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Some legends can only be born in tragedy.


 "No one stays dead in comics except Bucky, Uncle Ben and Jason Todd".[1]


If you've read Comic Books, then you know Death Is Cheap, Staying Alive is easy and there's a thousand ways to trump the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness.

There are, however, some characters who stay dead. These are the loved ones who suffered Death By Origin Story, and play a vital role in the motivations of the hero. Their death can be (in)directly the hero's fault (Spider-Man, Uncle Ben), not their fault but still a huge motivation (Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne) or simply there to add drama (Superman, Pa Kent). Similarly, Scars Are Forever when they represent an important event for a character (for instance, Barbara Gordon's lower body paralysis).

Sure, bringing them back is always possible and could take the story in exciting new directions, and deeply change the Fallen Hero when his Dead Little Sister returns... or it just might be in bad taste, get poorly handled, nullify their motivation and lead to a Retcon or Author's Saving Throw that "they were really a robot Shapeshifting Alien clone... ninja" and promptly getting killed or forgotten. This is why Status Quo Is God.

Usually, the rationale for why they can't be brought back involves a Fantastic Aesop about not meddling with death because of dire consequences... except the hero, villain, and a score of other popular characters have already cheated death with no major consequences.

Usually this happens because The Call Knows Where You Live. When the loved ones aren't specifically murdered by a villian, their deaths are often due to something common and/or vague such as a car accident or some kind of disease that shall not be named. The cause of death can also start out very vaguely and then clarify (often disastrously) as the story progresses.

A variation of Death By Origin Story occurs when the important death is the main protagonist's own death, as important part of his or her own origin story. Usually, this involves a transition to an undead state of some sort, or alternatively, the character dies but is resurrected in a new form and granted superpowers. Or, it can become a mystery where the hero has to find out Who Dunnit to Me? in order to either avoid death or avenge it.

When a series becomes popular enough, they might decide to make a Prequel. The characters would still be alive at the time, but everyone knows they're Doomed by Canon and would watch it only to see how it happens if it wasn't shown already.

Compare Death by Newbery Medal, Last of His Kind, Conveniently an Orphan, Plot-Triggering Death. Might result in Forgotten Fallen Friend. Frequently involves a Posthumous Character.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Death By Origin Story include:

