Joseph Michael Straczynski was born in Newark, New Jersey to Charles (a Polish-American manual laborer) and Evelyn (nee Pate) Stracynski. He grew up in Kankakee, Illinois, Dallas, Texas, Chula Vista, California, and finally San Diego, California. Straczynski graduated from San Diego State University earning a BA with a double major in psychology and sociology and minors in philosophy and literature.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 with Kathryn M. Drennan, whom he would marry in 1983. J. Michael and Kathryn would divorce in 2008.
J. Michael Straczynski got his start writing by working on several plays in San Diego. His early works were produced at Southwestern College and San Diego State University. His first play published outside of school was his adaptation of Snow White that was produced by Performance Publishing. In the late 1970's, JMS worked for KSDO-FM as the on-air entertainment reviewer and wrote radio plays. This job helped him land a script writing gig for the radio drama Alien Worlds. He would also write for Mutual Radio Theater. His first television work also came when he lived in San Diego. He produced Marty Sprinkle for KPBS-TV (he would also write a script called Where No Shadows Fall that would eventually be used on the station's radio series for the blind) and worked on Disasterpiece Theatre for XETV-TV. He also had work as a journalist in San Diego, working for San Diego Magazine, The Sand Diego Reader, and as the San Diego correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He also landed a contract in 1981 for Reader's Digest to write a book about scriptwriting.
Before returning to radio, J. Michael Straczynski would write a script for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. In 1984, he sent a script directly to Filmation, who would who purchase the script and several others, and eventually hire him on as a staff member. There he would work closely with Larry DiTillio, whom he would eventually work on the He-Man spinoff She-Ra: Princess of Power. When Filmation refused to give the two on-screen credit for their work, both left to DIC to work on Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. During his time working on that show, Straczynski would come to work on The Real Ghostbusters, a cartoon adaptation of the live-action film Ghostbusters. He left after the first season.
From 1987-1992, Straczynski would continue to work in radio with his friend Larry DiTillio on the talk show Hour 25 which was broadcasted on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. On this show he would interview John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison as well as other famous writers, producers, actors, and directors. JMS also worked on several TV shows during this time such as Twilight Zone, Nightmare Classics, and Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future until the Writer's Guild Strike in 1988. After the strike, Straczynski was hired on as executive story editor for the new Twilight Zone. He would eventually leave the show after helping the series complete it's 65 episode syndication before being hired as story editor for the show Jake and the Fatman working under Jeri Taylor and David Moessinger.
Straczynski would get another big break in TV when Moessinger was hired to be executive producer on Murder, She Wrote. He extended an offer to Straczynski to be co-producer. He accepted and worked on the show for two seasons. He was responsible for many changes that revitalized the show, such as moving the character to New York and making her an instructor in writing and criminology.
In late 1991, Straczynski, along with Doug Netter, would be contracted by Warner Bros. to produce their new primetime show Babylon 5. Straczynski would write 92 of 110 episodes and the show would go on to win several Emmy, Hugo, and other awards. After the show concluded it's five season run, Straczynski was a part of the show's sequel Crusade, but it only lasted for 13 episodes.
Joseph Michael Straczynski would turn his hand to comics in 1999 with his Joe's Comics at Top Cow with Midnight Nation and Rising Stars among others. He is a long time fan of comics however, and wrote them as early as the late 1980s. Most of his work before Midnight Nation involved adaptations of the TV series he had worked on.
Straczynski caught the attention of Marvel Comics and was hired on an exclusive contract to start writing The Amazing Spider-Man in 2001. He won an Eisner-award with this series. He introduced new villains, like Morlun. Straczynski wrote the famous 9/11 black issue, where Spider-Man and other superheroes are dealing with the destruction of the World Trade Center. He worked on Spider-Man for almost eight years; a time which is now called the Straczynski-era. Straczynski worked on the series with great artists like John Romita Jr, Mike Deodato Jr, and Ron Garney. His run ended with One More Day. Joe's other work at Marvel includes Thor, Silver Surfer: Requiem, Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Squadron Supreme & Bullet Points.
J. Michael Straczynski then moved to DC when his exclusive contract with Marvel ended. His first work at DC would be on The Brave and the Bold. He also worked on Superman and Wonder Woman monthly titles, along with scripters Chris Roberson, and Phil Hester, respectively. He also worked on The Brave and the Bold. He is currently working on the Before Watchmen titles Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Moloch. He is also the writer of the acclaimed Superman: Earth One graphic novel series. Volume 1 spent 37 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List and Volume 2, which was released the week of November 19th, 2012, has spent it's first two weeks at number one as well. On November 26, 2012, J. Michael Straczynski stated in an interview with PreviewsWorld.com that he is also working on Superman: Earth One Volume 3.
Throughout his time working in comics, Straczynski has also worked on several films most notably writing the thriller Changeling starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood and the superhero action film Thor.
In July 2012, J. Michael Straczynski announced the launching of his Studio JMS a studio started to deal with the large collection of his written work. He also relaunched Joe's Comics as an imprint under Image with the two new titles Ten Grand and Sidekick.
Top Cow/Joe's Comics
- 1979 Snow White: an assembly length children's play
- 2003 Demon Knight (I Books)
- 2004 Othersyde (I Books)
- 2004 Tribulations (I Books)
- 2008 Changeling (Universal Pictures)
- 2011 Thor (Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment)
- 1989 Tales from the New Twilight Zone (Spectra)
- 2004 Straczynski Unplugged (I Books)
- 1994-1998 Babylon 5 (Creator/Writer)
- 1999 Crusade (Creator)
- The Complete Book of Scriptwriting
- 2008 for the movie Changeling
- 2004 Favourite Comics Writer (UK)
- 2002 Best Serialized Story, Amazing Spider-Man: Coming Home
- 1996 Best Dramatic Presentation, Babylon 5: "The Coming of Shadows"
- 1997 Best Dramatic Presentation, Babylon 5: "Severed Dreams"
Ray Bradbury Award
- 1998 Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, Babylon 5
Space Frontier Foundation
- 1994 Visions Of The Future