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Death by Origin Story

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Peter B. Parker: I'm sorry, Miles. We've all been there. For me... for me, it was my Uncle Ben.
Spider-Man Noir: For me, it was my Uncle Benjamin.
Peni Parker: For me, it was my father.
Gwen: For me, it was my best friend.
Spider-Ham: (tearing up) Miles, the hardest part about this job is... you can't save everybody.

If you've read Comic Books, then you know Death Is Cheap, Staying Alive is easy and there's a thousand ways to trump the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness.

There are, however, some characters who stay dead. These are the loved ones who suffered Death by Origin Story, and play a vital role in the motivations of the hero. Their death can be (in)directly the hero's fault (Spider-Man, Uncle Ben), not their fault but still a huge motivation (Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne) or simply there to add drama (Superman, Pa Kent). Similarly, Scars are Forever when they represent an important event for a character (for instance, Barbara Gordon's lower body paralysis. note )

Sure, bringing them back is always possible and could take the story in exciting new directions, and deeply change the Fallen Hero when his dead little sister returns... or it just might be in bad taste, get poorly handled, nullify their motivation and lead to a Retcon or Author's Saving Throw that "they were really a robot Shapeshifting Alien clone... ninja" and promptly getting killed or forgotten. This is why Status Quo Is God.


Usually, the rationale for why they can't be brought back involves a Fantastic Aesop about not meddling with death because of dire consequences... except the hero, villain, and a score of other popular characters have already cheated death with no major consequences.

Usually this happens because The Call Knows Where You Live. When the loved ones aren't specifically murdered by a villain, their deaths are often due to something common and/or vague such as a car accident or some kind of disease that shall not be named. The cause of death can also start out very vaguely and then clarify (often disastrously) as the story progresses.

A variation of Death by Origin Story occurs when the important death is the main protagonist's own death, as important part of his or her own origin story. Usually, this involves a transition to an undead state of some sort, or alternatively, the character dies but is resurrected in a new form and granted superpowers. Or, it can become a mystery where the hero has to find out Whodunnit to Me? in order to either avoid death or avenge it.


When a series becomes popular enough, they might decide to make a prequel. The characters would still be alive at the time, but everyone knows they're Doomed by Canon and would watch it only to see how it happens if it wasn't shown already.

Compare Death by Newbery Medal, Last of His Kind, Dying to Be Replaced, Conveniently an Orphan, Plot-Triggering Death. If the death of a loved one causes a character to become a villain, instead, that's a variant of the Start of Darkness. Might result in Forgotten Fallen Friend. Frequently involves a Posthumous Character.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator Arago and Ewan's parents, as well as Joe's old partner.
  • Tobio Tenma fits. Without his death, Astro Boy would never have been created.
  • Guts of Berserk has a whole bunch of dead folks in his origin story (which actually played out in the manga) consisting of pretty much everyone in the Band of the Hawk with the exception of Rickert (who wasn't with the Hawks when the Eclipse went down) and Casca (the one other character other than Guts to survive being Branded, who had a very nasty experience that she still hasn't recovered from). Because of this, Guts is madder than hell at Griffith, who sacrificed everyone to join the Godhand as its fifth member.
  • The very first chapter of Blue Exorcist is this. Rin finds out he's the Son of Satan...and his father promptly possesses his foster father Shiro, killing him in the process and making Rin awaken his demon side, which sets in motion most of Rin's motivation and issues within the manga. Doubles as The Call Knows Where You Live for bonus points.
  • Denji in Chainsaw Man started off as an amateur private Devil Hunter with the aid of his chainsaw hellhound Pochi. After Denji and Pochi are brutally murdered by a Devil controlling his yakuza bosses, Pochi's remains fuse with Denji's and resurrect him as the titular Chainsaw Man.
  • Clare from Claymore has one of these with the death of Teresa.
    • Miria started to have doubts about the Organization's intentions after she had to kill her awakened friend, Hilda.
    • Priscilla's backstory had her being forced to kill her father after he turned into a Yoma and ate the rest of her family.
    • Almost every warrior had this in their past, to the point when it's just the common story for them.
  • Three of the four central characters of Code Geass became the people they are today by losing a loved one (Leouch = mother Marianne, Suzaku = father Genbu, Kallen = brother Naoto). Later on it's revealed that there's much more to the deaths of Marianne and Genbu than first appeared (Naoto, however, simply stayed dead).
  • A running theme in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Human-devouring demons have taken the lives of several families of many characters within the story, including the protagonist Tanjiro Kamado. The sole surviving family members grow to harbor an intense hatred of demons, thus becoming slayers of their kind, joining the Demon Slayer Corps to learn incredible swordsmanship arts and evening the field between mere humans against powerful demons.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Z both Goku and Vegeta's home planet was destroyed by Frieza before the series began and losing their families in the process, also making them the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, with the two other survivors Raditz and Nappa being killed many years afterwards. If one counts the movies, then Vegeta's brother Tarble was also among the last pureblooded Saiyans alive, and there were other survivors, namely Turles, Paragas, and Broly, who were eventually defeated.
    • And earlier, in Dragon Ball, there is Son Gohan, the elderly master who adopted young Goku as an infant. The poor fellow ended up being squished by Goku's Oozaru form some time before the series began. Since Death Is Cheap in the Dragon Ball universe, however, he did come back for a day during the Fortuneteller Baba arc as her fifth fighter for a reunion with Goku and his former master, Master Roshi.
  • In Endride, Lucio exists to give Demetrio his reason to leave his Sheltered Aristocrat life and form La Résistance.
  • With the exception of one fairly minor character in Fairy Tail (and a few demons) all deaths happen in people's back stories. As an inversion, in Hiro Mashima's previous manga, Rave Master there was no better guarantee that you'd be alive for the actual events of the story than dying in a back story. If you didn't turn out to have been Not Quite Dead or have faked your death you got to stay in the realm of the living as an animal (though if you were a mom you seemed to be exempt from that rule.)
  • Fruits Basket LOVES this trope. Most obviously for Kyoko, but Katsuya and Akira, Akito's father as well.
  • Trisha Elric and Scar's brother in Fullmetal Alchemist, to name just a few; many major characters have one, and in one case it's an entire country. Although in the 2003 anime version, Trisha is more of a case of Came Back Wrong.
  • Future GPX Cyber Formula:
    • Hiroyuki Kazami. The car which is equipped with his creation, the supercomputer Asurada, is driven by his son Hayato.
    • Kaga's friend Eiji serves as this for him. His death is the reason why Kaga has warned Hayato about the Zero Zone and why Kaga himself has stayed away of it for years.
  • Goblin Slayer's beloved older sister was among the many women of his village to be raped and then killed by the goblins that destroyed it long ago. This horrible event would set him down the road to vengeance, killing every last one of the little green bastards he could find.
  • The Test Type Zoanoid from Guyver is always the first Zoanoid to appear... and the first to die. His death is necessary however, as it sets off the events in the entire series.
  • In Heat Guy J, Daisuke's father is mentioned as having been killed by an android controlled by Clair's father many years before the beginning of the series. Also, the series begins with the funeral of Clair's father, and it's later revealed that Clair shot his father after years of abuse and got a Klingon Promotion to "Vampire" out of it. Additionally, his mother died giving birth to him.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers has the death/disappearance of the Roman Empire. It is brought up at the very beginning of the series, and leaves the little Italy brothers to be tormented by other nations. Roman Empire makes a few appearances, but he's pretty obviously dead.
  • In High School D×D:
    • Akeno Himejima's reason for planning to exact revenge on Baraqiel, her father, is because he wasn't there to rescue her mother, Shuri, from being murdered by her relatives.
    • Masaomi Yaegaki decided to exact revenge on the Devils when Cleria Belial knew too much about the King piece and is killed.
  • Satoko's, Rika's and Takano's parents in Higurashi: When They Cry.
  • Most of the main characters in Inuyasha are motivated at least partly by dead relatives or acquaintances, either before the beginning of the series or shortly after their introduction. Inuyasha's girlfriend Kikyo and Sango's brother Kohaku come back, sort of (very complicated in Kikyo's case). Inuyasha's mother, Shippo's father, Miroku's father, and the rest of Sango's village stay dead.
  • The Iron Man anime series shows the classic origin story with Dr. Yinsen (see the Comic Book and Film entries below) ...then subverts it by not only having Yinsen survive, but become the Big Bad of the series.
  • Kill la Kill has the fathers of both The Hero and The Rival, Isshin Matoi and Soichiro Kiryuin, respectively. They're actually the same man.
  • Kimba the White Lion has the eponymous character's parents who both die by the end of the first episode.
  • In both the Light Novel and Anime versions of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, Rikka's father in both the anime and light novels died years before the story takes place, and is a motivating factor for Rikka to take up the Wicked Eye and search for the Unseen Horizon.
  • Soubi in Loveless ends up at Seven Voices under Ritsu's instruction because his parents were murdered. Soubi's mother is also Ritsu's Lost Lenore, and Nagisa claims this is the reason that Ritsu took Soubi's virginity.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Alicia Testarossa in the first season, whose death drove her mother insane and made her determined to revive her in some way, which resulted in Fate's birth.
    • Clyde Harlaown in A's, who died during the penultimate Book of Darkness case. His death influenced his son Chrono to become strong and was the primary motivation for Gil Graham's illegal plan to permenantly seal the book away.
    • Tiida Lanster in StrikerS, Teana's older brother who died during his final mission in disgrace. From that point on, Teana sought to achieve her brother's dream of becoming an enforcer while proving that the magic he taught her was not useless.
  • Maken-ki!: For much of the series, Takeru pressumes his mother was beaten to death by Tesshin Kushiya. The reader doesn't learn the truth until chapter 46, which recounts Atsuma's battle with Tesshin. She was sickly at the time, from the prolonged usage of her Blood Pointer ability. Yet, she survived the match and died sometime afterward.note . Meaning, Takeru's memory of the event was faulty.
  • All five Shuffle Alliance members in Mobile Fighter G Gundam have deaths connected in some way to the reason why they're in the Gundam Fight: Domon has his mother, who was killed by Kyouji's escape; Argo has the wife of future Neo-Canada pilot Andrew Graham, Norma, who gets sucked out into space in an accident; Sai Saici has his father, who died attempting to revive the Shaolin Temple; George has the Tragedy In Marseilles, in which a cruel competitor snaps and kills many spectators when he's denied the title of Gundam Fight rep; and Chibodee has his mother, who were killed by clown-faced terrorists.
  • Naruto:
    • The whole story of the eponymous character is set in motion by his parents, the Fourth Hokage and his wife sealing the Nine-Tailed Fox into Naruto, even though they lose their own lives in the process, which is shown right at the start of the manga/anime.
    • Likewise the massacre of the Uchiha clan at the hands of his older brother Itachi leads to Sasuke changing his personality and focusing almost entirely on vengeance.
    • Neji's father allows himself to be killed in Hiashi's place. Neji believes he was forced to do it, though, and holds a grudge against the head family until it is revealed that he chose to die- not for the main family but for his village and his brother.
    • Kakashi got this twice in one arc. The first was in-story, where Minato explained the suicide of Kakashi's father had led to him being a stickler for the rules. The second was when Obito died and inspired Kakashi's current personality.
    • Gaara's mother and uncle died, his mother due to complications during birth and his uncle trying to kill him. The Kazekage's attempted manipulations of the facts led to Gaara being less than well-adjusted.
    • Sasori's parents were killed by Sakumo Hatake during a mission, and arguably contributed to his fall.
    • Haku's mother was killed by his father, who Haku then killed.
    • Nagato's parents were killed defending him, his dog was killed in cross-fire from a battle, and his dear friend Yahiko killed himself to protect Konan.
    • Tobi's backstory hinges on the death of Rin, his childhood crush.
    • Madara's brothers were both killed during the Warring Clans Era, as was Hashirama's youngest brother. While Hashirama moved forward, the loss of his brothers played a part in Madara's eventual destiny.
    • Black Zetsu was created by Princess Kaguya in her dying moments, in order to revive her at some point in the future.
    • The cause of Tsunade's hemophobia (and her retirement as a gambler) is her little brother's and later her fiancé's death.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every single character who is given more than five minutes of screen time is defined by the loss of some loved one, most often a parent, most often horribly. Almost all of them through suicide or misaimed noble sacrifice.
  • Noir has main protagonist Mireille Bouquet's reason for fighting being that she wants revenge on The Soldats for killing her parents and older brother.
  • Practically every Straw Hat Pirates member in One Piece has such a tragedy, the only exception being Sanji, whose mentor merely lost his leg and is still around. In the present, however, the number of real deaths (while not zero) is greatly overshadowed by the Disney Deaths.
    • Sanji got his own origin-story tragedy in the Whole Cake Island arc: His mother.
    • Brook is an unusual case in that, being an undead, the Death by Origin Story is actually his own, along with his pirate crew at the time.
    • There's also Fisher Tiger and Otohime, whose deaths influenced the current generation of fishmen.
      • That was pretty much the only guaranteed way, save one or two instances, that any named One Piece character could die.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Amber-Two in The Birth of Mewtwo was likely this for Mewtwo.
    • Pryce's two Lapras were this for the Masked Man in Pokémon Adventures.
      • Human examples include Sun's great grandfather and Soudo's dad.
  • The death of Utena's parents in Revolutionary Girl Utena starts her on her quest to become a prince.
  • The wish Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica sold her soul for was to rewind time to prevent her beloved Madoka's death. One hundred time-loops later and she has yet to accomplish that goal, but she really Took a Level in Badass in the process - from a meek and physically weak girl to a gun master and cold magical girl.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Kamina. No one saw it coming, which added to the shock value of his sudden death. Even afterward, he remained a large inspiration to the entire Dai Gurren Brigade, all the way to the final battle.
  • Tower of God: Anaak's reason for entering the Tower was revenge for the murder of her parents by orders of King Jahad.
  • Rem of Trigun serves as the reason for Vash's motivations and also the source of his philosophy. While in early episodes of the anime their actual relationship is unclear, episode 17 shows their origins and her motherly relationship to him.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicle it's Fai's twin brother, and Kurogane's Parents.
  • In UQ Holder!, Touta's parents were killed in a car crash resulted in him getting amnesia and being raised by Yukihime.
  • Weiß Kreuz enjoys playing with this one. Three of the four members of Weiss are motivated at least in part by someone else's death: Aya by the deaths of his parents, Yoji by the death of his partner Asuka, and Ken by the death of his friend Kase. Kase and (arguably) Asuka both turn up alive again, only for Ken and Yoji to be forced to kill them for real.

