Joker Immunity
"Do you have any idea how many suits I go through because of these situations?"
"I know Darth Vader's really got you annoyed,
But remember if you kill him then you'll be unemployed"
"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Yoda"

Face it, some Big Bads stay popular enough it might be a bad idea to kill them for real. So they may stick around or keep coming back, but too much of this can start to undermine a (super)hero's perceived effectiveness. While a work focusing on a single hero or group can Hand Wave this as perhaps what's necessary to end the villain for good being beyond their moral code, it can get more egregious if the fictional universe starts to get larger and more interconnected, and the villain keeps pissing off more and more people. This leads to the question of why some of those other folks with a lot fewer qualms against killing haven't put a bullet in them yet.

This ends up being a question of whether the villain is just that good, or the writers are delaying things and stretching the patience of the audience. (Or maybe it's just that A Wizard Did It.)

Aside from rationalizations given in the story itself, most reasons for trope are outside the story in the form of Contractual Immortality:
  • The villain is very popular and lucrative, so franchises with indefinite continuity are hesitant to get rid of them. Particularly the Trope Namer: every would-be Batman writer dreams of writing a good Joker story and to get rid of him with any sense of finality would seemingly rob future writers of such a coveted opportunity. Ironically, a villain could also be ostensibly lame, and killing them off is seen as too 'serious' a treatment rather than just putting them on a bus or a cheap attempt to ramp up the stakes.
  • The story exists in a particular continuity or on a sliding timescale; the actual time the villain has been around for a particular story may be smaller than we suppose. Again regarding the Trope Namer, it may seem like the Joker's been mass-murdering people for however-many-decades in Real Time, but in the comic book universe it's only been a handful of years at most.
  • The villain, especially those in a Rogues Gallery, are so heavily identified with a particular hero their exploits are specific to him out of a kind of authorial respect (e.g. Marvel's Carnage is heavily identified with Spider-Man, but is both monstrous-looking and much less popular lately, and thus can be killed).
  • The struggle against a single major villain is the Series Goal and if that villain is defeated, the series would be over. If this is the case, then the Grand Finale will occasionally revoke Joker Immunity.
  • The series is being shown in Anachronic Order, and their death has already been shown. This can apply to any character, not just villains. On the flipside, if their death has not been shown, but a time after they have died is, they're immunity may be revoked at anytime.
  • The villain is a real person Ripped from the Headlines and who isn't dead yet. You rarely see Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, or Hirohito killed off in a Wartime Cartoon.

Note that in all cases this immunity can and will be revoked if the character is waning in popularity; victims of Villain Decay can become outright C-List Fodder for any author wanting to show off. Also, when the next step in the Sorting Algorithm of Evil appears, the dethroned villain is liable to lose his Joker Immunity (often at the hands of the new villain, showing how badass he is).

Compare: Villain Exit Stage Left; Moral Dissonance; Cardboard Prison; Tailor-Made Prison; and occasionally Villain Sue. For the heroic equivalent, see Invincible Hero. Also see Just Eat Gilligan when it's not a direct villain that's the problem. See also Villain-Based Franchise for one of the products of this kind of thing. See also Popularity Power, where a character will get things his way because of his popularity, and Karma Houdini, where the villain escapes temporal as well as cosmic punishment. See also Superhero Movie Villains Die for when characters known for Joker Immunity have more permanent stays in the afterlife when adapted to the silver screen.

Has nothing to do with Kamen Rider Joker.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A subversion comes in the form of Friend, the evil mastermind Big Bad of 20th Century Boys. He's responsible for near every bad thing that happens in the story and has hidden personal ties to the heroes but even he can't survive a gunshot to the chest. This happens exactly halfway through and they reveal his identity soon after.
  • Team Rocket of Pokémon. You have to wonder why Ash simply won't tell the police about them. Considering they could get arrested for stalking alone, you'd think he would have at least considered it.
    • They do go to jail once (ironically when they are framed by Butch and Cassidy), but escape by digging a tunnel.
    • In fact, this is ironically only thing they are better at than most other members of Team Rocket, it seems; avoiding incarceration. Of course, one could say that other members of the organization probably deserve it much more. (A few of them do things that sicken even James and Jesse.)
    • As time goes on, they've become less of a threat and more of a joke compared to the bigger and incredibly threatening Story Arc villains of the particular arc. Even in the many cases where a group of officers are exposed to their presence, they either escape single-handedly, or the officials in question ignore them for the bigger threat. One episode had an Officer Jenny go after Team Rocket but was disappointed to see them escape but remarked that there were more dangerous members of Team Rocket around she had to take care of.
    • They end up in at the end of episodes in often inescapable situations, yet they always return without any explanation as to how they did. Also, they survive what would have killed Ash and the gang, such as falling into the river directly under a boat, falling over a waterfall, and at one point James gets knocked over a cliff into a canyon by a boulder, and should have been crushed to death or at least killed by the fall. Twice they survive a fall that THEY THINK is going to kill them: Once in Haunter vs. Kadabra, when Haunter makes them fall over a balcony toward a concrete road, and another in Pokémon 2000 where they let go of Lugia and supposedly fall to their deaths, yet clearly survive the fall and return in the ending sequence to throw another sledgehammer at the fourth wall. Likely the most grim example is an episode where they're trapped in a freezing ice cave, exhausted, and struggling to stay awake, a panicked Meowth shouting to them that they'll likely freeze to death if they fall asleep. (The episode ends on that note, and exactly how they got out of it, we may never know.)
    • Even Giovanni, the boss of Team Rocket, is immortal. In Mewtwo Strikes Back, Mewtwo blows up Dr. Fuji's lab and kills him. He later blows up Team Rocket headquarters after Giovanni pisses him off. The entire building is a pile of rubble by the time Jessie, James, and Meowth get there, and Giovanni & his Persian just get up without so much as a scratch.
    • They Took a Level in Badass in the Best Wishes arc, and often don't bother with Ash and his friends most of the time; just concentrating on individual missions.
  • InuYasha was infamous for its repeated use of Naraku, who after a hundred episodes was still causing trouble (it can even be safely said that he's the only antagonist still standing, and has been for several hundred issues). By that point, probably half of feudal Japan wanted his head, yet he still managed to stay alive. He also lasted through nearly all of the original manga too. Naraku's ability to cheat death was so infamous that Rumiko Takahashi, the author, had Kagome wishing what was left of his spirit out of existence along with the Shikon no Tama to assure readers that he was Deader Than Dead.
  • The three main bandits in Koihime†Musou. Simply why can't the Black-Haired Bandit Hunter just kill them?
  • Aizen from Bleach. He was the Big Bad for about 400 chapters. He's been defeated, but he's still not dead, leaving the possibility for a comeback…albeit a somewhat vague one, since he was De Powered as a result of his defeat; he obtained and keeps complete immortality, but he's otherwise powerless.
  • Orochimaru from Naruto just won't stay dead or sealed, even if he can be Put on a Bus for quite long periods.
  • Johan Liebert as shown in Another Monster, three years after Monster.
  • Michio Yuki in the end of MW.
  • Katsuhiko Jinnai and the Bugroms from El-Hazard: The Magnificent World. They always ran away so they could return in the sequels or the next episode depending if you watch the OVA or TV version.
  • A minor example is Divine, Aki's Evil Mentor from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. His confrontation with Dark Signer Carly ended with him plummeting about thirty stories from the top floor of the Arcadia building; somehow, he survived, and appeared in a later episode, only to be swallowed by Earthbound God Ccarayhua. Word of God claims that, despite not appearing again, he survived that too, recovering along with the other victims of the Earthbound Gods, but that doesn't mean he was a Karma Houdini; he was quickly caught by Sector Security and hauled to jail.
    • Yami Bakura from the original series. By the Duelist Kingdom arc, he is thought to be sent to the card graveyard by the end of his debut, only to come back to confront Tristan of getting Mokuba's body as a new vessel but he gets knocked out and the Millennium Ring, the item where he resides, gets tossed aside. This doesn't stop him from coming back in the end of the arc. Later he appeared during the Battle City arc, only to get his soul banished to the Shadow Realm by Yami Marik, but like everyone he banished, he returns to normal when Marik is defeated. In the last arc, multiple versions of him return as the Big Bad, only to be finally destroyed for good along with Zorc.
  • Hao from Shaman King. He's been defeated and killed in ages past over and over, and still keeps coming back. Even at the end of the series, after becoming the Shaman King, he's not turned good, but merely been convinced to wait a bit and see how humanity is doing, instead of just killing everyone outright.

