The Protomen

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We've given everything we can.

There are no heroes left in man!
—Protoman, The Stand (Man or Machine)

We will be heroes!

(We will BUILD heroes!)
—Dr. Light (Dr. Wily) The Good Doctor

The Protomen are a very large indie progressive rock band from Nashville, TN, whose musical catalogue is based around a Rock Opera trilogy inspired by Mega Man. Very loosely based off of the mythology of the Mega Man games (the first three in particular), it shows an Orwellian Dystopia that takes the idealistic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and beats it to death with its own corpse.

It is a bitter and awful look at Holding Out for a Hero, and a general examination of the psychology behind fascism.

The first album, a self-titled release also known as Act I or Hope Rides Alone, was self-published in 2005, and tells the story of how Protoman and Megaman were created to fight against Dr. Wily's regime and the very different paths their lives took. It was followed in September 2009 by Act II: The Father of Death, a prequel which tells the story of how Drs. Light and Wily created artificial intelligence, and how it all went so very wrong. Act III takes place sometime after Act I and is to be released an an unspecified date.

The group is also recording an album of '70s-'80s New Wave covers, likely to be released before Act III, and the release of a live Queen tribute album is June 1st. Act I has also received a remastered rerelease on vinyl. Makeup and Vanity Set's 8-bit remix of Act I is getting a release on vinyl. The Protomen also held an April 2012 music video shoot for Act II track "Light Up the Night".

The Protomen have appeared in a Zombie Apocalypse webcomic, Dead of Summer. Several members have other bands, including Cheer Up Charlie Daniels (Turbo Lover, occasionally Panther, the Gambler, and Sir Bakker in live shows), Adam and the Couch Potatoes (Turbo Lover, with the Gambler appearing in a music video), and The Ascent Of Everest (Sir Bakker). Makeup and Vanity Set is affiliated with them, having done an 8-bit chiptunes mix of Act I, with plans to make one of Act II. They are also affiliated with Brental Floss and Tenacious D.

Additionally, the Protomen composed the score for Terminator the Second, a theatrical piece of found art that reconstructs the plot of Terminator 2 using dialogue from the works of Shakespeare. They also appeared in it as the SWAT Team that takes down Dyson.

An official documentary is in production, as is an official music video for "Light Up the Night".[when?]

Compare and contrast The Megas, a completely unrelated band who, while similar in their base inspiration, have no relation to the Protomen and are not in any kind of so-called "rivalry" with them, no matter what some of the bands' respective fans would lead you to believe.

The main page of their website can be found here.

Current personnel:

  • Commander B. Hawkins: Keyboards, bass drum, backing vocals
  • The Gambler: Featured vocals (Emily), keyboards, miscellaneous percussion, backing vocals
  • K.I.L.R.O.Y.: Master of Ceremonies, sledgehammer percussion, vocals (Protoman - Sons of Fate live)
  • Murphy Weller: Bass, bass drum, synth bass, maracas, backing vocals
  • The Nightwalker: Trumpet, cymbals, backing vocals
  • Raul Panther: Lead vocals (Mega Man, Protoman, Dr. Light, Joe), keyboards, keytar, acoustic guitar, guitar
  • Reanimator Lovejoy: Drumset
  • Ringo Segundo: Guitar
  • Sir Robert Bakker: Lead guitar, violin
  • Turbo Lover: Featured vocals (Dr. Wily), bass drum, guitar, bass guitar

Former members:

  • Cobra T. Washington: Guitar
  • Crusher: Backing vocals
  • Demon Barber: Drums
  • The Dragon: Drums
  • Doug Fetterman: Acoustic guitar, tambourine, vocals
  • Ellen Aim: Featured vocals (Emily)
  • The Gunslinger: Guitar
  • Heath Who Hath No Name: Guitar, backing vocals
  • The Keymaster: Drums
  • Lazer: Backing vocals
  • Master Blaster: Trumpet (Nashville-area live performances)
  • The Merchant: Backing vocals
  • The Repeater: Backing vocals
  • The Replicant: Trumpet, backing vocals
  • The Ringer: Keyboards
  • Robobot: Third guitar
  • Scartoe Gleason: Guitar, backing vocals
  • Sector: Backing vocals
  • Steve: Lead vocals (Mega Man)

The Protomen provides examples of the following tropes:

Tropes relating to specific songs should be placed on this page.

