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The Strange World of Superhero Twitter Action Role Playing

The world of Twitter has had something of a transformative effect on comics culture, connecting creators and fans on a direct basis, not to mention giving us hilarious character accounts such as God Damn Batman, Drunk Hulk and Hobo Darkseid. But there’s another world of comics characters that’s flourishing on Twitter that people don’t seem to talk about that much, an entire subculture of people engaging in what I like to call Superhero Twitter Action Role Play, or STARPing, and it is one heck of an interesting little universe.


For just about any superhero from Marvel or DC Comics, you’ll find a whole mess of Twitter accounts owned by people inhabiting their personalities and interacting with each other in character. For lack of a better description, the whole thing appears to be a giant text-based RPG without rules, goals, or any sort of conclusion. STARPing provides an opportunity to create a sort of living fan fiction with a social component, enabling participants to imagine interactions between characters that will never be seen in comics. Quite simply, this is what happened to Mark Waid’s Hypertime. It’s a place where anything can happen.

I decided to plunge myself into the STARP universe in the attempt to understand just a little bit more about this very unique aspect of comic fandom on twitter. What I found was equal parts enlightening, strange, and just a little bit…sexy?

A lot of fans were pretty upset by the events of Cry for Justice, when superdad Roy Harper’s daughter Lian was killed by Prometheus. The loving relationship between Roy and Lian was well-established in DC continuity, and it’s pretty sad to think that we’ll probably never get to see them together again in the comics. Twitter, however, is a completely different story, thanks to @roywharper and @lian_harper_:


What you’re seeing here is the start of an adorable little bedtime ritual between father and daughter, and if you want to do some searching (which I’m unashamed to say that I did), you’ll discover that these two accounts go back and forth with each other pretty regularly, acting out what can best be described as a fairly loving meta-fictional relationship. There’s talk of snacks, Lian gets put on time-out, and at some point they discuss the possibility of Roy getting the phone number of television personality Kat Von D. Having become aware of that last one, I think it should be clear to everyone that The Rise of Arsenal would have been significantly more awesome if Miss Von D had made a cameo at some point.

STARPing is just about conversations, though. Sometimes it’s about action. Here’s an snippet of an intense little sequence between Wolverine’s son @_Daken and @LauraKinney, also known as X-23:


If you’re curious about the outcome of that particular battle, it ended with X-23 stabbing Daken in the kidneys and then teleporting away. I’m pretty sure that young Laura has never had a teleporter in her belt in any of the comics, but that’s the beauty of STARPing. Make it up as you go along! Throw in whatever might be convenient to your own personal story; that’s something that we’d never get upset about if actual comics writers did it, right?

There’s something else that we probably shouldn’t expect again from comics anytime soon but is easily found among the STARPers: the Marvel/DC crossover. There’s nothing to keep characters from different universes from interacting with each other, so it happens pretty frequently. And like I said before, sometimes these folks get a little bit saucy…

Is it possible that this happened off-panel during that DC/Marvel: All Access crossover back in the 90′s?
Okay, so it looks like Tony doesn’t remember it either. But I think I might know where he’s going with this.

I honestly had no idea that Zatanna celebrated Easter. Then again, I didn’t know that she hung out with Wolverine.

If you had any concerns about people staying in character, I’m pretty sure they’ve been addressed at this point.

Am I the only one who really enjoys the idea of Tony Stark hanging out with Zatanna on a beach while dressed in full armor?

At the very least, we know that Tony doesn’t like that image so much. He wants the armor off.

What you need to understand here is that the instances provided above were pulled from thousands and thousands of STARPING tweets. When I started writing this, my goal was to get to the bottom of this comics subculture on twitter, only to discover that there is no bottom. It is an endless world of superhero role-play and it’s not stopping any time soon. What’s worse is that I’ve discovered there are STARPers acting out more successful romantic relationships than I’m capable of maintaining in real life. A prime example of this would be @_PepperPotts and @AnthonyEStark. Actually, if you scroll down Pepper’s feed just a bit, you’ll find that she recently threw a birthday party for Tony where she hosted Clark Kent, Cassandra Cain, and Deadpool, among others. And it just so happens that Clark brought two cows and a goat as a gift. Seriously.

There’s an infinite universe of possibilities in STARPing, and there are no editorial guidelines or continuity problems to get in the way. The worlds and the characters are controlled by the fans, and there’s something pretty powerful about that. There’s no doubt that the results are pretty unexpected and fascinating (and yeah, sometimes kind of weird), and they’re all right there for you to explore on your own if you have Twitter account. Take it from someone who knows, through; once you step through the portal into the STARP universe, there’s no turning back, and no telling what you may find.

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