cover image Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood

J. Michael Straczynski. Harper Voyager, $28.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-285784-2

Straczynski, a prolific comics, television, and film writer, delivers a frank memoir that’s equally harrowing and triumphant. Raised by a depressed, battered mother and violently abusive, alcoholic father, Straczynski found in comic books, first, refuge from his dysfunctional family, and then inspiration to pursue a writing career. He particularly admired Superman (whose adventures he would eventually write), finding in the character an ethical core that “meant everything to a young kid trapped in a family that operated without any sort of moral compass.” Though Straczynski’s anger (at his father, most notably) comes across as still raw, he balances it with heartfelt appreciations of colleagues such as Harlan Ellison, who, “despite his reputation for crankiness,” was “one of the most gracious souls I have ever known.” He also offers tantalizing looks at behind-the-scenes creative battles. While Straczynski could do nothing about an executive mandate that his animated show She-Ra, Princess of Power’s title character be not warlike but “maternal, nurturing, and nonthreatening to male authority figures,” on the later SF series Babylon 5, he achieved his ambition of telling, over the series’ entire course, a “single overarching story with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end”—a television first. Fans of this and other achievements in Straczynski’s career will find much to enjoy here. (Aug.)