    Comic Books 
  • All Fall Down has the 642 casualties inadvertently killed by Sophie's ascendance in The Fall.
  • Parodied in the first issue of The Awesome Slapstick. The Scientist Supreme of Dimension X conveniently falls dead after telling protagonist Steve Harmon everything he needs to know to control his powers and stop the Overlord of Dimension X. After Steve leaves, he springs back up with a grin and remarks "Gets them every time".
  • Batman:
    • Thomas and Martha Wayne for Bruce himself, as seeing his parents murdered by a mugger as a boy inspired him to fight crime when he grew up.
    • This was discussed and then subverted in a comic where Batman and Dick went to an alternate universe where time flowed differently, and it would be the night where the Waynes would get murdered. Robin wondered if saving them meant this universe would be without a Batman. Yet after Batman saved his alternate parents, his alternate self grew up striving to be just like the mysterious hero who saved his family.
    • There are the Flying Graysons for Dick Grayson, who would become the first Robin and later become Nightwing.
    • Jason Todd, the second Robin who would take up the Red Hood indentity as a young adult, was orphaned by the time Bruce picked him up. Tim Drake was the first Robin to avert the formula as when he started out both of his parents were alive, though later writers couldn't resist the temptation and killed off his mom, father and stepmother in succession.
    • Even The Joker has had, in some of his origin stories, his wife dying as part of his origin story turning him to villainy. Or not.
    • In case you didn't think the Batfamily had enough of this, Kate Kane, her twin sister and her mother were kidnapped and held hostage when Kate was ten years old. When her father managed to rescue her, she left her cell and saw their bullet-ridden corpses.
    • Batman Inc. introduces two more characters with similarly tragic pasts. Mr. Unknown, the future Batman of Japan, took on the role after his friend and mentor was tortured and killed in a very gruesome manner. Batwing is a former child soldier from Congo whose parents died of AIDS when he was a boy.
    • At least two Batman villains also have this as their origin; the parents of the Wrath and those of Prometheus were criminals gunned down by the cops right in front of their son.
    • Similarly, Crux from Red Hood and the Outlaws dedicated his life to killing all aliens on Earth after a spaceship crash killed his parents.
    • In the continuity of the New 52, it has been established via retcon that Helena Bertinelli, the post-Crisis Huntress, was killed as a young woman and had her identity usurped by Helena Wayne, her pre-Crisis counterpart.
  • In Big Bang Comics, the Knight Watchman is a Captain Ersatz version of Batman. Instead of losing his parents as a child, however, Reid Randall lost his brother as an adult — he was killed by gangsters who wanted to scare the Randalls into handing over the family business. Reid became the Knight Watchman to put his brother's killers behind bars, and soon took in his orphaned nephew Jerry as his sidekick, Kid Galahad.
  • Blade's mother was attacked while pregnant by a vampire. And while she died in labor, Blade was tainted at birth by the vampire bite, but not fully turned, turning him into a Dhampyr. This pretty much shaped his grudge against the supernatural.
  • Several members of The Boys are motivated by at least one loved one being taken away from them because of the actions of the supes and/or Vought-American.
    • Butcher wants to kill all supes because one of them, initially assumed to be the Homelander, but later revealed to actually be Black Noir, raped his wife and impregnated her with a super-powered fetus that she was unable to survive carrying.
    • The series begins with Hughie being drafted into The Boys after seeing his girlfriend Robin killed by the carelessness of A-Train.
    • Mother's Milk had a mentally handicapped older brother who was killed when the Compound V (the Applied Phlebotinum that is the source of super powers in the setting and injected into people by Vought-American to create their superheroes) in his body made his head swell to impossibly huge proportions while he was wearing a helmet. His father subsequently tried to hold Vought-American accountable by suing them, but ended up dying from overworking himself trying to build up a credible argument against their practices.
  • Captain Atom had two examples. The experiment that turned Nathaniel Adam into Captain Atom also hurled him eighteen years into the future, where he discovered that his wife, Angela had, in the intervening years, died of cancer. Coming to terms with her loss was a big part of Cap's character arc.
    • Cap himself was also an example, of course, since the experiment that made him Captain Atom also atomized his body (he got better, obviously). This was true in the Charlton version as well.
  • Code Name: Gravedigger: In Men of War #1, Ulysses' best friend Andy is killed saving their white commanding officer when the unit is strafed by a German fighter plane. His death, and the officer's reaction, is the final straw that makes Ulysses snap, go AWOL, and storm the Pentagon.
  • Doctor Strange inherited the title and artifacts of "Sorcerer Supreme" after killing his master and tutor, the Ancient One (at his request). Whether this means the role is a You Kill It, You Bought It deal is yet unresolved.
  • The Flash: Barry Allen stayed dead while his former Kid Sidekick Wally West came into his own as his successor. The Return of Barry Allen played with this by having Barry seem to return leaving Wally happy about Barry's return but conflicted about being back in his shadow (particularly since his speed had been reduced at the same point when Barry died leaving him the slower and less competent Flash). He had to deal with these issues in order to defeat Barry when he turned out to be Professor Zoom.
  • G.I. Joe: Reloaded has Rock 'n' Roll motivated to fight against Cobra because Firefly's destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge killed his girlfriend Minh.
  • Green Lantern:
    • Alan Scott forged his ring after his proximity to the Starheart during a catastrophic train crash caused by sabotage saved his life, but killed his friend/lover (depending on continuity) Jimmy Henton who had just been warning him that his business rival Albert Dekker wasn't going to take being outbid lying down.
    • Abin Sur's impending death on Earth led the Green Lantern Ring to choose its first human bearer (not counting Alan Scott, whose ring is of a different origin.) He's managed to stay dead and his death has even given Hal Jordan the nemesis Amon Sur, who blamed Hal for his father's death.
  • Particularly nasty variation in Hack/Slash, in which Cassie Hack's origin story involves having to kill her own psychotic and undead mother.
  • The Intimates only offhandedly mentions it, but Punchy first donned his costume shortly after his older sister was murdered.
  • Iron Man: Ho Yinsen, the man who helped Tony Stark escape capture and build his first suit of armor. The identity of the people who capture Tony and force him to build them weapons varies depending on the medium, but regardless of the exact telling of Iron Man's origins, Yinsen is always there to a) help Tony build his armor and escape, b) act as The Mentor, and c) die.
  • This is mentioned by the second Jailbait in Incorruptible.
    My parents are dead and I just put on this costume because apparently I just had a superhero origin, okay?!
  • Parodied in Kill All Parents, where a scientist discovers that dead parents somehow directly guarantees their kid will become an awesome superhero. This leads to a government project dedicated to randomly murdering couples with children (and in one case an entire alien planet) to ensure that a generation of heroes will exist to save them from a foretold catastrophe.
  • Martian Manhunter has what is arguably the most extreme example of this ever. Most of his species, including his wife and daughter, spontaneously combusted after contracting a psychic plague engineered by his own brother. J'onn only survived by severing his own psychic connection to the rest of his people, meaning he had to watch his family die in front of him while he was mentally cut off from them. The worst thing is that he could have stopped all of this. He knew his brother was up to no good, but J'onn still had misplaced trust in him and underestimated the depths of his evil. The loss of his people and his family in particular are a huge part of his character, which might be why attempts to revive his race always turn out to be fakeouts. While there is another (evil) Green Martian out there, his family is still dead.
  • The backstory of Marvel's Micronauts comic book involves Micronauts leader Arcturus Rann's parents being murdered by Baron Karza during his 1,000-year astral projection journey through the Microverse and Marionette being motivated to join the heroes because Karza killed her parents as well.
  • Micronauts (Image) begins with the demise of future Micronauts leader Ryan Archer's father.
  • Both Mister Terrific's older brother and wife die, leading to him taking up the mantle of the original.
  • Comedically subverted in the second issue of the Monster in My Pocket comic book by Harvey Comics, where the Exterminator, an Alternate Company Equivalent of The Punisher, mentions that his obsession with wiping out all insects happened when a bunch of fire ants came on a day where he had a picnic with his family. It's initially assumed that the fire ants killed his wife and kids, but he clarifies that he's just pissed that the ants ruined his family's picnic.
  • Eve Eden was driven to master her powers and become the hero Nightshade by her mother's murder and brother's abduction.
  • James-Michael's parents in Omega the Unknown, combined with a Robotic Reveal.
  • Shazam!: In The Power Of Shazam Annual #1, CeCe Beck's parents are killed by the Aberrant terrorist Dash Noir. In the confusion, a magic weapon sends Beck to the Rock of Eternity where she meets Captain Marvel and becomes his successor.
  • The Punisher watched his whole family get caught in a mafia cross-fire, leading him to kill as many criminals as he could find.
    • And then, in an alternate-universe story where Frank Castle's family were killed during an alien invasion, he blamed the X-Men and Avengers and went on to hunt down meta-humans. It didn't help that the superheroes weren't very willing to accept responsibility for the deaths that their superfight caused, though Castle's actions in this What If comic were portrayed as nothing less than extreme.
    • Marvel supervillain crimelord, The Hood, magically resurrected Frank Castle's wife and kids during Marvel's Dark Reign, in an attempt to bribe him to leave him alone. Frank is unable to accept that they're the real deal and burns them alive (using the corpse of another briefly-resurrected supervillain who he just killed). Even the Hood (who still gives support to his own ex-wife and kids) was thoroughly shocked.
  • Relative Heroes parodied this; the main characters, who recently discovered their superpowers, decide that the death of their parents means they're destined to be superheroes.
  • ROM (IDW): The Annual reveals that Rom lost his mothers and his younger brother to the Dire Wraiths before becoming a Space Knight.
  • Played with in Runaways, where Victor's mother was killed by his father as a punishment for failing to prevent Victor's powers from emerging ahead of schedule. While this drives him to join the Runaways and become a hero, he is supposedly fated to eventually become the supervillain Victorious.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man's defining tragedy was the very preventable death of his Uncle Ben, who died at the hands of a man who Peter purposefully refused to help the police stop earlier that day.
    • To a much lesser extent, Peter Parker's biological parents, as he was introduced as an orphan being raised by his aunt and uncle. Most comic writers and adaptations tend to treat them as a non-factor in Peter's life, with readers knowing nothing about Richard and Mary until a 1968 annual during the Lee/Romita run. Later, there was a story arc in which the two were "brought back", but unsurprisingly, the "returned" parents were revealed to be robots.
    • In the alternate universe of Spider-Gwen, Gwen Stacy got spider powers instead of her best friend and neighbor Peter Parker, becoming Spider-Woman. Like main universe Peter Parker, she initially begins her career by fooling around with her powers. Meanwhile Peter, finally fed up with being bullied and admiring Spider-Woman, ends up turning himself into the Lizard and goes on an uncontrollable rampage. Gwen, not knowing that her best friend was the monster, not only fought the beast but purposely prolonged the fight for fun, only for Peter to revert to normal and die in her arms from the injuries. This causes her to take her role as a superhero more seriously.
    • Supporting character Toxin plays around with this a little: Toxin's already an established hero when Razorfist kills his father, and by the end of the series Toxin sees Razorfist put behind bars.
  • Played with in Starman. David Knight dies in the first issue after doing nothing of note (apart from fighting the Will Payton Starman), but Jack takes an entire story arc before taking up the mantle. David becomes more interesting after his death, popping up in the annual "Talking With David" stories and even getting his own story arc at the close of the series.
  • Superman:
    • Superman's biological parents died when Krypton blew up; but depending on the continuity, the Kents died when Clark was a child (marking the passage between Superboy and Superman), lived to see their son become Superman and marry Lois Lane (and acted as supporting characters until Jonathan Kent died in Superman: Brainiac), or they died in a car crash involving a drunk driver when he's a child, which removed much of Clark's optimism and makes him a broodier character (albeit Doomsday Clock put them back).
    • Supergirl's biological parents are also a complicated matter. In her origin story, Zor-El and Allura died from Kryptonite-poisoning after sending their daughter to Earth, where she would become a super-hero; however, their deaths were later retconned. In her Post-Crisis origin, they supposedly get killed after getting Kara into a rocket when Brainiac attacked Argo City. Later it was revealed they survived, but they were murdered during the events of New Krypton shortly after. In Last Daughter of Krypton, Zor-El and Allura die when Krypton blows up, after the former gets Kara into a rocket, and later Kara meets and talks to their ghosts.
