Outlived Its Creator

"You can try to write the 'last Batman story'. But the thing is, people have been writing Batman stories for longer than I've been alive. They will be writing Batman stories after I'm dead. Batman is actually more real than me."

If a series becomes popular enough, not even an Author Existence Failure can stop it. If a series keeps going after its original creator has died, then it has Outlived Its Creator.

Series that continue on after Author Existence Failure are the ultimate Franchise Zombies. A deceased creator cannot complain about any changes to the casting, style or creative direction of the series.

A series which has outlived its creator can (and often is) put through retcons, Character Derailment, Executive Meddling, etc. Sometimes this is simply for financial reasons; other times, it's because the current series-runner is also Running the Asylum. It can even be accidental.

When a series outlives its creator, the fans usually watch whoever's continuing it like vultures, waiting to swoop down and proclaim They Changed It, Now It Sucks! On the other hand, if the original creator had Protection from Editors and was driving the series into the floor, the Author Existence Failure may be good for the franchise: there's a chance for the series to be turned around.


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Public Domain examples



Specific still-under-copyright examples

     Anime and Manga 
  • Animated adaptations/reboots of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and other works by Osamu Tezuka are still being produced, over 20 years after the man's death.
  • Similarly, Cyborg 009 is one of many Shotaro Ishinomori series to be animated after his death.
  • Sazae-san (anime only; the manga ended in 1973)
  • Crayon Shin-chan: Creator Yoshito Usui died in a hiking accident in 2009. His assistants and editors who'd worked with him for years decided – with his widow's permission – to continue the manga under the title Crayon Shin-chan Memorial (ending the original run with the already-completed 50th book). The anime continued as normal, under the original title.
  • Some of the older Humongous Mecha shows, due to the popularity of the Super Robot Wars series

    Comic Books 

  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is a prime example. Howard committed suicide at only thirty years old and left a number of stories unfinished, leading first to posthumous collaborations and then later to full-blown original short stories and novels by other authors and an ongoing line of comic books.
  • V. C. Andrews' Dollganger series.
  • The Wheel of Time series, with the added benefit of having been unfinished when the Author Existence Failure struck.
  • Narnia - at least since the live-action movies raised its profile.
    • The works of C. S. Lewis in general: there have been Lewis books printed after his death, and some people have wondered whether he actually wrote all of those.
  • James Bond. Characters creator Ian Fleming died in 1964 while the third movie was in production. The 23rd movie came out in 2012, not to mention subsequent books and video games (some with original plots).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Adams had been working on the movie for a long time, however since a sixth book was published eight years after his death, it counts).
    • The Tertiary, Quandary, and Quintessential Phases of the radio series (based on the later books) also came after his death (though Adams had planned for radio versions of them, even recording himself playing Agrajag). It remains to be seen if And Another Thing... will become the Hexual Phase...
  • The Bourne Series has outlived Robert Ludlum.
  • The Little House books. Laura Ingalls Wilder's will stipulated that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, would hold the rights until her death; after which, the rights were supposed to go to a local library in Missouri. Lane's heirs managed to get the rights back, and HarperCollins has resurrected the franchise with sequels, spinoffs and prequels.
  • Dune. Since Frank Herbert's death, Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson have written a number of prequels and sequels.
  • Three novels were added to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series by other authors and with permission from the Good Doctor's estate after he passed on to the Great Typewriter in the Sky.
  • The Boxcar Children series had only 19 books written by its original creator, Gertrude Chandler Warner. Then, over a decade after her death, Albert Whitman of Albert Whitman & Company resurrected the series, producing over 140 more books due to reinterest (including a kid-friendly cookbook). After Warner stopped writing them, continuity went right out the window and quality noticeably dropped.
  • The Godfather books have outlived Mario Puzo.
  • The St. Clare's series by Enid Blyton. The St. Clare's series consisted of six novels that spanned the six years set in the school. Three books covered the first year, one for the second, one for the fourth, and one for the fifth. In 2000, Pamela Cox wrote two more St Clare's books, one set in the third year and one in the sixth; at least one was just a pastiche of previous plots with wildly out-of-character moments and anachronistic phrases.
    • Likewise, Pamela Cox wrote extra books for Blyton's Malory Towers series, even though the series was considered finished when Darrell Rivers, the main character, left the school in-story. The new books follow her younger sister, Felicity, and are again an Anachronism Stew, filled with modern phrases that would not have been used in The Fifties when the story was written.
    • Also with The Secret Seven: French writer Evelyne Lallemand wrote about a dozen further novels during the 70s and 80s, most of which were later translated into English and published with Enid Blyton's signature on the cover.
  • Jody Lynn Nye is planning to continue Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels.
  • Even after Rex Stout's death, and what seemed to be Stout's final story in the series, Nero Wolfe picked up another author, Robert Goldsborough, who called it quits after writing seven additional stories.
  • Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series has seen one new novel written by a different author after Leiber's death, although the new book is set between two of the original ones.
  • It's been almost forty years since J. R. R. Tolkien's death, and more of his works are still being sorted out and published, with profuse annotations, tweaks, and changes made by his son-cum-editor.
  • Michael Kurland, a friend of Randall Garrett, wrote two novels about the Alternate History detective Lord Darcy and his sorcerous assistant after their creator's death.
  • The Mr. Men books were written by Roger Hargreaves until his death in 1988. His son Adam took up writing them instead, but Roger's name continues to appear on all the covers, even the new ones.
  • Both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys have outlived their most important creators. Edward Stratemeyer (who created the concept), Mildred Wirt Benson (Nancy's most prominent ghostwriter), Leslie McFarlane (the Hardys' most prominent ghostwriter), and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (the editor whose borderline Orwellian Retcons of the series kept them from fading away) have all passed away, but new books are still being written.
  • The Railway Series by the Rev. Wilbert Awdry is still being continued even after his death in 1997, the torch having been passed to his son Christopher Awdry. The quality remains good, as Christopher (whom the stories were originally created for) has the same innate grasp of the series as his father and is dedicated to making sure it remains high-quality children's literature.
  • Tom Clancy died in 2013, shortly before his last book came out. Other authors started publishing sequels to his final work less than a year after his death.

    Live-Action TV 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A surprisingly large number of newspaper comics in North America have outlived their original creators. Indeed, it tends to be a bigger deal when popular strips avert this.
    • Peanuts and Krazy Kat are among the few strips that ended with their creators.note  Peanuts is an especially notable aversion of this trope; the very last ever Peanuts strip ran one day before the death of author Charles Schulz, who specifically forbade anyone to continue the strip after his death.
      • On the other hand, the Peanuts TV specials did continue after Schulz's death. Bill Melendez, the director of nearly every Peanuts special since A Charlie Brown Christmas, was still in charge, but then he died too, which also failed to stop new Peanuts TV specials from being made.
  • The Comic Strip Doctor despises this trend in newspaper comics. He believes that keeping boring comics around long after their creators have moved on and the premise has run its course is what makes it next to impossible for talented newcomers to get into the business.
  • Dennis the Menace (the US one).
  • Blondie (which has been running daily since 1930)
  • Popeye is still running new strips even though E.C. Segar died in 1938.
  • The two comic strips drawn by Jeff MacNelly, Shoe and Pluggers, are both examples of this. Jeff started the former in 1977, but handed Pluggers over to artist Gary Brookins only four years after starting it in 1993. When Jeff died in 2000, Brookins took over on Shoe, as well as many of the side jobs that Jeff had previously done (mainly political comic strips and the drawings in Dave Barry columns).
  • B.C.: Johnny Hart's daughter and grandson continued the strip after he died. Like Dick Tracy, listed below, Hart's death is generally considered to have made the comic better, as over the previous decade he had used it (especially Sunday strips) as a platform for his fundamentalist Christianity.
  • Similarly, after The Family Circus creator Bil Keane died in November 2011, his son Jeff (who started inking and coloring the strip in the 2000s) continued to work on it.
  • Shortly before his death, Heathcliff creator George Gately handed it over to his nephew, Peter Gallagher.
  • Little Orphan Annie was continued by various other hands after Harold Gray's death in 1968, most successfully by Leonard Starr, who wrote and drew the strip from 1979 to 2000. In the hands of Starr's successor, Jay Maeder, the strip's popularity faltered, and it was cancelled in 2010, over forty years after its creator's death.
  • Dick Tracy was continued by other writers and artists after creator Chester Gould's death in 1977. This is generally considered one of those cases where the creator's death improved the series, as Gould had spent the previous 20 years trying gimmick after gimmick in an attempt to keep the strip popular... when he wasn't having his characters go on long rants against the Warren Court's expansions of rights for the accused.

  • The Ziegfeld Follies were kept going for two and a half decades after the death of famed producer Florenz Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld Follies The Movie gave a nod to this by having a prologue showing Ziegfeld in Fluffy Cloud Heaven.

    Web Original 
  • Fundies Say the Darndest Things is still an active community, even though the site's creator, WinAce, passed away in 2005.
  • Eddsworld's creator, Edd Gould, passed away on March 23rd, 2012 from Leukemia. Episodes are still being made (at his request) - with Paul ter Voorde replacing his animation and Tim Hautekiet replacing his character's voice.

    Western Animation 
  • Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the rest of the Disney gang, to the point where U.S. Copyright laws must be rewritten every decade or so to prevent the original shorts from falling into the Public Domain.note 
  • Looney Tunes. All of the original creators have now died – the last major one, Chuck Jones, having passed away in 2002. The original shorts are rarely played on TV today, but they live on through DVD collections, new shorts, and direct-to-DVD movies.
  • Hanna-Barbera characters have not only outlived the people who created them, but also the company which created them.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks, well outlived their original creator, Ross "David Seville" Bagdasarian Sr., who passed away in 1972.


And half-mentions for the following, which were created by more than one author and have outlived at least one:

     Anime and Manga 
  • Doraemon was created by two cartoonists, Hiroshi Fujimoto and Moto Abiko, who worked together under the pen-name Fujiko Fujio. Fujimoto died in 1996 and while the manga ended with his death, the anime still airs to this day with more than 2,000 episodes made.
  • The Pokémon anime has managed to outlive Takeshi Shudo, the head writer of the original series (Kanto, Orange Islands, and Johto); he left the series after Johto concluded in late 2002 and died in October 2010 while the anime was airing its fourth series. The creators of the original video game franchise the series was based on are all alive and well though.

    Comic Books 
  • Astérix (Written by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo, Uderzo taking over the writing as well after Goscinny's death)
    • And by extension, anything by "Goscinny and X". Goscinny worked as a writer for many artists.
    • While Uderzo is only retired, the fact that he approved a new duo to write a new Asterix book, Asterix and the Picts, will make sure the Gaul lives on even if the creator doesn't.
  • Jack Kirby's dead, but the New Gods live on. Stan Lee's still alive and kicking (for now at least; as of this edit he's 91). Steve Ditko might die, but we'd probably never know till years later.

  • Loudness (began 1982) has outlived original co-creator Munetaka Higuchi (died 2008) and 1992 bassist Taiji Sawada (died 2011)
  • The Beach Boys (began 1961) has outlived founding members Dennis Wilson (died 1983) and Carl Wilson (died 1998)
  • The Rolling Stones (began 1962) has outlived founding members Brian Jones (died 1969) and Ian Stewart (died 1985)
  • Versailles outlived original bassist and co-creator Jasmine You for around a year after his death before disbanding - to reform a new band consisting of every one of the surviving members except the vocalist.
  • X Japan (began 1982, obtained these members 1987) has outlived lead guitarist hide (died 1998) and 1987-92 bassist Taiji Sawada (died 2011).

    New Media 
  • Video game web site Giant Bomb and its flagship podcast, the Giant Bombcast, continue after the untimely 2013 passing of Ryan Davis, who was a co-founder and instrumental in establishing the tone and direction of the site.

    Tabletop Games 

  • A Chorus Line and Forty Second Street competed as long-running Broadway musicals of the 1980s, and both productions continued running for years after the deaths of their respective director-choreographers, Michael Bennett and Gower Champion. Champion died before his show's opening performance; producer David Merrick famously announced his death at the Curtain Call, without informing the cast and crew beforehand.

    Video Games 
  • Metroid outlasted Gunpei Yokoi, the producer of the first three games. The director of the original Metroid, Yoshio Sakamoto, is still alive and has been involved in all of the recent games in some form or another.
  • The Wolfenstein franchise has outlived Silas Warner, the creator of the original DOS game Castle Wolfenstein. Although he wasn't involved with further games, he endorsed the use of the name.
  • The Tom Clancy's series of games, since 2013.