Tropes Used All Throughout Both Albums:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Dr. Light is given a much fuller backstory than he ever had in the games, including the creation of Emily Stanton, an original character.
  • Aerith and Bob: The band members' names run from fantastical, like Scartoe and Panther, to ordinary names like Doug.
  • All There in the Manual: Aside from the first track of Act I, there is no narration; much of the stage direction and plot details can only be found in the albums' liner notes.
  • All There in the Script: Mega Man is never referred to by name in the lyrics of Act I. In Act II, Dr. Light is only referred to in the lyrics as "Tom" and "Thomas", and Joe is only named after he dies.
    • Act II's "Father of Death" does play on Light's surname, referring to Wily's influence as darkness and Light's as light.
  • Alter Ego Acting: The members of the Protomen present themselves as being actual dissidents living in the society described in their music, with noms de guerre such as "Panther" or "Heath Who Hath No Name", and represent themselves as living together in a bunker called "The Thundercon".
    • The fandom does this as well, calling themselves "The Resistance". Individual clubs or groups of fans might take squad names. Of particular note are the Chamethrawer Squadron and LIGHT Brigade.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: The band took a break from their rock opera to perform at Whiskerino, creating an epic song about beards. Manly Tears were shed.
    • It actually manages to subvert the trope as well as playing it straight: It's not a part of the canon, but reading the lyrics give the impression that it's written from the view of a pre-Act II Light. Most likely intentional on the band's part.
      • Beard's Going Nowhere could also be the happy ending, where Light and Emily escaped the ruined City.
    • The band often performs covers of various '80s songs during their encores, including Silent Running by Mike and the Mechanics, Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, and a face-meltingly awesome rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart with the Gambler on lead vocals.
    • On December 10th, 2010, they performed a Queen covers concert to show support for a band they're friends with. The covers will also be on a CD.
  • Anonymous Band: Those names up there are all you'd get from them.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Seen across both Acts, particularly in Act I.
  • Arc Words: Several phrases appear in songs other than their own as a sort of foreshadowing; "Hope rides alone", "We are the dead", and "Even now there is hope for man".
    • "Don't turn your back on the City" are the arc words for Act II; to the point that when Wily's finally in unquestioned control, Emily's letter to Dr. Light causes the suicidal doctor to tell Joe that "When you see Emily, tell her to wait for me, 'cause I still have work to do."
  • Ascended Extra: In the games, Sniper Joe was an annoying enemy Mega Man encounters by the dozen. In the albums, the prototype robot is a significant player in the story, and the name is given to an original character who becomes one of Act II's protagonists.
  • Ascended Fanboy: The Ringer and Steve are two fans who were called up by KILROY to play keyboard for the Stand and to sing as Mega Man in Vengeance, respectively. Another fan also took the stage at a North Carolina show.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: This has happened with both Acts so far, with the heroes either dead or demoralized and Wily retaining his power.
  • Call Forward: "We will BUILD heroes!"
    • There is an extra layer of irony going on here because the one who says that is Wily.
  • Chainsaw Good: One of the main "squads" among the fandom is the Chamethrawer squadron, who are said to wield the most intimidating weapon of all time: chainsaws with underslung flamethrowers.
  • The Chessmaster: Dr. Wily, who always stays one step ahead of the Hot-Blooded heroes.
  • City Noir
  • City with No Name: The setting is only ever called "the city", and the world outside it is never referred to.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The band's email "press releases" are rambling affairs which take several paragraphs before actually mentioning anything having to do with the band. Their announcement of the release date for Act II, for instance, opened with a paean to Shark Week on the Discovery Channel (including a picture of a shark with Tom Selleck's face), and included a 48-second "preview" of the album which was every track played AT ONCE, to the point of being unintelligible.
    • More recently, an explanation for delays in shipping had Panther stating that the AWESOME POWER of Act II had caused the CD maker to overload and explode, followed by the sheepish admission that the label glue press had broken down. If they aren't Cloud Cuckoo Landers, then they enjoy their drama a little too much.
    • A 2010 mailing list email said that their bus, Jesse Christine, was destroyed by a vengeance-crazed rodent. The picture they provided was of Splinter with his head replaced with Mickey Mouse's.
    • At a recent concert, the band proclaimed that at a fierce battle in Panther's home city, the enraged public chased them away with fireballs and stole Panther's growl, leading Turbo Lover to have to sing all of Panther's lines.
    • On their Twitter account, the band responded to a question about Doug Fetterman by saying a shark ate him for a week, and that's how Shark Week began.
    • The group's 2010 west coast tour is officially called "Super Awesome Tour Part III: Fievel Goes West". During one show on this tour, in which the bands' instruments overloaded the venue's electrical hookup and caused a brief blackout, Panther claimed that such a thing had only happened once before - and it resulted in the fans burning the venue to the ground.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: The Protomen cover "Because the Night" as a duet, with Panther singing Bruce Springsteen's original lyrics on the verse, and Gambler singing Patti Smith's rewritten lyrics on the chorus.
  • Crapsack World: Played straight in the first album. The second shows how it got to be that way.
  • Crossover: In May 2011, the Protomen were set to appear on a double bill in Nashville with none other than Tiffany of '80s pop star fame. However, due to a family tragedy the band couldn't make it.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Delivered to Protoman in the latter half of "Hope Rides Alone". Megaman gives one back to the robot army in "Vengeance".
  • Cyberpunk: This is the cyberpunk band. It's heavily Steampunk in Act II, fitting with the latter's prequel setting, although a cyberpunk (or at least late-1980s) influence remains in the music.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Wily, across both acts.
  • Dark Fic: Of Mega Man. In Rock Opera form no less.
  • Dark Reprise: Not exactly, but lyrics from The Will Of One are repeated in a much darker context in The Sons Of Fate; at first they are Mega Man talking about fighting against Wily the same way his brother Protoman did, but the second time they indicate Mega Man's disgust with humanity after killing Protoman, taking up his brother's nihilistic point of view himself.

