Within the foreword to “Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski, Neil Gaiman explains that Straczynski “works harder than anyone i have met in TV and film.”
While I’m admittedly not a Hollywood insider, this description rings true in my situation. Since 1984, Straczynski happens to be writing for television — everything from campy animation to sci-fi that is high-minded. He also spent six years writing Marvel’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” flagship comic book, and then he wrote a BAFTA-nominated film starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. Whatever else you might think of Straczynski, you can never accuse the man to be idle.
Even before reading “Becoming Superman” (HarperCollins, July 2019), I always had the impression that Straczynski wrote so prolifically not because he absolutely had to because he wanted to but. The person simply has lots of stories to inform and feels compelled to place pen to paper, because if he does not tell these tales, then no body else will.
Now, having read “Becoming Superman,” I finally understand why that is the case — and the story leading up to it is really not entirely a happy one. In this memoir (or autobiography — it’s a bit of both), Straczynski details a life of hardship, abuse and trauma, culminating when you look at the secret that is darkest his family’s past: an honest-to-goodness murder mystery.
“Becoming Superman” is half family drama, half behind-the-scenes showbiz anecdotes, with some writing advice and some life lessons sprinkled in. Like Straczynski’s TV shows and comics, the writing within the book is earnest, straightforward, incisive, often funny and occasionally very bitter. I’m not sure if it’ll have massive appeal beyond Straczynski’s existing fan base — but given how many scores of fans he is entranced through the years, I that is amazing’s still a pretty sizable niche.
The origin story
Reading the initial 1 / 2 of Straczynski’s memoir, i really couldn’t help but recall the opening lines of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy with its own way.”
To say that Straczynski originated in an unhappy family would be an understatement. The first few chapters associated with written book are not concerning the author at all, but alternatively, his grandfather Kazimir and his father, Charles. (more…)