Anime & Manga

  • Practically every Straw Hat Pirates member in One Piece has such a tragedy, the only exception being Sanji, whose mentor merely lost his leg and is still around. In the present, however, the number of real deaths (while not zero) is greatly overshadowed by the Disney Deaths.
    • Brook is an unusual case in that, being an undead, the Death By Origin Story is actually his own, along with his pirate crew at the time.
    • There's also Fisher Tiger and Otohime, whose deaths influenced the current generation of fishmen.
      • That was pretty much the only guaranteed way, save one or two instances, that any named One Piece character could die. And then... well...
  • The whole Nobody Dies part applies as well to Bleach, except for Ichigo's mother who suffered from this trope. As she was eaten by a Hollow her spirit probably isn't showing up in Soul Society either. The Hollow who ate her is eventually killed and purified, but it remains unclear what happens to the souls of a purified Hollow's victims.
  • Noir has main protagonist Mireille Bouquet's reason for fighting being that she wants revenge on The Soldats for killing her parents and older brother.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every single character who is given more than five minutes of screen time is defined by the loss of some loved one, most often a parent, most often horribly. Almost all of them through suicide or misaimed noble sacrifice. But then, this is Evangelion.
    • Also, one ingredient in the construction of their Humongous Mecha are the soul of the pilots' dead mother.
      • Which of course raises the question of what the heck is going on with Rei's Unit 00 (but explains why Unit 01 rejects Rei so violently). Rei is a cloned cross between Shinji's mother and Lilith, the mother of humanity. Since Rei doesn't have a mother, where does Unit 00's soul come from?
        • This troper Was under the assumption that the soul was The original Rei's, Explaining why it would reject Rei as well as expressly hate Gendo and Naoko, her manipulator and her murderer. Since using Rei "0" being in Unit-00 may have left Rei with less soul, Rei "0" may interpret it as a purposeful betrayal, leaving Rei incomplete emotionally, and Unit-00 insane and rage-filled.
  • In Naruto the whole story of the eponymous character is literally set in motion by his parents, the Yondaime Hokage and his wife sealing the Kyuubi into Naruto, even though they loses their own lives in the process, which is shown right at the start of the manga/anime. Likewise the massacre of the Uchiha clan leads to Sasuke changing his personality and focusing almost entirely on his revenge.
    • Neji's father allows himself to be killed in Hiashi's place. Neji believes he was forced to do it, though, and holds a grudge against the head family until it is revealed that he chose to die- not for the main family but for his village and his brother.
  • Tiida Lanster in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Teana's older brother who died during his final mission in disgrace. From that point on, Teana sought to achieve her brother's dream of becoming an enforcer while proving that the magic he taught her was not useless.
  • Three of the four central characters of Code Geass became the people they are today by losing a loved one (Leouch = mother Marianne, Suzaku = father Genbu, Kallen = brother Naoto). Later on it's revealed that there's much more to the deaths of Marianne and Genbu than first appeared (Naoto, however, simply stayed dead).
  • In Dragonball Z both Goku and Vegeta's home planet was destroyed by Frieza before the series began and losing their families in the process, also making them the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, with the two other survivors Raditz and Nappa being killed many years afterwards (If one counts the movies, Then Vegeta's brother Tarble was also among the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, and there were other survivors, namely Turles, Paragas, and Broly, who were eventually defeated).
    • And earlier, in Dragon Ball, there is Son Gohan, the elderly master who adopted young Goku as an infant. The poor fellow ended up being squished by Goku's Oozaru form some time before the series began. Since Death Is Cheap in the Dragon Ball universe, however, he did come back for a day during the Fortuneteller Baba arc as her fifth fighter for a reunion with Goku and his former master, Master Roshi.
  • Weiss Kreuz enjoys playing with this one. Three of the four members of Weiss are motivated at least in part by someone else's death: Aya by the deaths of his parents, Yoji by the death of his partner Asuka, and Ken by the death of his friend Kase. Kase and (arguably) Asuka both turn up alive again, only for Ken and Yoji to be forced to kill them for real.
  • Trisha Elric and Scar's brother in Fullmetal Alchemist, to name just a few, although in the first anime (but not the manga or second anime) Trish is more of a case of Came Back Wrong. Many major characters have one, and in one case it's an entire country.
  • Most parents in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
    • Really it's just the parents of two of the major characters, the rest of them are alive and stay alive throughout most, if not all of the arcs.
  • Clare from Claymore has one of these with the death of Teresa.
  • The death of Utena's parents in Revolutionary Girl Utena starts her on her quest to become a prince.
  • Tobio Tenma fits. Without his death, Astro Boy would never have been created.
  • Fruits Basket LOVES this trope. Most obviously for Kyoko, but Katsuya and Akira, Akito's father as well.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Kamina. No one saw it coming, which added to the shock value of his sudden death. Even afterward, he remained a large inspiration to the entire Dai Gurren Brigade, all the way to the final battle.
  • With the exception of one fairly minor character in Fairy Tail (and a few demons) all deaths happen in people's back stories. As an inversion, in Hiro Mashima's previous manga, Rave Master there was no better garuntee that you'd be alive for the actual events of the story than dying in a back story. If you didn't turn out to have been Not Quite Dead or have faked your death you got to stay in the realm of the living as an animal (though if you were a mom you seemed to be exempt from that rule.)
  • Juzo Kabuto in Mazinger Z and Shin Mazinger.
  • Most of the main characters in Inuyasha are motivated at least partly by dead relatives or acquaintances, either before the beginning of the series or shortly after their introduction. Inuyasha's girlfriend Kikyo and Sango's brother Kohaku come back, sort of (very complicated in Kikyo's case). Inuyasha's mother, Shippo's father, Miroku's father, and the rest of Sango's village stay dead.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicles it's Fai's twin brother, and Kurogane's Parents.
  • Hiroyuki Kazami in Future GPX Cyber Formula. The car which is equipped with his creation, the supercomputer Asurada, is driven by his son Hayato.
    • Kaga's friend Eiji serves as this for him. His death is the reason why Kaga has warned Hayato about the Zero Zone and why Kaga himself has stayed away of it for years.
  • ARAGO Arago and Ewan's parents, as well as Joe's old partner.
  • Guts of Berserk has a whole bunch of dead folks in his origin story (which actually played out in the manga) consisting of pretty much everyone in the Band of the Hawk with the exception of Rickert (who wasn't with the Hawks when the Eclipse went down) and Casca (the one other character other than Guts to survive being Branded, who had a very nasty experience that she still hasn't recovered from). Because of this, Guts is madder than hell at Griffith, who sacrificed everyone to join the Godhand as its fifth member.
  • Rem of Trigun serves as the reason for Vash's motivations and also the source of his philosophy. While in early episodes of the anime their actual relationship is unclear, episode 17 shows their origins and her motherly relationship to him.
  • Soubi in Loveless ends up at Seven Voices under Ritsu's instruction because his parents were murdered. Soubi's mother is also Ritsu's Lost Lenore, and Nagisa claims this is the reason that Ritsu took Soubi's virginity.
  • Kimba the White Lion has the eponymous character's parents who both die by the end of the first episode.
  • The Test Type Zoanoid from Guyver is always the first Zoanoid to appear... and the first to die. His death is necessary however, as it sets off the events in the entire series.
  • The recent Iron Man anime series shows the classic origin story with Dr. Yinsen (see the Comic Book and Film entries below) ...then subverts it by not only having Yinsen survive, but become the Big Bad of the series.
  • Sailor Moon: Mamoru's parents.
  • THE iDOLM@STER - Chihaya's little brother.

Comic Books

  • Spider-Man's defining tragedy was the very preventable death of his Uncle Ben.
    • Arguably I Let Gwen Stacy Die, except that some authors tried to resurrect her.
    • To a lesser extent Peter Parker's biological parents, as he was introduced as an orphan being raised by his aunt and uncle. Richard and Mary Parker's death however was not shown until an annual during the Lee/Romita run; later the two were "brought back", but not that surprisingly the "returned" parents were revealed to be robots.
  • Superman's parents died, of course, when Krypton blew up. Originally this also included his adoptive earth parents who died of old age right before Clark went to begin his career in Metropolis.
    • In the Silver Age, a bunch of Kryptonians (including various criminals, a miniaturized city, and Superman's cousin and pet dog) did come back. The '80s reboot retconned all this so that Superman was really "the last son of Krypton," but it didn't quite stick, with writers going out of their way to bring back the Silver Age mythos without technically violating this—e.g., Supergirl came back as an artificially-created shapeshifter and the bottle city of Kandor came back as an alien ghetto. Recent comics have decided to forget about the whole "Last Son of Krypton" thing again and bring back the Phantom Zone criminals, the real Supergirl and now Kandor.
      • There's even one Silver Age story where Superman's parents survived the destruction of Krypton, but had to remain in suspended animation forever. Everyone quietly agreed not to mention this afterwards.
      • Smallville has treated things similarly, with Kryptonians coming out of the woodwork. Zod's minions, Zod, Zod's wife Faora (Zod, Faora, and their minions escape from the Phantom Zone), Brainiac (kinda counts), Kara, a clone of Kara's father created on Earth, a clone of Clark's mother (also created on Earth but quickly killed off), and more, leading Chloe to eventually say "for the last of your race there certainly are a lot of you."
  • Batman has several instances of this. Thomas and Martha Wayne for him, and the Flying Graysons for Robin, who would later become Nightwing. Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara got paralyzed from the waist down in a pointlessly cruel attack by the Joker, leading to her choosing to continue to fight crime as Oracle, a Voice with an Internet Connection to help Batman and the Justice League of America. Of course, even though Scars Are Forever, The DCU has ample technology, magic, and means to restore her legs... but leaving her as is helps establish the Joker's sociopathy, her own determination, and that even the handicapped can contribute.
    • In Barbara/Oracle's case, she has actually been offered a solution in the form being cyborged, and refused.
      • According to what used to be DC's rules of magic, Barbara could have her spine healed by magic, only for something much, much horrible to happen to her. For example, a typical DC-magic-twist would be for her dad to become paralyzed from the neck down.
    • In a Pre-Crisis story, Batman actually got to save his parents in another universe, while brooding on whether or not it took tragedy to make a hero. Fortunately, the sight of a man in a bat suit saving his parents inspired his counterpart to become Batman anyway.
    • The few times in the DCAU Batman got to meet his parents involved a dream utopia he knew he was trapped in. Yikes. Oh wait, when his worst fears manifested, that too.
    • Even the Joker has had, in some of his origin stories, his wife dying as part of his origin story turning him to villainy. Or not.
    • In case you didn't think the Batfamily had enough of this, the post-Crisis Batwoman lost her mother and twin sister in a terrorist attack when she was twelve. Then her sister turns out to be alive, and her main enemy, seconds before falling into a river. Ouch.
    • Batman Inc. introduces two more characters with similarly tragic pasts. Mr. Unknown, the future Batman of Japan, took on the role after his friend and mentor was tortured and killed in a very gruesome manner. Batwing is a former child soldier from Congo whose parents died of AIDS when he was a boy.
    • At least two Batman villains also have this as their origin; the parents of the Wrath and those of Prometheus were criminals gunned down by the cops right in front of their son.
      • Similarly, Crux from Red Hood and the Outlaws dedicated his life to killing all aliens on Earth after a spaceship crash killed his parents.
    • In the continuity of the New 52, it has been established via retcon that Helena Bertinelli, the post-Crisis Huntress, was killed as a young woman and had her identity usurped by Helena Wayne, her pre-Crisis counterpart.
  • In various Superman continuities, Pa Kent, Ma Kent, or both die, marking the passage between Superboy and Superman.
    • Subverted in post-Crisis Superman, where both Ma and Pa Kent are alive in the main continuity. In fact, Pa Kent survives a massive heart attack after the Death of Superman arc.
      • Pa Kent died for real during the Braniac arc in Action Comics, of a heart attack. Superman didn't notice until it was too late because he was too busy watching the city of Kandor growing to it's proper size. Pa Kent also died for real in All-Star Superman when young Clark was busy helping the Superman Squad fight the Chronovore.
  • The DC miniseries Relative Heroes parodied this; the main characters, who recently discovered their superpowers, decide that the death of their parents means they're destined to be superheroes.
  • This was one of the reasons that the Barry Allen Flash stayed dead once his former Kid Sidekick Wally West came into his own as his successor. That's been undone now, though.
    • A pivotal story in the early '90s played with this by having Barry seem to return leaving Wally happy about Barry's return but conflicted about being back in his shadow (particularly since his speed had been reduced at the same point when Barry died leaving him the slower and less competent Flash). He had to deal with these issues in order to defeat Barry when he turned out to be Professor Zoom.
  • Ho Yinsen, the man who helped Tony Stark escape capture and build his first suit of armor. The identity of the people who capture Tony and force him to build them weapons varies depending on the medium, but regardless of the exact telling of Iron Man's origins, Yinsen is always there to a) help Tony build his armor and ecape, b) act as The Mentor, and c) die.
  • Particularly nasty variation in Hack Slash, in which Cassie Hack's origin story involves having to kill her own psychotic and undead mother.
  • Abin Sur's impending death on Earth led the Green Lantern ring to choose its first human bearer (not counting Alan Scott, whose ring is of a different origin.) He's managed to stay dead and his death has even recently given Hal Jordan the nemesis Amon Sur, who blamed Hal for his father's death.
  • Parodied in Kill All Parents, where a scientist discovers that dead parents somehow directly guarantees their kid will become an awesome superhero. This leads to a government project dedicated to randomly murdering couples with children (and in one case an entire alien planet) to ensure that a generation of heroes will exist to save them from a foretold catastrophe.
  • The Punisher watched his whole family get caught in a mafia cross-fire, leading him to kill as many criminals as he could find.
    • And then, in an alternate-universe story where Frank Castle's family were killed during a Brood invasion, he blamed the X-Men and Avengers and went on to hunt down meta-humans.
      • It didn't help that the superheroes weren't very willing to accept responsibility for the deaths that their superfight caused, though Castle's actions in this What If comic were portrayed as nothing less than extreme.
      • Most recently, Marvel supervillain crimelord, The Hood, magically resurrected Frank Castle's wife and kids during Marvel's Dark Reign, in an attempt to bribe him to leave him alone. Frank is unable to accept that they're the real deal and burns them alive (using the corpse of another briefly-resurrected supervillain who he just killed). Even the Hood (who still gives support to his own ex-wife and kids) was thoroughly shocked.
  • Played with in Starman. David Knight dies in the first issue after doing nothing of note (apart from fighting the Will Payton Starman), but Jack takes an entire story arc before taking up the mantle. David becomes more interesting after his death, popping up in the annual "Talking With David" stories and even getting his own story arc at the close of the series.
  • Blade's mother staying dead is necessary for his powers to even exist so it is unlikely for her to be resurrected.
  • Parodied in the first issue of The Awesome Slapstick. The Scientist Supreme of Dimension X conveniently falls dead after telling protagonist Steve Harmon everything he needs to know to stop the Big Bad's schemes. After Steve leaves, he springs back up with a grin.
  • James-Michael's parents in Omega the Unknown, combined with a Robotic Reveal.
  • The Intimates only offhandedly mentions it, but Punchy first donned his costume shortly after his older sister was murdered.
  • "The Wombat" in 10th Muse murdered her own parents outside a movie theater after arranging for them to see a showing of The Mark of Zorro in an attempt to invoke the trope and make her a stronger hero.
    • This storyline was later remade with a few major alterations in Insane Jane - Jane kills everyone she knows so she can have a proper "origin", but she's schizophrenic and doesn't actually know she's doing it.
  • Martian Manhunter has what is arguably the most extreme example of this ever. Most of his species, including his wife and daughter, spontaneously combusted after contracting a psychic plague engineered by his own brother. J'onn only survived by severing his own psychic connection to the rest of his people, meaning he had to watch his family die in front of him while he was mentally cut off from them. The worst thing is that he could have stopped all of this. He knew his brother was up to no good, but J'onn still had misplaced trust in him and underestimated the depths of his evil. The loss of his people and his family in particular are a huge part of his character, which might be why attempts to revive his race always turn out to be fakeouts. While there is another (evil) Green Martian out there, his family is still dead.
  • Spider-Man supporting character Toxin plays around with this a little: Toxin's already an established hero when Razorfist kills his father, and by the end of the series Toxin sees Razorfist put behind bars.
  • In newspaper comic strips, Dick Tracy decided to join the police force after the murder of his fiancée's father. The first Phantom started battling pirates to avenge his father.
  • Doctor Strange inherited the title and artifacts of "Sorcerer Supreme" after killing his master and tutor, the Ancient One (at his request). Whether this means the role is a You Kill It, You Bought It deal is yet unresolved.
  • A few other Marvel stories that involved this trope, for example:
    • The Wasp's debut and origin story involved the murders of Hank Pym's first wife and of Janet Van Dyne's father as motivations for Hank's attraction for Janet and Janet's decision to become a superhero.
    • Daredevil #1 introduced Matt Murdock as a half-orphan, then his father was murdered on the orders of the Fixer. Frank Miller's retcon later revealed that Matt Murdock's mother had not died but become a nun, while the origin of Miller's new character, the aptly named Elektra also entailed the death of her father.
    • Professor X of the X-Men was shown as having lost his biological parents as well as his step-father in his origin story. Cyclops was introduced as an orphan (although it was later revealed that at least his father survived long enough to meet his children again).
      • Professor X's origin (which spans several decades prior to his debut) also has him paralyzed from waist down. Even though he's no longer in his original body, the notion of one of the most powerful men alive being confined to a wheelchair is so intrinsic to Xavier's character that restoration of his ability to walk never lasts long.
    • Loki's Tales of Asgard origin story showed him as the orphaned son of one of Odin's late enemies.
    • Magneto's young daughter died in a fire while a mob tried to kill her father for his newly emerged mutant abilities.
  • All Fall Down has the 642 casualties inadvertently killed by Sophie's ascendance in The Fall.


  • The comic book films as Batman and Spiderman, of course, follow their predecessors.
  • The only difference between the film version of Iron Man and the various comic origins is that Dr. Yinsen, here, is Muslim. But he's still a respected colleague, and he still sacrifices himself to allow Tony to escape.
    • On top of that, his death is a total Tear Jerker, revealing Ten Rings murdered his family, so by dying, he's "going to meet them" as he earlier said he would when he "escaped."
  • In the 2002 remake of The Time Machine, this is actually enforced in-story.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine has Love Interest Kayla. Being Logan, a character who in the comics collects dead lovers and was unattached in the first three movies, it seemed she was doomed to die, and the film doesn't disappoint... at first. But when it's revealed he death was faked and their affair false, the trope seemed averted. But then it turns out she really loved him... so she was dead as a doornail by the end, and the now amnesiac Wolverine didn't even know to cry over her corpse. Tragic in all the wrong ways.
    • Then there's John Howlett, Wolverine's father, who is killed by the groundskeeper Thomas Logan in a drunken rage. The trauma of witnessing this activates young Logan's mutation: bone claws and he uses this to kill Thomas Logan, supposedly avenging his father's death. With his dying breath, Thomas Logan reveals that he, not John Howlett, is his real father.
  • Watchmen has a bit of subtle fun with the Batman ur-example: The very first "still" in the title sequence shows the first Nite Owl punching out the would-be killer of Bruce Wayne's parents!
  • Subverted with Jason's old neighbor in Mystery Team.


  • Alex Maxwell, aka Shade of the Seekers of Truth gets one of these when his parents are killed explicitly to draw his brother into the Big Bad's evil plot.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality series, Zane becomes the incarnation of Death by killing the previous incarnation of Death. Also, death figures largely in why Chronos and Satan become their respective incarnations.
  • In Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, the Markhagir (although he is a villain) has a Death By Origin Story - the neighboring country invades and kills the entire royal family, leaving him suffocating under a mountain of corpses. This trauma turns him into the complete madman he is.
  • In Harry Potter Harry's parents are sacrificed at the start of the story, his mother's sacrifice specifically allowing him to survive.
  • In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, young Abe's mother is killed by vampires, thus beginning his quest for revenge.
  • In Discworld, the death of Susan's parents. Unusual in that they'd been key characters in a previous book, and that Death himself is implied to have offered them an alternative (living on at his estate, like Albert), but they opted to see their real lives through to the end.
    • Subverted in Hogfather. The Assassins' Guild took Mr. Teatime in as a child because they took pity on him after the sudden death of his parents. As Lord Downey later came to reflect, it was a pity they didn't look into this...
  • In Myth Adventures, the death of Garkin.
  • Simon Mead in the Selena Mead stories.
  • Nick Carter's father Sim died in the first Nick Carter story. He had already trained his son to work as a sleuth.
  • Clark Savage, Jr. died in the first Doc Savage novel. He had already trained his son to fight crime.
  • The Domino Lady's father, a senator, assassinated by a criminal group, inspired her to fight crime.
  • The Avenger, Richard Wentworth, fought crime after the death of his wife and daughter.
  • Mack Bolan, The Executioner, tried to wipe out the entire Mafia after he returned home from Vietnam because of the death of everyone in his family except his little brother.
  • The eponymous Cherubs are all required to be orphaned or abandoned with no family members likely to turn up and claim them. This trope strikes main characters James and Lauren, as their mother dies just chapters into the first book and Lauren's father is sent to jail for smuggling cigarettes after hitting Lauren.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: The first book Weekend Warriors introduces us to Myra Rutledge, Nikki Quinn, and Barbara Rutledge. All three of them are very happy...until Barbara gets killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver who exploits Diplomatic Impunity! Myra sinks into a funk for over a year until she witnesses a vigilante killing a rapist and killer on live news. Then she gets the inspiration to set up a group of vigilantes to get justice for women who were wronged by Karma Houdinis. On an interesting side note, Barbara has appeared as a ghost to Myra, Nikki, and Charles Martin from time to time to make conversation or offer advice.
  • Fisk's parents in the Knight and Rogue Series. His father died of pneumonia after reading a book out in the rain. His mother died in a flu epidemic.
  • Happens to Queen Vasi Bria's mother in The Last Dove. Her death causes the fighting between the clans.

Live Action TV

  • Supernatural: The Winchester boys can come Back From the Dead all they want. Their mother? Deader Than Dead. Sam's girlfriend? Killed Off for Real.
    • Also, their dad was Killed Off for Real after "In My Time of Dying." (Sure, he returned as a ghost in "All Hell Breaks Loose," but that doesn't count—their mother returned as a ghost as well and then she got Deader Than Dead.)
  • Dexter's adoptive father, Harry Morgan.
    • And his biological mother who got hacked up in a shipping container when he was 2.5 years old - Dex and his older brother Brian sat in blood for three days.
  • Power Rangers RPM does this with Scott's brother and Summer's butler. Not to mention nearly all life on Earth when Venjix unleashes a Type 4 disaster at the start of the series.
  • A number of companions of the Doctor have ended up traveling with him after their close relations died, usually as Backstory (making them Conveniently an Orphan) occasionally as shown onscreen:
    • Vicki's father was killed in a massacre just prior to the events of her debut story, The Rescue.
    • Sara Kingdom was tricked into assassinating her own brother in The Daleks' Master Plan, but died herself at the end of the story.
    • Victoria Waterfield's father died fighting the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks.
    • Adric lost his brother to the Marshmen in "Full Circle" and, with him, any reason for staying with his own people. When Adric himself died at the end of "Earthshock", he was seen holding his brother's belt in his final moments.
    • Nyssa lost two family members as a result of the Master's machinations in The Keeper of Traken. The first was her stepmother, whom the Master manipulated, then killed once he had no further use for her. Then, the Master killed Nyssa's father and took over his body; this was followed soon after by the destruction (in Logopolis) of Nyssa's home planet.
    • Tegan Jovanka's aunt was murdered by the Master in Logopolis.
    • For a viewer who begins watching from the beginning of the new series (2005) this trope could also apply to the entirety of the Time Lord race.
  • In the Korean Drama Bad Boy, the death of Gun Wook's Forgotten Fallen Friend from the orphanage begins his revenge against the rich family that abandoned him.
  • In Pushing Daisies, Ned first discovered he could resurrect the dead when his dog, Digby, was hit by a truck. His mother died soon after, and he resurrected her. However, the dead could only be brought back to life for one minute, or something else had to die. Ned didn't know this, and only learned it when the father of the Girl Next Door, Chuck, suddenly died. Ned then discovered that if he touched a resurrected person again, they died again, with no more chance at resurrection. He learn this when he touched his mother. Finally, Chuck is murdered when she and Ned are adults, and he resurrects her, thus starting the events of the series...
  • Charlie, O'Neill's son in Stargate and Stargate SG-1. In the original movie, Charlie's death is a major motivation for O'Neill to go on what is probably going to be, and almost is, a suicide mission. And despite several characters treating death as a revolving door (I'm looking at you, Daniel), Charlie stays dead (except for that one alternate reality). Of course, he's been dead and buried well before they ever run across the technology to bring people back to life, which only seems to work on the recently deceased (and has bad side effects anyway).
  • Callisto's Start of Darkness happened when then-Big Bad Xena killed her parents before her eyes. When goddesshood and time travel gave her a chance to save them, she killed them anyway to ensure she would become the Complete Monster she is.
  • Technically the Regeneration of one Doctor into another is a Death By Origin Story, since the previous Doctor has to die for the new one to be born.
  • The murder of Tessa's father in the pilot episode of Queen of Swords provides the motivation for her to become the masked vigilante, the Queen of Swords.
  • In Alias, Sydney's fiancé Danny is killed in the pilot episode after she tells him she's a spy, and provides the motivation for her turning on SD-6 and starting to work for the real CIA. Despite the introduction into the series mythos of zombies, clones, zombie clones and immortality juice (oh, if only it made sense in context) and multiple fakeout deaths for Sydney's main in-series love interest, Vaughn, Danny stays dead and is never seen again.
  • Sam, the young son of mastermind Nathan Ford on Leverage died prior to the start of the show after a health insurance company refused to pay for his treatment. Nate blames the company, and his need for revenge leads him to use his skills to steal from the rich to give to the deserving.
  • Veronica Mars could be said to have experienced this, since the murder of her BFF and subsequent loss of social status (and her fathers sacking from the office of Sheriff, also a consequence of the murder) is what made her into the ass-kicking, name-taking PI we get to know.
  • Captain John Sheridan from Babylon 5 has always regretted the death of his wife, whose ship was destroyed while surveying a distant planet on the edge of known space. Particularly since he is aware that he forgot to say "I love you" and "Good bye" to her the last time they spoke, as they were both in a rush. The discovery that the Shadows were responsible for her death is a huge motivator for him in the second and third seasons of the show. Since he assumed that Delenn was telling him the truth when she said the Shadows killed his wife.
  • Judge Nicholas Marshall, the protagonist of Dark Justice, stopped believing in the system and started believing justice when he lost his family (namely, his wife and his daughter) and the murderer got Off on a Technicality.
  • Psychic Patrick Jane, the protagonist of The Mentalist, became a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation when his wife and his daughter were murdered by a serial killer.
  • CSI: NY Mac's wife Claire, who died on 9/11-it's gotta be part of the mix of his motivation to fight for justice, alongside his Marine background.
  • Merlin Arthur's mom, Ygraine, died giving birth to him. The catalyst for Uther's magic ban and a major part of the series' premise.
  • Tracker Cole became a prison guard to guard Rhee, the Vardian who killed his wife and daughter. And then he follows Rhee to Earth after the escape. Although he's charged with rounding up all the escapees, Rhee is his first and primary objective.
  • In Smallville, there was a comic book about Lex's childhood hero, the Avenging Angel, whose love interest became a victim of this trope. When the producers of a movie based on the comic decided to use the Spared by the Adaptation trope on her, it motivated a Villain of the Week to kill her actress while recording the scene where the character should die. When said villain learned of Clark's powers and how he uses them for good, the villain decided to kill Clark's love interest out of the belief a hero needs this element and a living girlfriend would be a weakness.


  • Toa Lhikan as part of the Toa Metru's origin story in Bionicle.

Video Games

  • Street Fighter is fairly fond of this trope as Chun-Li is definitely like this after when her father was murdered "disappeared" during his investigation of Shadaloo, while T. Hawk's father Arroyo was killed by Bison himself. Gouken also served this role for Ryu during the Alpha seires, but it seems his death was retconned in Street Fighter IV.
  • When her little brother Myouren dies, Buddhist nun Byakuren Hijiri decides to pursue immortality to avoid her own death. She tries to broker peace between humans and youkai along the way, gets sealed away for her sins, and that puts in motion the events of Undefined Fantastic Object.
  • It being the slightly Troperiffic game that it is, Dragon Age has 6 different origins to choose from, in at least three of them someone dies.
  • The Spirit Monk's unnamed parents (and the entire population of Dirge) was killed by Emperor Sun Hai's invasion in the backstory of Jade Empire, which led directly to the nasty problems the player must solve.
  • Esmerelle, the player's mother in Neverwinter Nights 2, was killed by a bit of the exploding MacGuffin that ended up stuck in the player's chest.
  • In World of Warcraft, lots of dead characters from the previous games are back in a way or another for everybody's enjoyment. However, this doesn't include Durotan and Draka (Thrall's parents), Llane Wrynn (Varian Wrynn's father), or Grom Hellscream (Garrosh's father).
  • Jack Dark in Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Tombstone's wife in Freedom Force was killed by a neighbor in revenge for turning him down (also see the own death section)
  • In The Godfather: The Game game, Johnny Trapani serves as the Decoy Protagonist for the prologue and is gunned down at the end, paving the way for his son Aldo to become the real player character and giving him motivation to go out and kick the asses of other mobsters.
  • In Suikoden II, the entire backstory for the Cooking Duel minigame sidequest is that Hai Yo is on the run from a cooking syndicate intent on stealing a recipe he received from his deceased fiancée Shun Min. Slight subversion in the fact that we're able to meet Shun Min in Suikoden V before her Death By Origin Story takes place.
  • Samus Aran's family and the Chozo who raised her are all dead thanks to Space Pirates. This is elaborated in the manga, and only hinted at in the games.
  • It's not surprising that this happens a lot in Ace Attorney, given the game is entirely about murders.
    • Phoenix's first major case was the murder of his mentor Mia Fey, although she stuck around afterwards. Later she even does double-duty for the origin of Prosecutor Godot.
    • Gregory Edgeworth's death is what led to his son Miles getting adopted and getting turned into the Demon Prosecutor.
    • The unsolved murder of Cece Yew]l is what prompted the formation of the Yatagarasu.
    • Kay Faraday would probably not be the second Yatagarasu if she wasn't trying to follow in her dead father's footsteps.
  • Maria and Pachacamac from Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • Link's mother in Ocarina of Time.
  • Bella Goth in The Sims 2, who was abducted by aliens. Even trying to bring her back using her character files usually fails because she has the memory "I died". Trying to get her clone from Strangetown also usually messes with the game. Despite this, there is still an Urban Legend of Zelda going around that there is a cheat to bring her back.
  • Hanzo Hasashi's family is slaughtered by the Lin Kuei, specifically, by a warrior named Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero). After Hasashi himself comes back from the dead, he vows to avenge them and kill Sub-Zero. To symbolize himself as a new person, he starts calling himself Scorpion (also see below).


