J. Michael Straczynski

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J. Michael Straczynski
J. Michael Straczynski.png
J. Michael Straczynski, 2008
Born Joseph Michael Straczynski
(1954-07-17) July 17, 1954 (age 67)
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Writer, producer
Years active 1979–present
Spouse(s) Kathryn M. Drennan (1983–2008; divorced)

Joseph Michael Straczynski (/strəˈzɪn.ski/;[1] born July 17, 1954), known professionally as J. Michael Straczynski and informally as Joe Straczynski or jms,[2] is an American writer and producer. He works in films, television series, novels, short stories, comic books, radio dramas and other media. Straczynski is a playwright, former journalist, and author of The Complete Book of Scriptwriting. He was the creator and showrunner for the science fiction television series Babylon 5, its spin-off Crusade, as well as Jeremiah, a series loosely based on Hermann Huppen's comics. Straczynski wrote 92 out of the 110 Babylon 5 episodes, notably including an unbroken 59-episode run through the third and fourth seasons, and all but one episode of the fifth season. He also wrote the four Babylon 5 TV movies produced alongside the series. From 2001 to 2007, he was the writer for the long-running Marvel comic book series The Amazing Spider-Man. He also famously wrote for Thor, Superman, the Superman: Earth One original graphic novels, Before Watchmen and Wonder Woman.

In 2009, Straczynski was nominated for the BAFTA Award for his screenplay for Changeling.[3] His new series, Sense8, premiered in 2015.

Straczynski is a long-time participant in Usenet and other early computer networks, interacting with fans through various online forums (including GEnie, CompuServe, and America Online) since 1984. He is credited as being the first TV producer ("showrunner" in Hollywood parlance) to directly engage with fans on the Internet,[4][5] and allow their viewpoints to influence the look and feel of his show. (See Babylon 5' s use of the Internet.) Two prominent areas where he had a presence were GEnie and the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated.[6]

Straczynski is a graduate of San Diego State University (SDSU), having earned a BA with a double major in psychology and sociology (with minors in philosophy and literature). While at SDSU, he wrote for the student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, at times penning so many articles that the paper was jokingly referred to as the "Daily Joe". Straczynski resides in the Los Angeles area.

Early years

Straczynski was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and is the son of Charles Straczynski, a manual laborer, and Evelyn Straczynski (née Pate).[7] He was raised in Newark, New Jersey; Kankakee, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Chula Vista, California, where he graduated from high school; and San Diego, California.[8] Straczynski's family religion was Catholic, and he has Belarusian ancestry.[9] His grandparents lived in the area which today belongs to Belarus, and fled to America from the Russian Revolution; his father was born in the US, but lived in Poland, Germany and Russia.[9]

Straczynski cut his teeth writing plays, having several produced at Southwestern College and San Diego State University before finally publishing his adaptation of "Snow White" with Performance Publishing.[10] Several other plays were produced around San Diego, including "The Apprenticeship" for the Marquis Public Theater. During the late 1970s, Straczynski also became the on-air entertainment reviewer for KSDO-FM and wrote several radio plays before being hired as a scriptwriter for the radio drama Alien Worlds.[11][12] He also produced his first television project in San Diego, "Marty Sprinkle" for KPBS-TV as well as worked on the XETV-TV project Disasterpiece Theatre.[13] While in San Diego he became a journalist for the Los Angeles Times as a special San Diego correspondent and also worked for San Diego Magazine and The San Diego Reader. In 1981 he landed a contract with Writer's Digest to write a book about scriptwriting.

He and Kathryn M. Drennan, whom he met at San Diego State, moved to Los Angeles on April 1, 1981. They would marry in 1983, and separate in 2002.[12][14] He worked on his book while planning a transition to television. The book's first edition was published in 1982. In Los Angeles he worked for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Reader, TV-Cable Week, and People magazine.[12] He quit journalism after working for People, and in 1983, he wrote a spec script for the show He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and the producers of He-Man bought it as well as other scripts and then hired Straczynski as a staff writer.[12]

According to the jacket bio for the first edition of his scriptwriting text (see Print below), Straczynski had a play produced when he was 17, a sitcom produced when he was 21, and sold his first movie script when he was 24. It should be noted, however, that these first two credits were for volunteer public radio, and not professional script sales. By 28, his credits included television and film scripts, radio scripts for Alien Worlds[11] and the Mutual Broadcasting System, a dozen plays, and more than 150 newspaper and magazine articles. He taught his craft for years at lectures and seminars in California and elsewhere.