As I live, there is no evil that will stand. And I will finish what was started: the fight of Protoman.

  • Darker and Edgier
  • Darkest Hour: November of 2007 was a dark time for the Protomen. First they were attacked by Killer Robots, forced to barricade inside their bus to survive. Then they were attacked by the Libyan Death Squad; only the fury of the warriors of Greenville saved them. Finally, after crashing their plane in a Shout-Out to Top Gun, the band lost their beards. Also, Doug Fetterman fell around this time.
    • About a year later, Demon Barber and the Thundercon fell, with the base burning down.
    • Their 2010 tour headed this way, with the bus breaking down, and them forced to tour in a UHaul, followed by them having to cancel a show for the first time ever. However, there was hope: They returned in August.
    • In-universe, the end of Act II.
  • Deconstruction: Every single aspect.
  • Determinator: Dr. Light refuses to give up in Act II, and spends 12 years building Protoman in Act I.
    • The band itself qualifies, given that they have only canceled a show twice, and even then after mounting every conceivable effort, including an email plea to their fans for replacement auto parts, to make it. Recent canceled shows weren't their fault, but the fact that no venues in the cities would book them. Even then, they quickly made arrangements for shows elsewhere.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": According to one interview, even Commander B. Hawkins's mother calls him "Commander" these days.
    • At the Act II release show, his parents were only referred to as "Commander's Mom" and "Commander's Dad", with those names on the backs of their shirts.
  • Dying Like Animals: Ostriches and Lambs in The Protomen, Sheep and Lemmings in The Father of Death.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Wily's broadcast tower.
  • Fan of the Past: All of the Protomen are this to some extent, as is affiliate Makeup and Vanity Set.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Act II. Since it's a prequel, the audience knows that Light and Joe will fail and the City will turn into the dystopia of Act I, and that the work Light sets out to do at the end, Protoman, will also fail.
  • Gatling Good: Mega Man and Proto Man have gatling guns for arms in Act I's artwork, instead of plasma cannons like in the games. In concert, Protoman has a Gatling gun arm, while Mega Man's gun is replaced by the NES Zapper Panther wears on his hip.
  • Greek Chorus: The crowd, in quite a few songs.
  • Happiness in Slavery: By about halfway through Act II, mankind is more than content to be ruled by Dr. Wily because of the convenience he's brought into their lives. By the time of Act I this is codified in the state's slogan, "We have control, we keep you safe, we are your hope."
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Joe. And Protoman. Sort of.
  • Hobbes Was Right: Wily's position on humanity, as illustrated in "The Good Doctor".
  • Holiday Mode: Sometimes the band does special things for holidays, particularly Halloween and Christmas.
  • "I Want" Song: The Will of One from Act I; Breaking Out from Act II. Both double as I Am Becoming Songs, as Mega and Joe want things to change and work towards achieving their goals.
  • In Name Only: By the Protomen's own admission, the opera has little connection to the admittedly thin plot of the early Mega Man games that inspired it.
  • Ironic Echo: In The Good Doctor, Dr. Wily remarks, "If you replace the working parts, you get a different machine." Later, in Light Up The Night, Dr. Light (who is now working to bring down Wily's regime) remarks that "If you destroy the working parts, what you get is a broken machine."
  • It's All My Fault: Cause I made the man who put his hands on you! Yeah, Dr. Light suffers from a bad case of being The Atoner throughout most of Act II.
    • He also blames himself for sending Joe to his death, and Protoman.
  • Killer Robot: The Sniper in Act II, the Robot Army and Robot Masters in Act I.
  • Last Of Her Kind: The band's primary tour vehicle is Jesse Christine, The Last of the V8 Interceptors.
    • Sadly, Jesse Christine has more or less passed away. She was engulfed by a Graboid from Tremors, losing her back end and the brakes. According to the news posts, the group salvaged the remnants of the vehicle to craft its successor, The Skyhammer, The Last of the Super V8 Interceptors.
  • Leitmotif: The theme in Funeral for a Son, symbolizing Protoman's death, is repeated throughout the first album: it is whistled at the beginning and end of Unrest, the synthesizer subtly plays it underneath the guitar solo in Will of One (while Mega Man looks at Protoman's grave, symbolizing his motivation to avenge his brother's death), and the choir sings it at the end of Sons of Fate (alternating between the Leitmotif and "We are The Dead") after Mega Man kills Protoman.
    • That same motif is also repeated in Act II, when Light and Wily activate their machines (The Good Doctor).
    • Also, the chord progression at the beginning of Hope Rides Alone is repeated in the middle of The Stand as Protoman prepares to fight with Mega Man.
      • The Stand also features a slightly modified version of the snare drum pattern from Funeral for a Son.
    • The guitar theme established in Intermission is repeated in Give Us The Rope.
    • The orchestra's theme in How the World Fell Under Darkness is given words in Here Comes The Arm.
    • "This City!" from Here Comes The Arm is the same tune as "Destroy him!" from The Sons of Fate.
    • The piano theme as Emily narrates the letter in Here Comes the Arm was first heard on guitar at the very beginning of Hope Rides Alone. Same tune, different instrument.
  • Loads And Loads of Band Members: The group consists of ten people when performing live, and still there are more former members than there are current members. The Protomen go through so many band members even the fans get confused. Only three of the band's current members (Panther, Commander, and Murphy Weller) were involved with the recording of Act I, and since the recording of Act II the group has gone through three guitarists and three drummers. And then there's "semi-members" like Master Blaster, who performs at the band's Nashville shows but seldom goes on tour.
    • The was Lampshaded at their 2011 Halloween show, where every band member was dressed like a former band member. And it still wasn't all of them.
  • Last Stand: "Hope Rides Alone" in Act I.
    • "The Fall" in Act II ends up being this for Joe.
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Light, by way of Dr. Wily and his influence being referred to as "darkness" or "the shadow".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dr. Light deeply regrets when he does wrong, or when his creations have something bad happen to them.
  • Mythology Gag: Regardless of whether Bass appears in the rock opera, Turbo Lover--Dr. Wily--plays bass guitar and drum.
    • Protoman being based off the Sniper's designs is opposite to the games, where Sniper Joes were mass-produced copies of Protoman.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Sniper is an in-universe example; one robot placated an entire city.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: What the Robot Masters do to Protoman early in Act I.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Dr. Wily. It's Lampshaded in Act I:

