An Interview With RJ Danvers
by Ken Kneisel
RJ Danvers is a former Raging Stallion Studios exclusive adult film star who now works at a comic book store in Florida. Inspired by his favorite superheroine, he chose the last name Danvers to honor Ms. Marvel. I happened upon RJ’s blog a few years ago and quickly became a fan of his boundless passion for comic books and charming personality. We wound up hanging out and chatting about comic books and life in general a few times when he would visit San Francisco to film, and over the years we became good friends.
I’ve read many interviews with RJ, but his interest in comic books and his superheroic namesake are hardly ever touched upon. Today those questions will all be answered. I am grateful to him for taking the time to share with us the deeply personal origins of his inspiration and I hope you enjoy this interview with RJ Danvers!
Well to be honest, before we both decided to clean up our acts and embrace sobriety, Carol and I used to be old drinking buddies! Believe it or not, there were many a night that I would have to dodge drunken energy blasts while carrying Ms. Danvers home after one too many vodka cranberries. Ah, those were the days…
Well, I’m just kidding of course! Before I start the interview I want to say thanks to Ken and STORM for giving me the chance to do this with you guys, and for your patience with me to schedule time to get it done. To put it lightly, life has been a little unpredictable lately. I am thankful you both have been so understanding, and I’m so glad we’re finally getting to do this! So anyways, on with the interview!
I remember when I was growing up, I would wake up every Saturday morning to catch the X-Men and Spider-Man Animated Series. I was totally a “super hero” kid, and in a lot of ways I think I still am LOL. I had more action figures than I knew what to do with, and my mom and dad would frequently take me to local comic shops around Metro Detroit. Back then, I remember Nightcrawler being my absolute favorite, so of course he was the on the cover of every comic that my parents would buy for me. To this day, the German “elf” is still one of my favorites, but a certain blonde super heroine now holds the title of my favorite comic book character.
I first became familiar with Ms. Marvel when I was about fifteen or sixteen. I believe Marvel was just wrapping up the Astonishing X-Men/New Avengers crossover, “House of M.” I had just gotten my driver’s license and found a local comic shop, and they suggested “House of M” as a good jumping on point to reacquaint myself with the Marvel Universe. I bought the entire core series, and I remember the following image of Ms. Marvel being one of the first I saw.
House of M was the perfect story for me to fall in love with her character, especially considering what I was going through at that age. I remember struggling with discovering who I was as a gay teenager and where I would fit into the world. I remember feeling like there had to be more out there for me than the life I had been living as a closeted gay teenager, suppressing who I really was inside. During the events of “House of M,” Ms. Marvel gets the chance to see that she has the potential to be “the best of the best,” and realizes all she has to do is stop moping around waiting for things to happen, and just go after her dreams herself.
She was the perfect character to help me crack open my shell and, in a sense, “find myself.”
What is it about Ms. Marvel that you respond to so much that you were inspired to adopt her last name Danvers?
I guess this ties into my answer above in a way, but I can elaborate a little further. Until recently, Ms. Marvel hasn’t really ever been considered an “A-List” character, and I’m sure many comic book fans would argue she still isn’t considered “A-List.” She has often been a second-tier Avengers team member, and more often than not this has been because of her own shortcomings and character defects, one of which is her struggle with addiction.
Carol, like myself, has had a long history battling addiction and in many ways that battle has shaped the people we are today. While Carol’s addiction has primarily centered on alcohol, I’ve recently admitted to the world about my four-year struggle with crystal meth. Both Ms. Marvel and I built up successful careers only to watch them crumble under the weight of our addiction. “Live Kree or Die” tells the story of Ms. Marvel’s alcoholism getting the better of her as she is suspended from The Avengers after several foolish mistakes made while under the influence. A similar scenario occurred with me when Chris Ward, the President of Raging Stallion Studios, asked me to take some time off after it had become apparent my problem with crystal meth had really gotten out of control. Ironically, Ms. Marvel’s monthly series was cancelled at the exact same time that I got the e-mail from Chris Ward. Coincidence? LOL
Thankfully for Ms. Marvel and me, both stories have a happy ending. Both of us have gotten sober and Ms.Marvel now leads the New Avengers, and I’ve had the opportunity to rediscover myself and landed my dream job working in a comic book store. I honestly think it was meant to be that I chose Danvers as my stage name. While there are many things that drew me to choose Danvers, I think the addiction factor is probably the biggest connection between us. She has gone through and continues to go through a lot of the same things I do on a daily basis.
