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Disappeared Dad

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"What you taught me was that I was less important to you than people who had been dead for 500 years in another country. And I learned it so well that we've hardly spoken for 20 years."

A subtrope of Parental Abandonment: The father of a character or characters is missing or absent.

Perhaps he's dead, or maybe he was murdered. Perhaps he's run out on them and there's bitterness involved. Perhaps he's off fighting evil. Or maybe it's psychological absence — he's physically there, but is completely negligent in his fatherly duties. Regardless of what happened — and regardless of whether or not the viewers find out what happened — Mom seems to have raised her children on her own, or with the help of a father substitute.


There's a bit of a Double Standard in fiction regarding single parents. A Disappeared Dad is far less likely to have his absence explained than a Missing Mom. When he's not in the picture, it's often taken for granted that he's either dead or a deadbeat and the story just keeps moving along with no thought to his whereabouts. But if he is alive, he is more likely to return and reconcile, or be a non-entity who sporadically appears just to remind the hero that Daddy doesn't care about them. note  It is also possible for the Disappeared Dad to not know he's a dad at all. Unlike the Missing Mom, he doesn't actually have to be present during childbirth. The mother could very well be justified in keeping the father out of the loop. When this type of Disappeared Dad is actually an established character, you get Luke, You Are My Father.


Compare and contrast this with Missing Mom. Combine the two, and you get Parental Abandonment. Sometimes, though, Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You. If Dad is dead, we may see a Happier Home Movie. If he is simply too busy to be with his child, it's When You Coming Home, Dad?. If he doesn't have a lot of time but is willing to spend money on gifts and trips for the kids, it's Disneyland Dad. If he's wanted by the authorities, then he's a Notorious Parent. IF he had some excuse to leave in the short term and then never returned, its Parent Never Came Back from the Store. No Fathers Allowed is this on a societal level. See also Tell Me About My Father, So Proud of You, Turn Out Like His Father, Glorified Sperm Donor, and Ambiguously Absent Parent. Contrast "Well Done, Son!" Guy.