  • Webcomic/Homestuck has this for two characters using an unusual twist: the deceased in question died ages before those whose origin they are part of were born; they simply prepared things ahead of time and it is their story that drive the heroes, rather than direct personal connection, although there is some form of attachment.
  • Right-Eye from Order of the Stick (the Start of Darkness prequel, that is). Also, Roy's little brother.
  • In Everyday Heroes, Jane Mighty changed her life after the murder of her best friend, Goldie Aurum.
  • In Axe Cop #0, the eponymous character's parents are poisoned by Telescope Gun Cop. This involves Time Travel.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the death of the original Grace Sciuridae was the reason Grace was created the way she was.
  • In Kirby Adventure, Keeby was introduced in a flashback arc solely to die and give Kirby a reason to start the KAS.
  • In the Mega Crossover (and meta) fancomic Roommates this is one of the two[2] known ways for a character to stay dead. We learned this in the biggest Tear Jerker of the series yet: When Tallahassee tried to use the Nobody Can Die / Death Is Cheap nature of the comic to bring back his son and failed.

Web Original

  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog: Penny died to make Dr. Horrible who he unless Whedon has something really strange up his sleeve in the sequel, she's Deader Than Dead.
  • In the Epic Tales series Shadow Hawk the title character's father is killed. This is what leads to him becoming a superhero, so that he can learn about his father's killer and get revenge.
    • Also the character Astral Controller is an example of someone whose death was their origin story, as David Wilson only become Astral Controller after he died because of a deal he made with Hades.
  • Phase in the Whateley Universe still has both parents, but his mother hates him now that he has turned into a mutant. It's her backstory that has this trope. As a child, she and her big sis were kidnapped by two horrific mutants, one of whom generates a fear aura and manifests monsters. The other was worse. The other ate the big sis alive in front of the child. Phase's mother was institutionalized for three years after her rescue. She's never going to be okay with Phase being a mutant.
  • The Shadow of the LessThanThree-Verse has his older brother, who was killed in a shootout between rival gangs. This lead to Shadow taking self-defense classes, and beginning his crimefighting career. Lucky for him, he discovered his superpowers on the job.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, this is part of the Backstory for several characters. The most blatant example would be Doctor Ka, the rest of whom's family was slaughtered by demons when his sorcerer father delved into things Man was not meant to know. This set the mystic superhero on his path to... well... mystic superherodom.
    • Battlecat, being basically a Captain Ersatz of The Punisher, witnessed his entire family (other than his daughter) being slaughtered by crime lord Baron Samedi and his Mafiosi after his wife testified against one of the crime lord's henchmen. Turned out to be a big mistake on the part of Baron Samedi.
  • Deirdre Rees's parents in Night Hunters
  • The Accuser became a vigilante after his wife was killed.

Western Animation

  • In ThunderCats (2011), Lion-O's personal motivation to defeat Big Bad Mumm-Ra is shaped not just by the destruction of Lion-O's kingdom, but by Mumm-Ra's gloating assassination of Lion-O's father, King Claudus.

Examples of Own Death By Own Origin Story:

Anime & Manga

  • The main character of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke Urameshi, looks at his own dead body within the first 5 minutes of the first episode.
  • Really quiet young hitman gets betrayed and murdered by his closest best friend. His body is stolen from the syndicate he worked for by a scientist who has the technology to reanimate the dead. The deceased man in question is revived as a nearly-invincible gun-toting cowboy assassin and sent out to take revenge on his killer and the syndicate that betrayed him. That's Gungrave right there.
  • Pretty much the entire cast of Sailor Moon died in their orgin story and reincarnated in present day (as of when the Series was released) The senshi aside from Venus are kept in the dark about this for much of the first season. It is unknown how Venus already knows in the anime but in the manga she learned in her own series, Codename: Sailor V.
  • Brook of One Piece died along with his entire crew, but he was the only one who could come back (Though only once).
  • Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?: Ayumu dies at the start then becomes a zombie. The driving force behind the first third of the anime is finding his killer.

Comic Books

  • Physicist Jon Osterman from Watchmen is atomized in a nuclear experiment, but returns as "Dr. Manhattan", an immortal indestructible ascended godlike entity.
  • The Spirit 'dies' in every version of his origin story, which is why he calls himself the Spirit in the first place. If you want to get technical, he is exposed to chemicals that put him into a death like coma and is buried. He awakes and takes advantage of his new found death status to become a vigilante. Alvarro Mortez AKA 'El Morte' in the DC reboot actually dies though. He is unfortunate to die TWICE.
  • Secret agent/assasin Al Simmons is set up and murdered by his boss. After striking a Deal with the Devil he is returned to Earth as Spawn with a new body and supernatural powers.
  • Boston Brand, aka Deadman, gained his abilities by, well, getting killed. His body is even resurrected by the Black Lanterns but his attempt to repossess his old shell and return to the ranks of the living fails. Then the White Lanterns bring him back... for a while, anyway.
  • Typically, this is what happens to the Spectre's hosts; almost all of them were murder victims who found themselves bonded to the Vengeance of God incarnate.
  • Ditto Swamp Thing. ... Sort of. It gets...complicated when Alan Moore comes on board.
    • And, while on the subject of Swamp Thing, it's also true for Garbage Man, a very similar character.
  • The same thing applies to everyone resurrected by The Crow, and they usually have dead loved ones to avenge as well.
  • Parodied in an issue of What's New with Phil and Dixie, when a nascent superhero is subjected to so many different methods of acquiring superpowers simultaneously that said hero is reduced to ashes.
  • Parodied in another way in the Great Lakes Avengers' Mr. Immortal.
  • Briar Harvestar/The Hooded One in Bone, though she is not the main protagonist.
  • Resurrection Man's power involves him dying and then being resurrected by nanotechnology with a new super power, usually related to the manner of his death.
  • Moon Knight took the cowl when he was beaten to death by Raoul Bushman and was resurrected to serve as Khonshu's fist of justice. He also hunts Werewolves by the side, we're not really sure why.
  • Parodied in Knights of the Dinner Table; Bob's first attempt at being a Game Master involved all the characters being kiled, and then the main bulk of the adventure took place in Hell. For some reason, though, he never explained this and let them roll up new characters, who also had to die before the adventure could begin. This went on for hours, until the group, as he put it, "gave up during the prologue".


