Joseph Michael Straczynski (born July 17, 1954) is a go-to name for memorable, witty, or far-reaching storylines. Hand him something lame and he'll somehow spin it into something special.
In 1994, he miraculously got to make something entirely of his own creation, a cult space opera called Babylon 5. B5 was supposed to be much bigger in scope, but budget limits necessitated a move to confined setting (i.e a space station) which became the focal point of intergalactic diplomacy and war. He tried shopping it to Paramount, but they weren't interested—though his bible was allegedly the blueprint for the then-upcoming Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. DS9 wouldn't carve out its own identity until roughly three seasons in. And even then, similarities between B5 and DS9 persisted all the way up to their respective finales. Conveniently, Paramount aren't required to pay JMS anything for this. This is still a bone of contention between the B5 and DS9 fans, since the latter is rightly-considered one of the better Trek spin-offs—largely thanks to ripping off JMS' original (though obscure) creations.
Afterward, he tried to realize the grander ambitions of B5 with the aftershow Crusade, but it crashed and burned due to network bickering. Jeremiah was a fresh idea—but JMS was persona non grata with the networks by that point. He'd done everything to earn their ire: Retconning Janine's makeover in Ghostbusters as the result of spiritual possession. Killing off network-mandated additions to his cast. Tossing B5-trademarked teddy bears out of airlocks to protest attempts to merchandise his show. (That is not joke. This actually closed out an episode.) Concocting loopholes in stories he was forced to write so that they could be overwritten later.
He then started writing for comic books, where he had more mainstream acclaim, the notable examples being listed below.
His first name is Joseph, so his friends call him Joe; he has stated that "Straczynski" is a name which would "frighten cats." Professionally, he goes by J. Michael so as to allow people to slowly learn how to pronounce "Straczynski." First word: one letter, easy; second word: Michael, two syllables but easy enough; and then...the leap! Fans generally know and refer to him just by his initials, which is how he signs his emails and Usenet posts. For the record, his last name is supposed to be pronounced "Strat-itch-in-sky", from the Polish name Straczyński; his family used to spell it with an "ń" rather than "n", producing a sound related to that of "ñ" (as in Español).
He spent some time in a cult while in college, and was once mugged and left near-death. Both experiences heavily inform his stories. In 2019 he published his autobiography Becoming Superman, revealing for the first time the abuse he suffered from his father, a former Nazi who forced JMS to wear his old uniform in an attempt to toughen him up. In retrospect, this also colors a lot of his work. Because of his father's refusal to let him see anything resembling a competent doctor (or spend any money for one), some of his quirks went undetected for a long time. Joe describes putting on a classmate's glasses and discovering that 20/20 vision is a thing which exists. Later self-diagnoses included Asperger's Syndrome and PTSD.
He shares a birthday with David Hasselhoff and Phyllis Diller, as well as an exact birth date with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- More recently, he wrote the screenplay for the Clint Eastwood-directed Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie.
- He got to contribute to the Thor movie, even landing a cameo (he's the first guy to find Mjölnir and try to lift it).
- He also wrote Underworld: Awakening, the fourth installment of that series.
- At least one pass at a World War Z treatment.
- His current projects include writing screenplays for a Lensman movie and a remake of Forbidden Planet.
JMS' TV credits
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) - Staff Writer; specifically writing 9 episodes
- She-Ra: Princess of Power - Co-Creator; Staff Writer, specifically writing 8 episodes
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors - Staff Writer, specifically writing 13 episodes
- The Real Ghostbusters - Story Editor; writer of 21 episodes and one Special
- Spiral Zone - Series Developer (under a pseudonym), wrote one episode
- Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future - Executive Story Editor; writer of 13 episodes (including the infamous two part final episode)
- The Twilight Zone (1985) - Story Editor; writer of 11 episodes
- Jake and the Fatman - Executive Story Editor; writer of 5 episodes
- Murder, She Wrote - Co-Producer; writer of 7 episodes
- Walker, Texas Ranger - Supervising Producer; writer of 1 episode
- Sense8 - Executive Produced and co-created and co-wrote with the Wachowskis for Netflix.
Comic books contributions include:
- Bullet Points
- His run on Spider-Man which included the 9/11 issue, a failed attempt to link up with Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy (the ending was widely-hated but the rest was gold), and the controversial One More Day (which Joe Quesada forced him to write)
- Midnight Nation
- Rising Stars
- Silver Surfer: Requiem
- Supreme Power
- Wonder Woman: Odyssey
- The Twilight Zone for Dynamite Comics.
- The Mighty Thor, as a lead-in to the next Crisis Crossover
- He had a run on Superman with his Superman: Grounded arc. Expectations for JMS were through the roof following his Spider-Man run years earlier. It begins with some rando woman laying into Superman (who is already reeling from the loss of New Krypton) for saving the world instead of curing her husband of cancer or whatever it was. The story was criticized for its preachiness, interminable length, and Superman's waffling, Obama-era politics, though there are some good parts (opinions differ on whether they occur before or after Joe left). He stopped working on the book in order to write the Earth One graphic novels, which were much better received.
- A number of JMS originals under the "Joe's Comics" brand for Image Comics.