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    Comic Books 
  • Shaman of Alpha Flight abandoned his daughter to learn magic. Technically, she kicked him out of her life (angry that he'd failed to save her mother / his wife as promised); but given she was maybe 12 at the time, most of the blame lies with him.
  • Amulet has an extreme version: we actually see Emily's father die before our eyes, and his death is a large part of her current personality.
  • Batman, despite being a Parental Substitute to several characters, doesn't actually meet his biological son, Damian, until he is about 10 years old. And then Bruce gets lost in time shortly after, setting off Battle for the Cowl, which is mostly about former, current and next Robins Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian dealing with his disappearance.
    • Of Bruce's many, many failings as a parent, not being in Damian's life is not one of them—Talia put a lot of effort into making sure Bruce had no idea the kid existed. She put equal effort into making sure Damian was obsessed with his father's legacy, since he's a bit of a Replacement Goldfish for her vis-a-vis Batman ever loving her.
      • He wasn't there for Damian during the Batman Inc. period, either. Even when they were working together. Possibly a prepubescent who thinks of homicide as a valid problem-solving technique just gives him the wiggins.
    • Tim Drake's biological father was always out of town on business or pursuing his hobby as an Adventurer Archaeologist giving Tim plenty of time to follow Batman & Robin before he ever approached them, train to become Robin, and work as Robin with his father none the wiser.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Wismerhill doesn't know who his father is, although he's later told that he was a dark elf prince. He pulls an appearance in the end, though, to congratulate his son and to see his grandkids (among other things). It turns out that he is actually a Prince of Hell who has been playing a game of Divine Chess with Lucifer, as he reveals Haazheel Thorn's true plans for the world and how he has manipulated Wis.
  • Though previous incarnations implied it, the latest retcon of Deadpool's backstory implicitly reveals this about his father.
  • Empowered. Elissa Megan 'Emp' Powers knows exactly what happened to her father. She watched him drop dead of a brain hemorrhage one fine morning while she was eating her favorite breakfast cereal.
  • Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, had once realized that he himself became one, as two or more of his Hulk personas have made children under contrived situations; Bruce in one self-introspecting moment felt he should be responsible for them, awkwardly attempting to connect with his estranged children. It didn’t quite work as none of them felt a connection to Bruce Banner and he didn’t try to push things much further, just accepting it as one of the many things that never works out in his life.
  • As with the original cartoon, the women in the IDW Jem and the Holograms comic recently lost their father. He left Jerrica a present though: A supercomputer who can turn into a hologram named Synergy who is based somewhat on his deceased wife.
  • For many years, Plastic Man is this to his son, Luke. He doesn't man up until he has some time to think during Obsidian Age after being shattered and left on the ocean floor for a few thousand years.
  • This was a thing in the original Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) dealing with the Guardians as the former Guardian would leave his son to guard the island by his lonesome. This would really backfire on Knuckles, especially since his time as Guardian coincided with Robotnik's rise to power. And let's not get into all of the Disappeared Dads caused by Robotnik and Eggman.
  • Spider-Man became a crime fighter after his uncle Ben, who acted as a father, was killed by a burglar.
  • In most continuities, Supergirl's father Zor-El dies shortly after sending his daughter to Earth where she becomes a superhero. In DCU Infinite Holiday Special issue #1, Kara has to reunite a little girl with her absent father. It turns out that the man is a jerkass drunk who refuses to be around his daughter because he doesn't want her to realize her father is a screw-up. Supergirl convinces him maybe he can get his act together and be a good dad, if he stops trying to run away.
  • In Violine, this drives much of the early plot. Later, this also applies to her mother.
  • Wanted starts with Wesley Gibson discovering his disappeared father was a recently killed assassin. In the movie, the one who had supposedly killed him is Wesley's actual father.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Cassie has been given conflicting information as to whether or not her father is alive over the years, and doesn't even meet him until she's already in high school. He's Zeus, so the fact that he was waffling on whether to meet or acknowledge her and goes against her mother's wishes the first time he encounters her while maintaining his lie to Cassie by claiming not to be her father for years afterwards is par for the course.
  • Teddy of Young Avengers never knew his father. Cassie's was murdered.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dilbert, the title character's father, who never appears in the comic, has been living in an all-you-can-eat restaurant in the mall since Christmas 1992; he won't leave until he's literally had all he can eat. When Dilbert's girlfriend Liz expresses astonishment that neither he nor his mother have so much as visited him in all this time, Dilbert replies, "We're waiting for a sale." The joke is recycled for the animated series, where the father, still living in the restaurant (since 1979 in this version), does appear, but his face isn't shown.
  • Garfield:
    • Garfield's mother appeared in a few strips early on, and has been referenced many times. His father has never received so much as a mention.note 
    • Also, Jon's cousin Judy appears to be a single mother to Tammy and Stevie.
  • In the Maybonne/Marlys storylines by Lynda Barry, the family's father isn't around due to his alcoholism making him a bad father/partner. When he temporarily sobers up, his kids get to meet him, but he leaves soon after.
  • Heart of the City: Heart's father left right after she was born to pursue a career in acting.
  • For Better or for Worse: Lawrence's father wasn't shown in the comics for most of its run. At first readers likely assumed he was his mom's ex-husband Pete. It turned out this wasn't true however. His father came from Brazil, but went back there before he was born. Much later, this was expanded on. Lawrence revealed that he tracked his father down on finding out he was visiting the US, and they finally met. It turned out his parents had been in a very brief relationship when they both worked at a medical relief mission in Central America. While his parents had planned after this to meet up in Canada, his father never arrived. Lawrence learned he had two half-brothers from a later marriage his father had. Lawrence's father apologized for never contacting him or his mother, and it seemed they were going to build a relationship. However, he was not shown again or mentioned.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has Merle, who walked out on an unhappy arranged marriage and at least one child that he hardly ever sees. His relationship with his son and stepdaughter is friendly, or at least civil, and Merle's trying to make amends now.
  • The advice podcast If I Were You features one email from a young teen whose father was never around to teach him to shave. In the letter, he asked if he should wait until his father decided to make more time for him, or just "YouTube that shit" (that is, look up an online tutorial).
  • The bonus comics for Sequinox that GM Shannon drew reveal that Ethan's parents are divorced and he lives with his mom. Judging by Shannon's bonus comics, it was not very amicable. Judging by his appearance in episode 11 (which is in another dimension, but based on the main reality), he is rather abusive and willing to exploit his son to torment Caroline.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Based on the evidence available, certainly true for Treelo on Bear in the Big Blue House, and almost certainly true for all of the other main kid characters on the show (save Ojo, who, according to Word of Saint Paul from Bear's performer Noel MacNeal, is raised by a single mother who lets her hang out at Bear's house when she's not home as a form of free babysitting). Bear seems to be raising them all and in one episode remembers taking care of Treelo when he was a baby. It is never, ever talked about, though.
  • Sesame Street: The special "When Families Grieve" shows Elmo's whole family dealing with the death of his Uncle Jack, but in particular highlights Jack's daughter Jesse dealing with the loss of her dad.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Zia's father committed suicide prior to the events of the story, which left her with some long-running mental trauma.
    • Finn's father was the previous Mayor of Oldport until it was discovered that he was embezzling city funds. He has since been arrested, with Finn all but disowning him.
    • All that's mentioned about Benjy's father is that his mother offered him a way to skip out of town after she became pregnant with their child.
    • Nothing has been said about Emmanuel's father, besides an offhand mention in Emmanuel's biography that his mother is divorced.
    • Jessica was the result of a string of one-night stands during a dark period in her mother's life. As a result, the true identity of her father is unknown to her.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Omaroch vanished from the lives of his sons Refan and Kareth but later returned to guide them. It turns out he was kidnapped by his brothers who then tortured and brainwashed him to serve the dark god Mardük, and he returned only to use the sons for fulfilling an ancient prophecy about Mardük. He eventually snaps out of it, but by that time it's too late; the damage has already been done, and he has not only lost the trust of his sons but also indirectly causes the Cataclysm and the birth of the Godslayer.