He spent five years from 1987 to 1992 co-hosting the Hour 25 radio talk show on KPFK-FM Los Angeles with Larry DiTillio.


Straczynski has written for radio drama, including the series Alien Worlds and scripts for Mutual Radio Theater. He wrote a script called Where No Shadows Fall for the company Airstage which was produced through KPBS in San Diego and aired on its radio series for the blind.[15] The program was later aired on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles in 1982.[13]

Straczynski has also been an on-air personality. He began by doing a weekly entertainment segment on KSDO News Radio in San Diego from 1978–1980. In Los Angeles, he put in five years as on-air host of the science fiction talk show Hour 25, which aired on KPFK 90.7 FM from 10 p.m. until midnight. During his tenure, he interviewed such luminaries as John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and other writers, producers, actors and directors.

In 2000, Straczynski returned to radio drama with The City of Dreams for scifi.com and an original 20-part radio drama series entitled The Adventures of Apocalypse Al for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that was to debut in 2007 but has not yet aired.



Straczynski was a fan of the cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He wrote a spec script in 1984 and sent it directly to Filmation.[16] They purchased his script, bought several others, and hired him on staff. During this time he became friends with Larry DiTillio, and when Filmation produced the He-Man spinoff She-Ra: Princess of Power, they both worked as story editors on the show.[17][18] However, Filmation refused to give them credit on-screen and Straczynski and DiTillio both left and found work with DIC on Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.

Straczynski and DiTillio also worked to create an animated version of Elfquest but that project soon fell through when CBS attempted to retool the show to appeal to younger audiences.[19]

While working on Jayce, Straczynski was hired to come aboard the Len Janson and Chuck Menville project to adapt the movie Ghostbusters to an animated version called The Real Ghostbusters. When Janson and Menville learned that there was not only a 13-episode order but a 65-episode syndication order as well, they decided that the workload was too much and that they would only work on their own scripts.[20] DIC head Jean Chalopin asked Straczynski to take on the task of story editing the entire 78-episode block as well as writing his own scripts.[20] After the show's successful first season, consultants were brought in to make suggestions for the show, including changing Janine to a more maternal character, giving every character a particular "job" (Peter is the funny one, Egon is the smart one, and Winston, the only black character, was to be the driver), and to add kids into the show.[20] Straczynski left at this point and Janson and Menville took on the story editing job for the second network season. Straczynski then developed a show called Spiral Zone but left after only one script when his concept for the show was drastically altered and took his name off the series,[21] substituting the pseudonym "Fettes Grey" (derived from the names of the grave robbers in The Body Snatcher).

Straczynski also wrote for CBS Storybreak, writing an adaptation of Evelyn Sibley Lampman's The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek).

Live action and the 1988 Writer's Strike

After leaving animation, Straczynski freelanced for The Twilight Zone writing an episode entitled ("What Are Friends For"), and for Shelley Duvall's Nightmare Classics, adaptating The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was nominated for a Writer's Guild Award).

Straczynski was then offered the position of story editor on the syndicated live-action science fiction series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Straczynski constructed a season long arc with lasting character changes and wrote a third of the scripts himself. After one season, the toy company Mattel demanded more input into the show, causing Straczynski to quit. He recommended DiTillio to take over the job as story editor for a second season, but the toy company financing fell through and that season was never produced.[22]

Soon after, the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike began. Straczynski met Harlan Ellison during this time and would later become friends with him.[23][24]

After the strike ended, the producers of the new Twilight Zone needed to create more episodes to be able to sell the series into syndication with a complete 65-episode package. They hired Straczynski as executive story editor to fill in the remaining number of needed episodes. Straczynski wrote many of the scripts himself. In addition, one episode, "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich", was written by Ellison.

