This man/woman/creature is a One-Man Army, he has killed countless people, his power and skill is known throughout the world... Only he's dead. This trope is about Bad Ass characters who are discussed by the cast sometimes, sometimes stories are told about him, frequently flashbacks are included in visual media. However, this character has been dead since before the series began. This character is frequently a family member of one of the main protagonists or villains, a mentor who taught the good guys and/or bad guys everything they know, a legendary figure from ages past, or sometimes all 3, but whether it be from old age, battle, or other cause, this character is dead prior to the story. By definition this character can usually only be referred to by someone else or appear in flashbacks, but never actually appear, however if the story has time travel in its repertoire this character can sometimes appear physically in the story, but that is pretty rare. If If the character is dead and brought back to life at some point, that's Back from the Dead, which invalidates this trope if said person remains alive for some time, but it's only fairly briefly it still applies. If this character is believed by most everyone to be dead but turns out to not be, that's Not Quite Dead. If this character dies, goes to the afterlife and kicks ass out of it, that's Like a Badass out of Hell. If this character is defeated, but not killed and instead sealed away, that's Sealed Badass in a Can. If this character dies during the actual story, no matter how early, then it is Not This Trope. This character is sometimes the motivation for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, sometimes the character is someone the main characters inspire to be, maybe being that MC's Can't Catch Up. Unlike Famed In-Story, this character doesn't actually HAVE to be famous, just important enough to the to one or more of the main characters to be mentioned sometimes. Frequently the inverse of Living Legend. A type of Posthumous Character. This is a death trope, unmarked spoilers ahead. Anime and Manga
- In Inuyasha the title character's father is a demon lord said to have been one of the most powerful demons of his time, both of his sons aspire to be as strong or stronger than he is, and many plot points throughout the series occur because of machinations he set in motion prior to his death. However, he ends up dying from his injuries fighting Ryūkotsusei, a dragonlike demon.
- In the Anime version of AKIRA, the people searching for the eponymous character eventually discover he has been Dead All Along, leading to a Downer Ending.
- The Star Wars EU has enough examples to take up its own page, many of which later appear alive in EU material, either as main characters or adversaries.
- Though Adolf Hitler died in World War II, Doctor Josef Mengele was able to embed Hitler's genes in egg cells that were implanted into suitable Aryan women. The Boys from Brazil centers around Mengele and his agents killing the adoptive fathers of these Hitler clones, mimicking the death of Alois Hitler when Adolf was 13.
- A whole heap in A Song of Ice and Fire. Notably, Rhaegar Targaryen, Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower. Brandon Stark probably qualifies too. Many and more.
- The Discworld series (most notably Jingo) makes frequent mentions of Tacticus, an ancient Morporkian general who was renowned for his military expertise to the point that the word "tactic" was coined in his honor. He was unique among Morporkian generals in that he actually cared more about winning battles and keeping his men alive than "glory" measured by how many people died on either side.
- In James Clavell's Noble House, tales of Tess "Hag" Struan's long, cunning, and ruthless rule-behind-the-throne through successive tai-pans (chief executives) of Struan's Trading Company, and her dealings with hers and the company's enemies, were commonly discussed by the main characters, some perhaps embellished a bit. They were definitely in awed respect for her legacy though. Clavell's previous novel Tai Pan, set over a century before when the company was founded after the British purchase of Hong Kong Island, did depict her rise to power and influence as a younger lady and showed that there was probably a lot of truth to those later tales though.
- J. R. R. Tolkien has dwarfs routinely cite their ancestors. In particular, Thorin Oakenshield mentions Thrain, King Under The Mountain during the pilgrimage to Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. Thrain is said to have routed the dragons in the area, and amassed a huge treasure horde in his mountain's caverns.
- Chrono Trigger. Cyrus was Glenn's AKA Frog's best friend and Knight Captain of Guardia, who's sword skills are second only to Frog's own. He dies fighting Magus, sacrificing himself so that Glenn could escape some years before the middle age time period begins. He also appears briefly as an apparition during one of the game's sidequests.
Hello, Unknown Troper. You'll need to get known to lend a hand here.