Wily has no power on a field of battle.

  • Place Worse Than Death: The City is regarded as this even in Act II; by the time of Act I, it gets worse.
  • The Power of Rock: The Protomen's music has been noted to rout armies of killer robots and save doomed cities. If they can't quite handle the job, their fans have been known to help.
  • Prequel: Act II is the back story of Doctors Light and Wily and how it all ends so very very wrong.
  • Railroad to Horizon
  • Real Soon Now: The band has put out two albums in eight years. According to Turbo Lover, the third album should be out "sometime before you die".
  • Refuge in Audacity: To quote Murphy Weller, "That’s what the band is about. If we can get away with what we are doing, kids out there will do it; and don’t be ashamed of who you are."
  • Retraux: More pronounced on Act 1, but several songs have 8-bit chiptunes in them.
    • The latter half of Act 2 is heavy on 80s-style synths.
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots: Megaman is capable of crying, and the liner notes tell of his heart hurting under the weight of what he'd been told.
    • The band member KILROY is so human-like you'd swear he was wearing a mask.
  • Rock Opera: Both of which end in quite frankly the most depressing way possible. In the end of Act I, Humanity is still enslaved, two heroes have been broken and one suffered two 'deaths': Figurative and literal. In the end of Act II, the world is just becoming enslaved, one hero has died pointlessly, and the other sets out on a task which the audience already knows is doomed to fail.
    • Despite this, Act II ends on a high note compared to Act I. The final act of the album details Joe's rebellion and attack on Wily's control tower. And following his death, Thomas Light reads the dead Emily's letter and realizes "This city needs [him] now," he then begins building Protoman.
      • Also, Act II could be considered to end on a high note if you take in consideration that Protoman's belief that all the men are cowards who would rather die to fight back was proven wrong, not so long ago. There was still at least one man that had the courage to fight back.
  • Rock Opera Plot
  • Rooftop Concert: The band once held a rooftop concert, much to the dismay of the band's drummer Demon Barber, who was terrified of heights.
  • Shout-Out: To Nineteen Eighty-Four by way of the line "We are the dead", spoken therein by Winston Smith, and by extension to the poem In Flanders Fields from which Orwell got the line.
    • The group's handwritten name logo on the Act I cover, and related merchandise, is directly based on a similar logo used by Daft Punk.
    • Act II directly calls the surveillance screens 'telescreens'.
    • The Act II cover art is based on the poster for Streets of Fire, and the woman who sang on the 7" vinyl single of Father of Death was credited as "Ellen Aim".
      • And Light up the Night is incredibly similar to Diane Lane/Ellen Aim/Fire Inc's ballad from that film, Nowhere Fast.
    • Several of the band members' stage names are shout outs as well.
      • K.I.L.R.O.Y. is a reference to the album "Kilroy Was Here" by Styx.
      • "Reanimator Lovejoy" is a nod to the movie Re-Animator and to The Simpsons.
      • Turbo Lover derives his name from a song by Judas Priest.
      • The Gambler takes her name from the song of the same name by Kenny Rogers.
      • Sir Robert Bakker is named for the paleontologist of the same name, who revolutionized the study of dinosaurs in the later 20th century and served as scientific advisor during the filming of Jurassic Park.
      • Murphy Weller's name combines the main character of RoboCop (Alex Murphy) with the actor who played him (Peter Weller).
    • The Sniper's knife in the Act II booklet is taken from Sylvester Stallone action movie Cobra.
    • And of course there are Shout Outs by way of their tour names. "Super Awesome Tour Part III: Fievel Goes West", and after that, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now".
    • The LIGHT Brigade street team is a reference to the famous poem, "Charge of the Light Brigade".
  • The Smurfette Principle: In-story: There is only one major female character, and even she gets killed right at the beginning. The band's current line-up also features only two female members out of ten, one of whom is taking time off.
  • Song of Courage: 'The Will of One' and 'Vengeance' in Act I, 'Breaking Out,', 'Keep Quiet', 'Light Up the Night', and 'The Fall' in Act II.
  • Spontaneous Crowd Formation: Crowds form a lot in their songs. It's Lampshaded a couple times in Act II.

Light: Emily... a crowd has gathered here...

  • Steampunk: The descriptions of the early machines make them sound like this. It shifts over to Cyberpunk once Wily takes over.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The band never quotes music from the original games note-for-note, but certain melodies are very similar.
    • They did quote a few riffs from the games, most notably Wood Man's stage's drumline in Hope Rides Alone, and a segment of Flash Man's stage theme in The Will Of One.
    • The second album features "Breaking Out", which has an opening similar to the title-screen music of Mega Man 2.
  • Stylistic Suck: According to Our Heroes, Act I is supposed to sound destroyed because it's a ruined future. This isn't to say Act I sucks, though. Since Act II is largely before things have gone bad, the sound is polished and cleaner.
  • Talking to Himself: Panther as Mega, Proto, Joe and Light, and the very first live rendition of 'The Good Doctor' where he sang as Light and Wily.
  • Tenor Boy: Mega Man in Act I. Joe in Act II.
  • The Other Darrin: K.I.L.R.O.Y. speaks most of Protoman's lines in live performances of Sons Of Fate. This is usually to avoid the usual case of Panther talking to himself live, as shown above.
  • Title Drop: Subverted in a couple of songs (The Hounds, Will of One) which drop the title one of the previous songs on the album (the referenced songs themselves averted this trope). Will of One, especially, could fall into I Am Not Shazam territory, were it not for the well-informed fanbase that The Protomen have acquired.
    • Actually, The Hounds does have a title drop.
      • Wily: I can almost hear the hounds...
    • Yes, but it also drops the title to The Good Doctor more than once.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The crowd at the end of Act I. Yes, growing up in a police state does tend to mess with one's head, but all the same, what could possibly make you think that telling your one single, superpowered defender, currently mourning his brother who he just killed on your behalf, that said brother deserved to die is a good idea? Way to be, humanity. Way to be.
  • Tragic Hero: Most of the heroes fall under this, particularly Dr. Light. His passion and desire for helping people (and later saving the city) not only makes things worse, but empowers Wily. His creations seem to share this flaw, though their reactions to everything differ wildly.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Act I is set in the year 200X, a Shout-Out to the setting of the games. Act II opens thirty years prior. (197X, perhaps?)
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In both albums, the listener knows what Mega Man/Proto Man/Joe/Light are going to do to end Wily's tyranny. It doesn't work either time.
  • Villain Song: The Hounds is this for Wily, and The Stand (Man or Machine) subverts this for Protoman--he's a villain, but wants his beliefs to be proven wrong.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Wily.
  • Voice of the Resistance: The band itself out of universe; Joe, Dr. Light, and Megaman in-universe.
  • When It All Began: Act II details how Dr. Wily took over, setting up the events of Act I.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Dr. Wily's murdering of Emily to get Light exiled. Either Light is executed or exiled; Wily didn't care which.
    • Actually, it's implied Wily rigged Light being let off the hook. He painted Light to be a horrible murderer, and when the justice system "failed" to put him away, Wily seized the opportunity to usurp the justice system and place himself above it.
    • And his letting Joe attack the control tower as an excuse to seize power.