    Fan Works 

  • Referenced in The Two Sides Of Daring Do. Apparently, Yearlings audience complains about Ahuizotl having this sometimes. It's also justified with the real Ahuizotl; he's actually immortal and can't die.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls gives Medusa Gorgon a case of this. Seriously, she survives expulsion from Rachel’s body via Majin Hunter by using the same spell she used to live in her battle against Stein and Spirit. Now, she is the Arc Villain of one of the fic's darkest Story Arcs. This woman refuses to stay dead.


  • Subverted by C. S. Lewis in Prince Caspian, and played up in the movie version, with the villains' failed plan to resurrect The White Witch.
    • Then played straight when she (maybe) comes back in The Silver Chair. However, it could be, and likely is, a different witch — there's not really anyone left at the end of Prince Caspian to go through on Nikabrik's plan to resurrect the White Witch. Same race of "Northern Witches," though.
      • It's not actually possible for another of her race to exist, as the White Witch is the only refugee of a dead world, which she made that way.
  • In Warrior Cats, Tigerstar takes this to the logical extreme, since he keeps appearing even though he died in the first series. However, his limited interaction with the living world makes him much less of a threat then when he was alive, and his involvement in the earlier books of tPoT was somewhat lacking. Eventually - after four series - they do manage to finally make him Deader Than Dead.
  • Averted in the Magic: The Gathering novels for the Ravnica setting. The leader of House Dimir (Ravnica's Big Bad) was actually arrested (and killed) at the end of the first book. This actually bites Our Heros in the butt in the third book, when it's revealed that the reason why Ravnica has experienced a rash of major disasters: because the complex system running the world was dependent on having a Big Bad being a Big Bad.
    • Lampshaded too:
    Agrus Kos: So I should've just let Szadek drain Selesnya's life away? That makes no sense.
    Grand Arbiter Augustin IV: It is a paradox.
    • Yawgmoth would almost fit the trope, if anyone cared about the Onslaught cycle.
  • In the Harry Potter books, the Series Goal is to defeat Lord Voldemort, so obviously he can't be killed until the end of the last book.
  • Artemis Fowl and Captain Holly Short will stop being tormented by Opal Koboi when readers stop finding her mania amusing. And considering all she's survived so far, it doesn't look like that world's most insane pixie will be going anywhere any time soon.
    • Finally revoked in the final book, where she gets a rather nasty death in which her black magic essentially eats her from the inside out.
  • Visser One in Animorphs ended at least two books in some kind of highly ambiguous, possible-death situation only to reappear in later books.
  • Downplayed by Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events, as he is rarely in explicit danger; what he repeatedly avoids is arrest, which serves the same goal as ordinary Joker Immunity. The straight form of this trope is subverted in The End, where he dies in the thirteenth chapter of the thirteenth book, and there's still one chapter left.
  • The Man in Black (a.k.a. Richard Fannin, Randall Flagg, Marten Broadcloak, etc.) from The Dark Tower seems to have a form of this. He always turns up again even if defeated, and none of the protagonists are able to kill him. Mordred, however, gobbled him up cause he was hungry, effectively ending his immunity.
  • Soulcatcher from the Black Company series is the Joker of literature. There seems to be nothing that can kill her off, and even if an opportunity presents itself the good guys always find a reason not to do it, even though she ends up to be the major reason behind any kind of grief they run into.
    • The Limper has this, too. He manages to escape punishment by both the good guys and the bigger villains, and if he doesn't he just comes back in one form or another. Until it stops being funny and he is killed off for real.

