This week I decided to lay out the story behind Bop City. It reveals several of the big moments (today’s comics would call them beats) but I hope it will stir interest in potential collaborators and get this project produced.
Bop City is a theme park the size of an entire city with numerous areas themed around and devoted to different periods in rock/comics history. The Park’s location was chosen because of radiation from a spaceship crash that led to unusual phenomena in the area. Amalgams of superheroes and rock stars live in Bop City, providing an alternate history of rock and roll and the golden age of comics and animation through adventures, celebrating and paying homage to rock, comics, and history.
Sam Bop, 1952
Sam Bop is an orphan, born in 1927, from L.A. After passing through a few foster homes, he runs away sometime before 1935 and travels, meeting or seeing John Robertson, Abe Goodie, Pedro Gilbert, Blind Blue Willie, Hamilton Johns, the ParKer Family, Chris Charleston, Mon Williams, Tad Dowd, Red Eddie Buhlett, Jordan Lewis, and Jet Nourre. He enlists, underage, in the Navy back in L.A. and meets his future partner in animation, Burk Wise. He eventually lands as the radio operator on the USS Yorktown where he meets brilliant scientist Dr. Franz Amwerth and his artificial man Quantum. Sam is injured in the battle of the Coral Sea and comes home. He rejoins Wise in Hollywood and along with Wertham they develop 3D tech which gives their studio a huge boost. Sam goes to work at the border radio station XION in Mexico where he makes his first million with Amwerth’s help, selling bizarre tech trinkets. He also meets and hires Angel Black. Joining Wise as the Wacky Boys, he finances their first animated short, Manic Melody, in 1945. Stars continue to pass through Sam’s life, either visiting the studio or when he goes to see them, and the idea of building a venue to celebrate American music coalesces.
Rockville, Crittenden County, Arkansas
In 1950 two spacecraft arrive in the Memphis area while Sam is there scouting locations. One ship carries a vicious killer, the Sheb; it crashes due to damage inflicted by its pursuers, the Elgim (Little Green Men). Radiation from the two ships (primarily the first) contaminates a huge area around Memphis, travels down the Mississippi, and is carried upstream by rail travelers to Chicago. The Sheb’s ship crashes at Junior and Maggie Yasgur’s farm and causes their livestock to be mutated into anthropomorphic, cartoon-like creatures which Sam gathers, christens the Wacky Wascals, and takes to Hollywood to begin making live-action toons. The Sheb suffers severe neurological damage in the crash and the Elgim seize the opportunity to use their talents, which we perceive as musical, to heal him. Because both ships are damaged beyond repair, they decide to pursue a career as entertainers. Amwerth is aware of them and helps them assimilate to human society as he gathers their genetic material for his own uses.
In 1951 the Wacky Boys’ first feature, Time Machine: 2051, is released, beginning a phenomenally successful reign for the studio in animation and live-action. Over time the Wacky Boys studio is responsible for hundreds of films and television shows and expands into a media titan, encompassing Broadway, touring productions, concerts, publishing, software and net content, and advertising.
Dr. Franz Amwerth, ca. 1939
Amwerth frequently accompanies Sam as he visits entertainers. As Sam builds relationships for his project Amwerth is collecting DNA samples for his own: combining the aliens’ DNA with that of the performers to create a quanta-powered army to facilitate his planet’s takeover of Earth. Amwerth is a deep-cover agent who orchestrated Hitler’s rise to power with the intention of conquering the planet while it was in chaos. He did not foresee the development of atomic weapons and his plan failed, so the Quantum project is Plan B. Because of his failure from a lack of foresight, he has developed the Cassandra 6000, a prophecy device. It allows him to predict trends but not to see individuals’ futures. He develops quantas and places them in positions of power in the government and military, waiting for the chance to complete his mission. He also develops quantas for the Park, creating entertainers who can provide their own lightshow or stage spectacular displays, especially in combination with other quantas. These events are referred to as Fight SeensTM and can be compared to professional wrestling.
In 1953 Sam makes his pitch to Rockville, Arkansas, to buy their town, relocate anyone who doesn’t want to stay, and build Bop City. He promises a generation of prosperity for any who remain. In 1955 he holds a groundbreaking celebration and invites several golden-age adventurer-heroes to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the end of WWII. Amwerth seizes the opportunity to gather the heroes’ DNA while Sam encourages them to remain and participate in his Park. These heroes are representative of heroes past, with patriotic, jungle, cowboy, detective, spy, aviator, and science-hero archetypes.
Bop City Opening Day, 1959
After a series of successes and setbacks, Bop City opens in 1959. Founded on the burgeoning rock and roll sound, it is ridiculed and expected to fail. Organized crime figures are infuriated at Sam’s development, as it encroaches on their operations in the river town. As a measure of revenge, they bring about a plane crash that kills some early stars of rock. Nevertheless, the Park endures and truly explodes in the next decade when the Littlepool theme opens, capitalizing on the British Invasion. The figures responsible for this explosion allow Amwerth to create several significantly more powerful quantas. Amwerth believes his mission will be accomplished much more quickly, but the reverse is actually the case; the Elgim have known about Amwerth all along and have maintained control of the quantas through manipulation of their alien DNA. It is during this period that the quantas begin to form three groups: those who know about Amwerth and oppose his efforts, those who know but go along, overriding the Elgims’ control, and those who are unaware of any subterfuge and operate on the superficial level of entertaining Bop City’s visitors. A particular high point for the Park is the opening in 1967 of the PINC, the Point of Inter-Necine Contact, a prismatic, pyramidal stargate allowing unlimited expansion room for the Park in another dimension. The truly other-worldly opportunities prove to be a great boon. This coincides with the rise of Hy Matt O’Reily and Ron Tungsten, a pair of renegade scientists who begin developing a new type of quanta by introducing psychotropic chemicals to the process.
By the late ‘60s the number of quantas within and outside the Park is reaching a critical point. Amwerth cannot control them all and several are particularly powerful, given the potency of their originals (the entertainers whose DNA was used). A series of public and political tragedies create an unstable atmosphere for Amwerth’s plans between March 1968 and July 1971, a period known as Bop’s Dark Ages. The Park was probably saved by the opening of Arrandem in August 1969 in the alternate dimension accessed by the PINC, celebrating other types of American music: Country, Jazz, Gospel, and Folk, allowing several of the forms that had been shoehorned into Bop to have their own place to grow. On May 4, 1970, the Great Change occurs, when the opposing factions of quantas begin to battle in earnest, primarily in the Park but also in other locations across the country. With intervention by the Elgim and a number of powerful quantas, the conflict is ended. Amwerth is ousted and returned to his home planet with a warning to leave Earth in peace.
A period of gloom persists as Sam is forced to sell off the Park and private owners operate Bop City with numerous unpopular changes in policy. The ensuing confusion and near-collapse of the Park leads within a year to Sam returning as owner and a renaissance as new themes are opened every year as the music grows and expands. In 1980 Sam visits London and meets Nigel Stuart at the Venue. They discuss how music might have been different had the tragedy of February 1959 not taken place. Moved by this talk, Stuart decides to pursue his work in time travel and initiates the series of events that would create REWIND, an organization of operatives who rescue entertainers from the accidental deaths to which rock and roll seems so disposed.
Sam dies in 1982.
Bop City Themes, Landmarks, and Neighborhoods