Created By: DrakeClawfang on November 22, 2013 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on December 21, 2013
Troped

Villainous Legacy

The villain is gone, but their deeds during life continue to plague the heroes and cause chaos.

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"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
—William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

This trope is when even though the villain of a work is no longer around, the plot continues to be driven by things they did while alive. This can be done by his organization being taken over by someone else, his descendants being evil themselves, someone continues his plans without him, and so forth. If it's an ongoing series where one way or another every villain can be traced back to the first one despite his defeat, it's this trope.

This trope is not, however, when the original villain is still manipulating things behind the scenes. For a true Villainous Legacy, they must have actually been defeated and are no longer the main threat. If the villain somehow continues to directly act against the heroes in some manner, it is not this trope. This trope can still apply if the villain is still around, as long as they are no longer the primary antagonist of the current story.

Compare Hijacked by Ganon, As Long as There Is Evil,and My Death Is Just the Beginning, each of which can overlap with this trope. See also The Man Behind the Man, The Man Behind The Monsters, Someone to Remember Him By, Leaking Can of Evil, The Remnant, Avenging the Villain, which can be assorted ways this trope is invoked.

NOTE: Because this trope focuses on a villain being behind other events in a series, expect unmarked spoilers.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure has main villain Dio; even after his death, his shadow looms over the Joestar, causing them and the world much trouble. Even he, however, is a result of a much more ancient evil from mesoamerica.
  • Digimon Savers: Even after Kurata is defeated, his genocide of Digimon makes King Drasil believe all humans are evil, and thus he attempts to destroy the human world to protect the digimon world.

Film

Comics
  • Norman Osborn had this role for decades after he "died". He had killed Spider-Man's girlfriend and created a supervillain legacy that not only included his own son, but several goblin-based villains that plagued Spidey for years. Of course, since Death Is Cheap, Osborn is back these days.
  • In X-Men, after Stryfe is defeated, it turns out that he has left behind a virus that spreads through humans and kills those with the x-gene, devastating mutantkind for years. Appropriately, it is referred to as the Legacy virus.

Literature
  • In the long-ago Back Story of the The Sharing Knife books, the ancestors of the Lakewalkers managed to kill their villainous sorcerer-king that threatened to destroy the world. However, it split into fragments and spread over most of a continent, each piece able to grow into a malice. The Lakewalkers in the books are still clearing those out, several hundred years later.
  • There is an entire subgenre of Star Wars Expanded Universe books dealing with the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi - just because the Emperor is dead doesn't mean there's nobody who is interested in continuing the Empire.
  • The Silmarillion. Even after the Big Bad Melkor/Morgoth was thrust by the Valar through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World into the Timeless Void, he was the ultimate cause of much of the evil in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
    • He is said to have created the orcs by cruelly torturing and corrupting captured elves.
    • Sauron (the Big Bad of The Lord of the Rings) was one of the Maiar that Melkor corrupted and turned to the path of evil.
    • The Balrogs were other Maiar that Melkor corrupted. The Fellowship encountered a Balrog in Moria.
    • This was specifically stated in The Silmarillion.
    ...the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.

Live-Action TV

  • When The Shadows left the galaxy on Babylon 5, they left behind some technology, and at least one planet-killer ship—and their old Henchmen Race race the Drakh, who searched for and obtained some of these items for use in their own designs for conquest.

Tabletop Game
  • Warhammer 40K, Orks have a biological version of this: their corpses release spores that eventually mature into more orks, ensuring that a planet that's been attacked once will pretty much always face them from then on.

Video Games
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reveals that the machinations of Ganon are the legacy of Demise, the Demon King who cursed Link and Zelda to be plagued by an incarnation of his hatred forever, manifested in Ganondorf (and perhaps others)
  • Ultima. Mondain is the Big Bad of the first game. The second and third games have the villains as his lover and apprentice Minax, and their creation Exodus. The fourth game requires the player to retrieve Mondain's skull, and the fifth game has the villains as manifestations of the shards of his Artifact of Doom the player destroyed in the first game. In the sixth game, the Gargoyles summoned Mondain's spirit to embody their virtue of Control, along with Minax and Exodus. Finally, the Guardian, the villain of all subsequent games from VI, was initially planned to be revealed as the combined form of the Shadowlords after they were cast into the Void, but this was axed.
  • In Final Fantasy VII and its expanded universe, all major villains trace themselves back to Jenova, an Eldritch Abomination who tried to destroy the planet 2000 years ago. Jenova was found by Shinra, and the lab experiments produced by tinkering with her cells serve as the villains of the series, along with a few of the scientists who did said tinkering.
  • Non-character example in Fallout. The Big Bad of the first game, The Master, was using the Forced Evolutionary Virus to mutate humans. The villains of the second game excavated the ruins of his lair to retrieve the FEV for their own uses, and the villains of the third synthesized their own version for their plan as well.
  • Gerald Robotnik from Sonic Adventure 2. The main conflict of the story is against Eggman, but it was Gerald's actions 50 years in the past that caused many of the problems in the game.
  • In the Mega Man franchise, this comes up a lot, as Dr. Wily rivals the Trope Namer as a master of Hijacked by Ganon.
    • In the X series, it is discovered that The Virus that turns Reploids into Mavericks originated from Zero, and both were Wily's final creations before he died long before the X series. The Big Bad of the X series, Sigma, merges with the Maverick Virus and transforms it into the Sigma Virus.
    • In the Zero series that comes after the X series, Dr. Weil (no connection to Dr. Wily according to Word of God) creates Omega as a Dark Messiah to exterminate all Reploids. Omega's consciousness inhabits Zero's original body since Zero's mind was extracted after the X series. The Mother Elf, who becomes the Dark Elf, another major antagonist, was created by Ciel's ancestor by studying the Maverick Virus and trying to create an antibody.
    • In the ZX series, all the Biometals are created from studying the original Biometal Model W, created from the ruins of the Ragnarok satellite that Weil fused with at the end of Zero 4.
  • Orochi in Ōkami makes sure the yet-to-be-lifted evil curses cast by him wouldn't fade away after his defeat by Amaterasu and Susano. In addition, as his soul flies away to the north of Kamui to reactivate the Ark of Yamato to summon Yami, the Lord of Darkness, he releases several monsters originating from that place so they can terrorize all of Nippon, starting with Kamui itself.

Western Animation
  • Batman Beyond: The Joker might be dead, but his legacy (and the mysterious manner of his death) has resulted in roving gangs of criminals in various types of clown costumes and makeup all calling themselves "Jokerz" terrorising Gotham. Not that Old Bruce thought much of them.

Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • November 22, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Batman Beyond: The Joker might be dead, but his legacy (and the mysterious manner of his death) has resulted in roving gangs of criminals in various types of clown costumes and makeup all calling themselves "Jokerz" terrorising Gotham. Not that Old Bruce thought much of them.
  • November 22, 2013
    kjnoren
    Literature:

    • In the long-ago backstory of the Sharing Knife books, the ancestors of the Lakewalkers managed to kill their villanous sorceror-king that threatened to destroy the world. However, it split into fragments and spread over most of a continent, each piece able to grow into a malice. The Lakewalkers in the books are still clearing those out, several hundred years later.
    • In the backstory of The Lord Of The Rings, Sauron was simply one of Morgoth's chief lieutenants.
  • November 22, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    could you give more info on Morgoth plz?
  • November 22, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    • When The Shadows left the galaxy on Babylon 5, they left behind some technology, and at least one planet-killer ship—and their old Henchmen Race race the Drakh, who searched for and obtained some of these items for use in their own designs for conquest.
  • November 22, 2013
    TheHandle
    Anime and Manga:

    • Jojos Bizarre Adventure has main villain Dio; even after his death, his shadow looms over the Joestar, causing them and the world much trouble. Even he, however, is a result of a much more ancient evil from mesoamerica.
  • November 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    There is an entire subgenre of Star Wars Expanded Universe books dealing with the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi - just because the Emperor is dead doesn't mean there's nobody who is interested in continuing the Empire.
  • November 22, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
  • November 23, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare As Long As There Is Evil, Leaking Can Of Evil (when villains themselves can still literally influence the world beyond the grave).
  • November 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Possible page quote:

    "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
    William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
  • November 23, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^^^ A possibility for this trope, but not the only one by far.

    ^^ ALATIE isn't applicable, that's for when the villain can never truly be defeated.
  • November 23, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    The Remnant can quite often be a manifestation of this when the villain's followers continue to follow their master beyond the grave.

    Bigger Bad has for some time been attracting examples of posthumous villains who are technically still the greatest evil presence in the story but no longer affect the events directly, such as Rha's Al Ghul from The Dark Knight Saga and Jigsaw from Saw (also mentioned here). I personally feel they would better fit in this trope, but a different discussion on the flexibility of Bigger Bad might be worthwile.
  • November 23, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^ Concur entirely with the second paragraph.
  • November 23, 2013
    DAN004
    "^^ ALATIE isn't applicable, that's for when the villain can never truly be defeated."

    But in spirit it's similar, right?
  • November 24, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    Not really I think. The trope is more about the villain having a legacy carried on by other people in some manner, not about them being unable to be beaten for good.
  • November 25, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    Bump. Ready for hats?
  • November 26, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ I did say "compare".
  • November 26, 2013
    TheNaiveSkeptic
    An additional example for film: The Dark Knight- *spoilers*Dent's crimes become a plot point in The Dark Knight Rises,*end spoilers*, and that was all a result of The Joker's actions.
  • November 26, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Live Action TV example throws up the problem. This'll need to be on Spoilered Rotten or it'll be filled with whitespace within a day as people scramble to try to disguise who it is leaving the legacy. Hat removed until that is resolved.
  • November 26, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    I agree with that, since this relies on explaining batstory.
  • November 29, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    Bump
  • November 29, 2013
    Morgenthaler

    Other examples gleaned from Bigger Bad:

    • Krona in Green Lantern, posthumously. He is the Guardian who absorbed the yellow energy of fear, with Parallax as the result.
    • The Jigsaw Killer is the Big Bad in the first three Saw movies. After he dies at the end of the third one, he becomes a Bigger Bad posthumously, as his remaining legacy hovers over and still drives the actions of his various apprentices nominally trying to continue his work: Amanda (who dies before Jigsaw himself), Detective Hoffman, and Doctor Gordon. Plans he deliberately set into motion before his death still have far-reaching effects long after he died.
    • Gerald Robotnik from Sonic Adventure 2. The main conflict of the story is against Eggman, but it was Gerald's actions 50 years in the past that caused many of the problems in the game. However, he is only a Posthumous Character and has a rather indirect effect on the story in general. The story doesn't revolve around stopping him and his machinations are only revealed after Eggman accidentally sets off the Colony Drop at the end.

    And the last sentence from this, which I suspect is misuse.

    • In Scream 3, the Big Bad, Roman Bridger, is revealed to have told Billy Loomis, the Big Bad of the first movie, about his fathers affair with Laureen Prescott, and is thus indirectly responsible for the events of the first movie, and even more indirectly, the Roaring Rampage Of Revenge of Mrs. Loomis in the second one. Billy Loomis himself is the Bigger Bad of the rest of the movies, posthumously.
  • November 29, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^ Added Ra's and Robotnik, Jigsaw is already there.

    For Krona, is that the film or the comics, or a cartoon?

    With the Scream example, yeah doesn't fit, its a reversal of this trope with the third film revealing someone else behind the first two.
  • November 29, 2013
    Jaqen
    Load Bearing Boss ?

    Theatre Julius Caesar the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.

    Literature Harry Potter SPOILER Dumbledore dies, it don't slow him down.

    TV Xena Warrior Princess with his dying breath, Eli prophesies that Xena's daughter will genocide the Gods.
  • November 29, 2013
    kjnoren
    @Drake Clawfang: Morgoth (earlier Melkor, before a rename) was the original Big Bad in Tolkien's mythology. He stole the silmarils, threw Valinor into darkness, and was imprisoned by the other valar at the end of the first age, when the cataclysmic final war there caused the entire continent of Beleriand to fall under the ocean. See The Silmarillion.
  • November 29, 2013
    DAN004
    What's the relation of this trope and Avenging The Villain?
  • November 30, 2013
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: Orks have a biological version of this: their corpses release spores that eventually mature into more orks, ensuring that a planet that's been attacked once will pretty much always face them from then on.
  • November 30, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^^ Yup, another possible overlap.

    ^^^ Not sure how that's this trope.

    ^^^^ Ditto.
  • December 1, 2013
    Arivne
    Here are some Melkor/Morgoth examples that are this trope.

    Literature
    • The Silmarillion. Even after the Big Bad Melkor/Morgoth was thrust by the Valar through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World into the Timeless Void, he was the ultimate cause of much of the evil in The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.
      • He is said to have created the orcs by cruelly torturing and corrupting captured elves.
      • Sauron (the Big Bad of The Lord Of The Rings) was one of the Maiar that Melkor corrupted and turned to the path of evil.
      • The Balrogs were other Maiar that Melkor corrupted. The Fellowship encountered a Balrog in Moria.
      • This was specifically stated in The Silmarillion.
      ...the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.
  • December 1, 2013
    AP
    Comics
    • Norman Osborn had this role for decades after he "died". He had killed Spider Man's girlfriend and created a supervillain legacy that not only included his own son, but several goblin-based villains that plagued Spidey for years. Of course, since Death Is Cheap, Osborn is back these days.
  • December 2, 2013
    DAN004
    Would this count?
    • In Mega Man Classic series:
      • Dr. Wily lives on to create Zero and the Maverick Virus, which continue to plague the world with chaos and destruction.
      • Even after Zero turns good and the virus is supposedly purged away for good, Dr. Weil restarts it, by taking Zero's old body (he separated his consciousness away for the scientists studying his body), modifying it to become Omega, corrupting the Mother Elf (made by researching Zero's body and the Maverick Virus) into the Dark Elf, and used both to cause even more destruction.
      • Even after Weil is stopped for good, the Dark Elf turning good again and Zero dead, Weil continues to plague the world through Model W (his immortal consciousness trapped within Ragnarok's ruins) and Ciel "recreating" the legendary heroes, Zero included, as Biometals to be used by the heroes of this timeline to stop Model W.
  • December 3, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    Yup, definitely. Will condense though.
  • December 3, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    • Orochi in Okami makes sure the yet-to-be-lifted evil curses cast by him wouldn't fade away after his defeat by Amaterasu and Susano. In addition, as his soul flies away to the north of Kamui to reactivate the Ark of Yamato to summon Yami, the Lord of Darkness, he releases several monsters originating from that place so they can terrorize all of Nippon, starting with Kamui itself.
  • December 3, 2013
    SharleeD
    • In the third Myst game, the misdeeds of the first game's villains come back to haunt the player, as an isolated survivor whom the brothers had trapped in another Age returns to get even. The ones who'd stranded him are long since banished, so he goes after Atrus for having introduced them (with benign intentions) to his Age in the first place.

