This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.
Torch the Franchise and Run
A writer has created a franchise, but they don't own the legal rights to what will happen to the franchise, the publisher/network/studio/whatever does. Or maybe they share the rights with someone else and just doesn't have as much control as they would like. They want to stop writing it and move on to something else.
But they don't want anyone else being able to handle their property, even though they don't legally own it. And even if they did own the franchise, what happens when their kids get their hands on the franchise after their inevitable death? The solution? Torch the franchise and run. Write one last story that totally wrecks everything. They kill off everyone they possibly can. They make the lives of all of the characters a living hell before executing them. They make 100% sure that everyone is dead, and those that aren't have no way of returning to the status quo or main premise of the show.
Essentially the authorial version of breaking your own toys so that nobody else can play with them.
See also Kill 'em All, though this is done less for the story and more for the personal or legal satisfaction of the author. Related to Writer Revolt. When this happens in a physical sense, you get Trash the Set.
Fan backlash can cause this to backfire in the most unpleasant ways, even before there was an Internet to inspire an Internet Backdraft. This may force the author to use an Author's Saving Throw if the new franchise they attempt to start sinks like a stone, either because it didn't have the same spark as the old series or their old audience is so angry at them they refuse to follow them.
As many of these examples show, this isn't guaranteed to succeed even in its main goal of ending the franchise, never mind the fan reaction. If the publishers want to keep the franchise going badly enough, they'll find a way, whether that's making prequels, finding a way to press the Reset Button, or, if push comes to shove, retconning the entire Downer Ending and restarting from an earlier point. If an author attempts this, fails, and the "new direction" is well received, then it's a Springtime for Hitler.
Not to be confused with Franchise Killer, which describes a work in a franchise that's received so poorly there probably won't be any more installments anyway regardless of what damage is done to the status quo.
His most infamous case of this happening was with Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, which, legend says, he wrote deliberately to try to kill off Gundam for good. Didn't stop them from making more.
In a way he kinda succeeded, since no animation or manga has been made that chronologically take place right after Victory Gundam. Gaia Gear, the series of novels that takes place after Victory Gundam, is set around 50 years after Victory Gundam without any series to bridge the gap. Victory Gundam itself is set around 30 years after F91.
The novelization of Mobile Suit Gundam has protagonist Amuro Ray get killed during the final battle and ends with almost all the White Base crew retiring from the military. However, Tomino has said he wasn't going for this trope, but simply wrote the last novel without anticipating that the series would catch on, and that had he known otherwise he wouldn't have killed off Amuro.
Master of Martial Hearts ended its last episode with a huge Take That towards its viewers, anime in general, and especially panty fighter series. It wasn't exactly the highest-quality production in the first place, but still.
Mahou Sensei Negima! received an extremely abrupt Distant Finale ending that had many fans puzzled as to the remaining unresolved plot threads. A short time later it surfaced that Akamatsu had decided to end the series as a protest against his publisher Kodansha for their attempts to take away all the rights to the work, including the copyright itself. Nobody is killed off, however, the story goes out of its way to make any sort of continuation completely impossible. The Big Bad is dealt with off-screen somehow and the romance is left ambiguous apart from Ship Sinking for the four most popular pairings for the main character. And then Akamatsu returned to Kodansha anyway and announced he would be starting a new series entirely.
To get a little more clarity: the biggest personal complaint of Akamatsu's against Kodansha was their intention to sue any and all doujinshi artists using the Negima characters and/or setting. Akamatsu, who himself began his career as a doujin artist didn't take kindly to this, promptly gave Kodansha the one-finger-salute and told them he would be ending their biggest Cash Cow Franchise immediately. Apparently, the new series came about only after the bill (which would have made this whole mess legally possible) fell square on its face, and Akamatsu worked it out with Kodansha that they would never, ever, try the stuff they had talked about before, such as dual-copyright ownership of the manga, suing doujin artists, etc, lest he decide to totally close up shop with them and go to one of their competitors.
The series in question is UQ Holder, which began as a Stealth Sequel - it wasn't marketed as a sequel to Negima, and at first glance you wouldn't realize it, either. In fact, it takes basically the entire chapter for you to learn that it IS the official sequel to Negima!. However, it doesn't use any of the Negima characters except one, and it doesn't pick up the vast majority of the plot threads that were left loose (most of them wouldn't matter anymore by the point the new series starts) so for all intents and purposes, the original series remains sank and its character arcs with it.
An In-Universe case hasppens in Saki Biyori Chapter 25. The Shindouji mahjong club starts a round robin journal, which, due to Kirame and Hitomi's actions, ends up developing a "Mister Shindou" comic. Club President Mairu has difficulty continuing it, so she puts in an order banning comics, but in response, people come forward with signatures begging for the return of the comic. In response, Mairu's best friend Himeko considers killing off Mister Shindou, to which Mairu responds by saying "Making him die is kinda..." but has him come back to life and live with his family.
Grant Morrison ended his run on the comic book Doom Patrol by pretty much torching the place down. The leader turned out to be evil, some characters died, others were permanently exiled to another dimension. The writer who took over only had one or two characters to work with.
This is not without precedent, however: the first version of the Doom Patrol ended with all the main characters dying. The version that came before Morrison's version ended with some of the cast dying and one of them in a coma. Interestingly, Morrison's version (which was one of the most popular) ended with only two characters dead and the rest walking away into the sunset.
Interestingly, when his run on the much-higher-profile Justice League of America ended, he only wrote out the characters he'd introduced during his run, leaving the same core 'Big Seven' team he started with, and essentially handing the next writer a blank slate. And the only character who died was one Morrison himself had created, since the character's own comic was cancelled before it had a chance to end properly.
All signs are pointing to this being what he's going to do once he's done with his run on Batman Incorporated, what with Damian Wayne's death and possibly the end of Batman Inc. itself. At the same time, the last page of the series basically does nothing but point out how people with blood ties to Ra's al Ghul never stay dead.
X-Men spin-off X-Statix creator Peter Milligan bloodily slaughtered all the surviving team members in the book's final issue. Not that this stopped him from revisiting some of them for a miniseries set in the afterlife.
Peter David left his original run as writer on The Incredible Hulk under unpleasant circumstances. So he killed off Betty Banner in a sudden, horrific, ironically tragic, yet not really logical way (she'd been married to Bruce for years. Why did she suddenly wake up covered with radiation burns one morning?), and then made his last issue an alternate future issue set many years in the future, tying off all the comic's loose ends and giving everyone a very sad but definitive ending. Paul Jenkins, the next major Hulk writer, and most of the fandom treated most of David's last issue as a What If? story (though Betty stayed dead for a few years).
In 1990, after getting a deal with DC, Alan Grant killed off Johnny Alpha, the protagonist of Strontium Dog, to prevent any new writers from messing with him. A few years later, John Wagner started writing prequels, and recently brought Johnny Back from the Dead, to the disgust of the fanbase. The end of The Life And Death Of Johnny Alpha leaves it ambiguous as to whether he's dead again.
Alan Moore may or may not have wanted to prevent anyone else from using the characters from Watchmen, but its bleak ending and thorough Deconstruction of the superhero genre certainly had that effect all the same. This is the reason why the story uses expies of the Charlton Comics superheroes: Moore was initially hired to write a story using the Charlton characters themselves, but DC executives looked at his first draft and realized that if they published the story they'd never be able to use the characters again. They asked him to either change the story or change the superheroes, and he changed the superheroes. Watchmen remained a standalone miniseries for over 20 years—and when DC finally did decide to make more stories in that 'verse, they commissioned the new writers to create prequels instead of attempting to continue from where Watchmen ended, and even then it's proven hugely controversial.
And Allan Heinberg did this to the Young Avengers in Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9. But only by splitting them up so if a writer really wanted to they could bring them back together.
Played-Subver-... Something in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!: fantasy writer Ezra Hound attempts to kill off his hero, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, so he can write serious fiction. Bow-Zar, in turn, time travels to the present and attempts to kill off Ezra Hound.
Similarly, one backup story in Marvel's Conan the Barbarian featured a Robert E. Howard stand-in trying to kill off "Starr the Slayer" (an obvious knockoff of Conan) but the eponymous character somehow came through the fourth wall and slew him before he could do so.
The sad story of DC character Mystek was this. Writer Christopher Priest created her as a new character with the hopes of getting her own mini-series. To test the waters, DC Comics asked Priest to put her into other titles, placing her in The Ray and later having her join Justice League Task Force. In the end, DC decided that a Mystek mini just wouldn't be worth it and Priest, stuck with a character that DC now owned and he didn't want anyone to use, promptly had her shot out of an airlock, literally.
Jack Kirby tried to do this with several of his creations, namely The Mighty Thor, the New Gods, and The Eternals. Each of them would have ended with the characters dying after some sort of final confrontation. However, Executive Meddling dictated that they wanted to still use the characters instead of having them killed off and go to waste, so it never happened in those cases. In fact, not being able to torch Thor led him to moving to DC Comics, and not being able to torch the New Gods led him to going right back to Marvel Comics. Given this history, it's not surprising that Kirby would go on to become the founding father of the creator-owned comic movement.
Robert Crumb hated the Fritz the Cat movie. So much in fact, that he killed off the character so they couldn't make a sequel. It didn't work.
Kieron Gillen came out and said (mucho spoilers, by the way) this was the reason behind the ending of his run on Journey into Mystery. In the fullness of history, the probability of Kid!Loki being written back into villainy approaches one, so Gillen tied up all his outstanding plotlines and literally wrote Kid!Loki out of existence. Oh, and had Old!Loki take over his body.
He then, however, had Kid!Loki reappear in his Young Avengers run as a Spirit Advisor to Old!Loki, although it's not clear whether it's a genuine haunting or a delusion.
And then went on to retcon the original torching - it wasn't Old!Loki who took over Kid!Loki, but a copy Old!Loki had created to screw Kid!Loki over. He was haunted by guilt over killing Kid!Loki and subconsciously used his reality warping powers to manifest the Kid!Loki ghost. Once he owned up to what he'd done, the ghost disappeared.
After Ken Penders sued Archie Comics to fully regain use of the characters he created during his time as head writer of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog it became obvious later on down the line that both sides were shooting themselves in the foot with their legal missteps and, tired of it all, settled. In the span of a year, Archie ended up exiling nearly everything created by former writers since the series began, culminating into Sonic The Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Collide unleashing a Cosmic Retcon on the Sonic comics partially for this reason.
The generally-well-received Yu-Gi-Oh Jr. trilogy by Brian Corvello (a Continuation series) had plans for a follow-up, but they went on the back burner for a while so he could work on other projects. When he returned to the setting with Legacy of the Sorcerer Kings, the story didn't do nearly as well as its predecessors, with many readers complaining in particular about its Always Chaotic Evil portrayal of atheists. Its sequel, Soul of Silicon, was all but ignored, and thus Corvello used the story's epilogue as a Where Are They Now ending that completely closed off the setting.
Iron Man 3 is the last film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Robert Downey, Jr. had been contracted for. It ends with Tony Stark destroying all his Iron Man armours and getting the shrapnel and arc reactor removed from his chest, all so he can live a relatively normal life with Pepper, providing some closure. And now he's officially signed on for The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers 3, but at this point it seems that there aren't any plans for another Iron Man solo project with Downey as the title character.
Joss Whedon has confirmed that he plans on honoring the ending of Iron Man 3, but that Tony Stark will still appear in Age of Ultron. He's since hinted that Tony might have kept at least one spare armor just in case Iron Man was ever needed again, possibly the one that was holding up the oil rig during the climax, which is presumably still there.
The final caption of the film states that Tony Stark will return...
Infocom's Enchanter trilogy, set in the same universe as the Zork trilogy, ended with all magic in the world being destroyed in Spellbreaker because it was the only way to stop the Big Bad from remaking the world in its own image. However, this did not prevent two more games set in that universe (Beyond Zork, which takes place concurrently with Spellbreaker, and Zork Zero, which is set many years before), from being published before Infocom's demise presumably prevented further official sequels for good. It also didn't prevent Activision from creating graphical Zork games set centuries afterward in which another age of magic occured.
In Stationfall, the sequel to the popular Planetfall, Steve Meretzky had the Robot Buddy Floyd killed off because he didn't want to do a third game. After Infocom's demise, Activision was planning on doing a graphical sequel anyway (tentatively titled The Search For Floyd), but the project was soon cancelled. There were also two novels loosely based on the games and set after the events of the games, by Arthur Byron Cover, but these novels were generally poorly received.
L. Frank Baum was caught in a situation like this. He desperately wanted to stop writing stories about the Land of Oz, but his publisher and fans wouldn't let him. He had established that nothing dies in the land of Oz, so he couldn't kill anyone off. In the sixth book, he tried to use the Literary Agent Hypothesis to justify never writing a single thing about Oz again because an invasion caused Oz to become isolationist and totally cut off all contact with the outside world, thus promising to never ever write another story about Oz ever again. When his other books failed to sell as well, he had to begin writing stories about Oz again to pay his bills, backpedaling and explaining that they discovered the radio in Oz that Dorothy could use to broadcast Baum news about Oz.
Andre Norton shut down the Witch World series in a somewhat similar manner. The last Witch World novel has every single character from the series traveling all over the world to shut down all the Gates so that no one and nothing can come through from Outside again, ever. So far it has stuck.
One of the earliest examples is Sherlock Holmes' original death. Also backfired.
In-fiction example: In Stephen King's Misery, the author Paul Sheldon grows to hate his series of romance novels about Misery Chastain. In his latest book, he kills Misery so he can end the series and focus on more "serious" writing. Then he finds himself under the care of a demented fan (the Kathy Bates character in the movie) who's very unhappy with that ending. She forces Paul to write one more novel to undo that ending.
There was a post-apocalyptic pulp-novel series called The Last Ranger. In the final novel they blew up the Earth.
Done in-universe in the Hyperion Cantos: the poet Martin Silenus, finally realizing that his profitable The Dying Earth series of booksnote Yes, the title is a tribute to Jack Vance. Now have a cookie. has become a brain-dead Cliché Storm, decides to just kill the thing off, completely and utterly, so that he can go and search for his "muse" and work on real poetry. (Though in fact his audience had such bad taste that the torching didn't work, but he decided to walk away and let his publishers do what they willed with it.)
This is why the title character regains his sanity and dies at the end of Don Quixote. After publishing what became Part One, Cervantes was dismayed to see other writers producing unauthorized Quixote stories of their own, so he wrote Part Two as he did to give the character a definite ending.
Similiarly, Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot in Curtain to give the character a definite ending and prevent other writers from writing more books with him after her death. She actually wrote Curtain during World War II, worried about the possibility of being killed in the London Blitz, but as she wasn't, she continued writing for several decades, and Curtain was not published until a few months before her death in 1976.
Larry Niven'sKnown Space nearly had one of its own. In 1968 Niven had decided there wasn't much left to say in that particular universe, and asked his friend Norman Spinrad what he should do with it. Spinrad suggested writing a story that basically destroys the entire thing (Niven never asked why, saying he and Spinrad think alike). This story, Down in Flames, was outlined but abandoned when Niven read about Dyson Spheres and was inspired to write Ringworld. Ringworld and Down in Flames use mutually opposing assumptions about canon (DiF assumes the Core Explosion was a hoax and a Tnuctipun conspiracy, Ringworld accepts the Core Explosion happened and that the Tnuctipun have been dead for a billion years as early stories said), making it impossible to use "Down in Flames" and keeping the 'verse alive.
1977 version discussed the possibility of the explosion and tied it and Ringworld into the story. But by then Niven was even less inclined to end the series.
Mostly Harmless ended with every version of Earth in the Multiverse being destroyed, and almost all of the regular characters dying. Oddly enough, creator Douglas Adams did intend to make a new book in the series to undo the damage, but died before he could write it.
The protagonist of The Witcher novel series gets killed with a pitchfork in the last book. Most of named characters are already dead, are dying or will be dead soon. And just to Salt the Earth, the whole world will also suffer a The Black Death grade epidemic (which is, in fact, the Black Death dragged from another world into Nilfgaard by Ciri). Then, the video game comes out with a continuation. The author is fairly inconsistent in his approach, though. In an interview from the Enhanced Edition of the game, Andrzej Sapkowski stated that he is fine with the games existing views and them as valid stories in the continuity... but during 2012 Polcon, Sapkowski did a U-turn and declared the new continuity non-canon. When he did write a book, he used Geralt, but wrote it as a prequel to the entire saga. Rather than bothering themselves over rejoicing, the fandom should accept that it's a Ghost in the Shell situation, with two separate continuities: One for the books only and one for the books and games.
Dragons of Summer Flame effectively killed the Dragonlance franchise despite numerous attempts to repair it.
And just to be thorough, the authors even insisted that TSR remove Lord Soth from the Ravenloft setting, then proceeded to kill him off. Not only did they torch their own franchise, they didn't even leave its Crossover character un-singed.
Some suspect R.A. Salvatore is trying to do this with the Drizzt novels because A) he doesn't want a lesser author writing his best-known character and B) he may be running out of ideas.
There are numerous rumors that he attempted to leave the series in 1997, which led to the commissioning a new Drizzt novel called Shores of Dusk from another author. Salvatore came back to the series and the (apparently completed) Shores of Dusk never saw the light of day.
Before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there was speculation as to who JK Rowling was going to kill off. Some predicted that she would kill off the main characters simply to stop other people taking them and continuing the story on their own. She didn't, though. Not all of them, anyway. Rowling occasionally implied she would, though Harry's death ends up coming with a loophole that lets him come back.
The final book in Animorphs ended the main conflict and thrust the team into a Bolivian Army Ending three years later, strongly hinting that every member of the team died but Cassie. Ironically, this final book was titled The Beginning.
When J. Michael Straczynski was asked what he would do if TNT tried to commission a sixth season of Babylon 5, he replied "Two words: Scorched earth." (As it is, the finale is set in a future where several of the main characters are dead and ends with the station blowing up and the show's lead Ascending To A Higher Plane Of Existence.)
The end of Six Feet Under doesn't preclude a revival so much as make it entirely redundant.
The acrimony between Amy Sherman-Palladino and Warner Bros. was so great that when she couldn't be signed on for a seventh season of Gilmore Girls she crippled the show so much in the sixth season finale that most of the fanbase refuses to accept that The CW-fied seventh season ever happened; new show head David Rosenthal was unable to do much of anything to fix what was broken, the new writing staff hurriedly thrown together seemed to not know the characters at all and mis-wrote them, and somehow a small town ensemble drama was changed around to be yet another generic teen drama with adults written like teens because without the creator around, nobody knew how to write them.
The A S-P strategy seems to be repeating with Janet Tamaro, who departed Rizzoli & Isles after the fourth season and left the season five writers with a ton to clean up, including a pregnancy scare for Jane, broken relationships and an out of left field Love Triangle between Maura and the Rizzoli brothers.
This is how Richard Castle of Castle ended his Derrick Storm novels so he could begin the new Nikki Heat series. He gets quite a bit of flack for it until the Heat books take off.
Three of the four series of Blackadder ended by killing off some or all of their main characters either as a real or parody version of this as they’d all be alive and reincarnated in a different time period the following series. The third one was the only one that didn't. Sure, the Prince Regent died, but it's okay. Blackadder took his place.
The Finder ended with Walter arrested, Isabel losing as her badge and Willa has to run away to escape an arranged marriage with her cousin, and Leo is all alone.
One explanation for the "It was all an autistic child playing with a snow globe" ending in St. Elsewhere, as no other explanation makes sense (most of the plots were far beyond anything an isolated child would be able to think up all by himself).
One of the episodes of Friday The 13th: The Series revolved around a cursed comic book that could turn its owner into an invincible comic book character. However on learning that the creator of the character had tried to Torch the Franchise and Run but been stopped, they were able to find out the character's one weakness via his artwork.
When The KLF grew disillusioned with the pop music industry, they decided to quit in a way that would turn off as many fans and burn as many bridges as possible. Their stadium house track "3 AM Eternal" had just been nominated for a Brit Award, so they trolled the audience at the ceremony by playing a brand-new, abrasive Hardcore Punk remix of the song. They ended the performance by announcing their retirement, effective immediately, with no prior warning whatsoever. Shortly afterward, they deleted their entire back catalogue, so no one could make any money from their music. Their parodic comeback show "Fuck the Millennium" played into this, albeit unintentionally. Critical reaction to the show was overall negative, which Bill Drummond was initially disappointed over. However, he cheered up when he realized that those negative reviews signaled that he and Jim Cauty had finally destroyed The KLF's last remaining bit of marketability and artistic credibility.
John Darling was a comic strip spin-off from Funky Winkerbean by Tom Batiuk that ran about 12 years. Batiuk and his syndicate came into conflict over the rights so Batiuk killed off the title character and ended the strip, leaving the syndicate with a worthless property. Years later, Batiuk revisited the story in FW to solve the murder. Later still, introduced Darling's daughter, Jessica, as part of the FW cast.
Jim Davis ended his first comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, when he got bored with it by having Gnorm stomped by a giant foot.
Debatably done with the Mother video game series. Itoi wanted the series to end with Mother 3, so he destroyed what little else remained of the entire world, and failed to answer the question of how the characters survived that - but they all personally insist to the player that they survived and they're happy. Somehow. Itoi said that the original script for the game was even darker, so the original ending was probably meant to Kill 'em All.
Logan's Shadow seems to have done this for the Syphon Filter series, with the possible deaths of several main characters and no plans for further sequels.
Alan Wake has an in-universe example, where Alan Wake is planning to end his popular mystery series by killing off the main character.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge has the infamous mind screw ending which implies that the creators just wanted the series to end or screw over whoever would take over the series after they left.
The final game in the Championship Manager series created by Sports Interactive was so bad that there is widespread belief that the company deliberately made it horrible, knowing they were going to split and create their new Football Manager series.
Dead Space 3: Awakened ends with the Brethren Moons fully awakening and beginning their campaign of genocide on the galaxy, and there is literally nothing Isaac, Carver or anyone can do to stop them, making further sequels all but impossible.
Part two of Bioshock Infinite's DLC 'Burial At Sea' kills off by far the most developed and full of potential character, Elizabeth, inescapably ties the lore of both Rapture and Columbia together and does its level best to completely ignore Bioshock 2, uncoincidentally before all rights for the Bioshock franchise are transferred to the people who made Bioshock 2.
The final chapter of RPG World was basically an extended prose "fuck you" to the readers for their not enjoying his random-events humor over the much more interesting Character Development moments.
For context, here is the Ducktales Issue 3 as covered by a blog and here is the same comic as covered by Cartoon Brew.
In "The Day the Music Died" by Sam Starbuck, a short story about everything possible going wrong with a Harry Potter-like fandom at once, this is one of the things that goes wrong. The author — who's writing the last novel of a series while on his deathbed — decides to finish with an apocalypse to prevent anyone from writing any sequels after his death.
A variant happens in one tandem writing assignment discussed on snopes. Rebecca, disliking her partner Gary's attempt to derail the story she was writing into a science fiction action story, responded by killing off the male lead and attempting to write him into a corner by having Congress end the war with Skylon 4 and outlaw war and space travel. He then managed to get around this by having another alien faction attack, killing the female lead and causing the president to decide to veto the treaty. Rebecca then gave up in disgust.
When Fishmonger, one of the more prominent writers for the SCP Foundation, was banned due to bad behavior, he demanded that all of his works on the site be deleted on the threat of legal action. For a while, this left holes in what passed for series continuity as several SCP-s, human characters and chunks of backstory vanished into thin air. But since then, newer stories and characters overshadowed older ones, and the holes aren't really obvious anymore.
This has also led to one of the current mottos of that site. "There is no canon."
A minor example was used in Justice League Unlimited. As part of the grand finale, they kill just about ALL of the new Legion of Doom, leaving 13 survivors from the entire Rogues gallery.
On Rocko's Modern Life, Ralph Bighead has had great success with his cartoon The Fatheads. The network execs want him to do a new season, but he promises them a new series that's even better. He then recruits Rocko, Filbert, and Heffer to create a cartoon for him, something that will get him fired so he can work on rock sculptures in the desert. Thus Wacky Delly is born. But, lots of people like the new series, even more than his other one, even when he does an episode focusing silently on a jar of mayo the whole time. Rocko convinces him to just go with it, and Ralph writes a new episode that he actually puts time and effort into. Everyone hates that one, and he gets his wish.