  • In Anastasia, when regaling his childhood to Anya, Dmitry mentions that his father was exiled to Siberia for being an anarchist when he was a child, and Dmitry hasn't seen him since. Since his mother was already dead, this effectively orphaned Dmitry.
  • In Anything Goes, heiress Hope Harcourt is traveling on the S.S. American with her mother, but her father appears to be dead.
  • In Carousel, Billy Bigelow was Driven to Suicide after seemingly being Unable to Support a Wife and their unborn child. Later in the story, we see the consequences of Billy's suicide and reputation as a domestic abuser when the town ostracizes his daughter Louise for Sins of the Father.
  • In Chess, Florence's missing father, who may or may not have been killed by the Soviets in the 1956 Budapest Revolution, is brought up many times, in most versions eventually becoming a an important part of the plot when it's revealed that he may, in fact, be alive in a prison in Russia... but Florence will have to give up her Soviet defector boyfriend if she wants him released. (Meanwhile, her mother is rarely mentioned.)
  • In A Chorus Line, Maggie's father left the family sometime after her birth when he realized Babies Don't Make Everything Better.
  • In Dear Evan Hansen, Evan's father abandoned the family sometime before the start of the story.
  • In The Glass Menagerie, Mr. Wingfield abandoned his wife and children long ago and son Tom is likely to follow in his footsteps.
  • In Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Hamlet's father was murdered by his uncle Claudius as a power grab for the throne of Denmark (complete with marriage to the now-widowed Queen Gertrude to add insult to injury). Hamlet learns of this when his father's ghost appears to him in the first scene.
  • I and You: Caroline's parents are separating due to the stress her illness put on their marriage, and she hasn't seen or heard from her dad in months. She's fairly bitter about it, though mostly because she can see how much her mom misses him.
  • Just like many characters have a Missing Mom in Into the Woods, active fathers are scarce as well:
    • The Baker's father deserted him after stealing beans for his wife from their neighbor The Witch's garden forced the couple to hand over their newborn daughter to her, and his wife dying from guilt and grief shortly after. However, it is revealed in Act Two that he has been watching over The Baker under the guise of The Mysterious Man, and convinces The Baker not to abandon his son like his father did to him after The Baker's Wife dies.
    • Cinderella's father is emotionally absent and neglectful, allowing the Wicked Stepmother and stepsisters to abuse Cinderella, and even rebuking Cinderella when she says goodbye to him as he leaves the house.
    • Jack's father is only mentioned in passing by his mother in the opening number with the line "your father's not back".
    • Little Red's mother and grandmother are around until they get killed by a rampaging giant, but her father and grandfather are never seen nor mentioned.
    • The Witch has a mother (mentioned as the reason why The Witch was cursed to be ugly after failing to protect the magic beans), but no father is spoken of.
  • In the musical version of Les Misérables, we are told that Cosette's father abandoned her and her mother when she was very young, although without most of the detail that's in the original novel.
  • In The Music Man, Marian and Winthrop Paroo's father died sometime before the start of the story.
  • In William Inge's Picnic (as well as in the 1955 film adaptation), the father of the Owens family has long since abandoned them.
  • Elphaba's biological father in Wicked is the Wizard, who ran off after a one night stand with her mother.

    Visual Novels 
  • Because of the strong female influence on the Fey clan in the Ace Attorney games, the fathers of prominent characters, sisters Mia and Maya and their cousin Pearl, are never mentioned, and explained to have either died or left the family for financial or personal reasons. The clan itself has an abnormally high divorce rate, and seeing all these divorces is why Pearl wants Maya and Phoenix to get together.
    • This also seems to be the case with the Apollo Justice game on Apollo himself after Lamiroir is revealed to be his birth mother, with only a passing mention that his father died in an accident a long time ago.
    • In Investigations, Lauren Paups's father left before she was old enough to even remember his face, which is why she never noticed that the butler Oliver Deacon actually was her father. He was in hiding from the law and thus couldn't reveal his identity to her.
    • It's unclear whether her mother is alive or not due to her vague mention of going to live with her 'mother's family', but Kay Faraday's father dies very dramatically when she's ten. A young Edgeworth solves the case but the killer isn't brought into custody until seven years after the murder.
    • The entire plot of Case 1-4 centers around the death of Edgeworth's father, and how he was affected by it.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, during Chiaki Nanami's Free Time Events she mentions her father in the past tense, making Hinata wonder if he died. It turns out Nanami's "father" is Chihiro Fujisaki, the Super High School Level Programmer who died back in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc; Nanami is an Artificial Intelligence that he created.
  • Ever 17: The Out of Infinity: You's father was a researcher at Leiblich Pharmaceutical, and disappeared under mysterious circumstances a year after You was born.
    • Rare protagonist example: Takeshi becomes one to Hokuto and Sara, though in his case, at least he had his reasons (not to mention he didn't know they existed.
  • Emiya Kiritsugu in Fate/stay night for Shirou and also Ilya. Tohsaka's father, Tokiomi, died in the last holy grail war, at the hands of Kotomine Kirei. Both are fairly important due to their absence, the former more so than the latter.
  • Kyle briefly explains to Louie during Hotel Dusk: Room 215 that his dad was a safe cracker who got himself killed during his One Last Job. The sequel, Last Window, is about Kyle learning more about his dad and why he died.
  • In Katawa Shoujo:
    • We have Emi Ibarazaki's father. He died eight years ago, either in the same accident where Emi lost her legs, or few days afterwards. His death mentally scarred Emi a LOT, but she hides it.
    • Lilly Satou's father lives abroads, and so does her mother. Lilly's sister Akira pretty much raised her, and she's not exactly happy about it; she loves Lilly very much but clearly knows that she cannot replace their parents.
    • Hanako Ikezawa's father died in the fire that left her scarred and fully orphaned.
  • This is a running theme in the Parascientific Escape series. Hitomi in the first game has this twice over—she never knew her biological father, and her beloved adoptive father is deceased. Kyosuke in the second game is in a similar boat, as he was an orphan who also tragically lost his adoptive father.
  • In Scandal in the Spotlight, Kyohei Rikudoh's father Hiromi was a famous pop star, but died at the age of 27, in the height of his fame, rescuing his then five-year-old son from drowning. Kyohei blames himself and is determined to surpass his father's success as a way of making up for cutting his life and career so short.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Julie’s father left her mother for another woman when Julie first entered high school.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira's mother raised him until she passed away, and he never knew who his father was. This becomes relevant when Rosé speculates that he has latent spiritual powers passed down by blood, and questions whether his father could've had the same powers. She turns out to be correct.
  • In Tsukihime, Kiri Nanaya is this to Shiki Tohno. He was killed by Kishima Kouma, along with the entire rest of the Nanaya clan aside from his six-year-old son, who was forced to watchnote . Shiki Nanaya, who doesn't have the Laser-Guided Amnesia that his other self has, is understandably a little bit bitter.
    • Makihisa Tohno also became this shortly before the Visual Novel begins. Nobody really cared too much.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • Maria's father is nowhere to be seen, having left her mother Rosa before she was born; Rosa claims that he's on a "business trip." Later on, she makes comments about Maria that seem to imply that she was born out of wedlock. In EP7 it's revealed that since Rosa violently denied her father's existence every time Maria asked about him, she eventually became convinced that God was her father and she was conceived the same way Jesus was.
    • To a degree, all the dads become this when they get killed off in different continuities.