Network shows and Babylon 5

After leaving Twilight Zone, his agent of the time asked him to pitch for the show Jake and the Fatman.[25] Initially wary, Straczynski finally did and was hired on as story editor under Jeri Taylor and David Moessinger. When Taylor and Moessinger left the show, Straczynski left too as an act of solidarity.[26]

When Moessinger was hired as executive producer for Murder, She Wrote, he offered Straczynski a job as co-producer. Straczynski joined Murder for two seasons and wrote 7 produced episodes. Moessinger and Straczynski moved the protagonist, Jessica Fletcher, from the sleepy Maine town of Cabot Cove to New York City to revitalize the show. The move effectively brought the show back into the top ten from the mid-thirties where it had fallen. Straczynski made Jessica an instructor in writing and criminology, and he emphasized her role as a working writer, with all the deadlines and problems involved in that profession.

Straczynski also wrote one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger for Moessinger between Babylon 5's pilot episode and the start of the first season.[27]

In late 1991, Warner Bros. contracted with Straczynski and Doug Netter as partners to produce Babylon 5 as the flagship program for the new Prime Time Entertainment Network.[28]

Straczynski and Netter hired many of the people from Captain Power, as well as hiring Ellison as a consultant and DiTillio as a story editor. Babylon 5 won two Emmy Awards, back-to-back Hugo Awards, and dozens of other awards. Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes, as well as the pilot and five television movies. The show is a character-driven space opera and features an intentional emphasis on realism in its portrayal of space operations. It also pioneered extensive use of CGI for its special effects. Babylon 5 was produced and broadcast for 5 seasons completing Stracynski's planned story arc. Its sequel, Crusade, was produced for the TNT Network, however it ended with only 13 episodes. Production was halted before the first episode aired. Fans feel that TNT unfairly interfered with the creative process before pulling the financial plug. Fans also feel that the show should have been delivered to the public and ratings captured prior to the decision to end.

In 2005, Straczynski began publishing his Babylon 5 scripts.[29] This process ended in June 2008, with the scripts no longer being available from the end of July of that year. His scripts for the television movies were published for a limited time in January 2009.[30]

Recent television projects

Straczynski also ran Jeremiah, loosely based on the Belgian post-apocalyptic comic of the same name, from 2002-2004. Straczynski ran the series for two seasons but was frustrated with the conflicting directions that MGM and Showtime wanted from the show,[31] and even used the pseudonym "Fettes Grey" for the first time since Spiral Zone on one of the scripts. In the second season, Straczynski decided to leave the show if things did not improve,[32] and the show ended after 2 seasons.

In 2004, Straczynski was approached by Paramount Studios to become a producer of the Star Trek: Enterprise series. He declined, believing that he would not be allowed to take the show in the direction he felt it should go.[33] He did write a treatment for a new Star Trek series with colleague Bryce Zabel.[34]

Straczynski also wrote and produced the pilot Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, a pilot for the SciFi Network, and wrote, directed and produced Babylon 5: The Lost Tales as a two-hour direct-to-DVD movie.

Straczynski produced the first season of the show "Sense8", released mid-2015, for the Netflix Internet television company using production companies Studio JMS and Georgeville Television. Fellow executive producers are Andy and Lana Wachowski.[35]

Television bio


Straczynski worked on feature film and television movies. He wrote an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the Showtime network, which was nominated for a Writer's Guild of America award,[36] and a Murder, She Wrote movie, Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For, which he produced.

In 2006, Straczynski was hired to write a feature film based on the story of King David for Universal by producers Erwin Stoff and Akiva Goldsman.[37]

Straczynski announced on February 23, 2007 that he had been hired to write the feature film adaptation of Max Brooks's New York Times-bestselling novel World War Z for Paramount Pictures and Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, taking screen story credit on the finished film.[38]

In June 2007, it was announced that Straczynski had written a feature screenplay for the Silver Surfer movie for Fox, the production of which would depend on the success of the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.[39] Additionally, he has written a script for Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions and Universal Pictures called They Marched into Sunlight based upon the Pulitzer nominated novel of the same name and an outline by Paul Greengrass, for Greengrass to direct, should it get a greenlight.[40]

In June 2008, Daily Variety named Straczynski one of the top Ten Screenwriters to Watch. They announced Straczynski was writing Lensman for Ron Howard (to whom he had sold a screenplay entitled The Flickering Light), that he was selling another spec, Proving Ground, to Tom Cruise and United Artists.[41]

In 2008, Straczynski wrote a draft of Ninja Assassin for Joel Silver, which he completed in just 53 hours.[41] The film was produced by the Wachowskis and released on November 25, 2009.

