Straczynski, J. Michael 1954–
Straczynski, J. Michael 1954–
(Joseph Michael Straczynski)
Born July 17, 1954, in Paterson, NJ; son of Charles (a manual laborer) and Evelyn Straczynski; married Kathryn May Drennan (a writer), 1983. Education: Attended Kankakee Community College, 1972-73, and Richland College, 1973; Southwestern College, A.A., 1975; San Diego State University, B.A., 1978.
Home—Glendale, CA. Agent—Ilse Lahn, Paul Kohner Agency, Inc., 9169 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069; Valerie Smith, Virginia Kidd Agency, 538 E. Harford St., Milford, PA 18337.
Writer and television producer. San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, personal and academic counselor, 1975-77; Racquetball News, El Cajon, CA, editor in chief, 1978; Daily Californian, El Cajon, special correspondent and reviewer, 1978-79; KSDO-AM Radio, San Diego, entertainment editor and theatre and film reviewer, 1979-80; Airstage Radio-drama Productions, San Diego, artistic director and resident writer, producer, director, workshop instructor, and facilitator, 1980-81; Writer's Digest, Cincinnati, Ohio, contributing editor and author of column, "Scripts," 1982-91; executive story consultant and story editor for television shows, including Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, 1986-87, The Real Ghostbusters, 1986-89, The Twilight Zone, 1987-88, and Jake and the Fatman, 1989-90; producer, Murder, She Wrote, 1991-92, and Walker: Texas Ranger, 1993. Also instructor at Grossmont Junior College, 1978, and San Diego State University, 1979.
Writers Guild of America West, Psi Chi (life member).
Hugo Award, 1995, for television series Babylon 5.
The Complete Book of Scriptwriting (Book-of-the-Month Club selection), Writer's Digest (Cincinnati, OH), 1982, reprinted, 1996.
Demon Night, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.
Tales from the New Twilight Zone (stories), Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.
OtherSyde, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
(Author of foreword) Creating Babylon 5: Behind the Scenes of Warner Bros. Revolutionary Deep Space TV Drama, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Mark Moretti and Tim DeHaas) Babylon 5: The Price of Peace, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
Delicate Creatures, Image Comics, 2001.
Straczynski Unplugged (story collection), I Books, 2004.
Supreme Power, Volume 1: Contact, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 2004.
Tribulations, I Books, 2004.
Rising Stars, Image Comics, 2005.
The Babylon 5 Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski, Volume 1, Synthetic Worlds, 2005.
(With Gary Frank) Squadron Supreme, Volume 1: The Pre-War Years, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of (with John Romita, Jr.) The Best of Spider Man, 2002, Midnight Nation, 2003, Powers and Principalities, 2004. Also contributor to numerous serializations, including Babylon 5, 1995; Shadows Past and Present, 1996; (with Jane Killick) Point of No Return, 1998; The Babylon Project Gamemaster's Resource Kit: A Supplement for the Roleplaying Game, Based on Babylon 5, 1998; Coming of Shadows Script Book, 1998; In Valen's Name, 1998; The Centauri Republic, 2004; No Surrender No Retreat, 2004; The Technomages, 2004; and Babylon 5 episode novelization titled A Call to Arms, 1998, with Robert Sheckley. Also author of Amazing Spider-Man comic books, Marvel, including Revelations, 2002; Until The Stars Turn Cold, 2002; The Life and Death of Spiders, 2003; Unintended Consequences, 2003; Happy Birthday, 2004; The Book of Ezekiel, 2004; and Napa Valley, 2005. Also writer for Fantastic Four, and Book of Lost Souls, Marvel, and Superman comics, DC.
Work represented in anthologies, including Shadows Six, edited by Charles Grant, Doubleday, 1983. Contributor of nearly two hundred articles to magazines, including San Diego, Talent Spotlight, and City, and to newspapers. Editor of Post Scripps, 1979, and Tuned In, 1980.
Death in Stasis (one-act), first produced in Chula Vista, CA, at Southwestern College, 1977.
Parting Gesture (one-act), first produced in San Diego, CA, at San Diego State University, 1977.
Snow White (two-act; first produced in Chula Vista at Southwestern College, June 4, 1977), Performance Publishing, 1978.
Memos From the Other Side (one-act), first produced in Chula Vista at Southwestern College, 1977.
The Last Pirate Show (one-act), first produced in San Diego at San Diego State University, 1978.
Last Will and Estimate (one-act), first produced in San Diego at San Diego State University, 1979.
Movies, Movies (two-act), first produced in San Diego at Box Office Dinner Theater, April 4, 1979.
The Apprenticeship (three-act), first produced in San Diego at Marquis Public Theater, 1980.
