First Law of Resurrection

"Mutant Heaven has no pearly gates, only revolving doors."
Professor Charles Xavier, X-Factor #70
Jean Grey, aka the Phoenix who rises from the ashes.

"If the creator wants to bring back a dead character, then that character will come back."

It doesn't matter how Deader Than Dead or Killed Off for Real that character is, they'll find a way to return. Much handwaving may be required to explain it (if they don't leave it unexplained), but anything is possible with a bit of Foreshadowing thrown in.

Also known as "Comic book death" because comic books are especially known for taking place in long-spanning continuities where Death Is Cheap, important characters almost never come back wrong, Applied Phlebotinum is everywhere and iconic villains always come back from whatever fate that no carbon-based lifeform could have survived. In addition, the turnover of writers ensures that if some writer decides to make a bold move and kill one of the bad guys, it's almost guaranteed that some other writer will bring him back a few years down the road.

The First Law Of Resurrection almost always trumps the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, with only a few exceptions (like Death by Origin Story). May lead to Opening a Can of Clones. See also Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated and Disney Death.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, it's revealed that Neo is, in fact, Mu la Flaga... in spite of the fact that Mu performed a Heroic Sacrifice in the second-to-last episode of the preceding series, blocking a massive positron cannon blast with his mecha to keep it from destroying a much larger spaceship. Mu's shattered helmet is shown floating amidst the wreckage in the SEED TV series, and is edited out in the compilation movies to make his survival look more plausible...and utterly fails to do so because this just makes it seem as though the antimatter weapon more realistically vaporized him..
  • Code Geass, repeatedly. Mao and Cornelia both get filled with bullets and survive anyway (if only for another episode in the former's case), Ohgi gets three knives in his chest and then falls off a cliff onto some pointy rocks and comes back anyway (ditto Viletta less the knives), and then there's the nuke that only killed unseen civilians.
    • Jeremiah was supposed to die in the first season, but became so popular that he was brought back as a cyborg.
  • InuYasha:
    • Rin's life was taken on two occasions as a plot point to teach the initially villainous Sesshoumaru An Aesop about the value of a compassionate heart. He restored her life the first time in a plot point that made him accept he was the true master of the Healing Shiv he hated, but also to give him an A God Am I complex about being able to avoid death. The second time was to cure him of this complex. She was restored to life the second time because getting her killed to teach Sesshoumaru a lesson would have defied the point of the lesson, which was to make him understand that people with his kind of power have to protect life.
    • Kohaku spent much of the manga having his life held together by a jewel shard after he was dealt a mortal wound early in the story. Much of the story centred around how, when the jewel was completed, his life would be lost when the shard was taken, and how there was no solution to save his life, not even Sesshoumaru's Healing Shiv. In the end, to show Kikyou had been fully redeemed from having Came Back Wrong, her last act in this world was to save Kohaku's life when the shard was inevitably removed from his body; it was the first and last time a miko was ever shown to be able to defy death itself (for another, that is; she could not defy her own death).
  • In the Legendary Heroes arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! (the first of two arcs centered around the Big Five), Joey, Mai, and Mokuba are destroyed by the Mythic Dragon (controlled by the Big Five). It seems that they are gone forever, but the Mystical Elf casts a spell that brings them back. It was a Filler Arc, though.
    • The spirit of the Millennium Ring is defeated many times, but keeps coming back. To count: he loses to Yugi, the ring containing his spirit is thrown away, he loses to Yugi again, and then he loses to Marik. And that's not counting "Season 0" taking place before the main series, where he's defeated a fifth time. With the exception of a Hand Wave that all the people Marik defeated are returned to normal when he's beaten, none of these revivals are adequately explained.
    • It should be noted,however,that the manga explains/foreshadows things much better.After his first defeat (which was not in a duel)he is shown to still exist (though Yugi and friends think they have destroyed him,the reader remains under that illusion only very briefly), he never loses his ring,and he is not defeated again until the fights with Yugi and Malik in the battle city (in which,again,Yugi doesn't destroy him,but Malik does,but he still survives thanks to the above-mentioned handwave (which acts more as a foreshadowing in the manga) to be the final arc's villain). His ring is also never destroyed.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, almost all the main characters except for Judai and Sho are killed off in Season 3, a twist at the end of the season reveals they're just in an alternate universe and are freed after Yubel is defeated. However, this is played straight as can be with Ryo—he isn't sent to another dimension, he dies when his brutal style of dueling takes its toll on his heart and it just plain gives out. However, come next season it's reported he was found washed-up on the beach. His heart condition is still present but not fatal, and he survives to see the end of the series later that season.