In 2008, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment premiered Straczynski's feature thriller Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, since originally slated director Ron Howard declined due to scheduling conflicts.[42]

Changeling was one of 20 films placed in competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, and subsequently received eight nominations for the BAFTA Award, including a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.[3]

In October 2008, it was announced that Straczynski was engaged to pen a remake of the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet.[43]

In the fall of 2009, it was reported that Straczynski was writing a movie titled Shattered Union for Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney. The screenplay, based on the video game of that name, concerns itself with a present-day American civil war.[44][45]

Straczynski is credited as "story writer" along with Mark Protosevich for the 2011 film, Thor.[46] He also makes a cameo appearance in the film,[47] his first appearance in a movie and his second appearance as an actor (the first being "Sleeping In Light," the final episode of Babylon 5).[48]


Novels, short stories and nonfiction

Straczynski is the author of three horror novels — Demon Night, Othersyde, and Tribulations — and nearly twenty short stories, many of which are collected in two compilations — Tales from the New Twilight Zone and Straczynski Unplugged. He wrote the outlines for nine of the canonical Babylon 5 novels, supervised the three produced B5 telefilm novelizations (In the Beginning, Thirdspace, and A Call to Arms), and is the author of four Babylon 5 short stories published in magazines, not yet reprinted (as of 2008).

Straczynski has been a journalist, reviewer, and investigative reporter, publishing over 500 articles in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Writer's Digest, Penthouse, San Diego Magazine, Twilight Zone Magazine, the San Diego Reader, the Los Angeles Reader and Time.

Straczynski wrote The Complete Book of Scriptwriting (ISBN 1-85286-882-1), often used as a text in introductory screenwriting courses,[49][50][51][52][53][54][55] and is now in its third edition.


  • Snow White: an assembly length children's play dramatized by J. Michael Straczynski. c. 1979.[56][57]

Comic books

Straczynski has long been a comic fan, and began writing comics in the late 1980s. His work in comics includes the adaptations of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and Babylon 5. In 1999 he created Rising Stars for Top Cow/Image Comics. Eventually he worked mostly under his own imprint – Joe's Comics – for which he wrote the Midnight Nation miniseries, and the illustrated fantasy parable Delicate Creatures. Marvel Comics then signed him to an exclusive contract, beginning with a run on The Amazing Spider-Man, from 2001–2007. He took over the series with issue #30 (cover dated June 2001).[58] Straczynski and artist John Romita Jr. crafted an acclaimed story for The Amazing Spider-Man #36 (Dec. 2001) in response to the September 11 attacks.[59] He wrote or co-wrote several major Spider-Man story arcs including "Spider-Man: The Other",[60] "Back in Black",[61] and "One More Day".[62] He later wrote several other Marvel titles including Supreme Power,[63] Strange,[64] Fantastic Four, Thor,[65] and mini-series featuring the Silver Surfer and a "What If" scenario, Bullet Points. When his exclusive contract with Marvel ended, he was announced as the writer for a run on The Brave and the Bold for DC Comics.[66] He collaborated with artist Shane Davis on an out-of-continuity original graphic novel starring Superman titled Superman: Earth One.[67][68] The story features a young Superman and focus on his decision about the role he want to assume in life.[69] On March 8, 2010 it was announced he would be taking over writing duties for the monthly Superman title[70] with a story arc entitled "Grounded", and the Wonder Woman title, beginning with issues 701 and 601 respectively.[71][72] Less than a year later he was asked by DC to step away from both titles in order to concentrate on the second volume of Superman: Earth One and handed them over to Chris Roberson and Phil Hester to finish his Superman and Wonder Woman stories respectively. In 2012, Straczynski wrote Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan drawn by Adam Hughes and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl drawn by Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert.[73][74] A second volume of Superman: Earth One was released later that same year.[75] The Joe's Comics line was revived at Image Comics with the launch of Ten Grand drawn by Ben Templesmith[76] and Sidekick drawn by Tom Mandrake.[77]