Marty Sprinkle (television play), first broadcast by KPBS-TV, June 10, 1977.
Love or Money (film), CrossOver Productions, 1978.
(And producer and director) The Other Side of the Coin (radio play), first broadcast by KCPAM/FM Radio, February 9, 1978.
Disasterpiece Theater (television variety), first broadcast by XETV-TV, January 22, 1980.
(Also producer and director) Where No Shadows Fall (radio play), first broadcast by KPFK-FM Radio, November 18, 1982.
Also author of radio play Encounter at Twilight, 1980, and episodes of the radio series Alien Worlds, 1979-80. Author of numerous television scripts for television series, including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (animated television series), nine episodes, 1984; She-Ra, Princess of Power (animated television series), nine episodes, 1985; Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (animated television series), fourteen episodes, 1986; Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, eleven episodes, 1986-87; The Real Ghostbusters (animated television series), twenty-three episodes, 1986-89; Twilight Zone, twelve episode, 1986-88; Nightmare Classics, two episodes, 1989; Jake and the Fatman, nine episodes, 1989-90; Murder, She Wrote, seven episodes, 1991-92; Walker, Texas Ranger, one episode, 1993; (and executive producer and creator) Babylon 5, seventy-one episodes, 1993-97; Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, 1999; Crusade, ten episodes, 1999; Murder She Wrote: A Story to Die For, 2000; Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight, 2002; Jeremiah, twenty-one episodes, 2002-04.
Named one of the fifty "most influential thinkers-innovators who will shape our lives as we move into the 21st century" by Newsweek in 1995, J. Michael Straczynski is a widelyaccomplished television producer and script writer. In a business noted for big budgets and a team approach to creativity, Straczynski managed to parlay his television experience into the successful weekly series Babylon 5, which he created, produced, and for which he wrote a phenomenal seventy-one scripts—all on a modest budget. Straczynski has also written for other notable television shows, such as Twilight Zone and Murder, She Wrote, and he is the author of a book on scriptwriting as well as several novels.
Born in New Jersey, Straczynski moved to California as a young man and began writing plays and scripts while still in college. His first teleplay, Marty Sprinkle, was broadcast the year before he earned his bachelor's degree. An interest in comic books and science fiction helped Straczynski to find work writing stories and scripts for animated adventure series such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, Princess of Power, and The Real Ghostbusters. During the same period he completed two horror novels, Demon Night and OtherSyde. A St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers contributor described OtherSyde as "authentic and evocative throughout because its horrors … are effectively linked to real-world horror of modern life like bullying, child abuse and urban crime. Furthermore, its final scenes of a Los Angeles engulfed in darkness, flames and looters (in some ways eerily anticipating the riots following the 1992 Rodney King verdicts) constitute a genuinely frightening vision of a modern apocalypse."
In one scene in OtherSyde, the hero watches his favorite television show, a science fiction epic called Babylon 5. The show was fictitious when OtherSyde was written, but as his prestige grew in Hollywood, Straczynski was able to get a contract to begin production on it in 1993. Set on a space station some two hundred years in the future, Babylon 5 quickly was recognized as a science fiction classic, darker and more unsettling than the standard Star Trek fare. Straczynski created the series from his own imagination and wrote a vast majority of the scripts—a St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers contributor noted that in 1996 and 1997 Straczynski made history when he "became the first person to write an entire season of scripts for a dramatic television series." Babylon 5 ran from 1993 until 1998 and is still being shown in re-runs. In Newsweek, Adam Rogers noted of the work: "Babylon 5 is clearly a product of one mind, and the result has been some of the most intelligent science fiction on television."
In the wake of Babylon 5's success, Straczynski has continued working at a hectic pace. Feature films based on the series are being planned, as is a sequel series for television. Speaking to his involvement with these projects in Newsweek, Straczynski said: "Every so often, something pops out of your subconscious that demands your total and unyielding commitment. For me, ‘B5’ is like that."
Turning to comic book scripts, Straczynski signed on to write for the Amazing Spider-Man comic book series in 2001. Straczynski was hired because of falling sales and, according to Tim O'Shea, writing on the SBC Web site, "his impact in terms of popularity and sales was felt immediately." Commenting on how he has put a greater focus on the spider side of Peter Parker, who is Spider-Man, Straczynski told O'Shea: "A pretty fair amount of research went into this, in terms of how spiders operate, the mythology of spiders, spiders in literature, the natural enemies of spiders, that sort of thing. My self-imposed mandate coming into the book was to find out who Peter Parker was, and that meant poking around on both levels, the spider and the man, and the points where the two intersect (as well as the points where they don't). Who is this guy, really?"
