When I read the book, J. Michael Straczynski’s book Becoming Superman, I became quickly engrossed by the story of a man who fought and kicked adversity’s butt like Superman did to villains who would repeatedly threaten Earth or those he cared for. This autobiography painted a picture of a man who had to leap every tall building adversity erected in a single bound to become Superman. It was a story that I enjoyed reading because like Straczynski, I aspired (and still do) to be Superman and a writer.
The story starts off with Straczynski’s family background that is laced with a dark secret that involves deception, Nazism, and tragedy. However, as the story progresses, we see a young Straczynski slowly develop a resilience that is fueled by his aspiration to becoming Superman. And that aspiration was birthed when, as a boy, he started reading Superman comic books and science fiction novels. And that aspiration also fueled his love for writing stories.
As Straczynski hones his craft as a writer, he slowly but gradually breaks out of his family’s shadow of misfortune and poverty. To me, Straczynski’s resolve to overcome adversity as shown throughout the book, is more powerful than a locomotive.
In his youth, Straczynski had to face an alcoholic father who was a Lex Luthor, or perhaps a General Zod, to his Superman. He also had to experience repeated moves to different cities in the country. He also encountered schoolyard bullies and slap-happy Catholic Nuns. He also had to experience his share of financial ups and downs while using his gift as a wrtier. He learned to love himself by following his goal to becoming a writer which eventually gave him several opprtunities like writng for newspapers, writing scripts for cartoons and TV shows, writing and producing Babylon 5, writing comic books like The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman: Year One, and writing the scrpt for The Changeling. And with that, he created an awesome career as a writer.
My favorite part in the book was when Straczynski is at the Cannes Film Festival in Paris. It is here where we see Straczynski envisioning himself unbuttoning his shirt and exposing that familiar red and yellow “S” shield of Superman. In that vision, he flies off to the sunset. This scene symbolizes him coming to grips with his past and his accomplishment of living his dream as an accomplished writer.
This book had taught me that despite our adversity, we need to fight for our dreams regardless. Our circumstances, while understandable, are irrelevant to how we approach our goals in life. Straczynski reminds us that we are not victims and that we can all aspire to be like Superman and do the right thing.
To me, J. Michael Straczynski is Superman. I say this because like Superman, he is brave and never gave up on his dream of becoming a writer despite everything being thrown at him. He could have given up and blame his upbringing or childhood but he let it become a motivator for him to be where he is at today. He inspired me to do the same when I read this quote from him in the book:
“I think that the reason so many unlikely things happened to me is because I never listened to those voices; because I came out of the womb snarling at anyone who told me there was something I couldn’t do; because I learned that to win, I only had to ‘say yes I will’ one more time than somebody else could say ‘no, you won’t.’ I never walked away from what gave me joy, never surrendered my dreams to those who would profit by eradicating them.”
-J. Michael Straczynski
I often used to blame my problems or shortcomings on other things or people. Only after the fact, I would feel sadness for doing such. Recently, I had to come to grips with the fact that I have to take ownership for my mistakes or shortcomings. I am beginning to love myself enough to say: “No, this is my fault and I am the problem but you know what? I am also the freakin’ solution, son!” That is what real successful people do. Whenever you come up short, there is a time to be upset but, you have to dust the crap off and keep moving forward. J. Michael Straczynski is a reminder of that.
This book really hit close to home for me because, like J. Michael Straczynski, I wanted to be like Superman. As a kid, I emulated Clark Kent by wearing toy red glasses. I pretended to fly and run around the house with a dish rag for a cape. And Superman became one of the reasons why I wanted to become a writer and tell stories.
I recommend that you read this book. It is not just an autobiography of a writer who broke out of the Phantom Zone of adversity and poverty. It is an autobiography about a man who became Superman.