DC Comics

Joe's Comics

Joe's Comics was revived at Image Comics in 2013:

  • Ten Grand with Ben Templesmith (May 2013 – present)
  • Sidekick with Tom Mandrake (July 2013 – present) 10 issues
  • Protectors, Inc. (scheduled for November 2013) 10 issues
  • The Adventures of Apocalypse Al (February 2014 – May 2014) 4 issues
  • Dream Police (April 2014 – present) 12 issues
  • Alone (scheduled for Spring 2014)

Marvel/Icon Comics

Other publishers

Awards and recognition

His personal awards include the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (shared with director Janet Greek) for the Babylon 5 episode, "The Coming of Shadows"[79] and the 1997 Hugo Award for Dramatic Presentation (shared with director David Eagle) for the Babylon 5 episode, "Severed Dreams".[80] Along with the Babylon 5 cast and crew he received the 1994 Visions Of The Future Award from the Space Frontier Foundation, and in 1998 he received the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation for the television series Babylon 5.[81]

Along with John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna he was the 2002 Eisner Award winner for Best Serialized Story for his work on the "Coming Home" storyline in The Amazing Spider-Man.[82] In 2005, he was voted Favorite Comics Writer by UK readers and received that year's Eagle Award.[83] He was also among the recipients of the 1994 Inkpot Award.[84] In 2008, as screenwriter, he was among the recipients of the Christopher Award issued to the movie Changeling.[85] In 2013 he received the prestigious International Icon Award from the San Diego Comic-Con International,[86] only the eighth time this award has been given with past recipients including George Lucas, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Stan Lee, and Matt Groening.

Award nominations include the 2009 BAFTA Award, for his screenplay for Changeling.[3] Three separate 2009 Eisner Award nominations – for Best Limited Edition (The Twelve) along with Chris Weston, Best Continuing Series (Thor) along with Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales, and Best Writer (Thor).[87] In 1988, his novel, Demon Night, was presented for consideration of that year's Bram Stoker award, under the category of Best First Novel.[88] He was also nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a Cable Ace Award for his adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, produced for Showtime Network. An asteroid, discovered in 1992 at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, was honorarily named 8379 Straczynski.[89]

Studio JMS

In July 2012, J. Michael Straczynski announced the launch of Studio JMS to produce TV series, movies, comics and, down the road, games and web series.[90] On March 27, 2013 Netflix announced they would produce the show "Sense8" with Studio JMS and the Wachowskis, which aired on June 5, 2015, and earned a season 2 announcement by August 10, 2015.[35]


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  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "BAFTA listing of 2009 award nominees & winners". Archived from the original on 2013-12-22. Retrieved 2010-06-09. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Straczynski, J. Michael (2000-09-25). "What's "ga" stand for in a chat?". Google Groups, originally published on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. Retrieved 2011-12-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  6. "George Bush vs. Spider-Man". 10zenmonkeys.com. Archived from the original on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2008-12-15. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  10. Straczynski, J. Michael (1979). Snow White. Performance Publishing/Baker's Plays. p. 49. ISBN 0-87440-590-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Alien Worlds Radio Show Index". Old-time.com. 2007-07-25. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Plume, Kenneth (September 5, 2000). "Interview with J. Michael Straczynski (Part 1 of 4)". IGN. Archived from the original on 2014-04-12. Retrieved November 13, 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 May, Hal, ed. (1983). Contemporary Authors Volume 109. Gale Research Company. ISBN 9780810319097.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Twitter/Facebook post
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Further reading

  • Wexelblat, Alan (January 1, 2002). "An Auteur in the Age of the Internet; JMS, Babylon 5, and the Net". In Jenkins III, Henry; McPherson, Tara; Shattuc, Jane (eds.). Hop on pop: the politics and pleasures of popular culture. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press Books. pp. 209–226. ISBN 978-0-8223-2737-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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