    Live Action TV 
  • Off-and-on Big Bad Scorpius was only supposed to be part of a two episode arc on Farscape but ended up sticking around and becoming very popular and kept returning, even after being shot and buried on screen. He even earned a Promotion to Opening Titles after we learned that he's actually a Well-Intentioned Extremist with an enemy in common with the heroes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master. The eighties started to show him in apparently fatal situations at the end of each story, and he was seemingly seriously killed off in "Planet of Fire," in the Made-for-TV Movie, in "The Last of the Time Lords", and in "Death In Heaven". No one ever expects it to stick. He died twice since the show's revival. The first time, he came back thanks to his supporters. However, his second on-screen death involves him (or, rather, her) being vaporized by the Brigadier-turned-Cyberman. But by then the character's immortality was so well-established that both the actor and the show producer were promising a reappearance in the next season within a matter of days.
      • In fact, "The Magician's Apprentice" and "The Witch's Familiar" hangs a huge lampshade on this. The Doctor did not believe that the Master died and the latter actually shows us how she survived the events of "Death in Heaven".
    • The Daleks rival the Master for the amount of times they've been "killed off completely," with a total of seven times. In order: "The Daleks," "The Evil of the Daleks," "Remembrance of the Daleks," "Dalek," "The Parting of the Ways," and "Journey's End." (They also get nearly wiped out in "Doomsday" and "Evolution of the Daleks," though in both cases a survivor or four escapes using "E-MER-GEN-CY TEM-POR-AL SHIFT!") Thankfully, Steven Moffat left out an escape route for the Daleks in the first story under his tenure.
      • In the case of "Day of the Doctor," some fans claim you can see a Dalek vessel being blown away from the explosion when Gallifrey seemingly goes boom. Given the time-frame, this might be the Emperor's ship from "The Parting of the Ways," or the pod containing the titular alien from "Dalek."
      • The Doctor lampshades this trope in "Victory of the Daleks" when, after being so sure he (well, his clone) had properly genocided them all in "Journey's End," he finds them not only alive, but merrily strolling around Blitz-torn London posing as Allied weapons. He eventually flies into a hysterical fit of rage that can pretty much be summed up as "for God's sake, not AGAIN!!!" and takes a leaf out of his old companion Ace's book by whaling on one of them furiously with a giant wrench.
      • Russell T Davies openly admitted this was the case with the Daleks in a featurette for "Army of Ghosts". As the defining Doctor Who villain, they'll always be brought back at some point no matter how complete the destruction may seem, because you just plain can't have the Doctor without the Daleks.
    • Davros, the Daleks' creator, was genuinely intended to suffer a permanent Karmic Death at the end of his first story by the writer and the then showrunners. This turned out to be non-permanent, and since then he's survived apparent death at least once. Russell T Davies responded with a Shrug of God when asked if he had survived the ending of "The Stolen Earth"]/["Journeys' End", which was later conclusively answered.
    • The Cybermen are frequently killed off or otherwise sealed away, though due to severe Anachronic Order of their stories and multiple factions of Cybermen this can muddle things incredibly. It's justified on their part- even if the Cybermen themselves are wiped out, they are living contingency plans. If any form of their technology survives- from a ruined Cyberman husk that lost its organic half or a single Cybermite survives a planet being blown up, it can find and convert and/or assimilate something into a Cyberman, who will in turn do the same and multiply to replace those who were lost.
    • Time Lords themselves are living examples of this trope because they can regenerate into new bodies. Even when a 12-regenerations cycle limit was set in "The Deadly Assassin," it has been broken by both the Doctor and the Master, the former because he got a new cycle, the latter because he knows how to cheat death in malicious ways.
  • Heroes' Sylar for whom the universe will bend over backwards to let continue killing people and acquiring powers. Possibly the most ridiculous case is the Volume 4 opener where a squad has been given orders to shoot to kill, and instructions on how to make it stick... and when they get the shot, managing to take him by surprise and everything, they use tasers.
    • Even more egregious given that he was "dead" at the end of Volume 3 and then re-appeared without so much as a handwave at the start of Volume 4. After a number of Volume 4 episodes they did handwave it, but it was pretty stupid even for a handwave.
    • In the penultimate episode of Volume 4, he gets knifed in the back of the head by Danko, only to get right back up in complete violation of the show's Magic A Is Magic A for regeneration.
      • Which was handwaved in the finale as his shapeshifting allowing him to move "the button" that turns the brain off. Um, as in the brain stem??
    • In the Volume 4 finale, the heroes finally render him unconscious and have this one chance to end him for good. But Angela and Noah collectively grab the Idiot Ball and order Matt Parkman to erase his memories and force him to assume Nathan Patrelli's life (whom he had Killed Off for Real). This genius idea only holds for 4 episodes before Sylar reverts, and meanwhile a Sylar Durden hallucination has been tormenting Parkman.
    • In Volume 5, not one but two major characters try to take him down with heroic sacrifices. Neither work. Nathan's, which involved jumping off a building, was undone before he even hit the ground.
    • Making this even more ridiculous is how he was originally intended to die at the end of the first Volume, involving him being impaled through the chest.
  • Murdoc the Assassin in MacGyver. He keeps "dying" in over the top ways (died in a collapsing building, took a fatal dive off a mountain after cutting his own rope, plunged into a fiery pool after being electrocuted, been careless with dynamite, drowned in a flooded mine shaft, drove a Jeep off of a cliff) and even if he's pronounced dead each time, they never find his body though he couldn't possibly have survived that! It's never adequately explained how he just keeps surviving certain death. After a while, MacGyver simply assumes that if there isn't a body, Mudoc will turn up to try to kill him again eventually, an expectation that causes him increasing tension in time, and understandably so.
  • Buffy had lots of opportunities to kill Spike and Dru, but she kept letting them get away.
    • Darla is actually killed about four times over the course of Buffy and Angel (if one counts siring as "death"), but only the last one takes.
    • Faith gets stabbed in the gut and thrown from a building, but only winds up in a coma. Of course, she's not the first Slayer to cheat death, so...
  • Apophis is like this in the early seasons of Stargate SG-1. When they finally manage to make his death stick, Anubis takes on the mantle.
    O'Neill: Son of a bitch! Someone's gotta teach that guy how to die.
  • Ben Linus from Lost is too adored by the fan base to get rid of. He lies, manipulates and murders to his hearts content. He's tried to kill Locke so many times we lost count, and he succeeded in season 5. Sayid has been the only one that actually tried to kill him. This is more of a What the Hell, Hero?-moment seeing as Ben is just a kid at the time, and it is heavily implied this attempted murder is what makes Ben what he is today. The writers make up for all this though by having him beat up a lot.
    • By the end of the show he killed (directly or indirectly) four of the main characters, namely Charlie Pace (by giving Mikhail the order to do it), Michael Dawson (by killing Keamy and triggering the explosives), Charlotte Lewis (by initiating time-travel which fried her brain) and John Locke (straight) and several supporting allies, including Jacob himself, and the audience still adores him!
  • Lex Luthor in Smallville. He's been shot, stabbed, and mindwiped. He's had the Fortress of Solitude collapse on his head reducing him to an Evil Cripple, and been blown up in a truck explosion shortly afterwards. The series concludes with his resurrection from the dead, which was of course, a Foregone Conclusion.
    • It's been suggested but not outright confirmed that it's Lex's Green Rocks-given ability.
  • "Dead Larry" Sizemore of Burn Notice, partly because of his badass spy skills and his relationship to The Hero, partly because he's just too cool to kill off. In the season 5 summer finale, it looked like death had finally caught up with him... and then a newspaper article said that two people had been found dead. There were three people in that building. Of course, he was literally inches away from the bomb that supposedly killed him, so there might not have been enough left to recognize.
  • Weyoun in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine got a version of this. In his very first appearance, he was killed at the end of the episode. The character proved popular, however, and eventually the show brought him back... or, rather, a clone of him (the Vorta, apparently, have good cloning technology). We eventually meet five different clones of Weyoun throughout the show's run.
  • Multiple episodes of Merlin end with Morgana unconcious or incapcitated yet Merlin and the other good guys never take the oppurtunity to finish her off, despite the tremendous damage she has wreaked.
  • Damon from The Vampire Diaries. Sooo Damon. Heck, just rename it Damon Immunity.
    • Katherine fits this better.
    • Forget Damon and Katherine. Klaus fits it even better, considering that he even got his own spin off show, The Originals.
  • James Horton in Highlander seemed to die twice, but came back. (the first time, Joe got him to a hospital, as his brother-in-law, he didn't want to stand and watch him die. But he then came back after appearing to die a second time. Macleod finally did off him the third time)
  • On Alias, both Julian Sark (whose constant escapes eventually become a Running Gag) and Arvin Sloane (who, at one point, manages to survive his own execution) enjoyed this immunity.
  • In The Walking Dead the Governor seems to have this, to the intense displeasure of at least a non-neglibile portion of the fandom. His immunity is eventually revoked in the Season 4 mid-season finale, where he is Killed Off for Real during another attack on Rick's group at the prison.
  • Zig-zagged with Moriarty in Sherlock. He manages to survive the stand-off in the Season 1 finale, but is apparently killed in the Season 2 finale; most expected this death to stick, seeing as he was Killed Off for Real in the Sherlock Holmes story it was based on. However, he ends up returning in the Season 3 finale, something which surprised everyone in-universe. However, this may have been subverted by "The Abominable Bride," wherein Sherlock implies that Moriarty is actually dead and someone else is using his image.
  • Jerome Valeska on Gotham, who might well become the series' incarnation of the Joker, is stabbed through the throat and dies. He gets better a season later, which is even more of a hint that he might someday become the Joker.

  • Playing this trope for laughs with its feline nuisance is the entire point to the song "The Cat Came Back". Subverted in versions where the cat does die eventually; however, it expires for reasons unrelated to its owner's over-the-top efforts to dispose of it, and its ''ghost'' still comes back.
  • Played for laughs in "Scary Song," by the Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13: "The boogeyman only wants to take your life / Can't kill him off, he'll just come right back in Part 2."

  • In Norse folklore, Thor repeatedly battles the Midgard Serpent, yet prior to Ragnarök it always escapes.
  • Similarly, in Egyptian Mythology, Set is spared the full wrath of Horus when his mother Isis takes pity on him, and he is allowed to flee. Thus in the Eyptian mythos, evil could be defeated temporarily, but never permanently.
  • The Mark of Cain in The Bible is often interpreted as having given him this. In the text itself, however, God never states that Cain won't get killed, just that if he does, whoever responsible is going to get a Fate Worse Than Death.

     Pro Wrestling 
  • The Undertaker is the embodiment of this Trope in the world of Wrestling. During his career, he has been locked inside several flaming caskets, been buried alive, had his career 'ended' following high profile matches and actually 'died and ascended to Heaven'. Despite this, he always returns, once Mark Callaway's nagging injuries have recovered or his holiday time is up.
  • Edge, anyone? For Christ's sake, the man got sent to Hell! And yet he managed to benefit from both this trope and Karma Houdini!
  • Vince McMahon is the ultimate example of this trope. Justified in that he's the owner of WWE in both Real Life and Kayfabe, making him the only person who can revoke his own immunity, while everyone else can potentially be released (though it's HIGHLY unlikely in the case of certain people). Considering that he plans on running the company until the day he dies and that his character survived events such as limo explosions (with the real life intentions being merely temporary breaks from television before invoking this trope again), this one ain't being revoked.
  • Subverted with Kaiju Big Battel, when they really did kill off their big bad and series mascot, Dr. Cube. He was later brought back with time travel by the Flood of Chikara, only to reveal the Cube they got was an imposter wearing his helmet.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The tarrasque embodies this trope as the memetic "nigh-invincible monster" of the game. It takes a Wish spell on top of massive damage and disintegration to make them stay dead. With wish gone in fourth edition, the description of the tarrasque outright states it to be impossible to kill permanently without launching it into outer space.
      • There's a campaign setting dedicated to the fact that it never dies, and a civilization that defeated it turns it into a never-ending food source (who cares that its blood mutates people that are exposed to it?)
    • Strahd von Zarovich has his own personal Revolving Door Afterlife. He's played the starring role in two 1st Edition modules, a pick-a-path book, an entire 2nd Edition campaign setting, and a 3rd edition hardback adventure; in most he winds up destroyed at the end, yet it never seems to take. Ads for the hardback actually urged 3E gamers: "This time, make sure he's DEAD dead!", yet the Count's back again in 4E, for a boardgame and appearance in Open Grave.
  • The Quori in Eberron are designed to be this: They are spirits possessing mortal vessels and the death of the host does not kill the inhabiting Quori. Their actual bodies live in a plane of existence (Dal Quor) that cannot be reached by normal planar travel, and only the death of it's actual body will kill a Quori, making them the ideal enemy to throw at the party repeatedly. Oh, and to make things tougher, time in Dal Quor goes by a lot faster than on the material plane, meaning Quoris gets a lot more planning time then the party has access to.
  • Numerous characters in Warhammer 40,000 can and have been killed, but due to the general nature of the Warp this is rarely permanent.
    • Eldar Phoenix Lords live on within their armor, their spirit inhabiting the next person who wears it until they are killed.
    • Lucius the Eternal (and most probably other Champions of the Chaos Gods) is effectively immortal, as anyone who kills him becomes him, becoming yet another person trapped within his armor.
    • The Daemon Princes and Greater Daemons (also present in Warhammer), which can never be killed, only banished to the Warp where they can be summoned again.
    • The Tyranid Swarmlord could also count, in a sense. While it can die, its consciousness will be reabsorbed into the Hive Mind and stored until the Swarmlord is needed again.
    • Any Tyranid Tyrant also counts, although unlike the Swarmlord, they're tied to their particular hive fleets, and Hive Fleets can be destroyed.
    • It's implied that Kharn the Betrayer is one, as he was actually killed during the Siege of Terra by imperial forces, but Khorne deemed him too worthy a champion to slip into the realm of the dead and granted him a Perpetual Body. However this was never verified, mainly because no one else has been able to kill him since.
  • Vlad von Carstein from Warhammer had a magic ring that would allow him to resurrect every time he was killed, so no matter how many times the Empire thought they put him down, he and his undead hordes would return. Unfortunately for Vlad, his son Mannfred betrayed this secret to the Empire, who sent a master thief to steal the ring before Vlad was destroyed for real during the Siege of Altdorf.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the nation/world/culture/force of Phyrexia has Joker Immunity. It affected the storyline of most of the game's sets and was the unambiguous villain of a dozen of them, but was finally defeated, apparently for good... but one single drop of oil on Mirrodin was enough to ultimately turn that world into New Phyrexia. Worse yet, any plane Karn has been on is potentially infected.
  • the Count in Rippers. He is given a handwaved escape from the climax of the book, temporarily fooling the heroes into thinking he was slain while really misting himself as he was staked. Apparently having another vampire lord rise to villainy wouldn't have proven sufficient motivation for the Harkers to form a group of hunters in the setting. Nope, just an excuse not to have to make up another villain.
  • The Servitors of the Apocalypse in Deadlands. The designers, understandably, didn't want P Cs making things difficult by slaying them all, so they made up the most difficult quests possible, e.g. Stone can only be re-killed by the bullets that killed him (which are in him), Reverend Grimme can only be killed by his original magic stick (which he threw into the sea and is not the one he carries), etc.

    Video Games 
  • Axel from Kingdom Hearts. He seemed to die towards the end of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, only to come back in Kingdom Hearts II (though his screentime reduced significantly), seemingly die in the prologue, then come back again and actually die towards the end of the game when Sora travels to the World That Never Was. He was scheduled to actually die in the prologue; it was his popularity with the fans that bought him some extra time. He returns in 3D, now going by his old human name of Lea.
    • The main villain, Xehanort/Ansem seems to be falling into this one as well. Sora killed his Heartless in the first game, but Chain of Memories makes it clear that he's still bumping around inside Riku's mind. He returns in two forms in Kingdom Hearts II with his Nobody, Xemnas and Riku taking his form, having somewhat lost his battle with his Darkness. Both are defeated by the game: Xemnas is dead for good, and Riku is back to normal. However, according to Word of God, this just means his Nobody and heart will merge to form a whole person again (like Axel / Lea), and Xehanort will eventually be back for another round. The prequel game reveals that he's been doing this for a while now, having stolen Terra's body after being defeated for the first time.
    • Maleficent is killed in her dragon form in the first game, but when her pet Diablo brings her cloak to the three fairies their sheer terror of her is apparently enough to resurrect her. She then does the same for Oogie Boogie. The really confusing case is Ursula showing up again.
  • Carmen Sandiego, hands down. She can't be caught, at least not for long. (It was possible for her to be captured in the kid's game show if the contestant won, but she'd have freed herself by the time the next one started.) It was the same in every medium she appeared in, she was just too slippery to hold.
  • Bowser from the Super Mario Bros. series seems to enjoy complete immunity to death. Otherwise it's very hard to explain how he comes back from being melted to a skeleton in lava, getting crushed beneath a giant wedding cake, or falling into a star or just about every single Mario story without actually ever being killed off for real.
    • Oddly, it's implied through dialogue that Bowser did die prior to Luigi's Mansion, at Mario's hands no less.
    • The "thrown into a star" example (Super Mario Galaxy) is particularly weird. Bowser apparently "dies," but then again, the entire universe is sucked into a black hole, resulting in a Big Crunch and a new Big Bang, recreating everything... So he DOES die, he's just regenerated with everything else.
      • They actually have good reason for wanting him around; in Super Paper Mario, it is revealed he is one of four heroes (with Mario, Peach, and Luigi as the other three) who will stop Count Bleck and the prophecy of doom that threatens to destroy all worlds. Near the end, when Bowser is seemingly crushed, Peach says she isn't worried about him because he isn't easy to get rid of, and has survived worse. Sure enough, Bowser survives due to his tendency to fall through the floor.
    • Seriously played with in New Super Mario Bros. 1 where he's killed 3 times over the course of the game but actually has to be brought back to life.
    • Also played with in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story where you have to save Bowser from otherwise-certain death by activating his body's special desperation Hulk Out.
    • Lampshaded in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. During the Super Mario Bros.-style side-scrolling stages where you play as him, Bowser has infinite lives.
  • In the same vein as Bowser, rival team Star Wolf in the Star Fox series are more resilient than any major villain. Even the ex-members manage to come back in Star Fox Command, and in the default ending, Star Wolf manage to attack the enemy base in an acidic ocean and come back in one piece.
    • Similarly, Star Wolf trio lured the Aparoid underlings away from Star Fox so that the player could finally finish off the Aparoid Queen. At the end, they thought Star Wolf was done for, but then they saw Peppy alive with some minor bruises, making Fox smile and saying that Wolf and the others are alive and well.
    • In subversion to this, in Mission 7: Corneria in Star Fox Assault, during the part where Fox rides Wolf's Wolfen. If Fox fails to protect the Wolfen, Wolf actually dies as his ship explodes, while Fox falls to his death while yelling.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ganondorf/Ganon continues to appear in the series no matter how many times he gets killed. It's been an actual plot point since Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, where the goal is to prevent him from being resurrected by his minions. At least in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which shows Ganondorf's origins, he isn't killed, but sealed in another dimension, explaining his presence in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which takes place long after he breaks out of the seal.
    • So far, the Wind Waker timeline is the only one where Ganondorf has stayed dead.
    • Just to clarify, Ganondorf is the only character in the Zelda series with this kind of immunity. Link and Zelda get old and die after every couple of games, and the next one stars a new version of them in the distant past or future. Ganondorf is pretty much the same person in every game, meaning that he seems to have all the time in the world to achieve his final victory.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword seemingly gives an explanation for Ganondorf/Ganon's inability to fully die; he's part of a curse laid on Link/Zelda and all of their descendants by Big Bad Demise, though the Triforce of Power also seems to play a part in it as well.
  • Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V. He survived getting tossed into the void, and EXPLODING himself on an enemy. And he has appeared in half the games in the series (with a few retcons). In ALL of his appearances save for 8, he gets his ass handed to him by the main party and apparently recovers enough for the next game where the cycle restarts again. Now this is all despite the fact that most of the time he is portrayed has utterly incompetent, which is the reason he got his ass hurled into the void in the first place.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth has died a total of three times so far and keeps coming back for more. The novellas Lifestream Black and Lifestream White deal with the specifics in further detail - basic idea is that as long as Jenova cells exist in some way on the Planet, Sephiroth can use their shapeshifting powers to craft a new body for himself. Besides that, as long as he can maintain his sense of self to avoid dissolution, The Lifestream can never claim him and he'll float around the planet for eternity trapped between life and death. Sephiroth's penchant for avoiding death has carried over to the spin-offs: in Kingdom Hearts II and Dissidia: Final Fantasy he's defeated but isn't killed, because only Cloud is capable of killing him.
  • M. Bison in Street Fighter may be getting this despite his most chronologically recent death note  having his soul sent to hell. Additionally, Akuma's Dynamic Entry with his Shun Goku Satsu on Bison was retconned, according to Word of God. In The Ties That Bind, a canon animated feature that came with IV, Bison is shown killing himself to prevent capture at the hands of the heroes, his soul hovering around post-mortem until a suitable replacement body was made (much like in Alpha 3). His fate after IV is still undetermined, although Urien's cryptic remarks with Chun-Li in 3rd Strike at least suggest that Shadaloo was dismantled in the interim. With Bison set to return in Street Fighter V, it remains to be seen if death will finally stick this time. By all accounts, it does.
  • Revolver Ocelot, the only surviving boss from from Metal Gear Solid, went on to plague Snake in every subsequent game. In his second appearance, he evades doom by wearing a kinetic shield, making him literally immune to bullets. The prequel focused on his early career in Spetnaz, so you can assume he's safe in this outing; but even then, Hideo Kojima can't leave well enough alone, lobbing bullets, bees, rockets, explosions, planes, and who knows what else at poor Ocelot. He survives everything, even a few tight scrapes with Big Boss himself, who consciously spares Ocelot's life (as he feels a certain kinship with a fellow "Son of The Boss"). Ocelot finally dies in Metal Gear Solid 4.
  • Doctor Robotnik/Eggman hasn't even been in prison for his crimes (except for the one time he broke in deliberately...)
    • Not to mention all the inescapable explosions he's been caught in where he survives with nothing but a coat of ash on him. He has apparently survived the repeated crashes or explosions of his enormous bases with little more than Amusing Injuries in nearly all interpretations of the franchise (his Death Egg burst into flames and crash landed on Angel Island in the climax of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 only for Sonic 3 to reveal he nearly immediately started work on his next scheme just following that).
    • Seemingly subverted in three of Shadow the Hedgehog's endings, where it's implied that Shadow broke his neck after defeating him. Double Subverted when these endings were subject to Cutting Off the Branches.
    • Inverted slightly for the Archie comics depiction. In the Endgame arc Julian Robotnik is indeed killed by his vengeful minion and nephew Snively, twenty or so issues played with the concept of other villains and problems following his defeat, only for a second Robotnik from an alternate timeline to enter and take over from his position (this Robotnik would later take the modern "Eggman" form seen in later games and continues being the Big Bad to this day).
  • Dr. Albert W. Wily from Mega Man (Classic). When Mega Man finally lands his ass in prison, he easily breaks out of it (albeit six months later).
    • In Mega Man 7, Mega is literally a trigger-pull away from killing Wily once and for all, but when Wily brings up the first law of robotics (A Robot must never harm a human) he hesitates just long enough for Bass to save the day (or Wily, whatever). In 8, after Mega's apparent sanity break, Wily never actually gets cornered, so Mega doesn't get to try killing him again (Duo takes care of things, keeping Mega from a final blow). 9 apparently has Mega back to his non-killing attitude for no readily apparent reason, but then, considering he lost his charge shots and his slide ability, it's no wonder he's lost a few other things.
    • Sigma keeps getting killed in the Mega Man X series (sometimes dying twice in a single game!), but he just will not die due to his form as a sentient computer virus, and since he's in the future with robots galore, there's no shortage of things to body surf into. However, he finally gets it revoked in Mega Man X8, where after getting blown up on the Moon of all places, he finds that there's nothing left to jump into on its barren surface, and dissipates harmlessly and somewhat anticlimactically.
    • Doctor Weil/Vile from the Mega Man Zero series. Notably, his Immunity is explicitly part of his ability set, eternal life and Nigh-Invulnerability (of the regeneration/regrowth variant) being punishment for his earlier crimes. Nice Job Breaking It, Humanity. Hell, even when it seemed like the Colony Drop at the end of Zero 4 had finally killed him, his remnants popped up again as the driving threat in the Mega Man ZX series.
  • Ridley in the Metroid series cruelly and sneakily subverts this, with gamers noticing around 2012 that these scenarios were cases of Never Found the Body. He has appeared in all games in the series apart from Metroid II: Return of Samus, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime: Hunters. Often serves as the (literal) Dragon to a specific game's Big Bad, but he is considered to be Samus' Arch-Enemy more than any of the other Big Bads (including Mother Brain), as he is personally responsible for the attack on Samus' homeworld that resulted in the death of her parents. Appearances listed in order of the universe's internal chronology:
    • He is seemingly killed for real in Metroid/Zero Mission, and accompanied by a robot double in Zero Mission, but Other M possibly hand waves this by showing he's really good at playing dead, even if he needed a robo boost to survive.
    • He is then revived as Meta Ridley in Metroid Prime, and guards the entrance to the Impact Crater. Torizo Statues knock him off a cliff, and Torizos aren't known to be that effective in the first place, and the player never actually sees him die.
    • Meta Ridley is apparently "killed" again at the start of Corruption, but returns as the guardian of the Pirate Homeworld Leviathan as Omega Ridley. Players noticed his shadow flying away for a sneaky split second.
    • He is killed yet again (as his original form, somehow; possibly hand waved by his armor becoming pure Phazite, which like all Phazon was destroyed) in Super Metroid. This is later confirmed in a buzz killing way to be his Killed Off for Real moment as his returns had become a running gag. However...
    • ... a cloned Ridley appears in Other M, gets wounded by Samus, and consumed by the Metroid Queen. Dies a lot quicker than the slippery bastard the original was.
    • The clone's drained, frozen husk turns up in Fusion, is consumed by an X, and is later fought as Ridley X. He never really comes back, it's just an X mimicking him, and like the suspiciously Super Metroid!Tourian-like area he appears in, is likely for Fanservice.
  • Eliphas the Inheritor of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. He's suppose to be dead in Dark Crusade, but due to his popularity he was somehow resurrected for Dawn of War II Chaos Rising. He gets killed there to then he's resurrected again. Likewise for the wonderfully hilarious Gorgutz, who canonically didn't win any of the campaigns he appeared in, but keeps getting away; he's not shown up in Dawn of War II yet, unfortunately, but there's no evidence he's dead either.
  • SNK's Geese Howard is an odd example; in the continuity of The King of Fighters, he's alive and well, but in his home continuity of Fatal Fury and KOF's own Alternate Continuity, the Maximum Impact series, he's dead. And even then, he's appeared in games where he's canonically dead in the form of "Nightmare Geese," a much more powerful "spirit" version of his normal self.
  • Monkey Island's Ghost Pirate LeChuck. As the Voodoo Lady notes, true evil can never be destroyed completely, as LeChuck seems to find a way to come back again in every new game. The inverse of this occurs in The Curse of Monkey Island, where Guybrush begs LeChuck not to kill him, because if Guybrush dies, they can't make any more Monkey Island sequels, and LeChuck would be out of a job, and to prove his point, he ask LeChuck if he's ever heard of Bobbin Threadbare.
    • Notably, LeChuck does get genuinely killed at the end of each game (except 3, where he was just sealed away), and resurrected by different means in the next. Kind of like Chucky. Hmmm.
  • Arguably Dr Neo Cortex from the Crash Bandicoot series who has survived numerous supposedly inescapable demises, then again due to the slapstick nature, the large majority of the series' Rogues Gallery is the same par maybe the Evil Twins being eaten by Evil Crash in Crash Twinsanity). It helps that Cortex and a lot of other villains take the role of Iron Butt Monkey.
  • Destroyman is sliced in half by Travis Touchdown in the first No More Heroes. This doesn't stop him from returning in the sequel (as two separate people with cybernetics replacing the missing halves). Also, Dr. Shake, Letz Shake's machine, survives being chopped in half and is revealed to be fully sentient in the second game. Suda confirmed that the machine is sentient and it's not Letz Shake, who died in the first game.
  • Zig-zagged with Dracula in the Castlevania series. He spent most of the series being defeated and resurrected over and over again, before finally being defeated off-screen in 1999... and then being reincarnated as Soma Cruz in Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow.
    • Not only this, it is hinted that Dracula gets stronger each time he returns. Still, given how hopeless the Belmont family's job seems, only one of them has tried to refuse the legacy bestowed on them and try not to fight him - he learned the hard way that he couldn't.
  • Mara Aramov from the Syphon Filter series gets headshot twice, but survives until Dark Mirror.
  • Every character EVER in Mortal Kombat. For a game that's all about killing your defeated opponents, none of the heroes ever manage to permanently put down the villains, unless they're being replaced by someone bigger and badder the next game.
    • And don't forget the reboot. Liu Kang punches through Shao Khan at the end of the Mortal Kombat II story. We see the wound from the chest through the back and everything. Shao Khan collapses, his lieutenants all surrender before Liu Kang, Outworld is free! No wait, the next scene shows Shao Khan limping back to his throne, surrounded by his loyal minions as they immediately announce their next plan to take over Earthrealm. Even when the Elder Gods intervene at the end of the game to help Raiden finally eradicate Shao Kahn does Mortal Kombat X imply he's still alive and kicking. In a sense—one Mirror Match exchange for Ermac suggests the emperor's soul is now part of the myriad collection of fallen warriors comprising his being.
  • King K. Rool in Donkey Kong Country. Many, many games (three SNES platformers, the Nintendo 64 game, most spin-offs prior to Donkey Kong Country Returns) and despite going through things that would kill any normal individual (blown up, punched through windows, attacked by sharks, caught in a volcano, electrocuted and attacked by the Kongs multiple times), he keeps coming back for more. Yes, even after his actions destroyed his home country.
  • Averted in Deus Ex, where nearly every boss can be killed before the big confrontation. Sometimes they can be killed while they are still aligned as friendly and through surreptitious and underhanded ways.
  • Executioners: The Executioners defeat the Final Boss Cannibal Ed Bujone. Ed blows up the factory with dynamite strapped to in a Taking You with Me manuever, but the Es escape. Later, the Es are at a restaurant, ordering a fine meal to celebrate their victory. The waiter suddenly says the Catch Phrase, "So much meat, so little time!" The Es can only look up in horror as their waiter turns out to be Ed, alive, well(?), and letting out an Evil Laugh. Word of God outright stated that Ed is his favourite character, which would explain how he survived and returned so quickly.
  • Kane: Survived from the 1950s to the 1990s without aging, survived an Ion Cannon strike, a metal pole to the chest, and all the while manipulated the Scrin into invading Earth.
  • Albert Wesker from Resident Evil. He gets impaled by a Tyrant in the end of the first game, but it's just used to activate the virus that he injected himself early on that gave him his powers. In 5, he manages to survive from Jill's Heroic Sacrifice. That is until he dies for real in the end.
    • Come to think of it, the only villains who manages to escape being killed are HUNK and Nicolai.
  • Speaking of Wesker, his House of the Dead counterpart, Caleb Goldman is one, for he has appeared in 4. It becomes subverted when it turns out that his appearances are just flashbacks and recorded messages.
    • The Magician proved so popular that he returned as a second-to-finall boss in 2 and special boss in 4.
  • With green hair and laughing maniacally while mocking people, Hazama IS the Joker of the BlazBlue series. Made even more so by the fact that he is already dead but kept alive by people's hatred of him. Chronophantasma seems to try to finally defy this, by having him get hit by Hakumen's Time Killer, which eliminates every time he had until the heat death of the universe, meaning that he WILL die, and his boss Izanami is probably on the boat of "just leaving him to suffer and die." But... it's a fighting game, not including Hazama or Terumi in the roster is going to piss off those who like playing as them... so they're probably gonna be back either way.
    • The fourth installment, Central Fiction, is bringing back everyone's favorite ghost in both his Hazama and Terumi forms, and it gave him another form: Susanoo, by hijacking Hakumen's armor unit. In the end, however, Ragna managed to find a way to yank his soul of out that unit, and then evaporate said soul from existence. Seeing that this would be the end of the current saga about Ragna and the Master Units, looks like Terumi's warranty is ripped to pieces to the point it's impossible to put it back together again. Although Hazama (now separate from Terumi) had a better luck by dropping himself into the Cauldron, but if he ever reappears, he'd be on his own rather than antagonizing Ragna again.
  • Wild Dog from the Time Crisis series. Despite being blown up in every game you fight him, he always comes back for more. Even lampshaded by Alan and Wesley in the third game.
    Wesley: "Wild Dog?!"
    Alan: "Don't you ever die?!"
  • Rocket Knight Adventures: Although the Big Bad always dies at the end of each game, Axel Gear does not.

