I don’t normally go in for book reviews. I’ve never had a lot of use for them, and not just because I’ve gotten some bad ones. Reviews are, after all, one person’s opinion and nothing more. A critic may hate a book that I adore, or vice versa. I’m loathe to push my opinion on others and make it a general rule not to write reviews.
But, as with so many rules, this one is about to be broken.
Here’s the short version of the review. Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read. If you want to read about overcoming adversity, this is the book for you.
Now, for the expanded version.
Straczynski is perhaps best known as the creator and primary writer on the 1990s Sci-Fi TV series Babylon 5. His other television and film credits are numerous and he is also a highly respected comic book writer. As interesting at the behind-the-scenes look at his professional life is, it’s not the compelling part of his autobiography.
What makes Becoming Superman so compelling is his honesty about his family and the horrendous upbringing he endured.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you by getting into the details. Suffice to say that what he went through would leave most people either in prison or so strung out by substance abuse that they’d be unrecognizable as human beings. Or, likely, both.
That Straczynski tells this story at all is impressive. Most people would run away from such a past, bury it, and try to pretend it didn’t happen. But Straczynski not only faces his family’s dark history, he shows his lifelong determination not to let it shape the person he’s become.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from Becoming Superman is its theme about personal choice. Straczynski could have easily followed in the footsteps of his family. He chose not to be any of those things. He chose to rise above his background and not let anyone else determine who or what he could be.
And in that, he becomes Superman.