  • In most cases, whenever a good character dies in Dragon Ball Z, you know they are going to find the Dragonballs and wish them back sooner or later, no matter what the odds are.
    • And Goku even got the chance to get brought back in a completely different way since it had already been stated the typical form of resurrection wouldn't work. In the Buu saga, when things start looking really bleak for the heroes, the elder Kaioshin trades his life for Goku's to bring him back. Aside from being a literal Deus ex Machina, this barely even counts as an inconvenience for old Kaioshin since he already lives in the afterlife; he's able to remain an active part of the franchise, but now with a halo over his head.
  • Thoroughly parodied in Excel Saga, with both main characters dying and coming back from the dead all the fricking time. In Excel's case, it's for no other reason than the literally stated "It's your series. You have to live", with the resurrections performed by the Great Will of the Universe herself. In the case of Hyatt, her coming back from the dead is more of a running gag. Of course, you have to keep in mind that this series makes it its quest to parody absolutely everything.
  • The Ghost in the Shell OVA has a variation in that it simply has a major character descend back from A Higher Plane Of Existance. Apparently because it wasn't that interesting.
  • YuYu Hakusho actually starts with the main character, Yuusuke Urameshi, dead on the first page. He gets better. He gets better the second time, too.
  • The main characters of Gintama are burnt at the end of episode 297 (It Makes Sense in Context), but it's almost a certainty they'll be back for 298, if not a later episode.

    Comic Books 
  • In general, the X-Men franchise is the poster-child for this trope. The fact of the matter is that there are 20+ main characters, and a writer is likely to have any one of them as a favorite. And various members are constantly being killed off for the sake of either drama or to try to thin out the herd. The result is that the average length of death for any mutant in the Marvel universe is 1 to 2 years.
    • Jean Grey only partially counts. She wasn't actually meant to die at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga (as stated by Claremont and others), and it was the intention from the beginning to bring her back, just not as a super hero who committed genocide. She has yet to return only because Joe Quesada demanded her death and enforced a "dead means dead" policy concerning her, out of his "characters are 'more interesting' without their Love Interest" beliefs. They got around this by eventually bringing in a teenage, time-displaced Jean in All-New X-Men.
    • Of course, Jean is remembered as doing this more than she actually has; the Never Live It Down trope was originally named for her. She died at the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga, returned at the beginning of X-Factor, and was an A-list X-Man for decades until a certain cheesy quesadilla decided she had to die to make Cyclops "more interesting." The current comics version of Jean is a younger one from the past. Exactly where the idea that she dies over and over and over comes from isn't quite clear; it could be the various adaptations of the ending of the Phoenix saganote , or it could be the fact that hosts not staying dead is an official power of the Phoenix, so she has to have used it a bunch, right, right? But actually, she hasn't.
    • In fact this happens so frequently in X-Men that when Banshee dies and his daughter is informed of his death, she point blank refuses to believe that he'll stay dead. This tendency of dead X-Men coming back to life is also hilariously mocked in this flash cartoon parody.
      • The above named character returned from the dead twice in two minor crossover events, but the creator writing his daughter ignored them both so she could continue working out her issues on the subject. Fair enough, since neither incident lasted much more than a day.
      • And at the moment Banshee is alive again, if locked up after an enforced Face–Heel Turn. To be clear that's three resurrections during his daughter's mourning period.
    • The earliest example being the death of Professor X in the '60s, with a cover screaming "Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary tale! This is for real!" He was back less than two years later.
    • They've even gotten Genre Savvy about it, with Beast calling one villain's death a "Magneto moment," invoking the frequent "deaths" and "returns" of the sometimes-Big-Bad-sometimes-Anti-Hero. (Almost none of these involved Magneto actually dying, though sometimes that's via retcon, and very few characters have been believed to be dead as often as Magneto.) "The more certain the death, the more certain the resurrection."
    • This happens to Colossus in Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men. Quote Kitty Pryde:
    You have to know that if you're a clone or robot or, yeah, a ghost or an alternate universe thingie, I can deal, ...but if you are some shapeshifter or illusionist who's just watching me twist I will kill you and I will kill you with an axe—
    • The "Necrosha" crossover has Selene resurrecting deceased mutants left and right, proving once and for all that for mutants, death is nothing more than a big game of freeze tag.
  • He doesn't do it as much any more, but in the Silver Age Doctor Doom would die about every other appearance — coming Back from the Dead was one of his most terrifying abilities — again and again, he'd return from things no one could survive, and describe his miraculous return with casual arrogance. What with everyone doing it nowadays, not so much. (Doctor Doom prefers to be as unique as possible.)
  • Double for the Red Skull, who was pretty much guaranteed to get caught in a lethal explosion or some such every time he showed up—just never leaving a body—only to casually reappear next time. This culminated in an 80s story where Cap actually saw him die, complete with a corpse. This left Skully dead for longer than usual, and the next writer to use him had to invoke some particularly wacky Applied Phlebotinum to explain his return. Hell, he doesn't even have a body these days.
  • When Marvel killed off their version of Dracula several years ago, they included a death certificate signed by the writer and editor guaranteeing he'd never be brought back. Guess what happened? Anyone who seriously thinks they can get away with killing off Dracula for good is oblivious to his Contractual Immortality clause - being a Public Domain Character and all.
  • Jason Todd. It actually took Jason Todd almost 20 years to return from the dead. And it was lampshaded in The DCU that death had become cheap after the return of Superman. It also tied in to Infinite Crisis and ties in to Countdown to Final Crisis, so this isn't quite as egregious as some other examples.
  • It used to be that the three comic characters who would actually stay dead were Jason Todd, Uncle Ben and Bucky. Guess which one's still dead? The one whose death is required for the origin story. Thomas and Martha Wayne, who've consistently stayed dead, though like Uncle Ben, their deaths are necessary for the origin story. Unless you count Flashpoint, but the less said about that the better.
  • Supergirl was famously killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths as part of a general overhaul to make Superman the only Kryptonian again. It took her nearly 20 years, but of course she came back. There were three Supergirls in the interim, but none of them was Kara Zor-El.
  • The Joker, who originally started off as a one-shot character, and was Killed Off for Real in his first appearance. At this point in its history, the Batman comic had multiple stories in each issue. The Joker died in the first one - and then returned in the last story of the same issue. Since then, it appears that death is simply one more thing that's covered by Joker Immunity.
  • Batman died in Final Crisis #6. Suuuuure he did. Not even bothering to try to make the readers believe he'd be gone for good, Bruce is shown alive and well at the end of the series. The plot was about how and when he'd come back, not if.
  • Batman got a six-part mini-series called The Return Of Bruce Wayne, which detailed his coming back. Odd, since a few months ago Marvel released Captain America: Reborn, which was a six-part mini-series about Cap coming back.
  • DC's Blackest Night event was built around a number of big name characters who had died and come back over the years. The series ends with a promise that from here on out, "dead is dead," with the explicit exception of Bruce Wayne, whose return was already well underway.
  • The Death of Superman. He got better... Of course, it might not be an example since DC fully intended to bring him Back from the Dead—this is Superman, not Jason Todd.
  • The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn had one of the greatest death scenes in comics - impaled on his own Goblin Glider after a brutal fight with Spider-Man (after having killed Peter Parker's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy), and was then resurrected with a lot of Handwavingnote . The resurrection didn't happen until 20+ years later, and the writers brought him back because they had written themselves deep into a corner with The Clone Saga and had to come up with something suitably climactic to end it. His resurrection also allowed them to bring back Aunt May via a contrived storyline involving an actress replacing her in her final days. Since he came Back from the Dead Osborn has Took a Level in Badass/Took a Level in Jerkass and become a major player in the wider Marvel U. as well as once for all firmly establishing himself as Spidey's one, true Arch-Enemy, so in many ways he's an example of how to do this right.
  • Harry Osborn is back, thanks to One More Day, although they didn't go with the obvious "The Devil did it" explanation.
  • Also what a lot of fans were hoping for Peter Parker/Spider-Man himself to come back after he died in Doctor Octopus' body and Ock became The Superior Spider Man. They got their wish - Peter's memories and personality stuck around in the body that Ock now controlled. Even after Ock supposedly wiped it out entirely, he got in over his head and salvaged it to fix things, effectively handing control back to Peter.
  • And for a while, Superman liked to hallucinate all of his species was dead; no wonder the citizens of the shrunken city of Kandor went a little nuts once they regrew.
  • Runaways: Gertrude Yorkes is a subversion; she died once and Chase Stein considered bringing her back in an arc aptly titled "Dead Means Dead" but the price was another innocent person had to die so he chose not to go through with it.
  • In an attempt to avert this, Batman personally sees to it that Ra's al Ghul's body is burned after the latter's death in one story. Unfortunately, not even fire can stop Ra's, and this trope wound up being played straight anyway.
  • Averted with the final disposal of Egghead in The Avengers. After his body is retrieved and put to the fire, Hank Pym personally scatters his ashes at sea. Let's see him come back after THAT!
  • Also apparently averted with the villains "retired" by Scourge. Of course, they were C-List Fodder to begin with.
  • Lampshaded in The Incredible Hercules, where the entrance to Hades' underworld is a casino where various deceased heroes can gamble for their next resurrection. Interestingly, one character in that scene has since been resurrected, but in a "wasn't dead after all" manner rather than an actual supernatural resurrection, so Wasp shouldn't have been in the Underworld in the first place.
  • Sabretooth was beheaded with a sword that negates Healing Factors. Can you get deader than that? Yes, you can. We next see him in Hell, to eventually get beheaded again. How long does having your head and body separated by a blade your Healing Factor is useless against, descending into Fire and Brimstone Hell, and then having your soul beheaded keep you away? One. Freaking. Year.

  • In the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, Jaws was supposed to die, but test audiences liked him so much that they went back and filmed a scene of him defeating the shark he went up against. He then appeared in the next film, Moonraker.
  • Ramírez dies very convincingly in Highlander, in Highlander II: The Quickening, Connor summons him back to life. Despite this never happening anywhere else in the Highlander continuity. But then, Highlander II isn't actually part of the continuity.
  • Humorously lampshaded in Scary Movie 4, when Brenda (who died and had a funeral in 3) shows up. Cindy tells her "I thought you were dead", to which she replies "I thought you were dead".
  • Horror movie villains (particularly slashers). They have a tendency to return from the dead, especially Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Sometimes they seemingly die but are later revealed in the next film to survive, invoking Joker Immunity. Jason was intended to be permanently killed off in The Final Chapter (fourth film), but after receiving poor reception to a Jason impostor (and a mortal one at that) in Part V, they brought him back to life in Part VI. Jason dies twice more in the series, the second time for good, as a remake series has been started already. As for Freddy, he is destroyed in every single movie he appears in but can always return as long as people remember him.
    • It got to the point where being unkillable becomes one of his signature traits; in Jason X, scientists have Jason's mostly-dead body and are trying to reverse-engineer his indestructibility. It... goes poorly.
  • Moriarty gets this treatment in the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, with no regard being paid to continuity in which he is supposedly killed (usually by a long fall) repeatedly.
  • Used in Soap Dish, a comedy that takes place behind the scenes of a TV Soap Opera. Whoopi Goldberg plays a writer who has to write for a guy coming back to life after having been decapitated. She is not pleased.

  • Sherlock Holmes is probably the Trope Codifier, if not the the Ur-Example, and retconned death is often named Sherlockian Death after him. Arthur Conan Doyle didn't actually want to bring him back. But everyone else did, and they pestered him about it until he gave in.
  • Ian Malcolm in the original Jurassic Park novel. He is implied to die while other characters watch near the end of the novel, but in the second he's back, and says in a lecture that reports of his death were "exaggerated". The real circumstances are left ambiguous at best: When they are escaping with the helicopters, Muldoon tells Grant that there is another heli which will collect the other survivors. When Grant asks him about Malcolm, Muldoon just shakes his head. Muldoon could have been wrong; the evacuation was pretty hectic, and there was also a lot of stress with some roaming raptors. The epilogue, in which a funeral for Hammond and Malcolm is mentioned, is clearly written in Grant's point of view, so he may have received wrong information from Muldoon -or others- or Malcolm was revived after Muldoon has left.
  • Fu Manchu in Sax Rohmer's The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu
  • A subversion, perhaps providing a corollary: "If the character's owner wants a character to come back, it will come back even if the creator and writer doesn't." RA Salvatore didn't want to bring Wulfgar back, but was told by TSR/Wizards of the Coast that if he didn't, someone else would. So he did it, figuring his version would probably be better than others. In Baldur's Gate 2, Drizzt's entire party gets a cameo, and upon reference to Hell, Wulfgar quips "I've been there. It was nothing special."
  • Portrayed in Misery. Author Paul Sheldon kills off the title character of his "Misery" romantic potboiler series, only for a psychotic fan to force him to write a new book where she comes back. His initial attempt directly contradicts the circumstances of Misery's "death", and the fan forces him to play fair. He ends up coming up with what is actually a very clever way to not only bring her back to life, but reveal that she's royalty (something to do with her blood type) in the process. She shares a rare, like-death-coma syndrome triggered by bee's venom. Simple, and still plain good.
  • Ditto for James Bond, who was killed off at the end of From Russia with Love, and then resurrected for Dr. No. The author actually had a fairly good justification for his survival - he wasn't actually dead, just dying, and the people he was with at the time were able to keep him alive long enough for proper medical help to arrive.
  • This trope is extremely common in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
    • In the Dark Empire graphic novel, Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett both return from what looks like certain death in Return of the Jedi.
      • Palpatine really did die in RotJ. He came back with the help of a few cloned bodies and some dark side abilities.
      • Boba Fett only fought his way out of the Sarlacc off-camera.
    • No matter how many times the Jedi seem to kill Asajj Ventress, she always comes back.
    • The Jedi K'Khruuk has multiple scrapes with death over the course of nearly 200 years, and each time emerges unscathed - along with his straw hat (which is jokingly attributed by fans as the reason for his survival). He even lampshades it: "I've died any number of times... or so I've been told."

    Live Action TV 
  • The Master of Doctor Who is known for having been "permanently" killed off repeatedly, only to always return.
    • He did this once in the classic series, with a Lampshade Hanging for good measure. Having been completely burned away in full view of the Doctor and the viewers, he comes back the next season and when reminded that he's supposed to be dead just replies "You jest, of course. I'm indestructible, the whole universe knows that."
    • He ended up Deader Than Dead in the TV movie, sucked into the Eye of Harmony, a harnessed black hole with the power to destroy the universe if left open. His return in the new series is handwaved with a single line: "The Time Lords only resurrected me because they knew I'd be the perfect warrior for a Time War."
    • He was stored in a Time Lock in The End of Time, only to return yet again in Series 8, having regenerated into a woman this time.
    • Time Lords have 13 lives and some (including the Master, and eventually the Doctor as well) have managed to bypass even that.
    • Also in Doctor Who: the Daleks, especially in the new series. Not a single character per se, but after having "definitely killed all of them forever, no really, this time we mean it" at least seven times, only to have them invariably show up next series, they're certain to be back sometime.
    • Their first reappearance was explained by time travel, whilst the Daleks were destroyed at the end of the Doctor's first encounter with them, that doesn't mean he can't meet them in a time period before their destruction. This kind of non-linearality rarely seems to happen to the Doctor, usually he seems to encounter allies and enemies (even time travellers) in the same order they do. Indeed the Daleks' "final end" in Evil of the Daleks would have been explained away with a far more straightforward "it wasn't the final end, and the human-factor Daleks were wiped out" explanation in a cut scene in Day of the Daleks.
    • The Big Finish Doctor Who audio The Boy that Time Forgot brought back Adric, of all people. He dies of old age at the end, though.
    • Referenced by Neil Gaiman in a question-and-answer session regarding what happened to the body of a character in "The Doctor's Wife":
    [It] is on a bubble universe that reached Absolute Zero pretty quickly, destroying all the cells, Corsair DNA etc.

    Unless of course someone needs it for a future story, in which case it will have been perfectly preserved.
  • Torchwood writers killed Owen just so they could bring him back undead. No other reason.
  • Tony in the seventh season of 24. The writers had planned for him to die quite a few times during the show's run and they got a lot of mileage from his first real death scene (he was intended to die in the same explosion that killed Michelle).
  • Several characters on Passions have been killed off during their runs on the show, but all of them got better. The best-known instance of this was when the show employed the Fake Shemp method to keep Timmy alive when Josh Ryan Evans died (having already filmed a scene in heaven and a scene where Timmy appears to Tabitha as an angel). The character then went on to appear later in the series as a gloved hand, wreaking havoc with the show's continuity.
  • This is one of the trademarks of The X-Files; no one really stays dead. The X-Files, the place where you can put your own death as the reason for missing work—three times (in Mulder's case, at least).
  • Soap operas in general are as bad as comic books about keeping characters dead. A good rule of thumb is that unless the a) the actor died while playing a long-running character he is deeply associated with, b) the dead character's heart was donated to another character or c) the character's slow death from a real life disease was a major storyline (usually AIDS), the character can be brought back from the dead. Even if her dead body was on screen. Even if the character was killed off over a decade prior.
    • The most (in)famous resurrection has to be that of Bobby Ewing in Dallas by having the entire previous 40 or 50 episodes, stretching over about 2 years of story time, Handwaved away as a dream by Pamela Ewing. To accomplish this, in the last episode of the dream sequence, several characters were killed, including fan favorite JR Ewing. Needless to say, none of the characters introduced during the story arc between Bobby's death and resurrection returned, as they were just figments of the imagination.
    • As the World Turns hung a lampshade on this trope with the death of David Stenbeck. David, the son of the villainous, oft-resurrected James (and a character who also had a couple returns from the dead), was killed by the police. When the coffin was being lowered into the ground, Julia shot it full of holes, just to be sure. Her reaction to the townspeoples' horror indicated a certain Genre Savvy regarding this trope. When James himself was finally Killed Off for Real, a bunch of people came to his funeral just to be sure that his body was found and that he was really dead that time.
    • Days of Our Lives had characters shown killed, shown their bloody bodies on their floor, their suited bodies in coffins, had them briefly show up as ghosts, and then showed that they were Not Quite Dead. Friends parodied this by bringing Joey's character back as having been in a coma and received a brain transplant.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy lampshades this in the musical. "Hey, I've died twice!" And she very nearly dies a third time in "Seeing Red".
    • The Master's bloodline is apparently immortal, what with all the resurrections going on. Angel actually broke out of hell to come back, Darla was resurrected in the first season of Angel, Spike was also resurrected on Angel, and the Master himself comes back in the comics.
    • Cordelia came back from the "higher plane", which is pretty obviously a type of heaven. Twice. Though she actually did stay dead after the second time.
    • Warren comes back in the comics, and it is explicitly mentioned he was resurrected by Amy Madison.
  • Charmed. Oh boy. Over the course of 8 seasons, Piper and Phoebe die 9 times each. Paige reaches the same number of deaths within just 5 seasons and Prue has 3 deaths to show. And of course, being the main characters, they all get better. Well, except for Prue at the end of season 3, which actually underlines the point that the characters only get better when the creators want them to.
  • William Boone, Zo'or, and Liam Kincaid in Earth: Final Conflict, although, in the latter case, they Never Found the Body, while Boone and Zo'or were clearly shown disintegrating. Thankfully, Zo'or is finally killed off after resurrection. Unfortunately, so is Boone, albeit off-screen. Liam comes back in the series finale without an explanation.
  • The creators of Supernatural can't even seem to keep their three main characters dead for more than an episode. With the unusual exception of Sam in season 6, all of the leads are guaranteed to come back to life either the episode they die, or the very next one.
    • Dean stayed dead for some four months between Seasons 3 and 4, so while technically he did return the next episode, that next episode wasn't until the next season and several months later real-time. Same for Castiel between Seasons 4 and 5 and yes, Sam between 5 and 6, though that one's a bit iffy depending on whether you count him as really alive or not...
    • Castiel also did manage to stay dead (or at least presumed dead) for most of Season 7.
    • Season 5 has an episode where Sam and Dean die, go to Heaven and are resurected by God at the end of the episode; they are informed that they have actually died dozens of times off-screen and went through all of that before, though each time their memories were wiped. They are told that this time they will remember it, and they won't get another second chance. As Sam demonstrates, they do, but to be fair it wasn't God who brought him back and this time he Came Back Wrong and had to earn a proper resurrection afterwards over the course of several episodes.
    • But if you're not a main character, even if you're a fairly important recurring character, you're Killed Off for Real.

     Multiple Media 
    • Jaller took the energy bullet that was meant for his friend Takua. Minutes, later, the now transformed and merged with the Big Bad Takua brings him back, but at the cost of his life energy. Then, he is resurrected through some ill-defined means, by a contraption built into the floor that they never use again.
    • Toa Tuyet was sentenced to the Pit for her crimes, where she then drowned when the place got demolished by a flood. Even the corpse has been found. Later story material revealed that the Tuyet they jailed was only her (possibly innocent) Alternate Universe-self, while the real Tuyet was locked away in a pocket dimension for study. She escaped from there, and found her way back into the story through a series of off-screen dimension-hopping.
    • Even more egregiously, it was also revealed after the story's cancellation that even that false-Tuyet, and just about every other character that died in the Matoran Universe has been alive all these years — they are simply trapped on the Red Star. The writer could effectively bring back anybody he wants, if he ever found time to continue writing.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Rudy Park: Rudy's megaphone-toting Uncle Mort was killed off in January of 2007... but brought back to life in February of 2009.
  • Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine is fond of this one. Rat's character Angry Bob has been resurrected (or "undied") in each of his appearances. Sometimes it will be because Pastis forgets which characters he's killed off, other times, he'll bring someone back from the dead just because it's funny. Pastis has even managed to kill himself off in the strip, only to be brought back to life.
  • This has happened a few times in Dick Tracy over the years. Pruneface returned as a Human Popsicle. Mumbles has actually come back three times (although the third time was by the current writers simply ignoring the story that killed him, since his death story had a lot of continuity problems anyway). A recent major story arc involved the apparent return of Moon Maid. It's not really her. Still, these are exceptions; the strip generally averts this trope hard, with popular characters like Flattop dying and staying very dead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battles Volkmar the Grim does this in a way; technically he isn't dead, but being tied on a banner carried by the legions of hell in a weakened state is about as close as you get. He gets free and fights his way from there. Otherwise it's pretty much averted in the world.
    • Actually Volkmar was indeed killed by Archaon, then resurrected by Be'lakor and tied to his standard to be used to break the morale of Imperial troops.
  • In the original Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance modules, DM's were specifically instructed that certain villains simply were not allowed to be killed off, and that if the players somehow succeeded in doing so, their apparent death should be done in such a way that the players could not recover the body, allowing them to return in future modules.
  • Eldrad in Warhammer 40,000. One revision of the codex later, and everyone's favorite dick turned out to have not visited the blackstone fortress after all. Just as planned.

    Video Games 
  • While Bowser in the Mario series has Joker Immunity, he does occasionally (confirmed at least three times) die in the Mario games; once he is mentioned in Luigi's Mansion to have previously been defeated by Mario ("defeated" apparently meaning "destroyed", as it is theorized that King Boo revived him), once in New Super Mario Bros.. Bowser falls into lava and is reduced to a skeleton and in Super Paper Mario Bowser is killed by Dimentio along with Mario and Peach. However, Bowser cannot permanently exit the series, and is resurrected on all three occasions; He appears in Super Mario Sunshine (apparently resurrected by Bowser Jr.), and is resurrected onscreen by Bowser Jr. in New Super Mario Bros., and in the case of Super Paper Mario, Dimentio's attack wasn't intended to permanently kill him, so that when he appeared in the land of ended games, he was still considered "alive", and returned with Mario, Peach, and Luigi through a dimensional door.
  • World of Warcraft (and supplementary material) has brought back many characters once thought dead. Muradin lost his memory and remained in Northrend, the dreadlords Balnazzar and Mal'Ganis returned to corrupt the Scarlet Crusade, the Alliance expedition to Outland "returned" in the Burning Crusade (although Turalyon and Alleria are still missing), Magtheridon turned out to be just imprisoned, Xavius became the Nightmare Lord, Cho'gall returned twice, and even Deathwing was presumed dead by some before being confirmed to be alive. and now both his children (albeit as undead) and his mate are returning for Cataclysm.
    • The Alliance expedition is not a proper example — last we saw them they were in a position to survive for a while longer (Burning Crusade just retconned them to not leaving Draenor after all), it's just that they were presumed dead in-universe (since no-one on Azeroth knew what had happened to them). Of course, the place the expedition was to might be an example — as presented in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, Draenor was about to be destroyed. Come Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and the place (while shattered and renamed the Outlands) is still habitable, more-or-less.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog dies. But he was so popular that they brought him back. Nobody's quite clear on how he survived a fall through the atmosphere; sometimes it's aliens, sometimes it's Chaos Control, sometimes it's Doctor Eggman finding him, and sometimes it's just because he's the Ultimate Lifeform. Alternatively Shadow didn't survive and this new one is a clone or a robot. Either way, he's back.
    • Via a throwaway set of quotes in the final battle of Shadow's own game, it's revealed that the Shadow you're playing is indeed the real one, as Eggman's robots saved and recovered him from the orbital freefall. He pretty much made the Shadow Androids to screw with him.
  • Castlevania - even if Dracula's 'sealed forever' in their main timeline, they keep making games set prior to this to continue including him, and his soul lives on in Soma Cruz. Besides ... unlike most characters, Dracula's undead. Rising from the grave is exactly what he's supposed to do.
  • In Witches' Legacy it doesn't matter what happens to Elisabeth or Morgana, because by the next game at least one of them will be back to cause havoc in the lives of Lynn and Carrie.
  • At the beginning of Ori And The Blind Forest, Naru dies of starvation due to the "blinding" of the eponymous forest and ensuing famine, then the eponymous protagonist himself runs out of energy and dies after setting off into the forest alone. The latter is immediately revived by the Spirit Tree's residual power, while Gumo brings the former Back Fromthe Dead with the Light Vessel at the start of the game's last act.

    Web Comic 
  • In Homestuck almost everyone has died at some point, and almost all of those people were resurrected, brought back as ghosts, etc.
    • John in particular has now died three times, and that's not even counting at least one alternate timeline death.
  • MAG ISAEman Cruz gets resurrected after he's got filled up with bullets enough to kill the average person.
  • Jerkass/Jerk with a Heart of Gold Mike Warner's resurrection has yet to be explained after his badass Heroic Sacrifice (at least we think that's what he was doing) near the end of It's Walky!. He was mentioned in a list of people who probably wouldn't be able to be resurrected using the martian technology, but a year later (a gap sufficiently long enough to allow for the nine-month process) he shows up working at the Shortpacked! toy store without explanation. At his parent's house he has several medals from the war—some of which are only awarded posthumously.
    • The owner of the Shortpacked! toy store, Galasso, also brought back Ronald Reagan; FDR appears to work at the nearby store Mc Awesome's. Later, Galasso also brings back Historical Jesus. So, yeah...
      • Joyce eventually hinted that she leaked resurrection technology when she realized that Mike wasn't going to be resurrected by the government, with resurrecting him a condition.
  • The mermaid in Axe Cop whom Axe Cop mistook for a bad guy because a friendly mermaid face looks like a human scowl and accidentally murdered was revived in this way. The author of the comic, Malachai called up the illustrator, Ethan, and told him that he didn't want the mermaid to die any more. Ethan assured Malachai that since it was his story, they could bring him back, so they planned out a story where Axe Cop wished the mermaid back to life after finding out she was the daughter of the King of the Mermaids.
    • Also, in one comic, Ethan mistakenly drew the Moon Warriors' bug monster truck exploding, when Malachai didn't say anything about that. When Malachai found out, he called out his brother because he thought the truck was cool, so the next comic includes a Note From Ed discussing how the heroes found a ninja mechanic to fix it, then killed him.
  • Oasis in Sluggy Freelance has been killed just off-screen many times now. Lampshaded several times that her deaths always occur in such a way as to leave no body. Then it was explained and it was awesome.
    • Zoe, who was not dead but in a permanent vegetative state, was restored to normal in a plan involving nanites by Riff.

    Western Animation 
  • Optimus Prime of Transformers. His deaths have their own fan page. Also Optimus Primal in Beast Wars.
    • Ravage isn't quite that bad, but he's returned by multiple methods in comics that are not in continuity with each other, both G1 Ravage (intended to be dead, with his head shown being knocked off a cliff to really hammer it home, at the end of his Beast Wars three-parter appearance) and Movieverse Ravage (can you get deader than having your spine ripped out, and what's left of your carcass being used as a blunt instrument to bash Rampage with?)
  • Kenny in South Park has this in spades, and in fact, the They Killed Kenny trope is named after him.
  • The Joker on Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Batman never angsts about the Joker's many supposed deaths (not even in Mad Love when he knocked him into a smokestack) since he knows he'll always come back thanks to Joker Immunity.
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, which takes place in the far future, the Joker "returns" after having met his definite end during an encounter long ago. Terry floats theories as to whether Joker is a clone, robot or just reawakened from cryogenic sleep. He's a clone, sort of, via implanting his DNA in Tim Drake (Robin). The real Joker really is dead. Eventually, he's purged from Tim Drake, making for the Joker's absolute final end... probably.
  • At the end of Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor and Darkseid both seemingly die, thanks to Lex making a Heroic Sacrifice to kill them both with the Anti-Life Equation. Batman muses that neither of them are likely dead and both of them will probably come back. Unusually, this was the Grand Finale of the show, and for all intents and purposes the entire DCAU came to an end with this, so as far as anyone knows they don't come back. Even more unusually, the whole thing was so ambiguous that it's not even clear that Lex was even using the Equation to kill the two of them in the first place, and both of them might not even have died at all. They didn't. They got stuck in the source wall, but that still means they're not coming back.
  • Morph in X-Men was supposed to remain dead to show the Darker and Edgier tone of the series. Due to his Ensemble Dark Horse status, Mister Sinister brought him back to life.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars it's revealed that Darth Maul has survived his bisection at the hands of Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace.