This man/woman/creature is a One-Man Army
, they have killed countless people, their power and skill are known throughout the world... Only that happened a while in the past, and by now they're dead.
This trope is about Badass
characters who are discussed by the cast sometimes, sometimes stories are told about him, frequently flashbacks are included in visual media. However, this character has been dead since before the series began. This character is frequently a family member of one of the main protagonists or villains, a mentor who taught the good guys and/or bad guys everything they know, a legendary figure from ages past, or sometimes all 3, but whether it be from old age, battle, or other cause, this character is dead prior to the story. By definition this character can usually only be referred to by someone else or appear in flashbacks, but never actually appear, however if the story has time travel in its repertoire this character can sometimes appear physically in the story, but that is pretty rare.
If the character is dead and brought back to life at some point, that's Back from the Dead
, which invalidates this trope if said person remains alive for some time, but it's only fairly briefly it still applies. If this character is believed
by most everyone to be dead but turns out to not be, that's Not Quite Dead
. If this character dies, goes to the afterlife and kicks ass out of it, that's Like a Badass out of Hell
. If this character is defeated, but not killed and instead sealed away, that's Sealed Badass in a Can
. If they are prophecised to return someday, that's King in the Mountain
. If this character dies during the actual story, no matter how early, then it is Not This Trope
. This character is sometimes the motivation for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge
, sometimes the character is someone the main characters inspire to be, maybe being that MC's Can't Catch Up
. Unlike Famed in Story
, this character doesn't actually HAVE to be famous, just important enough to the to one or more of the main characters to be mentioned sometimes. Frequently the inverse of Living Legend
. A type of Posthumous Character
This is a death trope, unmarked spoilers ahead.
Anime and Manga
- In Inuyasha the title character's father is a demon lord said to have been one of the most powerful demons of his time, both of his sons aspire to be as strong or stronger than he is, and many plot points throughout the series occur because of machinations he set in motion prior to his death. However, he ends up dying from his injuries fighting Ryūkotsusei, a dragonlike demon.
- In the Anime version of AKIRA, the people searching for the eponymous character eventually discover he has been Dead All Along, leading to a Downer Ending.
- One Piece has the King of the Pirates Gold Roger, over twenty years dead. Only the World's Strongest Man, Whitebeard, was said to ever fight on equal terms with him. One of the big secrets surrounding Roger's capture and execution is the fact that he was never actually captured, Roger surrendered and used his death to spark the Great Pirate Era.
- Hashirama from Naruto is the man that shaped the current existing shinobi system and ended years of conflict, something that was thought to be impossible during his time. Not to mention he can squash Bijuus flat if he feels like it.
- First, second, and fourth Hokage all fit for this trope, to about equal amounts.
- Lyrical Nanoha has the last Sankt Kaiser, the Queen deemed second to none in combat who sacrificed herself to stop the Ancient Belka War, an act that led to her being worshiped as a Christ-like figure in The Multiverse. Nanoha in her Super Mode could barely keep up with an untrained clone of hers during the climax of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, and flashbacks in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid shows her curb-stomping other powerful legendary figures from her time.
- Seirei no Moribito has Jiguro, a spear-wielding Badass who trained Balsa. He dies of an illness a few years prior to the story.
- In the first few issues of Savage Dragon, the hero known as Mighty Man had been dead for a few weeks. He shows up later in the series. Or at least, one of him does.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has enough examples to take up its own page, many of which later appear alive in EU material, either as main characters or adversaries.
- A whole heap in A Song of Ice and Fire. Notably, Rhaegar Targaryen, Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower. Brandon Stark probably qualifies too. Many and more.
- The Discworld series (most notably Jingo) makes frequent mentions of Tacticus, an ancient Morporkian general who was renowned for his military expertise to the point that the word "tactic" was coined in his honor. He was unique among Morporkian generals in that he actually cared more about winning battles and keeping his men alive than "glory" measured by how many people died on either side.
- In James Clavell's Noble House, tales of Tess "Hag" Struan's long, cunning, and ruthless rule-behind-the-throne through successive tai-pans (chief executives) of Struan's Trading Company, and her dealings with hers and the company's enemies, were commonly discussed by the main characters, some perhaps embellished a bit. They were definitely in awed respect for her legacy though. Clavell's previous novel Tai Pan, set over a century before when the company was founded after the British purchase of Hong Kong Island, did depict her rise to power and influence as a younger lady and showed that there was probably a lot of truth to those later tales, though.
- J. R. R. Tolkien has dwarfs routinely cite their ancestors. In particular, Thorin Oakenshield mentions Thráin, King Under The Mountain during the pilgrimage to Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. Thráin is said to have routed the dragons in the area, and amassed a huge treasure horde in his mountain's caverns.
- Warhammer is full of undead, but Lord Kroak, Slaan Mage-Priest of the Lizardmen, is a straight example: one of the oldest being on the planet, he died several thousands of years ago defending his doomed city, using his last seconds to cast a spell so powerful it leveled the city and killed every demons miles around, and has remained dead since then, even the Warhammer setting has a tendency to have people come back to life in various states. His corpse remains extremely magic and is taken into battle by the Lizardmen because the sheer magic power emanating from his remains is a huge death-sphere centered on him, which spares only lizardmen.
- 40K has it's own examples (Generally in the form of Space Marine Dreadnoughts, Near-dead Marines in a life-support coffin in a giant robot). A notable example is Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who fought alongside the original Space Wolves, 10,000 years before the events of 'present Warhammer 40K', and died in battle. He infrequently gets called back from lifelessness to fight for the Wolves.
- Chrono Trigger. Cyrus was Glenn's AKA Frog's best friend and Knight Captain of Guardia, who's sword skills are second only to Frog's own. He dies fighting Magus, sacrificing himself so that Glenn could escape some years before the middle age time period begins. He also appears briefly as an apparition during one of the game's sidequests.
- Played for Laughs in Tales of Monkey Island. Guybrush finds himself trapped in a whale along with an inept crew of pirates. The exception is Santino, a real man among men, a guy whose inummerable talents would be invaluable in getting out of the situation. Of course, he's been dead long before Guybrush got there.
- Dante's father, the demon Sparda, is dead by the time the Devil May Cry games take place. He's renowned for rebelling against his demon kin and saving humanity from them. Dante has taken up his legacy. Interestingly, the series never states exactly how he died, and the only place where he's directly confirmed as dead is in the prologue of the first game.
- Suikoden III has the Flame Champion
- in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the three First Tongues trained on how to use the Thu'um by the repentant dragon Paarthurnax, by the time the game rolls around. Gormlaith, Felldir, and Hakon are referred to by Paarthurnax as "wuth fadonne", or "old friends"; for an ageless dragon like Paarthurnax to refer to them like that shows how much they meant to him.