Carol Danvers has taken on many roles from Ms. Marvel to Binary to Warbird and back to Ms. Marvel. Which of her many identities is your favorite?
In particular when I was using, I always felt like I had multiple identities much like I’m sure Ms. Marvel did. There was my real self, Ryan; my porn persona, RJ; and the addict, as one of my best friends has dubbed “Rush”… So if anyone can relate to having multiple identities, it would most definitely be me! I know exactly what it’s like to attempt to maintain a good balance of the multiple sides of oneself. Ms. Marvel and I each wrestled between three uniquely different identities, all of which were totally different from each other but still anchored on to the same base personality.
That base personality is probably my favorite Ms. Marvel identity. Warbird seemed a bit too calculated and brash to me, while Binary seems to be too distant and disconnected from the rest of the world. Her current Ms. Marvel identity, in my opinion, shows the perfect balance of leadership, intuitiveness and bravado. She isn’t afraid to go for what she wants and she makes a great team leader for the New Avengers. I think the rest of the team looks up to her for her experience in the field and they trust her to do the right thing. I think that speaks a lot to her character… that after hitting rock bottom, she has been able to rise above and regain the respect of her teammates.
Do you have any particular favorite Ms. Marvel artists?
I’d have to say that my favorite Ms. Marvel artist has to be Jim Cheung. I know he’s never actually gotten to draw her in a monthly, but she is a supporting character in the current Avengers: The Children’s Crusade storyline,and the way he drew her in the first issue was epic!
Carol has been affiliated with several different super teams during her heroic career, from the Avengers to the X-Men and Starjammers. Where do you feel she fits in best?
Carol is and always will be an Avenger to me. I suppose that may have something to do with the fact that when I was first introduced to her, she was in the midst of reestablishing her role on the team, but I’ve also read some older stories where she is featured on the other mentioned teams and it never really seemed like a solid fit to me. She isn’t a mutant, and her cosmic powers come and go. Ms. Marvel belongs on the Avengers!
What is your favorite Ms. Marvel costume?
I own the complete Ms. Marvel series from the 1970’s, and while I’m sure most people would assume out of those 23 issues that the first would be my most prized, in fact it is issue #20 that I consider the “holy grail.” It was in that issue that Carol first donned her iconic black costume with red sash and yellow lightning bolt, which is by far my favorite of her many looks. I’ll never forget the panel where she is primping and checking her ass in the mirror! I guess you could consider that just another one of our many similarities LOL.
I know that you also love Lady Gaga. Her logo with the lightning bolt across a female torso is very reminiscent of Ms. Marvel’s most iconic costume. What are some other similarities between your two heroines?
That’s so funny that you bring that up! I totally forgot about this, but somewhere I actually have a Lady Gaga bumper sticker that a fan gave to me, solely because of the striking resemblance it bore to Ms. Marvel! I have to find that thing ASAP!
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am a huge fan of Lady Gaga (although she will always be second to my number one, Britney Spears). Gaga has found success in being the voice for the underdog, which is something I think she has in common with Ms. Marvel. Like I said earlier, Ms. Marvel has never really been considered “A-List,” but that never stopped her from trying her hardest to be the “best of the best,” much like Lady Gaga never stopped pursuing her dream to be a successful pop star. Both ladies set their eyes on the prize and are stopping at nothing to achieve their goals. I think that’s a pretty strong similarity between the two, and one that I know I can learn from, especially now that I’m sober. Feeling like I can finally accomplish the things I’ve been either too scared or too high to attempt in the past is, in one word, amazing.