    Not sure if this one counts or not, as the brothers do come back to cause more trouble eventually, but not until the next game in the series. They definitely didn't play any active part in the plot to Exile, aside from it being a consequence of their early crimes.
  • December 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Minor correction: It's Ciel's ancestor, not Ciel herself, who made the Mother Elf.
  • December 4, 2013
    Mozgwsloiku
    In X-men, after Strife is defeated, it turns out that he has left behind a virus that spreads through humans, but only activates under set circumstances related to x-gene, causing it to randomly kill mutants for years after. Appropriately, it is referred to as the Legacy virus.
  • December 4, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^^^ I don't fully understand what the Myst example is saying.
  • December 6, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    bump, I think this has enough examples and unless there's any more problems, we're ready to launch
  • December 6, 2013
    DAN004
    Fix the italics in Mega Man example plz.
  • December 7, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    done, and bump once more :)
  • December 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    last bump, if no one opposes I'll launch soon
  • December 17, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    ya sure this won't be cutlisted the moment you do? you don't have 5 hats.
  • December 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    I've seen it said previously five hats is not an absolute requirement to launch a trope. No one has objected to the trope being launched in its current form, and to me that's as good as acceptance.
  • December 17, 2013
    DAN004
    Hey hey, be patient.
  • December 17, 2013
    kjnoren
    Also, the description is overly wordy right now. I want to take a hacksaw to it.
  • December 17, 2013
    Lakija
    Would it be offensive to have Real Life examples? Because:
    • After the death of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong IL, his son, Kin Jong Un has continued his legacy of ruthless leadership. This includes the ordered execution of 80 individuals, his girlfriend, and his uncle.
  • December 17, 2013
    Reflextion
    I'm reasonably certain that that (or any other Real Life example, for that matter) would run afoul of the whole "calling real people evil/villains/ evil villains" thing that the admins try to discourage.
  • December 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    ^Concur.
  • December 17, 2013
    kjnoren
    It's also unclear if it's possible to talk about a Villanous Legacy in North Korea the context of the trope. I mean, Kim Jong Il died a natural death, it's not like he was ousted from power.

    If one wanted real-world examples, I think slavery in the United States with the later race relations in the south would be a more valid example.
  • December 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    trope description has been cut.
  • December 17, 2013
    kjnoren
    Better, but I think it's still hard to parse and full of circumlocutions. Writing is hard.


    The villain is defeated, the Big Bad slain, the war won. Now the real job begins—to handle the messes that remains, and hopefully win the peace.

    The plots and events that the original villain—or archvillain—started might still be ongoing, their organisation has been taken over by someone new, some of their old followers are out for revenge, there is distrust and bad blood between former allies, or there are malevolent or dangerous remnants that must be handled.

    In a longer series of works, this usually means that several villains in later installments have some connection with an important villain defeated earlier, either directly as lieutenants or understudies, or indirectly as former opponents or being inspired by the villain. In a shorter work, the archvillain might have already been defeated before the story starts.

    Note that the nature of the defeat doesn't matter here. If the Big Bad has a Heel Face Turn or just neutralised in prison, but still leaves a legacy of danger, it's a case of Villanious Legacy. On the other hand, ff the archvillain continues to actively influence events from prison, then the trope is not used.

    Contrast with The Man Behind The Monsters, The Man Behind The Man, and Hijacked By Ganon, where the original villain or opponent turns out not to be the ultimate villain, but had another Big Bad or similar behind them. Also contrast with My Death Is Just The Beginning and The Man Behind The Monsters.

    Compare As Long As There Is Evil and Someone To Remember Him By, Leaking Can Of Evil, The Remnant, and Avenging The Villain, which are all ways that the Villanious Legacy can express itself.

    Real Life:

    • Just about any modern war from World War One forwards has left huge amounts of mines and other unexploded ordnance hidden and buried, killing and maiming people living in the area.
  • December 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    I'm not sure I fully understand what you want. You asked for a shorter description and the one you just provided is much longer.

    EDIT - Tried another rewording.
  • December 18, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^ Yeah, such things happens. But I wasn't so much after a shorter description as one less wordy and that was easier to parse. Phrases like "this trope is" are easy to write, but usually is a case of Word Cruft.
  • December 18, 2013
    morenohijazo
    • Digimon Savers: Even after Kurata is defeated, his genocide of Digimon makes King Drasil believe all humans are evil, and thus he attempts to destroy the human world to protect the digimon world.
  • December 20, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    Bump, we ready to get hats for launch?
  • December 21, 2013
    DAN004
    I already gave you mine.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=1i632wftzb3luhaki5aj1ny4&trope=VillainousLegacy