Commenting in Entertainment Weekly on one of the early issues of Spider-Man by Straczynski, Ken Tucker noted that the author's "storytelling … adds flourishes of despair and menace more subtle than most comics." In issue number 500 of Amazing Spider-Man, Straczynski has Spider-Man helping other superheroes save Manhattan. To do so, Spider-Man must travel in time and confront his most nefarious enemies over the past several decades. Jeff Jensen, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the issue "a cut above … thanks to a compelling … plot."
Straczynski is also author of the Book of Lost Souls comics, which are about a group of people who, unlike many others in their fictional world, are considered lost because their destinies have yet to be defined. Hanging in the balance is whether they will gravitate toward the light and good or toward the darkness. A primary figure who can decide people's destinies is Jonathan, who tried to commit suicide by jumping off of the London Bridge only to find himself landing on his feet in a strange new world. Also featured in the book are a black cat named Mystery, who serves as Jonathan's companion and guide, and the Dark Man, whose motives are unknown and who may be a god or a devil. Also crucial to the ongoing comic is a book titled Book of Lost Souls.
In an interview on the Westfield Comics Web site, Straczynski noted that "the book is about struggle, and birth, and rebirth, and disappointment, and determination, and most of all, about the stubborn noble dignity of the human being singular, and the persistence of hope against all logic." The author added: "The book is, by turns, lyrical, unforgiving, funny and heart-breaking. If I had to compare it to anything else in terms of tone, I think that Promethea and Neil Gaiman's Sandman are in the same thematic family as the Book of Lost Souls."
Straczynski once told CA: "The Complete Book of Scriptwriting, my first nonfiction book, is unique in that it is one of the few books to attempt to explore the art, craft, history, and marketing aspects of writing for television, film, radio, and stage, all in the same volume. It is based on my experiences as a writer in these areas and draws on my background as a reporter.
"I always knew I'd be a writer. I used to joke about it, saying I figured I was destined for writing, politics, religion, or some other branch of organized crime. While I was young, I collected and was fascinated by paper clips, blank sheets of paper, pens, pencils, staplers—the basic paraphernalia of writing. I actually began writing poems, short stories, and scripts in high school, where I wrote, directed, and appeared in an assembly-length play in my senior year.
"From there, I went on to college and academic fields that I thought—incorrectly, as it turned out—would aid my work. Along the way, I had my first sitcom produced at age twenty-one, had signed my first contract by the age of twenty-four, and had nearly eighty articles published by the time I finally left school. During this time, I learned that Ray Bradbury's dictum is painfully, perfectly true: In writing, you have to be willing to make the same mistake 999 times so that the thousandth time you don't make that mistake any more.
"I've always been one of those people who wants to do everything at least once. (Add to this a desire not to be pigeonholed.) So I've written for every field, from nonfiction to fiction, for television, radio, film, and the stage, and in most genres—comedy, science fiction, horror, mainstream drama, and so on. I believe that once a writer has mastered the art of storytelling, he can write in any field. The basic requirements of storytelling are the same, only the mechanics, the window dressings, vary. It's largely just a matter of overcoming one's fear of technology or unknown techniques.
"I write because I was brought up hearing tales of the old country; because it's cheaper than therapy and easier than real work; because it pleases me to make little black marks on a sheet of paper and realize that someone is actually going to pay me for them; because it's fun; and because I'm an atheist. Though I do not fear death—I've seen it, barely escaped it too many times to let it worry me—I know I'm finite. I know that the gap beside my birthdate will be filled in someday. Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words—the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Lane, Andy, The Babylon File: The Definitive Unauthorised Guide to J. Michael Straczynski's TV Series Babylon 5, Virgin Publishing, 1997.
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Entertainment Weekly, April 20, 2001, Ken Tucker, review of Amazing Spider-Man comic, p. 66; October 17, 2003, "Superman Power," p. L2T18; November 21, 2003, review of Amazing Spider-Man comic, p. L2T44.
Newsweek, June 9, 1997, Adam Rogers, article on author's work, p. 63.
Publishers Weekly, June 15, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of OtherSyde, p. 55.
U.S. News & World Report, October 27, 2003, Vicky Hallett, review of Amazing Spider-Man comic, p. D16.
Babylon 5: The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski,http://www.babylon5scripts.com/ (March 15, 2007).
Infuze,http://www.infuzemag.com/ (March 15, 2007), "J. Michael Straczynski," interview with author.
SBC,http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/ (March 15, 2007), Tim O'Shea, "J. Michael Straczynski: At Home In The Marvel Universe."
USA Today Online,http://www.usatoday.com/ (March 15, 2007), David Lieberman, "‘B5’ Script Sales: Future of Publishing?"
Westfield Comics,http://westfieldcomics.com/ (March 15, 2007), "J. Michael Straczynski Interview."