Screenwriter, novelist and comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski reveals his origin story in Becoming Superman, and it's more harrowing than most superheroes endure. The creator of TV's Babylon 5 and Sense8 was conceived in a whorehouse and raised by a raging, abusive and alcoholic father and mentally unstable mother who tried to smother him as a baby and pushed him off a rooftop when he was six. His family moved 21 times over 18 years. When his grandmother tries to seduce him, he realizes that she had done the same thing to his father growing up. Brutalized at home and at school, his escape was through superhero comic books. "That ethical core meant everything to a young kid trapped in a family that operated without any sort of moral compass," he writes.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen," he explains later, "is how I trained for a career as a television writer." Writing for TV was almost as painful. His first three animated TV series (She-Ra, The Real Ghostbusters and Captain Power) each debuted as the top-rated kids' show. But network demands for misguided retooling made Straczynski jump ship after single seasons. By putting his self-worth first, he continually found success. He began writing graphic novels for Marvel Comics, which lead to screenplays for feature films (including Clint Eastwood's Changeling and Kenneth Branagh's Thor).
This hard-hitting and fearless gut-punch of a memoir will inspire future writers to follow their dreams and value their instincts. Becoming Superman is an amazing story, told with verve, humor and bravery. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant