Hell Has New Management

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Black Mage: I'm dead, so this is some kind of egoscopic projection of myself?
Lord of Hell: Correct, but I hardly see what—
Black Mage: So without any fleshy meats to slow me down, how long do you really think it'll take me to usurp your entire kingdom?
[Beat]
Lord of Hell: I have the entire legions of Hell at my command.
Black Mage: Enjoy it while you can, skippy.

The typical fate of characters that enter Hell is a horrific one; tortured by demons for all eternity. That's not the case with this guy. He'd much rather be the demons' boss than their victim.

This trope is where a character is sent to wherever it is that evil people go when they die and decides to take over. Depending on the setting, it may be where everyone, good and bad, goes, but rest assured that this character will make himself king of them all. It takes an especially devious, powerful and/or determined character to accomplish this given the heavy odds stacked against him.

After all, isn't the afterlife run by gods? These are beings of might and wisdom far above the souls that come in for torment. Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? often happens in these cases.

Ambition Is Evil will likely come into play. It's "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" right? According to Milton, that's what Lucifer thought when he set up a kingdom down there. Likewise, that's likely motivating this particular character. It's possible that they believe they can do a better job of ruling Hell. Whether this means Eviler Than Thou or creating Ascended Demons, this trope overlaps with God Job. On the flipside, if they never intended to follow through on taking the Devil's job but are forced to anyway by metaphysical laws, they'll find out that Someone Has to Do It.

You Kill It, You Bought It and Klingon Promotion are related tropes; a character takes the position by killing the previous holder of the position. See also The Usurper and Kill the God. Compare To Hell with This Infernal Job, where the Devil voluntarily quits his job.

It doesn't have to be the Judeo-Christian idea of the devil or hell to count. Any local equivalent will do. In other words, Crystal Dragon Devil.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Rurouni Kenshin: After dying, Shishio Makoto declared his intent to overthrow the King of Hell. Depending on how you interpret it, Shishio may or may not have succeeded in this endeavor when he visits the catatonic Kenshin in the latter's living hell during the Jinchuu arc.
  • Dragon Ball Z: When Dabura dies, King Enma is afraid that if he is sent to Hell (as he rightly SHOULD be, considering his sins), it wouldn't be a suitable punishment - he's already King of the Demon World. In an effort to improve him, King Enma sends Dabura to the most peaceful part of Heaven. Later in the series, Dabura is seen again, and has turned into a character so peaceful and loving that the protagonists are actually creeped out by him.
  • Dragonball GT. Piccolo died, but is later seen in Hell, bringing order to the endless chaos and protecting Hell's leaders, becoming more of an authority figure than they ever were.

    Comic Books 
  • Ghost Rider: Nobel Kale takes over Hell after slaying Mephisto and Blackheart, then sends Dan Ketch back to Earth, releasing him from his duties as Ghost Rider.
  • Fantastic Four: When Doctor Doom was dragged down to Hell, Reed Richards undertook an elaborate plan to pull him back out before he took the place over, which he estimated would have taken a matter of weeks.
  • There was a DC miniseries called Human Defence Corps about a bumbling everyman in a military group who deals with JLA-style emergencies. Their first adventure is against vampires (nebbish everyman takes one for the team). Their last adventure involved going to Hell, taking down the Devil, then using the now-vampiric bumbler to institute a regime change.
  • As of the Captain Britain and MI13 Annual, Meggan. She led a band of rebels and then helped forge them into a new country in order to spread hope in Hell.
  • Lucifer: Christopher Rudd manages to go from damned soul to sextoy for the nobility of Hell into one of the nobility himself and eventually ruler of Hell.
    • Then he reforged the damned souls and the demons into an army to storm heaven. And won.
  • Lady Death was originally a mortal woman named Hope who made a bargain with a demon to renounce her humanity and serve Hell if the demon rescued her from death. Arriving in Hell, she discovered a civil war was raging. Lady Death led an uprising against the Lords of Hell. During the final battle, Lucifer cursed her never to return to Earth while the living walked. Lady Death swore an oath that she would circumvent Lucifer's curse by exterminating all life on Earth. Lady Death finally ended Lucifer's control over her by casting him through Heaven's Gate (a place where evil cannot go), and in doing so became the new ruler of Hell.
  • In the spinoff Purgatori, a blood-clone of Purgatori tried to convince the demon Cremator to seize the throne from Lucifer Morningstar with a specially-designed demon-destroying blade, planning to dispose of him afterwards. This met with partial success since Lucifer was left as a shadow of his former self, but then the real Purgatori shows up in Hell to kill Cremator and absorb her clone. It becomes a subversion since Purgatori decides not to take Lucifer's throne for herself and instead leave him in charge but unable to defend himself from any future runner-up.
  • In The Sandman, Lucifer decides To Hell with This Infernal Job, banishes the demons and the damned, seals the place up, and gives the key to Dream. After Dream has received a variety of offers from others eager to claim the place, it's taken out of his hands: God assigns two of his angels to run Hell, because Someone Has to Do It.
  • The Simpsons: One of the Halloween issues has Ned Flanders voluntarily take over for the Devil, who's gotten bored with his job. Ned does so well the higher-ups let him take the job full time, resulting in Hell turning into a tediously dull shopping mall of a place. Bart and Homer are utterly horrified.
    Bart: Maybe we should start going to the other place.
    Homer: Church?
    Bart: Yeah. Fire and brimstone, I can take, but this?
  • The Italian superhero parody comic No Name inexplicably ends its fourth and final issue with its usually goofy and ineffective "hero" opening a portal to Hell, then going against the Devil, killing him and taking his place as the new ruler. It's implied that he did this out of grief for losing his fiance (who literally left him alone, she didn't die!), but it counts as both Out-of-Character Moment and Gainax Ending.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Redwall fanfics by Quinlan of Redwall, the first Big Bad, Hardin, is dead by the end of the first story. Then, in the latest, we find out he overthrew Vulpuz as the Lord of Hellgates.
  • In the Left Behind 4chan strategy game Left Beyond, the people of Egypt set up a program to train warriors and scientists to withstand the pain or burning so that they may terraform and conquer Hell, just before the Final Battle is scheduled to happen, in case they lose.
  • The Avengers fanfic named Legends, the one who has taken over Hell is Doctor Doom. He's naturally pissed when he sees his killer, Arcade, arrive. His proposed punishment? A millennium of torture until the new Deadpool arrives to hand him over to Dormammu.
  • In the Raditz redemption series by Dragoness Eclctic the entire Sayian race has re-established themselves. With Planet Vegeta gone, their new realm is Hell and they are doing a better job running it than the old administration.
  • A number of Code Geass fics involving a Peggy Sue concept mention this trope as a reason not to send Lelouch vi Britannia to Hell (though fanfics are divided if he actually would go to Hell or Heaven, if Heaven would accept him, nor as to how the afterlife even works in the CG verse) Given Season 3, it appears that any fear of the continued employment of the Devil is unwarranted as Lelouch is still perfectly alive, somehow.
  • In Please Stop Eating The Hell Butterflies, it's revealed that Urahara conquered hell because he was bored. Yamamoto was not happy.

    Jokes 
  • Margaret Thatcher dies and arrives at the pearly gates. St. Peter tells her, "I'm sorry, you're not on the list here. Your place is downstairs in hell." Thatcher trudges off to hell. A week later, St. Peter gets a phone call: "Hello, Pete, it's the devil. You'll have to take that bloody woman. She's only been here a week, and she's shut down half the furnaces to reduce supply!"

    Literature 
  • In Tanith Lee's Death's Master, the Queen of Hell (or "Innerearth") was a human queen, Narasen, who owed Death a thousand years of servitude. However, she was too much of a queen to act as anyone's servant, and Uhlume, lord of Death, instead abdicated much of his role to her. He decided he liked roaming the Earth, but the inhabitants of Hell want him to come back and relieve them of Narasen's harsh rule.
  • In Dark Heart this is the backstory of the evil god Vraxor. He was originally a demon created to torment the inhabitants of Hell, but organized a revolt and took over.
  • Shadow Police: By the end of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the team have evidence that the Smiling Man has killed (or otherwise disposed of) Satan and taken over Hell; twisting it to fit his own ends.
  • For most of Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series it's implied or outright stated that God and Satan are truly eternal beings unlike the Incarnations themselves (who are just the current officeholders of positions in a sort of Cosmic Bureaucracy). The sixth book For Love of Evil reveals that this isn't true; the Satan depicted in the previous books has held the office for several hundred years, but is still a newcomer compared to the current God (who has been around for about two millennia). To ensure competence, the new holder of the office has to prove himself by forcing the previous incumbent to agree to serve him, or the previous incumbent can re-take the position. There are a couple of management changes in the book (including both successful and failed examples).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena defeated the previous ruler of Hell, Mephistopheles, and learned that as a result, she either had to rule Hell or let all of the demons loose on Earth. She decided to Take a Third Option and corrupted Lucifer and had him take her place. Her justification was that his Holier Than Thou act was hypocritical anyways.
  • Supernatural: This is technically what Crowley did with a few hundred years of bureaucracy, backstabbing, and otherwise Machiavellian business. He died, went to Hell, became a demon, worked his way up the ladder to head of purchases, survived the demises of every other major demon in Hell in the countdown to Apocalypse as all Lucifer's faithful raced into the fray to assure his victory...and then defected to Team Free Will and helped seal the head honcho back in his cage and save the world. In the absence of significant competition he promptly established himself as King of Hell. Three seasons later, after angering every other being more powerful than himself that still exists, he retains his hold on this position. He's rather responsible about it, too. "This isn't Wall Street, this is Hell. We have a little something called integrity!"
  • The Vampire Diaries: It was revealed that Katherine Pierce was sent to Hell where she manipulated Arcadius, AKA the Devil, from the minute she arrived. She eventually returned, became an ally of Kai Parker and, after Cade's death, became the queen of Hell.

    Music 
  • Tom Smith's "Sheep Marketing Ploy" is a song pitching a series of horror movies named Death Sheep following Fenton, a sheep who takes over Hell after being pulled down there by Lucifer.
  • A lyric in the Manowar song "The Power":
    The power in the darkness to see without my sight
    Walk among the living, free of wrong or right
    The power of the magic, the power of the spell
    Not to serve in Heaven, but one day rule in Hell
  • Steve Earle's "The Unrepentant" ends like this.
    Now he's standin' at Hell's door
    With a bad attitude and a .44
    The devil said, "What's up man, now what you come here for?"
    He said, "Man, let's just get to it"
    He said, "I always heard that you were the bad one
    There's a few places I ain't been, a few things I ain't done
    You got your pitchfork and I got my gun..."
  • Some versions of "Stagger Lee" end up with Stag killing or defeating the Devil and becoming the ruler of Hell.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the Hindu Vedic tradition, Yama, the lord of the dead, is said to have been the first mortal who ever died, giving him his office by right of seniority... and that, of course, makes this Older Than Feudalism.

    Radio 
  • Old Harry's Game,: Smug Snake Evil Genius Roland Kingworthy attempts this in season 5. He starts by bringing the demons onto his side with his effortless charm. Satan talks his army out of attacking, and Roland immediately claims he was attempting to expose the treacherous demons. Satan doesn't believe a word of it, and has an abyss he's been saving specially...
    Satan: I never trust anyone who puts that much effort into his effortless charm.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In most Dungeons & Dragons settings, Asmodeus is the Overlord of Hell, but some sourcebooks suggest that he was not the first. A few Planescape sourcebooks about Hell mention the "Ancient Baatorians", creatures that ruled Hell before he came along and exterminated most of them. The Elder Evils sourcebook says that this was definitely the case, claiming that Asmodeus' predecessor was an Eldritch Abomination named Zargon and giving playable statistics for him. (Which, given that it is possible for him to be killed by mortals, suggests that his power has greatly degenerated since Asmodeus kicked him out.)
  • Pathfinder goes all-out and states that Asmodeus unseated Lucifer himself to rule Hell.
  • Magic: The Gathering's Kamigawa block is an interesting example. Unlike some examples of this trope, Hidetsugu charged into Hell in the first place to give the All-Consuming Oni of Chaos a piece of his mind after it chickened out after O-kagachi soundly defeated it. He isn't heard from again until the end of the book, where he shows up, gives a respectful greeting to the Plane's new guardians, and demonstrates that he's absorbed his former master's essence by dealing out a much needed comeuppance to the Chessmaster behind the whole mess.

    Video Games 
  • In La Pucelle: Tactics, Prier can become a Demon Overlord if she goes too far deep into the Netherworld and kills the present one. She appears as such in the Disgaea series as a Bonus Boss. This is apparently based on a legend in Japanese mythology where one will become a youkai (demon) if they "bathe in the blood of 1000 youkai."
  • Makai Kingdom: The backstory of Seedle, the Overlord of the Underworld, is that he was once a samurai who got lost down there - and ended up taking over the place. Actually, he was killed by a woman he was about to rape, but he still took over. Said woman was burned at the stake for killing a "hero" but she also took over her own Netherworld after her death.
  • In Disgaea 2 it's revealed that the "God of Demon Overlords'' got so powerful from killing hundreds of other Demon Overlords that she started becoming an Eldritch Abomination. To escape this fate, she gave herself Easy Amnesia and reincarnated herself.
  • Happens in Disgaea 3 if You kill the final boss with just human Almaz alone, he becomes an Overlord, in style much like Prier. The Final Boss himself is an "Evil God" due to being a Hero who killed countless Overlords.
  • Also occurs in Disgaea 4 if you lose to Fuka during your battle with her. She decides to take over the Netherworld before she takes over the human world, and enlists the defeated Valvatorez and Fenrich as her servants in the process.
  • Catherine: If the player has made Chaos choices for the duration of the game and answered all of the final questions with freedom in mind, then he asks Catherine, a succubus, to marry him... And she agrees. He wakes up in Hell the next morning and decides to strap on a sword and start killing demons wearing nothing more than his boxers... Eventually he transforms into an incubis and grows so powerful that everybody knows who he is and he uses Catherine's father (himself a powerful demon) as a seat. He does this while he's making out with the guy's daughter and several other succubi.
  • In the expansion for Neverwinter Nights, the protagonist can use Mephistopheles' True Name to force him into slavery and take over the demon lord's Hell dimension him/herself. Alternately, they can choose to rule together, though in that case the epilogue implies Mephistopheles betrays them.
  • In Final Fantasy II, killing the Emperor the first time backfires because he takes over Hell and returns to Earth, raising Hell's capital from the earth to serve as his new base. In the remakes, it turns out this is the "evil side" of his soul doing the work - the "good side" ascends to Heaven and takes over that, too. The novelization even depicts the Emperor meeting Satan after he dies; who is about to take his soul; so the Emperor kills him.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • The game's manual states Shinnok became ruler of the Netherworld by deposing Lucifer, which is the only reference to Judeo-Christianity in the entire series.
    • Noob Saibot has this as his Arkade Ending in Mortal Kombat (no, the OTHER one) - with his powers boosted by Quan Chi in order to assassinate Shao Kahn, he is able to break free of Quan Chi's control, and make a secret deal with the rival Realm of Chaos. After the Realm of Chaos severely weakens the Netherworld in a surprise attack, Noob Saibot seizes control and becomes the new King of Hell.
    • Liu Kang's ladder ending in Mortal Kombat X has him taking over the Netherrealm following his victory over Shinnok. He and Kitana also co-rule the Netherrealm in the story mode's ending.
  • In the Onimusha games, Oda Nobunaga makes a Deal with the Devil in the first game of the series, just prior to the heroes killing the Demon King. He then takes command of the Demonic Realm for the next two titles of the series (and the Game Boy Advance game.)
  • In Sengoku Basara, Nobunaga claims to have taken over when he returns to the mortal realm in the third game. In this case it's questionable whether Demon King Nobunaga was truly human to begin with, even the first time around.
  • BloodRayne: the backstory says that Satan became the ruler of Hell, by usurping the throne from the game's villain Belial.
  • Samurai Shodown: The dream match of the series (Tenkaichi Kenkyakuden) pits you for a final stage against a Demon-possessed Gaoh, who has apparently taken over Hell by abusing his demonic power. The first picture that greets you before fighting him is him stomping the head of Lucifer.
  • Overlord. The title character does this in the Expansion Pack "Raising Hell". However by the end of the game he's trapped in the realm, but has The Legions of Hell at his command.
  • Princess Maker 2 : If the player character's daughter is skilled in magic and fighting but has a lot of sin, she'll eventually kill the Lord of Darkness and end up taking his place.
  • Diablo: The protagonist of the original becomes the Dark Wanderer in the sequel after losing his battle of wills to contain the evil by embedding Diablo's soulstone in his forehead, eventually being entirely possessed and mutating into Diablo Himself. Something very similar happened with Tal-Rasha and the Lord of Destruction, Baal.
  • Dwarf Fortress: When the Hidden Fun Stuff gets unleashed, it usually spells the end of a fortress. However, some fortresses not only beat back the demons, but take the next step and launch a full scale invasion of Hell and take the place over, such as what happened in Waterburned, the succession game hosted on This Very Wiki.
  • In Odin Sphere, after Odette is slain by Gwendolyn and Armageddon begins the Halja release King Gallon and pledge themselves to his service since Odette's death has left them bereft of a master and Gallon is the most powerful being in the underworld. Gallon leads the armies of the dead in an omnicidal campaign against the living, fulfilling his role in Armageddon as one of the Five Disasters.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion pack Shivering Isles - The Daedric Prince of Madness Sheogorath is testing mortals to find one worthy of granting his godhood to. Their job will be to defend his dimension of depravity and despair from destruction by his true non-mad (but even evilier) personality which asserts itself at the end of every era.
