Within the foreword to “Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski, Neil Gaiman explains that Straczynski “works harder than anyone I’ve met in TV and film.”
While i am admittedly not a Hollywood insider, this description rings true for me personally. Since 1984, Straczynski has been writing for television — anything from campy animation to sci-fi that is high-minded. He also spent six years writing Marvel’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” flagship book that is comic and then he wrote a BAFTA-nominated film starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. Other things you may think of Straczynski, you can never accuse the person 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 man simply has lots of stories to share with and feels compelled to put pen to paper, because then no one else will if he doesn’t tell these tales.
Now, having read “Becoming Superman,” I finally realize why that’s the case — in addition to story leading up to it is really not entirely a happy one. In this memoir (or autobiography — it’s a small amount of both), Straczynski details a life of hardship, abuse and trauma, culminating into the darkest secret in his family members’ past: an honest-to-goodness murder mystery.
“Becoming Superman” is half family drama, half showbiz that is behind-the-scenes, with some writing advice and a few life lessons sprinkled in. Like Straczynski’s TV shows and comics, the writing into the book is earnest, straightforward, incisive, often funny and occasionally very bitter. I don’t know if it has massive appeal beyond Straczynski’s existing fan base — but given what number of an incredible number of fans he is entranced over time, I that is amazing’s still a fairly sizable niche.
The foundation story
Reading the first half 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.”