Review of 'Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood'

Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski

becoming_superman.jpg This autobiography of one of the most well-known names in Science Fiction and Hollywood “J. Michael Straczynski” tells his challenging family life to his incredible success as a prolific director, producer, screen-writer, and author (books and comics). Much of the book concentrates on his abusive, Nazi-loving (and perhaps more?) father, how they lived in many places only for six months or less before moving on to escape from creditors. It is to the point that when the book comes talking about the aspects of his success about half way through the 480 pages Straczynski seems to treat it in a fairly dismissive manner, preferring instead to continually dwelling on his troubled upbringing. This is a man struggling to come to terms with unresolved issues so “Becoming Superman” is as much a self-therapy session as a biography but that is not necessarily a bad thing, really causing us to feel for him, willing him into the overwhelming success he would eventually receive.

We learn of Straczynski's incredible talent as a prolific…if not initially great…author, and how he was eventually able to accomplish amazing feats of writer-endurance in delivering screenplays to various Hollywood shows. He does not talk too much about the specific shows he worked on, even “Babylon 5”, for which he might perhaps be considered best known, warrants only a single chapter devoted to it. It is amazing to read of the large number of shows he worked on and what he accomplished which is often tiring simply reading about. “Becoming Superman” is an on-going theme here as Straczynski tells us he used Superman as a role model growing up, for example strong yet compassionate, alone in his struggles against the unjust. Perhaps making himself out to be a bit of a martyr? Indeed, his troubled childhood struggling to find his way despite the lack of support or compassion from his family continued through to his moral struggles with studios over the integrity of the material he wrote for them.

Straczynski freely admits to his failure as a husband and in his personal life with blame falling squarely on his troubled emotional upbringing and his utter devotion to his career. He is happy to sit by himself and work day in and day out, exploring new things as they are presented. Despite this the picture here is of someone happy to be alone in his work.

Though often quite difficult and painful to read as well as being quite long “Becoming Superman” is a compelling insight into an unusual life that celebrates triumph over overwhelming adversity and coming to terms with a difficult past.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-07-26

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 2019

ISBN: 9780062857859