo and get my room all tidy. OK, I'm strong enough to try the book again. Surely it can't --oh my God, how many cats are going to get murdered in this book?! FINALLY our hero escapes to college, and things after that are just, in comparison, a non-stop party of pure lack of cat-murdering (which makes me realize how lucky I was and didn't realize it). It's a huge relief and joy to see Mr. Straczynski work his way up the Hollywood food chain. Although I was also astonished that he had Babylon 5 on TV for years, but the contract basically meant he had no ownership of it and (he claims) he made little money off it. Hard to believe, but it's what he says. But nonetheless, he writes "Changeling" and becomes a Hollywood A-Lister. The final part of the book is intended to be a "silver bullet" (in the author's words) to finally kill the monster that his father was, and I'll leave that part mysterious, but it was painful to read. Just be warned, this is a frequently painful story.

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mesmerizing book!

a life that words can not justify. when you think nothing more amazing can happen. it does.

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Gripping, Painful, Triumphant

Babylon 5 is my favorite Scifi show of all time, interesting to hear the real story of the author's life at the time that went untold on the fan blog he frequented.

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A story like no other.

If you, like me, got this for stories from the making of Babylon 5 or any other of JMS' works of art you're out of luck. It's all here, but since he's done so much none of the actual contents of his writing career is really gone into in any detail. Hopefully, there are books about all those things now that Joe has told his most moving, incredible and important story: his own.

He has, on occasion, alluded to having a tough upbringing, of being beaten nearly to death once, of knowing the destructive effects of alcoholism. But believe me, you have no idea. I've never read anything like this, and neither will you.

This book is about exorcising demons, letting the truth come out, and about fighting for your life. It's a shock to the system, a silver bullet. And it's ultimately the most hopeful, moving biograpy you'll read this or any other year.

For that, I'm willing to forget that he didn't hint at what happened to Captain Sinclair when he went back in time that last time. After all, there are even more important stories to tell than that one.

Peter Jurasik's narration is wonderful throughout, Minus one star for getting the occasional name and emotional beat wrong (Jay-Z and the Wheeled Warriors, anyone?). But he gets it back for saying "Mister GariBALdi" one more time.

Essential.

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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..

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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  • SG
  • 09-06-19

Life-changing, inspirational.

Loved J. Michael Straczynski's work before I ever knew who he was. Finding out that this one guy was the creative force behind ALL my favourite shows growing is a revelation. From Real Ghostbusters, to Captain Power, Babylon 5 and beyond.... Shakes head, what a guy!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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 of 1 people found this review helpful