  • Teen Titans member Cyborg's mother was killed in the same accident that injured him to the point that his father had to fit him with bionics to save his life. In addition, Beast Boy's biological parents were killed shortly after he gained his green skin and hair and power to transform into animals.
  • Subverted and played straight with Rorschach in Watchmen. When his mother died all he said was "Good". But it was the event when Kitty Genovese was killed and despite multiple people hearing and seeing this event did nothing did he decide to become a vigilante.
  • "The Wombat" in 10th Muse murdered her own parents outside a movie theater after arranging for them to see a showing of The Mark of Zorro in an attempt to invoke the trope and make her a stronger hero. This storyline was later remade with a few major alterations in Insane Jane - Jane kills everyone she knows so she can have a proper "origin", but she's schizophrenic and doesn't actually know she's doing it.
  • A few other Marvel stories that involved this trope, for example:
    • The Wasp's debut and origin story involved the murders of Hank Pym's first wife Maria and of Janet Van Dyne's father as motivations for Hank's attraction for Janet and Janet's decision to become a superhero. Before you ask, yes a separate story does exist about Hank Pym's decision of becoming a superhero to find/save Maria. And as of 2016 yet another story about Maria giving birth before being murdered which resulted in Nadia Pym, who became a superhero in her memory and to find her lost family. This must be some kind of a record.
      • This gets spoofed during Marvel Adventures, when the Avengers meet Janet's still-very-much-alive father, who begins explaining Janet's origins, and the Avengers interrupt, assuming she did it to avenge the death of her mother. A flustered Dr. Van Dyne informs them his wife is actually still alive at that very moment.
    • T'Challa became the Black Panther after his father was killed by Ulysses Klaw.
    • Daredevil #1 introduced Matt Murdock as a half-orphan, then his father was murdered on the orders of the Fixer. Frank Miller's retcon later revealed that Matt Murdock's mother had not died but become a nun, while the origin of Miller's new character, the aptly named Elektra also entailed the death of her father.
    • Professor X of the X-Men was shown as having lost his biological parents as well as his step-father in his origin story. Cyclops was introduced as an orphan (although it was later revealed that at least his father survived long enough to meet his children again).
      • Professor X's origin (which spans several decades prior to his debut) also has him paralyzed from waist down. Even though he's no longer in his original body, the notion of one of the most powerful men alive being confined to a wheelchair is so intrinsic to Xavier's character that restoration of his ability to walk never lasts long.
    • Loki's Tales of Asgard origin story showed him as the orphaned son of one of Odin's late enemies.
      • In a roundabout way, Loki manages to be his own death by origin story. See, during Siege, Loki gets torn in half by The Void. Having figured he would die at some point, Loki had already prepared a resurrection scheme, only it goes a little wrong, and a new Loki is born with absolutely none of the old Loki's memories (and more importantly, none of the evil), considered by the universe to be his own individual.
    • Magneto's young daughter died in a fire while a mob tried to kill her father for his newly emerged mutant abilities.
    • Another X-Men example with X-23, who's actually the Decoy Protagonist of her own origin book, which focuses instead on her mother and creator, Sarah Kinney, her attempts to clone Wolverine, and her subsequent Heel Realization and Heel–Face Turn to save the girl. And then she's killed at the end as a final posthumous Kick the Dog by Zander Rice, just as she helps X-23 escape.
    • Jean Grey's mutant power first awakened when her best friend Annie Robinson got hit by a car one day. Jean peered into Annie's mind during her dying moments, and the experience left her traumatized. She became withdrawn from constantly hearing other people's thoughts, and it took the teachings of Professor X to find her true calling.
    • Original Sin revealed an untold chapter of Nick Fury's life: during his CIA days, he was on the losing edge of a battle against invading aliens in Kansas when Woody McCord turned the tide against them, dying from a fatal injury afterwards. Howard Stark, who had been McCord's partner, told Fury about how McCord had been defending the planet from anyone and anything that threatens it, and Fury agreed to continue his legacy in secret.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy decided to join the police force after the murder of his fiancée's father.
  • The Phantom: The first Phantom started battling pirates to avenge his father.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Besides the Own Death by Own Origin Story...
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic: As we learn through flashback narration, the case for Lightning's family. In the remake, the same goes for Starla's parents, Buddy Rose's parents and Buddy Rose's cousin's parents.
  • Connor, Zane and Starr's capture by Pokextinction in Pokéumans give Sakato, Nathan and Starr something tragic to fight for. On the plus side, they aren't dead. They're just brainwashed.
  • In Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfic I'm still alive Jen's only reason to get involved with SHIELD is to get justice for her recently murdered sister, whose death has been written off as an accident. Seven decades later we learn that she's actually alive, but at this point Jen became a sworn enemy to Hydra for other reasons as well.
  • In the Free! fanfic Chlorine Grown Roses, Azusa's parents are killed by an unnamed murderer before the story begins. This becomes a topic of retention later on as Azusa bursts into spontaneous tears whenever her parents are mentioned. Similarly, Akira Tomuson has a similar story wherein her parents are killed by an arsonist.
  • Paradoxus: Bloom and Stella's tragic demise set in motion several plot events:
    • Trisha pretty much invents time travelnote . Can you blame her? The girl misses her mother and has had to suffer several traumatic events in the war from a young age without her protection. The same applies to why Altalune wants to go to the past. Stacy's reason also includes finding a way to prevent or at least lessen the impact of the genocide of Solaria's light fairies and witches.
    • Trisha, Altalune, and Stacy risk their necks in order to obtain the second-to-top fairy transformations in the Paradoxus fanon. Trisha and Altalune faced the hydra in Domino's Royal Palace to obtain the Bloomix while Stacy risked her magic in the quest for the Sirenix. And they had to do it while still being teenagers (their mothers gained those transformations as young adults).
    • Daphne, the nymph, employs unethical and manipulative ways towards her family's life and feelings, which caused them severe trauma in the process. Though, if she wasn't willing to take radical measures, there wouldn't be a Magical Dimension anymore and everyone would have died or been corrupted by either Fel or Eudora's Plague. In her case, it wasn't only Bloom and Stella's deaths that prompted her to act like this, but also Altalune, Trisha, and Stacy's.
  • The Protomen: In Act II, it is revealed that Thomas Light pursued a career in robotics because his father worked himself to death in the mines; with an automated workforce, no one else would have to work themselves into a grave.
  • Hilariously subverted in Kamen Rider Ex Aid Abridged. Nico’s parents are initially mentioned as dead, but are later revealed to be alive. They merely kicked her out for freeloading.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tadashi Hamada in Big Hero 6. The film itself acts as a Deconstruction of this trope, as the reveal of the responsible party doesn't inspire Hiro to justice, but rather to attempt cold-blooded murder.
  • Mufasa in The Lion King (1994), who dies in a Heroic Sacrifice and gives Scar an excuse to scare Simba into exile.
  • Sultan in Delhi Safari, whose death signified that the animals are in grave danger from deforestation, and ultimately convinced a group of animals to head to Delhi to try and convince the humans to stop destroying the forest.
  • Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron: Riri's motivation to become a superhero is the death of her stepfather.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse establishes this as an unfortunate multiversal constant for those who take up the Spider identity. All the Peter Parkers lost their Uncle Bens, Peni Parker lost her father, Gwen lost her best friend (another Peter), and Miles loses not only his universe's Peter (five minutes after the man offered to train him) but his uncle Aaron, aka Prowler.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The comic book films of Batman and Spider-Man follow their predecessors.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Movies rearrange comic book events so that King T'Chaka is killed as part of Black Panther's origin story (in the comics he had already passed away before T'Challa stepped up, but here he's killed in Zemo's attack on the UN). Like in the comics, though, this is averted in the case that once could have made a decent claim to be the Trope Maker.
    • The only difference between the film version of Iron Man and the various comic origins is that Dr. Yinsen, here, is Muslim. But he's still a respected colleague, and he still sacrifices himself to allow Tony to escape. On top of that, his death is a total Tear Jerker, revealing Ten Rings murdered his family, so by dying, he's "going to meet them" as he earlier said he would when he "escaped."
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Godzilla (2014): Sandra Brody is killed in the film's Distant Prologue when Joe, with her urging, tearfully pulls a Shoot the Dog to contain a radiation leakage during the Janjira meltdown caused by the male MUTO. Fifteen years later, Joe hasn't gotten over her death and is fixated on finding out what really happened that's being covered up, while their son Ford has moved on, married and has a kid of his own.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The source of both Mark and Emma Russell's angst in the film is the death of their son Andrew, who was a collateral casualty of Godzilla's Final Battle against the MUTOs during the 2014 film's events. Five years on, Mark is an embittered Titan-hater with a grudge against Godzilla in particular, whilst Emma seems to have moved on from her son's death, but has actually suffered Sanity Slippage, making a Face–Heel Turn and becoming an Eco-Terrorist in league with Alan Jonah due to wanting Andrew's death to not be in vain.
    • Godzilla vs. Kong: Monarch Nathan Lind's brother David died attempting to enter the Hollow Earth before the events of the film, leading to quite a bit of uncertainty and (described in the novelization) confidence issues for Nathan.
  • The Bowler in Mystery Men references this, a little. She inherited the role and title from her father, whose skull is now encased in her (transparent plastic) bowling ball. Twisted a little in that she doesn't really want to be The Bowler; her father's ghost guilted her into it, and she's looking forward to avenging his death not because she feels a burning need for justice but so that she can go back to grad school.
  • Subverted with Jason's old neighbor in Mystery Team.
  • Revealed as the motivation of The Mole in Red Sparrow. General Korchnoi's wife died of a treatable illness while she was stationed with him in the United States, on account of SVR bureaucrats not allowing her to be treated in an American hospital. He became an American mole in hopes of one day getting rid of the men running his country who value power over people.
  • Star Wars:
    • How much of Anakin Skywalker's (Attack of the Clones) move toward the Dark Side had to do with the death of his mother at the hands of the Sand People (whom he'd slaughter in an orgy of vengeance, including women and children—definitely a path to the Dark Side of the Force)? And of course his premonitions of Padme's death were how Palpatine got his hooks in him too.
    • And in A New Hope, Luke starts his trajectory to Jedi herodom with the death of his guardian family on Tatooine, and is on a deeper level motivated by the long ago death (from a certain point of view) of his father.
  • Superman: The Movie: Jor-El and all of Krypton.
    • Also, in this version, Pa Kent's death ends up being what motivates Clark to fulfill his purpose in life as Superman.
    "All those things I could do... all those powers... and I couldn't even save him."
  • In the 2002 remake of The Time Machine, this is actually enforced in-story.
  • Watchmen has a bit of subtle fun with the Batman ur-example: The very first "still" in the title sequence shows the first Nite Owl punching out the would-be killer of Bruce Wayne's parents!
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine has Love Interest Kayla. Being Logan, a character who in the comics collects dead lovers and was unattached in the first three movies, it seemed she was doomed to die, and the film doesn't disappoint... at first. But when it's revealed he death was faked and their affair false, the trope seemed averted. But then it turns out she really loved him... so she was dead as a doornail by the end, and the now amnesiac Wolverine didn't even know to cry over her corpse. Tragic in all the wrong ways.
      • Then there's John Howlett, Wolverine's father, who is killed by the groundskeeper Thomas Logan in a drunken rage. The trauma of witnessing this activates young Logan's mutation: bone claws and he uses this to kill Thomas Logan, supposedly avenging his father's death. With his dying breath, Thomas Logan reveals that he, not John Howlett, is his real father.
    • Erik's mother in X-Men: First Class.
  • In Twister, Jo's motivation for chasing and developing a way to track and predict tornadoes is established at the very beginning of the movie where her father dies while protecting her and her mother from a tornado.

  • In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, young Abe's mother is killed by vampires, thus beginning his quest for revenge.
  • In Black Legion, before Khayon became an Astarte, his sister Itzara was attacked by psyker-targeting parasite, which had eaten half of her brain before being removed. Khayon gave her to Mechanicum, who turned her into the Anamnesis.
  • The CHERUBs are all required to be orphaned or abandoned with no family members likely to turn up and claim them. This trope strikes main characters James and Lauren, as their mother dies just chapters into the first book and Lauren's father is sent to jail for smuggling cigarettes after hitting Lauren.
  • Discworld:
    • The death of Susan's parents. Unusual in that they'd been key characters in a previous book, and that Death himself is implied to have offered them an alternative (living on at his estate, like Albert), but they opted to see their real lives through to the end.
    • Subverted in Hogfather. The Assassins' Guild took Mr. Teatime in as a child because they took pity on him after the sudden death of his parents. As Lord Downey later came to reflect, it was a pity they didn't look into this...
  • Flame in Tales of an Mazing Girl Parents died to motivate her to fight evil. And royally screw her up.
  • Clark Savage, Jr. died in the first Doc Savage novel. He had already trained his son to fight crime.
  • Domino Lady: It is the murder of her father, crusading D.A. Owen Patrick, that inspires his daughter Ellen to become the masked vigilante Domino Lady.
  • The Spider, Richard Wentworth, fought crime after the death of his wife and daughter.
  • Dune:
    • In Dune, Paul Atreides eventually becomes the prophecied Muad'dib after the sneak attack on his House by the Harkonnens. This results in the death of his father, and being driven into the desert where he finds shelter with the Fremen. However, he only decides to follow through on the prophecies after his son diesnote .
    • In Prelude to Dune, both Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck get their start this way. Both of them grew up on Geidi Prime and lost family members to Rabban's ruthlessness (Rabban shoots Duncan's parents in front of him for refusing to let their son be used as prey; later, he rapes and kills Gurney's sister when Gurney tries to rescue her). Both end up fleeing to Caladan and swearing fealty to the Atreides.
  • The Baudelaire Parents Beatrice and Bertrand In A Series of Unfortunate Events are killed before the story begins in a fire that destroys their home.
  • Mack Bolan aka The Executioner, tried to wipe out the entire Mafia after he returned home from Vietnam because of the death of everyone in his family except his little brother. They were killed not by mobsters but by his own father in a Murder-Suicide. He was being pressured by Mafia Loan Sharks, and went insane after discovering that his daughter was prostituting herself to cover his debt.
  • In Harry Potter Harry's parents are killed trying to protect him from Voldemort before the start of the story, his mother's sacrifice specifically allows him to survive.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality series, Zane becomes the incarnation of Death by killing the previous incarnation of Death. Also, death figures largely in why Chronos and Satan become their respective incarnations.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Captain Marko Ramius is motivated to defect to the United States with his prototype Akula-class ballistic missile submarine after his wife died from a botched appendectomy performed by a politically connected surgeon who was drunk on duty.
  • Fisk's parents in the Knight and Rogue Series. His father died of pneumonia after reading a book out in the rain. His mother died in a flu epidemic.
  • In Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, the Markhagir (although he is a villain) has a Death by Origin Story - the neighboring country invades and kills the entire royal family, leaving him suffocating under a mountain of corpses. This trauma turns him into the complete madman he is.
  • Happens to Queen Vasi Bria's mother in The Last Dove. Her death causes the fighting between the clans.
  • In Myth Adventures, the death of Skeeve's first teacher Garkin.
  • Nick Carter's father Sim died in the first Nick Carter story. He had already trained his son to work as a sleuth.
  • Alex Maxwell, a.k.a. Shade of the Seekers of Truth gets one of these when his parents are killed explicitly to draw his brother into the Big Bad's evil plot.
  • Simon Mead in the Selena Mead stories.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The first book Weekend Warriors introduces us to Myra Rutledge, Nikki Quinn, and Barbara Rutledge. All three of them are very happy... until Barbara gets killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver who exploits Diplomatic Impunity! Myra sinks into a funk for over a year until she witnesses a vigilante killing a rapist and killer on live news. Then she gets the inspiration to set up a group of vigilantes to get justice for women who were wronged by Karma Houdinis. On an interesting side note, Barbara has appeared as a ghost to Myra, Nikki, and Charles Martin from time to time to make conversation or offer advice.
  • In Vampire Academy, the accident that Lissa’s family and Rose died in happens before the book starts, and causes just about everything else in every book to happen.
  • Dorn Graybrook in The Year of Rogue Dragons hates dragons with a passion and hunts them for a living. Reason being, a black dragon killed his parents and bit off half his body as a child. (A wizard replaced his missing limbs with iron golem parts.)
  • The first book of The Poster Children opens with the funeral of Mal's father.
    • Despite being about superheroes and comic books having a tendency to bring people back to life, Kitty Burroughs has lamented that Corbin Underwood is "the Uncle Ben" of the Posterverse.
  • In MARZENA, according to Helena, Livia first got hooked up with Marian as to run away from accusations of having killed her wife, thus making her the woman she is today.
  • In Another Note, all the audience is told of A is that he note  was being groomed as a successor to L, was good at math, and was eventually Driven to Suicide due to the pressure he was under. It can be inferred, too, that he meant something to B, since A's suicide spurs B on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Other than that, we know nothing about A.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: Sydney's fiancé Danny is killed in the pilot episode after she tells him she's a spy, and provides the motivation for her turning on SD-6 and starting to work for the real CIA. Despite the introduction into the series mythos of zombies, clones, zombie clones and immortality juice (oh, if only it made sense in context) and multiple fakeout deaths for Sydney's main in-series love interest, Vaughn, Danny stays dead and is never seen again.
  • Arrow: Oliver Queen gets his start when the boat he's on goes down with all hands except him, his father, and the captain. When there isn't enough water for them all, his father shoots the captain and then himself. That's just for starters. His origin story spans five years, years filled with the deaths of people he cares about.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Captain John Sheridan has always regretted the death of his wife, whose ship was destroyed while surveying a distant planet on the edge of known space. Particularly since he is aware that he forgot to say "I love you" and "Good bye" to her the last time they spoke, as they were both in a rush. The discovery that the Shadows were responsible for her death is a huge motivator for him in the second and third seasons of the show. Since he assumed that Delenn was telling him the truth when she said the Shadows killed his wife.
    • Also, Marcus was motivated to become a Ranger after the death of his brother, a Ranger, in a Shadow attack—when previously, he hadn't taken his brother's stories about the Shadows very seriously. (This is touched on a bit in the series, but elaborated in the canon book "To Dream in the City of Sorrows", where we see him in training.)
    • The death of G'Kar's father at the hands of Centauri occupiers (he was a servant in a Centauri household and was hung from a tree for spilling a hot beverage on the lady of the house) spurred young G'Kar to take active leadership in the Narn Resistance, which later made him an important council leader on free Narn, with the position he had in the show.
    • Ivanova joined Earthforce after the death of her brother in the Minbari War—in spite her father being a pacifist and opposing her joining. Also, her mother's suicide from the depressive effects of PsiCorps drugs spurred her to become a big foe of that organization, and to help some telepaths avoid or escape its clutches.
  • Bad Boy: In this Korean Drama, the death of Gun Wook's Forgotten Fallen Friend from the orphanage begins his revenge against the rich family that abandoned him.
  • Blue Bloods: The middle sibling Joe Reagan was killed in the line of duty before the series began. This formed part of youngest sibling Jamie Reagan's motivation to leave law school to become a cop like most of the rest of the family. Jamie's investigation into Joe's death also formed the main plot arc for season 1.
  • Castle: The reason why Beckett is a detective rather than a lawyer is because of her mother's murder that went unsolved. Castle starts digging into that, against her wishes, but eventually digs up enough dirt to cause trouble for them. It's the main arc of the series, and it finally ends near the end of Season 7 when Beckett arrests the man responsible for giving the order to kill her mother, Senator Bracken, when she finally got enough evidence to do so.
  • CSI: NY: Mac's wife Claire, who died on 9/11—it's gotta be part of the mix of his motivation to fight for justice, alongside his Marine background.
  • Dark Justice: Judge Nicholas Marshall, the protagonist, stopped believing in the system and started believing justice when he lost his family (namely, his wife and his daughter) and the murderer got Off on a Technicality.
  • Dexter: Dexter's adoptive father, Harry Morgan. And his biological mother who got hacked up in a shipping container when he was 2.5 years old - Dex and his older brother Brian sat in blood for three days.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A number of companions of the Doctor have ended up traveling with him after their close relations died, usually as Back Story (making them Conveniently an Orphan) occasionally as shown onscreen:
    • Vicki's father was killed in a massacre just prior to the events of her debut story, "The Rescue".
    • Sara Kingdom was tricked into assassinating her own brother in "The Daleks' Master Plan", but died herself at the end of the story.
    • Victoria Waterfield's father died fighting the Daleks in "The Evil of the Daleks".
    • Adric lost his brother to the Marshmen in "Full Circle" and, with him, any reason for staying with his own people. When Adric himself died at the end of "Earthshock", he was seen holding his brother's belt in his final moments.
    • Nyssa lost two family members as a result of the Master's machinations in "The Keeper of Traken". The first was her stepmother, whom the Master manipulated, then killed once he had no further use for her. Then, the Master killed Nyssa's father and took over his body; this was followed soon after by the destruction (in "Logopolis") of Nyssa's home planet.
    • Tegan Jovanka's aunt was murdered by the Master in "Logopolis".
    • For a viewer who begins watching from the beginning of the new series (2005) this trope could also apply to the entirety of the Time Lord race.
    • Technically the regeneration of one Doctor into another is a Death by Origin Story, since the previous Doctor has to die for the new one to be born.
  • Both the 1990 and the 2014 adaptations of The Flash give Barry this motivation for becoming the titular hero after he gains his powers. In the 1990 version, his older cop brother is ambushed and killed by his Arch-Nemesis Pike. In the 2014 version, his mother is killed by the Reverse-Flash when Barry is young, and his father is jailed for her death, causing Barry to spend a long time looking into various supernatural occurrences until he himself becomes one.
  • Gotham opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. In addition to starting their son Bruce on his way to becoming Batman, the case also proves important to the origin stories of other characters:
    • Jim Gordon, the detective investigating the case, becomes frustrated by the corruption in the GCPD and starts fighting to clean it up.
    • Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) snitches to Gordon and is driven out of Carmine Falcone's organization as a result. He starts again with Falcone's main rival.
    • Ivy Pepper's (Poison Ivy) father is framed as a suspect and killed resisting arrest.
  • Leverage: Sam, the young son of mastermind Nathan Ford, died prior to the start of the show after a health insurance company refused to pay for his treatment. Nate blames the company, and his need for revenge leads him to use his skills to steal from the heartless rich to give to the deserving.
  • The Mentalist: Psychic Patrick Jane, the protagonist, became a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation when his wife and his daughter were murdered by a serial killer. Particularly because he partly blames himself, as he openly mocked the serial killer on a talk show.
  • Merlin: Arthur's mom, Ygraine, died giving birth to him. The catalyst for Uther's magic ban and a major part of the series' premise.
  • Miami Vice: Tubbs' older brother Rafael is killed in the pilot episode, causing Tubbs to go to Miami to seek revenge.
  • The death of Gibbs's first wife and only child at the hands of a drug dealer (And his hunting down and killing him) set him on the path to stop being a Marine sniper and instead become one of the top investigators of NCIS.
  • Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation: Mei Peih Chi, better known as Venus de Milo, is informed of her true origins when her master Chung I is fatally injured by the Dragon Lord. On his deathbed, her master tells her to go to New York City in order to be with Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
  • Nirvana in Fire: Prince Qi and Lin Shu's father General Lin Xie are betrayed and framed as traitors. Lin Shu is also almost killed but comes back as Mei Changsu with the goal of getting justice for their deaths.
  • Power Rangers RPM: Marcus (Scott's brother) and Andrews (Summer's butler). Not to mention nearly all life on Earth when Venjix unleashes a Type 4 disaster at the start of the series.
  • Primeval: New World: Evan's wife, Brooke, is killed by the Albertosaurus before the series began, thus turning the Albertosaurus into an Animal Nemesis and driving Evan into discovering the anomalies with his team.
  • Pushing Daisies: Ned first discovered he could resurrect the dead when his dog, Digby, was hit by a truck. His mother died soon after, and he resurrected her. However, the dead could only be brought back to life for one minute, or something else had to die. Ned didn't know this, and only learned it when the father of the Girl Next Door, Chuck, suddenly died. Ned then discovered that if he touched a resurrected person again, they died again, with no more chance at resurrection. He learned this when his mother kissed him good night. Finally, Chuck is murdered when she and Ned are adults, and he resurrects her, thus starting the events of the series...
  • Queen of Swords: The murder of Tessa's father in the pilot episode provides the motivation for her to become the masked vigilante, the Queen of Swords.
  • Revolution: In the pilot episode, Ben Matheson gets killed off in a shootout between the Monroe Republic's militia and his son Danny Matheson. Between that and Danny Matheson being captured the militia, this is what starts the plot of the show.
  • Slingers: DM's blames himself for his girlfriend's death. As presumably some form of closure he uses a holographic copy of her as ship pilot.
  • Smallville: There was a comic book about Lex's childhood hero, the Avenging Angel, whose love interest became a victim of this trope. When the producers of a movie based on the comic decided to use the Spared by the Adaptation trope on her, it motivated a Villain of the Week to kill her actress while recording the scene where the character should die. When the villain learned of Clark's powers and how he uses them for good, the villain decided to kill Clark's love interest out of the belief a hero needs this element and a living girlfriend would be a weakness.
  • Spider-Man (Japan): The series barely has anything in common with the Spider-Man of the comics, but the origin of Takuya Yamashiro (this continuity's Spider-Man's civilian identity instead of Peter Parker) still involves people close to him dying. He agrees to become Spider-Man and fight Professor Monster's Iron Cross Army partly to avenge the death of his father, while Garia (the alien who gave Takuya his spider powers by donating his blood) turns into a spider so he can secretly mentor Takuya in his home, but ends up dying by the second episode, which motivates Takuya to fight the Iron Cross Army to avenge him as well.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Charlie, O'Neill's son. In the original movie, Charlie's death is a major motivation for O'Neill to go on what is probably going to be, and almost is, a suicide mission. And despite several characters treating death as a revolving door (I'm looking at you, Daniel), Charlie stays dead (except for that one alternate reality). Of course, he's been dead and buried well before they ever run across the technology to bring people back to life, which only seems to work on the recently deceased (and has bad side effects anyway).
  • Supernatural: The death of Mary Winchester spurred her husband, John, and children, Dean and Sam to begin hunting. Sam eventually distanced himself from the profession, went to college and was planning to go to law school, but The Call Knows Where You Live and he had to watch his girlfriend, Jessica Moore, brutally murdered in the same way as his mother so he would reenter the profession again. All of these happened in the pilot episode, so in spite of death being ridiculously easy to bargain in the series, the fanbase have pretty much already made peace with the thought that those two will never come back except as spirits or flashbacks. Which is why the creators' decision to bring back Mary in season 11—and not just as a finale stunt as many expected, but as a main character—was such an earth-shattering event. Still no luck for Jessica, though.
  • Teen Wolf: The deaths of Derek's family. The fire that killed the majority of his family years before the story begins has shaped Derek into the person he is, and establishes Kate as one of the first season's main villains when it turns out that she was the one who set the fire. The more recent murder of Derek's sister Laura establishes the Alpha as the Big Bad of the first season, and also starts the whole story since her body being found is the reason Scott and Stiles are wandering around in the woods, leading to Scott being bitten and becoming a werewolf.
  • Tracker: Cole became a prison guard to guard Rhee, the Vardian who killed his wife and daughter. And then he follows Rhee to Earth after the escape. Although he's charged with rounding up all the escapees, Rhee is his first and primary objective.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Callisto's Start of Darkness happened when then-Big Bad Xena killed her parents before her eyes. When goddesshood and time travel gave her a chance to save them, she killed them anyway to ensure she would become the monster she is.

  • In Kagerou Project, this is almost required for most of the cast:
    • Hiyori dies to bring Hibiya out of the Heat Haze Daze, though he had to sacrifice himself to save her from dying over and over to do it.
    • Sickly Haruka dies in Takane's backstory, though she dies not long after. Both are brought back to the living as Konoha and Ene, though Ene is a digital spirit.
    • Kido's sister died in a house fire.
    • Momo's father saved her from drowning.
    • Seto's only friend as a child, a stray dog, was killed when the pair were trapped during a flood.
    • Marry's mother died protecting her from an angry mob.
    • As the franchise goes on, it's revealed the eye powers are activated by dying and being sent to the Daze. They are offered a chance to come back to life using one of Azami's snakes: if alone (as in Haruka, Ene, Ayano, and Shintaro's cases), they can leave as long as they take up the offer. If two come in at once (as with the other members' backstories and the Tateyama parents), one tends to sacrifice their chance of reviving by giving the snake to the other.
    • In a more conventional version, the death of Ayano is what drove Kido, Seto, and Kano to form the Mekakushi Dan in her memory. Ayano's death is also what drove Shinjiro into becoming a shut-in.
  • The Who "Pictures of Lily". She's been dead since 1929. (Possibly just by old age - the song was recorded 1967, and even the father of the singer says "If only I'd been born in Lily's time".)

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Origins set of Magic: The Gathering had a few of these, being focused on the backstories of five prominent characters and the tragedies that awakened their Planeswalker sparks. More specifically:
    • Kythian (now Gideon) threw a spear at the local god of death in a fit of hubris. He survived the response, being Nigh-Invulnerable, but the friends with him weren't so lucky.
    • Liliana's brother suffered undeath and tried to kill her when she misguidedly attempted to heal him with necromancy.
    • Chandra had to go into hiding as a child because the local government wouldn't tolerate her pyromancy. Her parents were hunted down while trying to save her from execution, or at least, her father was. Her mother seems to have escaped the burning village, but since Chandra hadn't returned to Kaladesh for years after her first Planeswalk, she never knew.

  • Toa Lhikan as part of the Toa Metru's origin story in BIONICLE.
  • Transformers: Several versions of Optimus Prime's origins have him taking over from Sentinel Prime, the previous leader of the Autobots, who tried fighting the Decepticons when they got started, and wound up horribly dead for his troubles.

    Video Games 
  • It's not surprising that this happens a lot in Ace Attorney, given the game is entirely about murders.
    • Phoenix's first major case was the murder of his mentor Mia Fey, although she stuck around afterwards. Later she even does double-duty for the origin of Prosecutor Godot.
    • Gregory Edgeworth's death is what led to his son Miles getting adopted and getting turned into the Demon Prosecutor.
    • The unsolved murder of Cece Yew is what prompted the formation of the Yatagarasu.
    • Kay Faraday would probably not be the second Yatagarasu if she wasn't trying to follow in her dead father's footsteps.
    • Metis Cykes's murder and her friend Simon Blackquill's conviction leads her daughter Athena to become a defense attorney to prove him innocent.
  • Sadly it seems to be a requirement to become a really good assassin in Assassin's Creed.
    • Assassin's Creed II: Ezio Auditore becomes an Assassin after his father (an Assassin himself) and two brothers are framed and publicly executed. His first act is to hunt down and kill the man who had them killed, only to find out that someone else was pulling the strings. The rest of the game involves hunting down and assassinating Templars one-by-one.
    • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor's mother was killed when his village is attacked by Charles Lee, setting him on the path of vengeance.
    • In Assassin's Creed: Unity, Arno Victor Dorian's father was killed by a Templar when he was a child, and his stepfather was killed by a Templar when he was a teenager. Arno joined the Assassin's to learn about the latter murder.
  • In Daughter for Dessert, the conflict between the protagonist and Cecilia, with Amanda being caught in the middle, revolves around Lainie’s death.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Eva's death caused Dante to become a demon hunter, hoping to eventually find the one responsible for it in order to avenge her. Although early canon is decidedly unspecific on how she died, the prequel manga for Devil May Cry 3 at least hints at a demon attack. Devil May Cry 5 then shows a flashback of her final moments with Dante way back when their household got attacked and engulfed in flames. According to a newspaper excerpt from the library section of the latter game, Eva's corpse was damaged and charred after the incident, although witnesses were still able to identify her.
    • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Kalina Ann is killed by her husband in a ritual that was intended to give him demonic powers. Her daughter, Lady, became an Action Girl for the specific purpose of avenging her and ridding the world of all demons.
  • It being the slightly Troperiffic series that it is, Dragon Age does this in each game.
    • Dragon Age: Origins has six different origins to choose from, and someone close to the player character dies in at least three of them.
    • Dragon Age II starts not very long after the death of the main character's father, and depending on certain choices, their younger brother or sister will die during the prologue. Both of these events have a lasting impact on them throughout the game, compounded by the later death of at least one of their remaining family members.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition opens with the destruction of a peace summit, and literally every single person in attendance dies except for the player. They spend a large part of the game dealing with the ramifications of this, not least the fact that they're suspected of being the one responsible. In the case of the human player character, it's particularly personal because they were attending the summit along with several members of their extended family, all of whom are now dead.
  • Jeff Bogard dies ten years before the events of Fatal Fury, driving his adopted sons Terry and Andy to train in martial arts to avenge his murder at the hands of Geese Howard.
  • Final Fantasy VII has several cases of this: Aerith's biological mother, Cloud's mother and Tifa's father being among those we're aware of having Died By Origin Story at a fairly early point in the game - in fact, the death of her father in the Nibelheim Incident, which also took Cloud's mother's life, was what prompted Tifa to join The Resistance against Shinra, since she blamed them for his death. Taking this even further though, to a gut-wrenching extreme, is Zack Fair, the SOLDIER who saved Cloud's life after the Nibelheim Incident, and whom Cloud is so traumatized at losing, he winds up with severe mental health issues that plague him for the entire original game and well into the sequel materials, including dissociation, flashbacks, and memory issues that extend to forgetting for some time that Zack ever even existed; the experience of seeing him die was so horrific it caused all of this...and therefore some of the most memorable elements of the game. Zack also falls prey to the "prequel" variation of the trope: he's the hero, Point of View Character, and Player Character in the prequel game Crisis Core... meaning any player who knows the canon of the original game, released about decade earlier, is aware that he's going to die having never made it back to Midgar. Oh, and for bonus points, we know that Cloud, by the time a few more weeks rolls around and he meets Tifa again? Will forget he ever existed, let alone the Heroic Sacrifice he made to save Cloud. Ouch.
  • Tombstone's wife in Freedom Force was killed by a neighbor in revenge for turning him down (also see the own death section)
  • In The Godfather: The Game game, Johnny Trapani serves as the Decoy Protagonist for the prologue and is gunned down at the end, paving the way for his son Aldo to become the real player character and giving him motivation to go out and kick the asses of other mobsters.
    • Aldo himself dies in the prologue of Godfather 2, which as his second in command allows the player character room to step in and take his place in the organization.
  • The Spirit Monk's unnamed parents (and the entire population of Dirge) was killed by Emperor Sun Hai's invasion in the backstory of Jade Empire, which led directly to the nasty problems the player must solve.
    • Dawn Star is also an orphan, although it's revealed that her father is still alive - it's their teacher Master Li, while her mother was murdered by order of The Emperor.
  • The Last of Us has Sarah, Joel's daughter who dies in the prologue, which takes place 20 years prior to the events of the game.
  • Link's mother in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Interestingly, we don't actually find this out until halfway through the game.
  • In Mass Effect, two of the three possible backstories for Commander have his/her parents dead by default either because Shepard grew up on the streets or because of a Batarian slaver attack on Mindoir.
  • In Metroid, Samus Aran's family and the Chozo who raised her are all dead thanks to Space Pirates. This is elaborated in the manga, and only hinted at in the games.
  • Hanzo Hasashi's family is slaughtered by the Lin Kuei, specifically, by a warrior named Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero). After Hasashi himself comes back from the dead, he vows to avenge them and kill Sub-Zero. To symbolize himself as a new person, he starts calling himself Scorpion (also see below).
  • Esmerelle, the player's mother in Neverwinter Nights 2, was killed by a bit of the exploding MacGuffin that ended up stuck in the player's chest.
  • Jack Dark in Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Bella Goth in The Sims 2, who was abducted by aliens. Even trying to bring her back using her character files usually fails because she has the memory "I died". Trying to get her clone from Strangetown also usually messes with the game. Despite this, there is still an Urban Legend of Zelda going around that there is a cheat to bring her back.
  • Street Fighter is fairly fond of this trope, with the "disappearance" of Chun-Li's father and the death of Charlie being the main reason why Chun-Li and Guile respectively joined the Street Fighter II tournament. Thunder Hawk's father, Arroyo, was also a past victim of M. Bison.
  • In Suikoden II, the entire backstory for the Cooking Duel minigame sidequest is that Hai Yo is on the run from a cooking syndicate intent on stealing a recipe he received from his deceased fiancée Shun Min. Slight subversion in the fact that we're able to meet Shun Min in Suikoden V before her Death by Origin Story takes place.
  • When her little brother Myouren dies, Buddhist nun Byakuren Hijiri decides to pursue immortality to avoid her own death. She tries to broker peace between humans and youkai along the way, gets sealed away for her sins, and that puts in motion the events of Touhou Seirensen ~ Undefined Fantastic Object.
  • In World of Warcraft, lots of dead characters from the previous games are back in a way or another for everybody's enjoyment. However, this doesn't include Durotan and Draka (Thrall's parents), Llane Wrynn (Varian Wrynn's father), or Grom Hellscream (Garrosh's father).
    • Through time travel shenanigans, the Warlords of Draenor expansion actually is bringing back Grom and Durotan.note 
    • You quest with Draka and Durotan throughout Frostfire Ridge, and after you finish the zone you can see both of them in your garrison. Thrall even comments that Durotan is "like a father" to him. Although it could be argued that THIS Durotan and Draka are not his parents because it's an alternate universe.
  • Overwatch: Gérard Lacroix was an Overwatch agent who spearheaded operations against terrorist organization Talon, and was the husband of Amélie Lacroix. The civilian wife was then kidnapped and brainwashed by Talon into killing him as a sleeper agent, and then became their top assassin as The Dreaded sniper Widowmaker. While other characters have been "supposedly dead" before turning up alive and coming back, he has been confirmed to be dead for good, because bringing him back would undermine her tragic backstory.
  • Dana Strange, the protagonist of the Strange Investigations series from Elephant Games, lost her younger sister Ursula to a psychotic kidnapper on Ursula's tenth birthday. This drove Dana to become a police detective so she could personally bring the guilty party to justice. Ursula was later murdered right in front of Dana, who had just found her, and in the present day she continues to be haunted by nightmares about it.


    Web Original 
  • The Accuser became a vigilante after his wife was killed.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Penny died to make Dr. Horrible who he is... so unless Whedon has something really strange up his sleeve in the sequel, she's Deader Than Dead.
  • Epic Tales:
    • In the series Shadow Hawk, the title character's father is killed. This is what leads to him becoming a superhero, so that he can learn about his father's killer and get revenge.
    • Also the character Astral Controller is an example of someone whose death was their origin story, as David Wilson only become Astral Controller after he died because of a deal he made with Hades.
  • The Shadow of the LessThanThree-Verse has his older brother, who was killed in a shootout between rival gangs. This lead to Shadow taking self-defense classes, and beginning his crimefighting career. Lucky for him, he discovered his superpowers on the job.
  • Deirdre Rees's parents in Night Hunters.
  • Phase in the Whateley Universe still has both parents, but his mother hates him now that he has turned into a mutant. It's her backstory that has this trope. As a child, she and her big sis were kidnapped by two horrific mutants, one of whom generates a fear aura and manifests monsters. The other was worse. The other ate the big sis alive in front of the child. Phase's mother was institutionalized for three years after her rescue. She's never going to be okay with Phase being a mutant.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, the source of the conflict between the Turtles and the Foot is the rivalry of Hamato Yoshi and a rival (primarily Oroku Saki) over the beautiful but ultimately ill-fated Tang Shen, who always ends up dying after choosing Yoshi due to the other suitor's jealousy.
  • In Thundercats 2011, Lion-O's personal motivation to defeat Big Bad Mumm-Ra is shaped not just by the destruction of Lion-O's kingdom, but by Mumm-Ra's gloating assassination of Lion-O's father, King Claudus.
  • In Batman Beyond, the murder of Terry's father leads Terry to become the new Batman.
    • It was revealed several years later in the Justice League episode Epilogue, that this was subverted once when Terry was just a boy. Government agency Cadmus had decided that Batman would always be needed, but Bruce Wayne was getting on in years, so they started Project Batman Beyond. Terry's father's DNA was modified to match that of Wayne, essentially making Terry the latter's son rather than the former's. For the project to truly work, however, they planned to kill both Mr. and Mrs. McGinnis, theorizing that the tragedy of parental loss was just as important to a Batman's origin as genetics. However, the assassin couldn't bring herself to go through with the hit when the time came, so Terry's dad lived another decade. Amanda Waller, who orchestrated the whole thing (and reluctantly agreed with the assassin's refusal), comments that Mr. McGinnis dying regardless of her interference seems to be a sign that the universe itself demands that Batman exist.
  • Transformers: Prime has Arcee's old partner Tailgate, killed by Airachnid after Arcee couldn't give information she didn't have, and serving as the main reason, along with Cliffjumper, for her loner status in the series.

Examples of Own Death by Own Origin Story:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Really quiet young hitman gets betrayed and murdered by his closest best friend. His body is stolen from the syndicate he worked for by a scientist who has the technology to reanimate the dead. The deceased man in question is revived as a nearly-invincible gun-toting cowboy assassin and sent out to take revenge on his killer and the syndicate that betrayed him. That's Gungrave right there.
  • Issei from High School D×D dies in the first episode, but is reincarnated as a devil by his new master, Rias Gremory.
  • Is This a Zombie?: Ayumu dies at the start then becomes a zombie. The driving force behind the first third of the anime is finding his killer.
  • Brook of One Piece died along with his entire crew, but he was the only one who could come back (though only once).
  • Pretty much the entire cast of Sailor Moon died in their origin story and reincarnated in present day (as of when the Series was released) The senshi aside from Venus are kept in the dark about this for much of the first season. It is unknown how Venus already knows in the anime but in the manga she learned in her own series, Codename: Sailor V.
  • One of the first things we learn in Shakugan no Shana is that the protagonist, Yuji Sakai, has been dead for an indeterminate amount of time.
  • The main character of YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke Urameshi, looks at his own dead body within the first 5 minutes of the first episode.

    Comic Books 
  • Briar Harvestar/The Hooded One in Bone, though she is not the main protagonist.
  • The same thing applies to everyone resurrected by The Crow, and they usually have dead loved ones to avenge as well.
  • Boston Brand, aka Deadman, gained his abilities by, well, getting killed. His body is even resurrected by the Black Lanterns but his attempt to repossess his old shell and return to the ranks of the living fails. Then the White Lanterns bring him back... for a while, anyway.
  • Parodied in another way in the Great Lakes Avengers' Mr. Immortal. It's something of a misnomer, since he's perfectly capable of being killed; "Mr. Resurrection" might be better... for him the Grim Portal is more of a revolving door.
  • Doomsday is shown to be a version of the trope in the minseries Hunter/Prey. He started off as an experiment in "evolution". Whenever he gets killed, he comes back in an "evolved" form with improved resistance to whatever killed him. Over time this builds up to the point that he was capable of going toe-to-toe with Big Blue in the "Doomsday/Death of Superman" arc. In which he and Superman killed each other. Hunter/Prey takes place after that; you do the math.
  • Parodied in Knights of the Dinner Table; Bob's first attempt at being a Game Master involved all the characters being killed, and then the main bulk of the adventure took place in Hell. For some reason, though, he never explained this and let them roll up new characters, who also had to die before the adventure could begin. This went on for hours, until the group, as he put it, "gave up during the prologue".
  • Moon Knight took the cowl when he was beaten to death by Raoul Bushman and was resurrected to serve as Khonshu's fist of justice. He also hunts Werewolves by the side, we're not really sure why.
  • Resurrection Man's power involves him dying and then being resurrected by nanotechnology with a new super power, usually related to the manner of his death.
  • Secret agent/assassin Al Simmons is set up and murdered by his boss. After striking a Deal with the Devil he is returned to Earth as Spawn with a new body and supernatural powers.
  • Typically, this is what happens to The Spectre's hosts; almost all of them were murder victims who found themselves bonded to the Vengeance of God incarnate.
  • The Spirit 'dies' in every version of his origin story, which is why he calls himself the Spirit in the first place. If you want to get technical, he is exposed to chemicals that put him into a death like coma and is buried. He awakes and takes advantage of his new found death status to become a vigilante. Alvarro Mortez AKA 'El Morte' in the DC reboot actually dies though. He is unfortunate enough to die TWICE.
  • Ditto Swamp Thing. ...Sort of. It gets... complicated when Alan Moore comes on board.
    • And, while on the subject of Swamp Thing, it's also true for Garbage Man, a very similar character.
  • Physicist Jon Osterman from Watchmen is atomized in a nuclear experiment, but returns as "Dr. Manhattan", an immortal indestructible ascended godlike entity.
    • Dr. Manhattan was an Expy of Captain Atom, so it is of course not surprising that Cap's origin was basically the same in both the original Charlton version and post-Crisis DC version: his body atomized by a nuclear bomb, he returns with superpowers. Also, see above for the example of his first wife.
  • Parodied in an issue of What's New? with Phil and Dixie, when a nascent superhero is subjected to so many different methods of acquiring superpowers simultaneously that he is reduced to ashes.
  • Hilariously invoked in All-Star Superman, when Superman is on a world that spits out opposite clones of his world (such as Bizarro Superman having flame breath instead of Superman's trademark ice breath), Superman asks about Bizarro Batman, and is told that his parents shot him, he's dead.
  • Every member of the Death Vigil had to die in order to be resurrected by The Grim Reaper to fight the forces of darkness.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Crow movies, where the murdered protagonist is granted the chance to return as a deathless revenant to take revenge on his murderers.
  • Highlander—an Immortal becomes an Immortal when s/he 'dies' the first time.
  • The RoboCop franchise deals with a mortally-wounded police officer named Alex Murphy, who's converted into the titular cyborg by a Mega-Corp following his injuries.
  • Naturally, some movies featuring vampires or ghosts as main characters.
  • The backstory for Freddy Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series is that the people of Springwood burned him to death for his crimes against their children and he came back to kill their kids in their dreams.

    Light Novels 
  • This is required for Reincarnate in Another World light novels, as the protagonist in question is typically granted a second chance as compensation for dying before their time.
    • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation began with Rudeus spending his last moments saving a couple of kids from getting hit by a truck, only to get hit himself in the process.
    • In That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime , Satoru Mikami gets stabbed to death protecting a friend from a knife attack.
    • In Re:Zero, Subaru gets hit by a truck while trying to cross the street. Unfortunately for him, the deaths he experiences don't stop there.
    • The main premise of KonoSuba is that main character Kazuma dies from the shock of possibly being run over by a tractor, and is resurrected in a fantasy world.
    • In So I'm a Spider, So What?, Kumo's old self and her former classmates were killed in an explosion before being reincarnated into various fantasy RPG characters.

  • The opening paragraph of Daemon is Matthew Sobol's obituary. Guess who becomes the main antagonist of the book.
    • A variation occurs with Pete Sebeck. He is tried, convicted, and put to death, but the Daemon had an agent that somehow made him simply be put to sleep instead of dying. In the second book, he goes on to be a legend of the Darknet, and Sobol gives him the choice of whether the Daemon has been a force for good or evil in the world.
  • Allen Carpentier in Niven and Pournelle's Inferno (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle).
  • Dead Boy in the Nightside novels.
  • Ring 0: Birthday, and the novella "Birthday", on which it was based, recount the tale of how Sadako Yamamura was killed and tossed down a well, turning her into the vengeful, supernatural entity of Ringu.
  • Arguably almost all the Cullens in Twilight, if you count "between life and death, only turning them into a vampire can save them now" as death.
  • MARZENA has Lauren who is really just a plastic surgery double and the real Lauren died before the beginning of the story. Seeing that fake-Lauren's brain is capable of miming other neurologically similar brains, according to Narrator's Techno Babble, that makes both Laurens the same person in that they have the same Time-Space but not the same Continuum of Consciousness.
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi starts the story with the main character Wei Wuxian's death from all the cultivator clans uniting to kill him. He comes back thirteen years later due to his own unwilling possession of a sacrificial victim's body. And then the aftermath.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Grim Reapers in Dead Like Me start their "second" life (well, unlife) by dying, and then find out that for them the afterlife is not what they expected. Consequently, the central character and narrator of the series, Georgia "George" Lass, dies in a freak accident during the first twenty minutes of the pilot episode and is drafted into the ranks of the Reapers, to collect souls from the dead and help them pass on into the light.
  • All kinds of vampires, those we actually met (if briefly) before they became undead: Dracula, Nicholas Knight, Angel, Spike... becoming a vampire has a marked effect on their psyche and motivations.
    • The Legacy of Kain franchise offers several interesting examples: Kain originally becomes a vampire to kill his assassins and to satisfy his thirst for revenge, and Raziel has been killed and resurrected twice, first by Kain after his death by his own hand as a vampire-hunting Sarafan knight, and again after serving as Kain's underling for a millennium and then betraying him, being cast into the Lake of the Dead, from where the Elder God resurrects him as a half-wraith half-vampire to settle the score with Kain...and to carry out the Elder God's ulterior motives.
  • After his parents and little sister were murdered by Destron, Shiro Kazami's drive for revenge almost led to him making a Heroic Sacrifice to save Kamen Riders Ichigo & Nigo. Thankfully he gets rebuilt into Kamen Rider V3.
  • Kai from Lexx, whose introductory narration declares, "Today is my day of death: the day our story begins." After spending 2000 years reanimated as an assassin in the service of evil, he finally reclaims his memories and identity, but not his life.
  • Jack Harkness of Torchwood was killed by Daleks on Doctor Who and was revived and made immortal by a temporarily god-like Rose Tyler. Every time he died subsequently, he then returned to life. When we meet him at the start of Torchwood, his death and resurrection happened 138 years ago. His death, abandonment by the Doctor, and immortality, more or less created the Jack we see in Torchwood.
  • Takeru Tenkuji is cut down by the Ganma in the first episode of Kamen Rider Ghost. His primary focus, other than saving other people from a similar fate, is gather 15 Transformation Trinkets in 99 days, which should allow him to resurrect.
  • Liv of iZombie dies and becomes a zombie within minutes from the start of the first episode. This gives her the powers that she will use to solve murders.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Osiris from Egyptian Mythology came to rule over the underworld after his own death.
  • Jesus Christ in the Bible becomes the savior of human souls after His death and resurrection.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Transhuman Space setting features a destructive brain-scanning technology that allows newly-dead individuals to have their personalities and memories restored as computer software. Anyone who wants to start play as such a digital "ghost" will thus have died before play begins. Running a Whodunnit to Me? mystery as the character's first scenario is strictly optional, but has been known.
  • Early versions of Traveller featured a character generation system which frequently killed player characters before play began. Yes, you read that right: it was possible for a character to die while being rolled up if they stayed in what would become their pre-game career (acquiring cool extra skills) for too long, or if they were just unlucky. This was supposed to deter players from creating too many characters somehow, but actually had the opposite effect. In fact, there was a military service (implied to be of the commando/special forces type) for "hopeless" characters with sub-par ability scores designed to either kill them off or give them significant rewards to compensate for their deficiencies. Later editions just had characters forced out of the career with some kind of injury. The edition of Traveler put out by Mongoose Publishing referred to "You die if you fail the survival roll" as "Iron Man".
  • The Old World of Darkness game Wraith: The Oblivion is one of the few games where the dreaded words "Well ... you're dead." are completely expected.
    • This is also true for the WoD game Orpheus where a fair share of PCs are ghosts, either right from the beginning, or by dying during the game.
    • Also, just about every player character in Vampire: The Masquerade and NWOD counterpart Vampire: The Requiem is technically dead, being a vampire.
    • See also Mummy: The Resurrection; thanks to the Spell of Life and variants, when you get killed again, you'll always come back. In its NWOD successor Mummy: The Curse, the Rite of Return serves the same function.
    • The New World of Darkness also gives us Geist, where the PC dies, but comes back after making a deal with a Geist.
    • And if you want to pull off becoming one of Immortals' purified, you've got to kill yourself first.
    • Prometheans are made from corpses, so someone's death is involved. Finding out who the body's original owner(s) was/were can be a key part of the Promethean's Pilgrimage. That said, the Promethean is not the dead person and never was.
  • The God Emperor Of Mankind's "death" pretty much kicks off the current status quo of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

    Video Games 
  • The main character(s) of Altered Beast are dead before the game starts, and thus you need to WISE FWOM YORW GWAVE!
  • In the arcade game Avenging Spirit, the main character is killed while walking with his girlfriend, and the girl's father, who researches ghost energy, calls him back as a ghost so that he can save her.
  • In Daughter for Dessert, the conflict between the protagonist and Cecilia, with Amanda being caught in the middle, revolves around Lainie’s death in childbirth nearly 20 years before.
  • Tombstone of Freedom Force was framed for the murder of his wife, but the execution wound up transforming him into his super"hero" self.
  • Almost every character in Grim Fandango, which is a game about a reaper in the afterlife.
  • The Haunted Hotel installment The Thirteenth begins with the player character, Dave Barlow, being murdered and his son being kidnapped. Dave then spends the game as a ghost trying desperately to rescue his son. Unlike most examples, however, Dave is able to return to life at the end of the game.
  • In Mortal Kombat, Scorpion returned from Hell to avenge his and his family's deaths by hunting down and killing the Lin Kuei assassin Sub-Zero. Of course, that didn't quite go as planned, and only proved that Scorpion probably shouldn't have wound up in Hell to begin with.
    • Mortal Kombat: Legacy reveals that sorcerer Quan Chi impersonated Bi Han (AKA Sub-Zero) and, along with Shang Tsung, set the whole thing up in order to trick General Hanzo Hasashi (AKA Scorpion) to join the Netherrealm in Mortal Kombat. Quan Chi even mentions that the desire for revenge will blind Scorpion (no pun intended) to any inconsistencies.
  • The hero of the Dark Avenger module for Neverwinter Nights 2 gets sent back from the dead to avenge him/herself and everyone else who died without being avenged.
  • In Planescape: Torment, The Nameless One wakes up in a mortuary and spends the rest of the game figuring out why he cannot die.
  • The eponymous Sonny of the flash game series of the same name died prior to the start of the first game and is resurrected by some sort of experiment that turns him into an amnesiac zombie with superhuman powers.
  • Yuyuko Saigyouji of the Touhou Project series was Driven to Suicide by her power to invoke death. Her body was used to seal the Saigyou Ayakashi, preventing her spirit from moving on in the reincarnation cycle and allowing her to become the super-powerful ghost princess we know today.
  • Most of the player characters in The World Ends with You, although in Joshua's case he's actually a godlike being.
  • This is the whole idea — or at least a good chunk of it — behind death knights in World of Warcraft.

  • The main character of The 503, Phil Stone, accidentally sent his girlfriend, Dawn, to her death during a wildfire three years ago and the strip opens with him just starting to heal from it. It's later revealed that the whole reason he moved to Portland is because of Dawn.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is full of this. Particularly in the case of the nameless zombie narrator, who doesn't actually care Whodunnit To Him. Conrad has a First Episode Resurrection, thanks to the title character. And Wild Mass Guessing says there may be more examples than meet the eye. (Including, quite possibly, Hanna himself.)
  • In The Order of the Stick prequel book Start of Darkness Big Bad Xykon "dies" to become a Lich and overcome the effects of a nasty virus which prevents him from using his magic.
  • All of the main characters of The Senkari die in their origin flashback. They got better.
  • Unsounded: Vienne's death prior to the start of the story drove Mathis to his suicidal attack on the constable's office, and when he killed everyone there and was still standing, his exodus south and turning smuggler that brought him into the story.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventure Time episode "Ghost Princess" reveals the death by origin story of the titular character.
  • A popular fan theory surrounding Danny Phantom is that the titular character's half-human and half-ghost nature is a result of the power-granting lab accident actually killing and resurrecting him, rather than his DNA simply being suffused with ectoplasm.
  • Rose Quartz of Steven Universe ceased to be as part of bringing her son, the protagonist Steven, into the world. Whether the word "die" applies or not is questionable, given that it has been all but stated that she has literally become a part of him due to Starfish Alien biology and a jerry-rigged set of reproductive organs, but that merely shifts her from "real death by origin story" to "Death of Personality by Origin Story".