  • Both used and averted in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, which is partially inspired by Batman. Certain villains won't seem to die at the end of the story arc despite the Doc not considering prison an option for his foes, including Ronald McDonald, Dracula, and King Radical. However, in the "DARE" arc, which was more inspired by 80's action movies, the villain dies NOT!, and Doc shows no mercy toward pirates.
  • Oasis from Sluggy Freelance fits this trope perfectly, regularly returning from the dead. The comic even Lampshaded the trope after another of her deaths. "Yes, a dynamic character with a proven ability to return from certain death falls from a great height leaving no sign of a corpse? Yeah, We'll never see her again."
  • The cast of Adventurers! are aware of this trope. When Khrima's fortress is destroyed in an accident fairly early in the strip, Ardam asks Drecker if he thinks they've seen the last of him. Then they both burst out in laughter.
  • Jack Noir/Spades Slick of Homestuck. We have seen four different incarnations of the same Archagent, and the only time one of them was seen dead was in an averted timeline. Andrew Hussie even goes so far as to somehow rescue Spades Slick from the destroyed A2 universe and nurse him back to health in an as-of-yet unspecified location.
    • Played literally with the revelation that Gamzee cannot die, not because he's God Tier, but because he's a clown.
  • Inverted in Crushed The Doomed Kitty Adventures. As MMORPG characters, the protagonists can't be permanently killed; they just respawn at the nearest temple. Villains and monsters, however, have but one life to live. The first Big Bad's plan is permanently undoing this, allowing the villains' greater numbers to win the day.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. Insano from The Spoony Experiment arguably becoming a Breakout Villain for Channel Awesome as whole, has made a number appearances in other reviewers' shows as well as his series of origin, and his popularity and Laughably Evil nature means it's unlikely he'll ever be killed off. Even Noah Antwiler departure from Channel Awesome hasn't removed him.
  • From Atop the Fourth Wall, the series original Knight of Cerebus Mechakara, whose introductory arc ended with him getting turned to scrap, only for him to rebuilt by Lord Vyce and sent after Linkara and destroyed a second time, with the episode's commentary by Lewis Luvhaug stating he had plans to use him again in the future, and sure enough, Mechakara returned in To Boldy Flee with no explanation for his recovering, Word of God being he regenerated with the magic coin. In short, it's unlikely he's finished.
    • Likewise Lord Vyce; Linkara originally abandoned him in a parallel dimension, only for Vyce to turn himself into living data and infect Likara's Robot Buddy Pollo. After getting Thrown Out the Airlock, he spends several real-world months uploading himself into Comicron-1note , making it look like Linkara's benevolent A.I. Nimue was going [[Film/2001ASpaceOdyssey HAL-9000]] on him. Nimue gets restored and apparently deletes Vyce in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, but the end of the episode reveals that Vyce downloaded himself into the body of one of his Mooks and escaped. At this point the immunity gets lampshaded by an angry Linkara, who rants that he's spent the last five years dealing with this villain and he's sick of it.
  • Jack Slash from Worm. It's actually a secondary power that even he doesn't know he has. He's able to subconsciously communicate with other Para-humans passengers which allows hims to both manipulate their worst urges in order to turn them into monsters like him and alerts him to attacks by other para-humans. Between this, and Siberian and Bonesaw making him Nigh Invulnerable he is able to survive for 2 decades as an Ax-Crazy mass murderer carving his way across North America. Even at the end of the story he's not technically dead.
  • Ask That Guy with the Glasses. Ask That Guy has had a fatal heart attack, passed out from drinking his own blood, shot himself in the mouth, and been erased from existence by Doug Walker. He's always back by the next scene. Until the finale, that is.
  • SCP-682 of the SCP Foundation, as the entire point of 682 is that any attempt to kill it (or even send it to another universe) will fail.