  • This is one of the endings in Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, where the Boss is abducted by Satan, and their Best Friend Johnny Gat descends to Hell to free them. After beating up Satan, Johnny can choose to take over the place, returning the Boss and Kinzie to the mortal world, on the account that "they'll be down here in no time".
  • If Krisis Reina De Argenzuela falls into one of the Bottomless Pits, she will go directly to Hell. She will be put in charge, and after a while Hell will run out of fire, no tridents will make it pass the customs, and there will be high taxes for horns.
  • The fifth episode of Sam & Max Beyond Time And Space has this briefly happen after the titular duo weaken Hell's efficiency to rescue Bosco. Unfortunately, this allows The Soda Poppers to take over and now Sam and Max have to restore Satan to his ruling position.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater : Black Mage overthrew the Lord of Hell when he was killed by Lich. Since he's the universe's Butt-Monkey, it didn't last very long but from this point on the entire universe, including all The Legions of Hell, have a vested interest in keeping him alive. When this is the reaction to his arrival on the mortal plane, it's no wonder. Everyone, everyone knows they are completely and utterly screwed if he gets back down to Hell.
    White Mage: Did you hear that?
    Black Belt: What?
    White Mage: A great disturbance in the order, as if a million voices cried out to say "Oh shit."
    [elsewhere]
    Matoya: Stupid Light Warriors must've broken my crystal. I keep asking for lotto numbers and all I get is "The destroyer is manifest."
  • In Dominic Deegan, Karnak fell into Hell after fighting back the Demon of War, Dal Balor, several years before the beginning of the webcomic. Though he was mostly involved in small-time evil, his badassery jumped to epic levels during the War in Hell arc. In a few days, Karnak rips through thousands of Mooks with a bloodied sword, an in-depth knowledge in demonic spine removal and no shirt on. After a quick detour due to bad weather, Karnak travels to the top of a mountain, kills several demon lords, destroys all the souls of the Chosen and subsequently nukes Hell. At the end of the arc, Karnak turns from a lower demon lord with no followers left to the only demon left standing. He becomes the King of Hell due to the lack of adequate competition.
  • Head Trip: This happens in a fanfic Mal reads in wherein Mal falls in love with the Devil Guy and attacks Satan so they can be together.
  • The Gods of Arr-Kelaan: Ronson is trapped in Hell. His weapon, the rubber mallet, semi-inadvertently kills Satan... and Ronson gets stuck with the job. Until he figured out it was a scam and managed to close it down.
  • Referenced in Grim Tales from Down Below - during a flashback to the days of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Mandy outright states that she doesn't mind in the least that Grim will eventually take her — she knows that she's going to Hell, but she's already planning how to take over when she gets there. As it turns out, however, she doesn't have to kill anyone to become the Empress of the Deadlands - she marries into the position instead.
  • In a highly atypical variation in Scary Go Round, Erin Winters is almost literally Put on a Bus to Hell, but she later makes a surprising return in Bad Machinery. A bonus strip reveals that she defeated Robot Hitler with "girlish pluck" (and Battle Armour) and became Queen of Hell, but got bored after a few years and defeated a Threshold Guardian demon to get back to the surface. Later developments in the continuity have her returning to Hell and reclaiming the throne, although her moody temperament causes some problems.
  • The Karnak Hates Everything Show: The titular character is the ruler of Hell, having taken that title from the previous ruler, Ohmdalar. In one plotline, a mysterious portal forms, confusing the hell out of the cast until Ohmdalar comes ripping through and takes the place back, banishing Karnak to the void. In a double example, Karnak eventually comes back through the same portal, then proceeds to instantly reclaim power using the unstoppable force of a legal document.

    Web Original 
  • The Salvation War: This is humanity's stated goal in the first novel and they don't plan on calling it a day after that, either.
  • Press Start: This episode has Count Vile rather humorously beaten Satan in a duel (via slipping on a banana peel and getting a ring out) and claimed his right to rule Hell.
    Vile: Hey Vlad... guess what I just did!
  • Hitler Rants: Some Downfall parodies feature Hitler winding up in Hell, and it's usually implied that he's now running the place.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Simpsons a church carnival had a mirror that showed what people would look like in Hell. While it showed Lisa in rags and being tormented by fire, it showed Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Burns in a crown and flowing robe, and eating a human head. "Excellent!"
  • In Ugly Americans it appears that Satan is not one being, but a title for position that has been filled many times in history by different demons. Exactly how this is done is not known.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: There's an episode where the three main characters have nightmares. Billy and even Grim are both terrorized by their dreams, but in Mandy's dream she actually takes over Hell and becomes the Lord of Darkness.

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