Created By: ChrisLang on July 20, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on March 2, 2014

Torch The Franchise and Take Over

New creators tear down a franchise and remake it in their own image.

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Trope
It's a fact that many franchises, especially Long Runners, are not entirely written and produced by a single creator. Eventually, a franchise might find itself being run by new people.

Fear of this happening to their franchise by the original creator may lead said creator to Torch the Franchise and Run. They write one last story that wrecks everything so much that it'd be difficult (if not impossible) to return to the status quo or main premise of the show.

Occasionally, however, the reverse can happen. The previous creators leave, and one of the first things the new creators do is to write a story that wrecks everything. They kill off many of the characters, they trash the setting, and they alter the basic premise. They make all the characters' lives a living hell before killing many of them. They make sure that those who aren't dead have no way of returning to the status quo or the main premise of the show.

This is done so that the new creators can then re-create the franchise in their own image. They will bring in new characters, and begin with a new premise. They're not particularly concerned that many of the fans will be outraged at seeing their favorite characters get bridges dropped on them and the series generally being altered beyond recognition. They figure that new fans will come along to replace those who've been alienated.

Fan backlash can cause this to backfire, especially if the old version's fans are vocal enough and refuse to follow the new version, and the new version doesn't have enough of a following to make the torching worth it in the long run. This will almost certainly lead to Fanon Discontinuity.

Like Torch the Franchise and Run, it doesn't always work. If the changes prove unpopular enough, they might be undone anyway, causing the creators (or the new creators who replace them) to jump through all sorts of hoops to repair all the damage. If editors or publishers want it undone badly enough, they'll find a way to push the Reset Button or otherwise retcon the whole thing.

Examples

Comic Books
  • Avengers Disassembled. Brian Michael Bendis took over the Avengers titles at Marvel, and one of the first things he did was Avengers Disassembled. In this story, Hawkeye, the Vision, and the second Ant-Man were killed off, Avengers Mansion was destroyed, the Scarlet Witch went insane, and the Avengers as they were before disbanded. They were replaced by an almost completely different team.
  • New X-Men, formerly New X-Men: Academy X, started out as a series about young mutants being taught by the X-Men at Xavier's School, while dealing with their own personal problems and conflicts with the other characters. But then the editorially-mandated House of M/Decimation happened, depowering most of the mutants in the Marvel Universe and banishing several potential stories to What Could Have Been Land. The original creative team was booted from the book, replaced by a new creative team. The new creative team teased us that most of the now-depowered mutant characters would only be Put on a Bus, thus leaving things open for them to return. Instead, some were literally put on a bus ... and then the bus blew up, killing them all. And then two of the main characters from the series were killed in similiarly mean-spirited ways, to make it clear that the series had been more or less irrevocably changed from being about a mutant school to being a violent action series where Anyone Can Die.
  • The most notorious example in comic books would be Emerald Twilight, where, under a new editor and a new writer, Green Lantern Hal Jordan went crazy, brutally beat and maimed several fellow Green Lanterns (and directly KILLED one of his closest friends in the Corps), killed most of the Guardians, and de-powered all Green Lanterns outside himself. The last surviving Guardian Ganthet then gave a power ring to a completely new character, Kyle Rayner. This outraged many fans, who came up with all sorts of possible retcons to explain away Hal Jordan's Face–Heel Turn. It was not until many years later, under a different editorial regime, that Hal Jordan's actions were revealed to have been caused by 'a yellow fear monster', and the Green Lantern Corps were restored.
  • This was attempted by one of the writers of Novas Aventuras De Megaman, but in the end was averted. One of the writers created the character Princess in an attempt to kill everyone there and use it to make it her own series. Thankfully, someone caught him before it could happen and Princess was Put on a Bus.

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • July 20, 2012
    Mauri
    Tabletop Games

    • Isn't this what Matt Ward is doing to Warhammer 40000? Torching most of the settings that don't fit to his liking and wreck them so all fit into his own view of the game itself. Namely wrecking factions and modifying the story in Retcons to fuel the army of Ultramarines /Grey Knights.
  • July 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • According to Peter David this is perfectly acceptable, as long as the creator resets the character back to its basic model when he's done. Part of his "illusion of change" philosophy.
    • In Universe on The Simpsons, Alan Moore turned Radioactive Man into a heroin-addicted jazz critic who isn't radioactive.
  • July 25, 2012
    ChrisLang
    Of course, the creators doing this sort of thing most likely intend, at the time they do it, for the changes to stick, and they go out of their way to make it VERY difficult to get things back to the way they were. But as veteran comic books fans know, if editors and later creators want it undone badly enough, they'll find a way.

    Most of the examples so far have been from comic books. Are there more examples from other media of attempts to give a franchise a 'scorched earth' treatment so that the new people in charge can then do things VERY differently?
  • July 25, 2012
    abk0100
    ^I guess Doctor Who is an obvious example. When Russell T Davies took over, he established that the entire Time Lord race (which had grown to a be a sizable supporting cast over the years) had been killed off in The Great Offscreen Time War
  • July 25, 2012
    animeg3282
    We don't have Franchise Reboot?
  • July 25, 2012
    Bisected8
  • July 25, 2012
    Noah1
  • July 25, 2012
    ReloadPsi
    I read this and thought of something more on the lines of what happened to Torchwood. Makes the name oddly appropriate.
  • July 25, 2012
    abk0100
    Torchwood was never taken over by someone else.
  • July 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    @animeg3282: Do you mean Continuity Reboot?
  • July 26, 2012
    Rognik
    @ABK 0100 I think a stronger example is more when Davies left the Doctor Who reboot. All the old cast were gone, the TARDIS got a new look, and it has a totally different feel from the first few seasons. Davies revived a series that had died; Moffat reworked the series while it was still fairly active.

    Also Torchwood may not have been taken over by someone new, but the American station Starz (I think that was them) helped produce the Miracle Day series, which was part of why it got moved across the pond. Until it progresses past that miniseries, though, I don't think it should be mentioned.
  • July 26, 2012
    abk0100
    That didn't involve killing anyone or altering of the premise. The only thing that was really torched was the tardis set.
  • July 26, 2012
    TheNinth
    ^^ It's also fairly common in Doctor Who to redo the TARDIS when the Doctor regenerates. Or just to replace worn out/shabby things. The changes from Davies to Moffat were less "torch it and start over" and more "while we're changing a few things we might as well change lots of things". Moff was also involved in the Davies era, so it's not really a "new guy takes over". Especially considering there were things that were alluded to when Davies was in charge that became important when Moffat took over. No torching of anything -- he didn't dismiss everything that had gone on before.

    A better example would be the Nolan Batman franchise, or the new Spiderman. "We're going over the same old ground but doing it OUR way, so forget the series ever existed before this".
  • July 26, 2012
    animeg3282
    I meant they rebooted the Franchise @randomsurfer. There's a lot of reboots in both movies and comix.
  • July 26, 2012
    abk0100
    ^^ I think you're misunderstanding the trope. You're just describing any Continuity Reboot. This is for when the continuity isn't reset, but huge, destructive changes are made to the current continuity.
  • July 26, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    This is sometimes the result of a franchise becoming a Franchise Zombie.
  • July 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Notable aversion: Watchmen. Originally written using heroes DC had recently bought from former rival Charlton Comics, but DC realized that using them in the story would make them completely unusable in the main DC Universe. So Moore rewrote it with semi-Expies.
  • June 30, 2013
    ChrisLang
    So, can anyone else think of examples of new people taking over a franchise and giving it the scorched earth treatment so they can then re-make it in their own image?
  • June 30, 2013
    TheHandle
    Philosophy: For a long while it was standard modus operandi for every new philosopher to torch everything that was considered "canon" so far and replace it with their own stuff.
  • Should this be YMMV? It kind of has that vibe to it.

    Anyway...

    Other Genre (Because it can apply to both Live Action TV and Film)
    • Disney with The Muppets. Completely ignoring three TV movies released in 2002 and 2005, the 2011 movie, The Muppets, acts as if the Muppets have been out of the public eye completely since their 1999 movie Muppets From Space. With the franchise as a whole, within the last few years, Disney has gone through great measures to erase Jim Henson's name from any Muppet product - merchandise or media-wise - acting as if the Muppets have always been their entity.
  • June 30, 2013
    StarSword
    You guys are misusing the word "genre" when you should be saying "medium".
  • June 30, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I don't think Moffat's takeover of Doctor Who really works since he didn't really torch anything... Davies did when he pulled a Torch The Franchise And Run. The Doctor was regenerating, and every single companion was accounted for an given a distant finale. Moffat put in his own new characters... because the old ones were gone.
  • June 30, 2013
    Jokubas
    This is one of the things that bother existing Star Trek fans about the 2009 Star Trek reboot. The new movie wasn't content to just exist in an alternate universe. It permanently stranded a beloved character from the original timeline, and eradicated Romulus in the original timeline, destroying the chance at a resolution for the unification plot that had been brewing since 1991. Then there's simply whether or not the companies in charge ever plan to use the original timeline ever again anyway.
  • June 30, 2013
    arromdee
    I believe John Byrne did this many years ago when he worked on Wonder Woman, especially to the supporting cast. I wasn't reading that at the time and am going third hand, though, so someone more familiar with the situation will have to describe it.

    V4 Legion of Superheroes was this. The series started five years later, with Earth goiverned by a dictatorship allied with the Domonators, the Legion disbanded, and many characters killed, crippled, or estranged from the Legion.

    The Ur-example is probably Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Moore's story started with #21, but his first issue was actually #20, which hurriedly wrote out characters and killed Swamp Thing just so Moore could revive him under the new retconned premise that he's a plant elemental.
  • January 18, 2014
    GuyWeknow
    This is related to the YKTTW "Break the Icon".
  • January 18, 2014
    Lakija
    Can this be applied to real life? Because:
    • When JC Penny got a new president, he changed so many things about the company that it nearly went into bankruptcy. Now, after he got the boot, the company is trying to make up the devastating losses by reinstating their previous policies. It is unclear whether the damage was too great.
  • January 18, 2014
    StarSword
    @Jokubas: Not to mention JJ Abrams' public comments to this effect.
  • January 18, 2014
    DAN004
    Isn't this Running The Asylum?
  • January 18, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    No, this is the inverted trope to Torch The Franchise And Run. Running The Asylum is about a series that lasts long enough that fans end up publishing stories in it. It could overlap, but could just as much be about Flanderization, a Plot Tumor or generally something the fan(s) put more stock in than the creators without necessarily altering the premise or putting a lot of people on buses.

    Wolverine is a good example. Rather than significantly alter his premise, his fan boys have just made him more important, more powerful, more "sophisticated", more attractive and what not to reflect their image of him, regardless of what had been implied earlier. (What, a five foot 3 hairy Canadian who hates bathing, clearly calls for Hugh Jackman)

    Running The Asylum can also result in continuity porn or otherwise redoing old plots wholesale because fans liked a story enough that they wanted to do it again. (Thus, Captain America's death at the end of Marvel's Civil War)
  • January 18, 2014
    DAN004
    Either way, I believe "radical changes because of the change of developer" is something we already have. I just forgot the name...
  • January 18, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Anyway, Franchise Torching Takeover is only three words, why not go with that?
  • January 18, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
  • January 19, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Pretty close.
  • January 19, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    That is an audience reaction, this about an actual occurrence, regardless of how anyone reacted to it. For example, nerds such as myself love to bash the 2009 Star Trek movie, which torched the franchise something fierce, it generally got good reviews and was financially successful. I think the movie was enjoyable even, the fact that it torched the setting was not my problem with it, it was the false advertising on the part of Paramount that made me believe I would be watching something else.

    Other nerds just hate the total disregard for actual armed service protocol the movie displays, some hate the younger than usual cast for Star Trek, some hate that Kirk is getting yet another movie while Sisko never got his and that may be related to the franchise torching but does not have to be (due to the nature of the plot, it could have included any of those things we nerds thought it was lacking and still burnt the Star Trek setting as we knew it to the ground).

    Notably, Sisko is from Deep Space Nine, the first Star Trek to get out without the franchise creator, so anyone who saw a problem there is automatically disqualified from saying only the creator does it right but most likely to complain about the franchise torching takeover.
  • January 19, 2014
    DAN004
    The way you said it, I know what trope would suffice: In Name Only
  • January 19, 2014
    MorganWick
    Objective or no, covered by other tropes or no, right now this seems to just scream complaining magnet. And it definitely needs a better description, because it took until reading the comments for me to think Flashpoint and the New 52 might not be an example.
  • January 19, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Not quite, In Name Only is the result, that could come from a new team torching a franchise but that is not always the case. For example, Galaxy Angel is a parody of the very concept of In Name Only rather than someone new setting things on fire.

    The Green Lantern and Flash comics featuring Hal Jordan and Barry Allan were in name only versions of the comics featuring Green Lantern Alan Scott and Flash Jay Garret but Alan Scott and Jay Garret still existed and continued to be featured in their own stories so that was not an example of Torching the franchise by new writers, just completely different stories that had nothing to do with besides name. They did not kill Alan Scott to make room for Hal Jordan or alter Jay in anyway so that Barry could takeover his starring role.

    In the Star Trek example they actually destroyed Vulcan and Romulus, assuring that the former cannot be used in the original timeline and the latter will not be present in the new timeline. They were not content to simply create an alternate universe, they had to torch the old one and make sure the new one would not be anything like the old one.
  • January 20, 2014
    KarjamP
    Does anyone else think that the title implies someone's instructing others to "Torch The Franchise and Take Over"?

    Because dialog-based titles aren't allowed according to No New Stockphrases.
  • January 20, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Well, that's just silly. Any title sounds like what the words would sound like if someone said them out loud.
  • January 20, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Karjam P can be Knight Templar when it counts to No New Stockphrases. Be wary.

    @ Indirect Active Transport: Then it'd be Continuity Reboot (and someone up there have mentioned it, actually :P)
  • January 20, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Uh, no its not. Alan Scott did not stop having stories just because Hal Jordan became a completely unrelated Green Lantern and even if he did, all of Alan Scott's stories were still in continuity (such as it was).

    I think your efforts are a little misguided anyway. Continuity Reboot and In Name Only are tropes, this here is Trivia that may be behind the use of some tropes but is not one in of itself. Only The Creator Does It Right is an audience reaction that might be cause by this but does not have to be and is someone's opinion anyway, rather than an actual happening.
  • March 1, 2014
    Noah1
  • March 1, 2014
    DAN004
    We also have Armed With Canon for the new creators.
  • March 1, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Done In Universe in the Simon Brett book Situation Tragedy. A long running British sitcom about an older couple is reinvented as being about a younger couple (originally supporting characters who aren't involved with each other) who call each other "Darling" all the time, with the original stars reduced to background characters. This is done by a husband and wife writing team whose past hits have all been about young couples who call each other "Darling" all the time, as do the writers. By the end of the book, the writers have divorced and left the show and the sitcom has returned to focus on the original couple.
  • March 1, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    This is actually similar/related to another YKTTW that was floating around (and may or may not have been launched) about an iconic series artifact getting destroyed when to show Nothing Is The Same Anymore. It had its name changed several times though, so I'm not sure what it was ultimately titled (I think "series artifact" was in there somewhere).

    Also I removed a hat. If nothing else the examples have to be properly formatted...
  • March 2, 2014
    Arivne
    ^ That YKTTW is currently titled "Break The Icon" and hasn't been launched.

    • Re-formatted Examples section.
    • Added a space between the * and the first word of examples.
    • Deleted unnecessary blank lines in Examples section.
    • Namespaced, Blue Linked and italicized work names.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=2b8hfkz9imz88sasbav3g4qo