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CSBG Archive

J. Michael Straczynski’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Joseph Michael Straczynski!


“JMS” is a bit of an aberration, as he was already quite a successful writer in all sorts of different media before he wrote his first comic book story, but hey, still, it is his first comic book story!

That comic was August 1987’s Teen Titans Spotlight #13, with a clever tale pitting Cyborg against…Two-Face?!?

DC really ought to reprint this story. Otherwise, I recommend you tracking a copy of the issue down. It’s a good read.

Straczynski wrote a couple more comics in the early 1990s and then, after creating Babylon 5, he came back to comics in a big way with Rising Stars, Midnight Nation and Amazing Spider-Man. But his first comic work was 23 years ago!


Oh how funny. I have this issue, of course, because I picked up all the Titans stuff back then, but it’s been ages since I went back and read it, and I had no idea who JMS was at the time.

Midnight Nation rocked. Doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves… well, IMHO, anyway. Gary Frank’s art was a revelation, and certainly MN paved the way for he and JMS to collaborate on Supreme Power.

Ed (A Different One)

March 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

No doubt that JMS is capable of writing some great comics. I still say that he was the best thing to happen to Spider-Man in a long time when he landed with ASM initially. Didn’t know his comic work went back this far though.

Shame things just haven’t seemed to work out with DC in recent years. I’ve always been meaning to go back and check out Bab 5 on DVD though . . .

I first heard of JMS when he was a scriptwriting columnist for “Writer’s Digest”, at a pre-Babylon 5 time when he was best known for “Murder She Wrote”. In one of his columns, he wrote about the process for writing the script to this issue. I remember taking the the column into my script-writing class to show the teacher that comics was a legitimate form of scriptwriting.

Mind you, this issue had a pretty silly premise, which is probably one reason why I haven’t reread it in so long.

When he was still doing the Babylon-5 show, before Spider-Man, he did write a pretty good B5 miniseries for DC, 4 or 6 issues, which dealt with a different part of the whole Babylon-4/time travel/Valen story, kind of a nice missing chapter. And it had Zathros in it!

Zathros is Zathros! Not Zathros. It is confusing. And since it was a comic, he got to do really weird-looking aliens that would have been too expensive to do convincingly on TV.

If you haven’t seen the show, be warned that season one is kinda rocky but the show picks up speed from there, and season 4 is one of the greatest story arcs ever done on television, let alone on a science fiction show. First time a big war is shown as having long-term consequences, it really raised the bar only recently surpassed by BSG. Mr. Morden is a wonderful creation, he might actually be able to out-sleaze Gaius Baltar.

[Babylon 5] really raised the bar only recently surpassed by BSG

No, not really, considering that B5 was a coherent story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

I’m a nut about Babylon 5 – best TV show ever… yeah, there’s that humble opinion again, heh. BSG was fun, but fell somewhere between X-Files, which only pretended to have an arc/massive backstory that they were actually making up as they went along, and B5, which DID have an intricate backstory.

B5 is still the only real novel for television as far as story and depth go. And unlike BSG there’s an intricate, interwoven arc, with foreshadowing and actual time travel between seasons – how cool was THAT! Not denying BSG had an arc to some degree. Kind of. But lots of the coolest story parts were made up on the spot and later had to be sort of retconned to make continuity match.

Not that I want to argue. Like I started out by saying, I’m a B5 nut. And Ganky? Agreed with everything you said except for the BSG bit. I’m with Ian – that bar is still set quite high, not yet surpassed :)

Ed… you’re in for a treat. I’d even recommend watching the movie “In The Beginning” first – purists feel it sort of gives a couple of things away, but it was my first exposure to B5 way back when, and the possible “spoilers” just blew by me. Instead of spoiling things, it gave those things, when they later occurred, resonance that blew my mind when they happened. And it made watching the pilot and then the first season a little easier to take. That said? There are still plot points planted in the sort of clunky first season that pay off 3 seasons later…

Actually it must be said that I haven’t seen all the BSG episodes yet but I was very impressed with the first two seasons. I’m in season 3 now and it’s not nearly as good. Oh, and I’m a Cylon too now, and blah blah blah religion. The plot holes are getting bigger and bigger, and it’s starting to feel like “Lost”.

Looks like B5 will hold its title, even though its own season 5 is pretty awful and makes me shudder. Too bad they lost Ivanova AND Marcus at once. I wish they let PsiCorps dissect Byron, the worst character in the show.

Again, I agree with Ganky… on the first half of Season 5 and Byron.Second half of Season 5 was great. Funny you mention those three characters… Did you know as originally written Byron would have been in a love triangle with Ivanova and Marcus? All jettisoned when they had to compress the 2nd half of Season Four, when they weren’t sure there would even BE a season 5 of B5. Only bright spot is that as originally written, there would have been MORE Byron, starting in Season 4… so… dissection still sounds good. Oh, hello Mr. Bester…


There’s a B5 series written by JMS preceeding the In Valen’s Name Limited Series. several stories, each lasting a few issues. Didn’t run for long but it showed the psi corp Mars Facility/hidden shadow ship/what they did to Talia way before we saw them in the series.

And isn’t it Zathras not Zathros?

Yes, yes, it is just what you said — Zathrus!

I’ll have to look for that series, thanks for the tip.

I think if you need a writer for a TV show about an old lady solving mysteries. He’s your man!

Spider-man… not so much.

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