    Western Animation 
  • In action shows geared towards kids, the hero rarely kills, for obvious reasons, allowing villains like Dr. Drakken from Kim Possible or Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget to be let off the hook every time.
    • Well, that, and both of the listed villains (among others, of course) are masters of Villain Exit Stage Left and the Cardboard Prison, assuming they even get directly involved to start with. In fact, the closest Gadget ever came to apprehending Dr. Claw was likely the show's humorous opening sequence (and even then, it was a booby-trap left by the villain).
    • And in the case of villians like Dr. Drakken, or Dr. Doofensmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, they can be a bit bumbling and comical, if not pathetically incompetent, and have someone else do the dirty work for them. Killing them would be unreasonable because they are Affably Evil.
    • In another case with Mumm-Ra in Thunder Cats, he's shown that the Ancient Spirits of Evil's power can allow him to survive As Long as There Is Evil.
  • Interestingly Disney seem to have granted this to Shere Khan of The Jungle Book (despite being killed by Mowgli in the original novel). The Disney animated adaption and its sequel are among the very few films in Disney Animated Canon to omit a Disney Villain Death, while he is about the only villain not to be killed off in the live action adaption. He is also a recurring Anti-Villain in TaleSpin and Jungle Cubs.
  • Instead of being sent to jail, most Batman villains are sent to an easily escapable insane asylum. One episode of Batman: The Animated Series featured a guard at the asylum fired for his (relatively minor, all things considered) abuses of the prisoners. He then quickly became an incarceration-themed Knight Templar supervillain called Lock-Up.
    • Then there was Judgement Day, where a new vigilante called the Judge was giving more severe punishment to criminals, and actually trying to kill them. Batman pressures a politician who was helping the Judge, saying that the Judge would kill someone eventually. The politician fires back, saying that the people of Gotham just would not care if Two-Face, or Killer Croc or any super-villain gets killed off as opposed to being sent to a Card Board Prison they'll just escape from. He gives Batman due credit, but he reiterates that the people want something permanent.
    • Clay Face has had at least 2 on screen deaths only to get back up later.
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Harley Quinn was assumed to have perished in her final battle with Batgirl; even the now elderly Barbara Gordon doubted she could have survived. Turns out, she did (maybe hanging out with the Joker taught her a few things) but the experience did cause her to retire from crime permanently.
  • In Batman Beyond, the villain Mad Stan points out how he'll just break out of prison and keep coming back over and over after Batman foils his latest terrorist bombing, prompting Batman to beat him to death. It was really Barbara Gordon getting a hallucination from the villain Spellbinder; Mad Stan was alive and returns in another episode.
    • That said, Batman Beyond has a startling tendency to avert Joker Immunity a number of times, mostly because Terry is unable or unwilling to save villains from themselves, most notably the returning members of Bruce's Rogues Gallery: Mr. Freeze, Bane, Ra's al Guhl, and ironically the Joker himself in The Movie. It's subverted with the new generation of the Royal Flush Gang, who go through more Villain Decay with each appearance until they completely fall apart.
    • The most notable exception to that rule is Inque; Terry actually said "She's been dead before" at one point ("Inqueling").
  • Averted with Professor Milo in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, who is eaten by his abused lab rats after being turned into cheese by the Spectre. Played straight with most the recurring villains.
  • Vilgax from the Ben 10 franchise. He's been strapped to a missile, thrown into the void of space, trapped in another dimension, and had a spaceship explode in his face three times — but the squid-faced bastard just keeps coming back. Even in another alternate timeline, when a grown-up Ben tore Vilgax to pieces and froze what was left, Vilgax was quickly revived and no less dangerous. Naturally, this is frequently subject to Lampshade Hanging.
  • Ernie the Giant Chicken on Family Guy always returns for another round of his eternal blood feud with Peter Griffin, despite having suffered a twenty-story fall (although Peter himself survived that), been eviscerated by an airplane propeller, suffered massive cranial trauma, and being set on fire WHILE being impaled up the anus by a giant spike.
  • Psycho from Max Steel. The man has been blown up, infected with a deadly fungus while trapped in a burning building, thrown into space, and he always comes back. To his credit, Max Steel is Genre Savvy enough to not question it and just deal with him whenever he shows up.
  • Albert W. Wily's immunity is even more noticeable in the Mega Man Ruby-Spears cartoon than in the games; his Skull Castle is incredibly conspicuous and immovable, yet the military never once tries to attack it. To add insult to injury, he and his robots slip out of Mega Man's grasp every single episode, no matter how close he was to finally apprehending him. It's a wonder Mega hasn't snapped yet.
  • Metalocalypse's Doctor Rockso the rock n' roll clown. He does cocaine. He is also the only known friend of Toki who did not die before the episode was over.
  • Dr. Doofenshmirtz constantly blows up with his inventions but is never seriously hurt. Some of the time, Perry the Platypus will save him when he is falling, but most of the time, he has terrible things happen to him and just lives. Of course, killing or even injuring Doofenshmirtz in a show like Phineas and Ferb would hardly be a good idea.
  • ReBoot's Megabyte has this in spades. He's in a city that doesn't have the capacity to delete him, protected by a Guardian who doesn't want to (Except for that one time.), and has a much more powerful sister who, despite having ample capability and opportunity to do so, doesn't. Even when they finally manage to get rid of him, he comes back, with whole new powers, and his sister conveniently taken out of the picture not long before.
  • The Simpsons' Sideshow Bob, but that's mainly a case of Cardboard Prison.
    • Well, that, and, as he explained to Edna Krabappel on a date once, he's never actually successfully killed anybody (Mrs. Krabappel looks more than a little disappointed to hear this).
    • This is mutual, as when Sideshow Bob had the chance to finally kill Bart, he can't do it because he's grown accustomed to his face, owing his very existence to hating him.
    • Mr. Burns is an apt representation of the trope with his constant polluting, corporate greed, and mere belligenrance. Part of the reason that he is still around is due to making a deal with the devil.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Foregone Conclusion means that any character that's alive in existing material set after the series will survive, but it's most noticeable with Count Dooku and General Grievous, as no matter what attempts any of the protagonists make to catch or kill them, they always survive.
  • In Teen Titans, Slade plays this one straight, but with surprisingly good in-story justification. In the first two seasons, he's The Chessmaster, so the Titans never actually face him directly until the season finales. Season one gives him a Villain Exit Stage Left, but season two (seemingly) averts this trope by actually killing him. His only appearance in the third season is as a hallucination tormenting Robin, and he's specifically resurrected to serve as The Dragon by season four's new Big Bad, Trigon. As a result, this is clearly a case of the writers wanting to keep the villain around because they like him, but it's always justified in-story (which is actually somewhat surprising, seeing as the Teen Titans team used plenty of tropes without bothering to justify them with anything but Rule of Cool).
  • The Shredder/Oroku Saki/Ch'rell from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has survived so many instances where he was thought dead, only to come back, that even when he actually does seem to be Killed Off for Real in Turtles Forever, Splinter still doesn't doubt the possibility of survival.
    • Even before his permanent death, when he once suffered a Disney Villain Death, in which he was left inside an exploding building after his exo-suit was disabled, the Turtles don't doubt he survived and display no surprise when he returned. His appearance in the season 3 finale Exodus had Put on a Bus, in the form of leaving him on a remote ice asteroid light years away from any hope of rescue, likely intended to permanent, and he still returned.
  • Most of the villains from The Venture Bros. fall firmly into this category, but Henchmen 21 and 24 really stick out because of the relatively short lifespan of henchmen in the series. It's even lampshaded by them and The Monarch on numerous occasions, with the duo taunting a rookie that he will die on the mission and they won't which, sure enough, he does), and The Monarch pointing out that their best talent is their rare ability to not get killed on missions.
    • It then gets cruely deconstructed when 24 is abruptly killed accidently by an explosion. 21 undergoes Training from Hell to become Two-Ton 21, suffers mental stress over the death of his friend, and careens everywhere from henchman, special agent, superhero, and supervillain.
  • Although they've never come close to actually dying, Winx Club's Trix seem to be masters of returning from impossible situations. They get turned into children at one point, but are their regular ages in their next appearance; they get trapped in an alternate reality in the end of the second season (with the items used to open the portal connecting the Magical Dimension to the one they're trapped in destroyed), but are somehow pulled out between the second and third seasons, with the season three premiere featuring them escaping imprisonment within the FIRST FIVE MINUTES; and in the fifth season, they start out imprisoned underwater without their powers (how they ended up in this situation hasn't been explained yet), and are released and have their powers restored by a prisoner shortly after he meets them. Not to mention that they've outlived a god (Darkar), an immortal (Valtar), and the spirits of their ancient evil ancestors (the Ancient Witches) with seemingly no ill effects except the loss of whatever power boost was given to them by their previous master. It's obvious that the reason for being the only villains that haven't been Killed Off for Real and to appear in multiple seasons is their massive popularity.
  • Adventure Time: Despite Finn's claims that he'll "slay anything that's evil", not once in the entire show have Finn and Jake even tried to kill The Ice King (unless you count briefly pondering whether or not to let Ice King save himself in "Ricardio the Heart Guy"). You could make the argument that Ice King is more deranged than outright evil, but Finn doesn't know that until late Season 3.