  • The Crow movies, where the murdered protagonist is granted the chance to return as a deathless revenant to take revenge on his murderers.
  • Darkman
  • Naturally, any movie featuring vampires or ghosts as main characters.
  • Highlander—an Immortal becomes an Immortal when s/he 'dies' the first time.
  • Spawn, like its comicbook counterpart


  • The opening paragraph of Daemon is Matthew Sobol's obituary. Guess who becomes the main antagonist of the book.
    • A variation occurs with Pete Sebeck. He is tried, convicted, and put to death, but the Daemon had an agent that somehow made him simply be put to sleep instead of dying. In the second book, he goes on to be a legend of the Darknet, and Sobol gives him the choice of whether the Daemon has been a force for good or evil in the world.]]
  • Arguably almost all the Cullens in Twilight, if you count "between life and death, only turning them into a vampire can save them now" as death.
  • Ring 0, and the novella "Birthday", on which it was based, recount the tale of how Sadako Yamamura was killed and tossed down a well, turning her into the vengeful, supernatural entity of The Ring.
  • Dead Boy in the Nightside novels.
  • Allen Carpentier in Niven and Pournelle's Inferno.

Live Action TV

  • The Grim Reapers in Dead Like Me start their "second" life (well, unlife) by dying, and then find out that for them the afterlife is not what they expected. Consequently, the central character and narrator of the series, the girl Georgia "George" Lass, dies in a freak accident during the first twenty minutes of the pilot episode and is drafted into the ranks of the Reapers, to collect souls from the dead and help them pass on into the light.
  • All kinds of vampires, those we actually met (if briefly) before they became undead: Dracula, Nicholas Knight, Angel, Spike... becoming a vampire has a marked effect on their psyche and motivations.
    • The Legacy of Kain franchise offers several interesting examples: Kain originally becomes a vampire to kill his assassins and to satisfy his thirst for revenge, and Raziel has been killed and resurrected twice, first by Kain after his death by his own hand as a vampire-hunting Sarafan knight, and again after serving as Kain's underling for a millennium and then betraying him, being cast into the Lake of the Dead, from where the Elder God resurrects him as a half-wraith half-vampire to settle the score with Kain...and to carry out the Elder God's ulterior motives.
  • Jack Harkness of Torchwood was killed by Daleks on Doctor Who and was revived and made immortal by a temporarily god-like Rose Tyler. Every time he died subsequently, he then returned to life. When we meet him at the start of Torchwood, his death and resurrection happened 138 years ago. His death, abandonment by the Doctor, and immortality, more or less created the Jack we see in Torchwood.
  • Kai from Lexx, whose introductory narration declares, "Today is my day of death: the day our story begins." After spending 2000 years reanimated as an assassin in the service of evil, he finally reclaims his memories and identity, but not his life.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Almost every character in Grim Fandango. A game about a reaper in the afterlife.
  • Most of the player characters in The World Ends With You. Although in Joshua's case he's actually a godlike being.
  • In Planescape: Torment, The Nameless One wakes up in a mortuary and spends the rest of the game figuring out why he cannot die.
  • The hero of the Dark Avenger module for Neverwinter Nights 2 gets sent back from the dead to avenge him/herself and everyone else who died without being avenged.
  • Scorpion returned from Hell to avenge his and his family's deaths by hunting down and killing the Lin Kuei assassin Sub-Zero. Of course, that didn't quite go as planned, and only proved that Scorpion probably shouldn't have wound up in Hell to begin with.
    • Mortal Kombat Legacy reveals that sorcerer Quan Chi impersonated Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero) and, along with Shang Tsung, set the whole thing up in order to trick General Hanzo Hasashi (AKA Scorpion) to join the Netherrealm in Mortal Kombat. Quan Chi even mentions that the desire for revenge will blind Scorpion (no pun intended) to any inconsistencies.
  • Tombstone of Freedom Force was framed for the murder of his wife (see up) but the execution wound up transforming him into his super"hero" self.
  • In the arcade game Avenging Spirit, the main character is killed while walking with his girlfriend, and the girl's father, who researches ghost energy, calls him back as a ghost so that he can save her.
  • The whole idea—or at least a good chunk of it—behind death knights in WoW.
  • The eponymous Sonny of the flash game series of the same name died prior to the start of the first game and is resurrected by some sort of experiment that turns him into an amnesiac zombie with superhuman powers.
  • Yuyuko Saigyouji of the Touhou series was Driven to Suicide by her power to invoke death. Her body was used to seal the Saigyou Ayakashi, preventing her spirit from moving on in the reincarnation cycle and allowing her to become the super-powerful ghost princess we know today.


Western Animation

  • Danny Phantom wouldn't work at all if Danny weren't a phantom. Then again, he's not really dead, he's just drawn that way.
    • Due to the odd Never Say "Die" quality of the show, its never made completely clear if he did "kinda-sorta" die or not—a lot of ghosts are heavily implied to have died, but others seem more like alternate-dimension monsters that where never alive at all. All we really know about Danny is that he's now a hybrid that's half-human and half-ghost, whose DNA was suffused with ectoplasm.
    • The Adventure Time episode Ghost Princess reveals the death by origin story of the titular character.
  1. The fact that Jason and Bucky have been resurrected only makes the quote funnier
  2. (The other is being The Scrappy)