    Web Animation 
  • Implied in one skit in the ninth asdfmovie:
    Guy 1: Hey, wanna see an impression of my dad?
    Guy 2: Sure!
    (the first guy disappears)
  • The De Noir family's only son has one in Dusk's Dawn. It turns out he's an evil sorcerer.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 14's crossover with Death Battle it seems to hint that Sarge is this towards Boomstick, who opted to join the army for the express purpose of getting away from Boomstick, whom he never wanted at all.
  • In X-Ray & Vav, X-Ray mentions that not knowing his father was one of the two things he would die with (the other was being a virgin).
  • Anon: Dani's father has never appeared on screen, but it's implied that he lives in a trailer and is outright stated the only time they talk is on her birthday.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. James Melfton of Lightning Dust is the neglectful variation to his son Klaus.
  • Ibrahim Abacar was this to Ujjal Singh, in Malê Rising.
  • Will Scarlett in Sherwood Forest tells Shaima that he was raised by Robin and Marian; if his biological parents are still alive, it hasn't been mentioned. So you can imagine how well it went over when his only father figure took off to fight in a Crusade for two years, leaving Will to fend for himself after Marian was kidnapped.

    Web Videos 
  • Two versions in Demo Reel, as Tacoma's dad is in jail, and Donnie's dad left when he was little. Both turn out fairly dark, as the former was exposed by Tacoma, making his family hate him, and the latter leaving was partly the catalyst for Donnie's mom to commit suicide.
  • While what actually went on is unclear, The Nostalgia Critic still lives with his abusive mother. His Dad, who Critic still appears to have scary memories of, is implied to have left the family a while ago and it's also likely that he died before the Alaska review. (This is all in-character, of course, Doug's parents are lovely and helpful.)
    Critic: One gone dad later...
  • AFK: Brendon's dad "went on a fishing trip" and never came back, leaving him with his mom. Q's partner left her with their daughter after she caught him cheating. Possibly it's the other way, because her true gender is unclear.

    Real Life 
  • President Bill Clinton never got to meet his biological father, as he was killed in a car accident three months before Bill's birth.
  • Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor) never knew his father, who was killed in World War II a month before he was born.
  • Mahatma Gandhi rarely had time for his four sons, even neglecting their formal education. His estranged first son Harilal became a vagrant and died an alcoholic.
  • Notorious outlaw Billy the Kid's father died when he was young.
  • It's unknown who Marilyn Monroe's father even was (different biographers have different candidates) but he certainly wasn't present in his daughter's life.
  • There has been a well-documented rise in single motherhood in recent decades. There appears to be an effort to avert this trope in the U.S., though, judging by the PSAs on TV urging men to "take the time to be a dad."
  • The Other Wiki has a list of famous people born after the death of a biological parent (usually a father).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Disappeared Father, Absent Dad, Absent Father, Missing Dad


...and The Mouse Destroyeth.

Studio C wrote a sketch that delivered a massively epic "Take That" to the Walt Disney Company for overusing this trope. (Along with Missing Mom)

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / DisappearedDad

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Main / DisappearedDad