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Outlived Its Creator

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

If a series becomes popular enough, not even the creator's death can stop it. If a series keeps going after its original creator has died, then it has Outlived Its Creator.

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

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

When a series outlives its creator, the fans usually watch whoever's continuing it like vultures, waiting to swoop down and proclaim, "They Changed It, Now It Sucks!" and "Only the Creator Does It Right". On the other hand, if the original creator had Protection from Editors and was driving the series into the ground, this may be good for the franchise: there's a chance for the series to be turned around. If the creator is still alive, but the work continues to be made without their involvement, it becomes God Does Not Own This World. See also Character Outlives Actor.


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Other Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Animated adaptations/reboots of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Unico and other works by Osamu Tezuka are still being produced, over 20 years after the man's death. Notably Saving our Fragile Earth: Unico Special Chapter marked the first animated project starring Unico after his passing, with the upcoming re-imagining of the manga series Unico: Awakening being the first Unico manga made after his death.
  • After the passing of Kentaro Miura in May 2021, it was announced roughly a year later that Berserk would be resuming publication, this time under the supervision of Miura's colleague Kouji Mori.
  • Similarly, Cyborg 009 is one of many Shotaro Ishinomori series to be animated after his death.
  • Despite Machiko Hasegawa's retirement in 1974 (With the original manga ending at the same time) and her eventual death in 1992, the Sazae-san anime marched on to become the longest-running anime of all time, with more than 8,000 segments aired, and it is still being broadcast with new ones for over 50 years.
  • Crayon Shin-chan: Creator Yoshito Usui died in a hiking accident in 2009. His assistants and editors who'd worked with him for years decided – with his widow's permission – to continue the manga under the title New Crayon Shin-chan (ending the original run with the already-completed 50th volume). The anime continued as normal, under the original title.
  • Many of the older Humongous Mecha shows, due to the popularity of the Super Robot Wars series. Getter Robo for example continues on after Ken Ishikawa's death.
  • Fujio Akatsuka, the original creator of Osomatsu-kun passed away in 2008. Seven years later, it was revived as the originalnote  anime series Osomatsu-san (known internationally as "Mr. Osomatsu"), featuring older versions of the characters.note 
  • Anpanman's creator Takashi Yanase died in October 2013 of congestive heart failure. However, the anime still continues being broadcast with new episodes to this day.
  • Even after Gegege No Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki's death in 2015, there will always be an anime adaptation of Kitaro, such as the 2018 adaptation and its 2023 movie prequel, The Birth of Kitaro. Similarly, a few manga works created by Mizuki Productions were published, such as the Showdown in Mt. Atago oneshot in 2019.
  • Momoko Sakura, the creator of Chibi Maruko-chan, died in August of 2018 of breast cancer. Although the manga ended in 1996, the anime was still on the air, but she only participated in recent years during Milestone Celebration episodes.
  • The two sequel series to Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F, were produced after the death of original creator Tatsuo Yoshida.
  • Mia Ikumi, creator of Tokyo Mew Mew, died of a hemorrhage months before Tokyo Mew Mew New was slated to premiere.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi died on July 4, 2022, while trying to save two people from drowning. However, the franchise would continue on without him.
  • Doraemon was created by two cartoonists, Hiroshi Fujimoto and Moto Abiko, who worked together under the pen-name Fujiko Fujio. Fujimoto died in 1996 and the manga ended with his death, while Abiko died 26 years later in 2022. Despite this, the anime still airs to this day with more than 2,000 episodes made.

    Comic Books 
  • Most Golden Age superheroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc) and many Silver Age ones (The Flash Barry Allen, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Supergirl, Batgirl...). The creators are long gone, but the Shared Universe continues. In many of these cases, control of the series and franchises was wrested from the original creators long before their deaths, often because they didn't understand the value of their creations. For some prominent examples:
    • Superman was co-created by Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and Joe Shuster (1914-1992). They contributed stories from 1938 to 1946, when they tried to claim legal rights over their character and failed. The series continued without them and their deaths back in the 1990s had no effect on the fate of the comic book or the wider franchise.
    • Sub-Mariner was created by Bill Everett (1917-1973), who contributed stories from 1939 to his death. Other writers and artists have continued writing Sub-Mariner stories ever since.
    • Batman was co-created by Bob Kane (1915-1998) and Bill Finger (1914-1974). They contributed stories from 1939 to the 1950s (Finger) and 1960s (Kane). The series and wider franchise have continued without them, and their deaths had no real impact.
    • Captain America was co-created by Jack Kirby (1917-1994) and Joe Simon (1913-2011). They contributed stories from 1941 to 1942. Kirby was in part responsible for reviving and updating the character in the 1960s. He also took over the series of the character from 1976 to 1977. But both co-creators had no further involvement with the further development of Captain America from the 1970s to their respective deaths. Their deaths had no effect on the popularity of the character.
    • Aquaman was co-created by Mort Weisinger (1915-1978) and Paul Norris (1914-2007). Neither man continued working in the series for long after the 1941 debut. The character rose to fame under other writers and artists. Their deaths had no effect on the character.
    • Green Arrow was co-created by Mort Weisinger (1915-1978) and George Papp (1916-1989). Neither man continued working in the series for long after the 1941 debut. The character rose to fame under other writers and artists. Their deaths had no effect on the character.
    • Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston (1893-1947). He contributed stories from 1941 to 1947. The series continued without him and the character remains popular.
    • Supergirl was created by Otto Binder (1911-1974) and Al Plastino (1921-2013). They contributed stories from 1959 to 1968. Other writers and artists continued writing Supergirl stories afterwards, and their deaths had no effect on the character or her popularity.
    • Just Imagine... Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe had the premise of Stan Lee (1922-2018) doing his own interpretations of the DC Comics characters, with a one-shot of new stories taking place in this continuity published in December 2022 (but dated February 2023) and titled Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee.
  • Donald Duck: Scrooge McDuck was created by Carl Barks (1901-2000). He got his own series in 1952, with Barks contributing stories to 1966. The titles have changed publishers several times but is still ongoing. Many other writers and artists have created Scrooge stories into the 21st century.
  • Lucky Luke started in 1946 and is still ongoing. His most notable writer was René Goscinny (1926-1977) and his creator and main artist was Morris (1923-2001). Their deaths had notable effects on the direction of the series but not on its longevity.
  • Dennis the Menace (UK) and Roger the Dodger in The Beano, and Desperate Dan in The Dandy, as their original artists David Law (1908-1971), Ken Reid (1919-1987) and Dudley Watkins (1907-1969) died decades ago. The respective series are still ongoing. Applies to other characters from those comics as well.
  • Johan and Peewit and The Smurfs outlasted Peyo (1928-1992) with The Smurfs franchise still getting newer comic stories years after his death.
  • Bob Montana (1920-1975), the original creator of Archie, has been dead for decades. Dan DeCarlo (1919-2001), the codifier of Archie's "house-style" as well as creator of Sabrina and Josie and the Pussycats, died shortly before the Josie film came out.
  • Aspen MLT, a comic book company founded by Michael Turner, continues to put out comics, even though Turner himself died in 2008.
  • MAD was still in print despite Bill Gaines passing away in 1992. (He's still credited as the "founder" among "The Usual Gang of Idiots".) Also, Spy vs. Spy creator Antonio Prohías retired in 1987 and died in 1998, but his strip still appears in the magazine (after several rotating artists and writers, it was taken over by artist/writer Peter Kuper in 1997).
  • Asterix was originally written by René Goscinny (1926-1977) and drawn by Albert Uderzo (1927-2020), Uderzo taking over the writing as well after Goscinny's death. And by extension, anything by "Goscinny and X"; Goscinny worked as a writer for many artists. Uderzo appointed a new duo in 2013 to take over the series. 2021's Asterix and the Griffin is the first album to be published after Uderzo's passing.

    Comic Strips 
  • It's so common with long-running newspaper strips that there's a term for it: "zombie strips" (or "legacy strips" if you want a less derisive term). Indeed, it tends to be a bigger deal when popular strips avert this.
    • Peanuts and Krazy Kat are among the few strips that ended with their creators.note  Peanuts is an especially notable aversion of this trope; the very last ever Peanuts strip ran one day before the death of author Charles Schulz, who specifically forbade anyone to continue the strip after his death. The only things Peanuts-related that are still being produced are adaptations in other media, like new television specials or the 2015 movie by Blue Sky. For a while Bill Melendez, the director of nearly every Peanuts special since A Charlie Brown Christmas, was still in charge of the Specials, but then he died too, which also failed to stop new Peanuts TV specials from being made.
    • The Comic Strip Doctor despises this trend in newspaper comics. He believes that keeping boring comics around long after their creators have moved on and the premise has run its course is what makes it next to impossible for talented newcomers to get into the business.
  • Beetle Bailey is a strip that still receives new issues daily despite its creator, Mort Walker, having passed away in January 2018 at the age of 95. It is currently written by his three sons, Neal, Brian, and Greg, as well as being illustrated by Mike Yates and Janie Walker-Yates.
    • Hägar the Horrible also continues to see new strips despite Dik Browne, the man behind the cartoon, having retired from the strip in 1988 and passing away the following year. It's currently written by Chris Browne with artwork by Gary Hallgren.
      • Hi and Lois was a strip collaborated upon by the aforementioned Walker and Browne, with Robert "Chance" Browne taking over illustrations after Browne's passing. After Walker's passing, writing was taken over by Brian and Greg.
  • Blondie, which has been running daily since 1930; creator Chic Young died in 1973.
  • Popeye is still running new strips even though E.C. Segar died in 1938.
  • The two comic strips drawn by Jeff MacNelly, Shoe and Pluggers, are both examples of this. Jeff started the former in 1977 but handed Pluggers over to artist Gary Brookins only four years after starting it in 1993. When Jeff died in 2000, Brookins took over on Shoe, as well as many of the side jobs that Jeff had previously done (mainly political comic strips and the drawings in Dave Barry columns).
  • B.C.: Johnny Hart's daughter and grandson continued the strip after he died. Like Dick Tracy, listed below, Hart's death is generally considered to have made the comic better, as over the previous decade he had used it (especially Sunday strips) as a platform for his fundamentalist Christianity.
  • Hart's other strip, The Wizard of Id, continued after both Hart and co-creator Brant Parker died in 2007 under the control of Parker's son Jeff. Jeff himself handed the strip over to Mason Mastroianni, Hart's grandson, who also works on B.C.
  • Similarly, after The Family Circus creator Bil Keane died in November 2011, his son Jeff (who started inking and coloring the strip in the 2000s) continued to work on it.
  • The Born Loser also kept it in the family: Creator Art Sansom died in 1991, and his son Chip Sansom has been the artist since.
  • Dennis the Menace (US) creator Hank Ketcham died in 2001, and his former assistants have carried on the strip ever since.
  • Shortly before his death, Heathcliff creator George Gately handed it over to his nephew, Peter Gallagher.
  • Little Orphan Annie was continued by various other hands after Harold Gray's death in 1968, most successfully by Leonard Starr, who wrote and drew the strip from 1979 to 2000. In the hands of Starr's successor, Jay Maeder, the strip's popularity faltered, and it was cancelled in 2010, over forty years after its creator's death.
  • Dick Tracy was continued by other writers and artists after creator Chester Gould's retirement in 1977. This is generally considered one of those cases where the creator's departure improved the series, as Gould had spent the previous 20 years trying gimmick after gimmick in an attempt to keep the strip popular... when he wasn't having his characters go on long rants against the Warren Court's expansions of rights for the accused.
  • Alley Oop is on its fourth set of creators. V.T. Hamlin, who created the strip in 1932, retired in 1971, and his assistant Dave Graue took over. When Graue retired in 2001 (and died a few months later), his assistant Jack Bender took over, with his wife Carol on helm as the writer, which went on until their retirement in 2018. The strip is now handled by Joey Alison Sayers (writer) and Jonathan Lemon (artist).
  • An interesting case with Big George by Virgil Partch. The comic ended in 1991, seven years after the creator's death. However, this example isn't because somebody else took over, it's because the creator really was seven years ahead with his strip!
    • And according to the syndicate, there were still about two months' worth of comics that never got published. The early cancellation was because the strip's newspaper list was dwindling by then, and also because the original contract that Partch signed before his death had just expired.
  • Mark Trail has outlived two generations of its creators. Ed Dodd started the strip in 1946, handed it off to his long-time assistant Jack Elrod in 1978, and then died in 1991. Elrod in turn passed the strip to his assistant James Allen in 2014, who drew the strip until he was replaced by Jules Rivera in 2020.

    Fan Works 

    Live-Action TV 

  • Almost anything connected to an extremely popular musician who has died will fall under this, especially if cash-grabbing relatives or estates happen to be involved. Some of the more notorious examples would be Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, hide, Tupac Shakur, and Michael Jackson.
  • The Pointer Sisters (formed in 1969) have survived all three of their founding members—sisters Anita (left in 2015, died in 2022), Bonnie (left in 1977, returned for a one-off performance in 2009, died in 2020), and June Pointer (left in 1977, returned in 1978, left for good in 2002, died in 2006). The group carries on with another sister Ruth, a member during their commercial heyday in the 70s and 80s, plus her daughter Issa Pointer and granddaughter Sadako Johnson (who performs under the Pointer name).

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets are still alive and kicking, even after Jim Henson and many of the other people involved with the Muppets have died. There have been several cases of The Character Died with Him that never lasted long, Scooter being a notable example.

  • The Rush Limbaugh Show lasted in a Clip Show format for about four months after its host's passing in February 2021, after which Limbaugh's syndicator launched The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show in his former time slot.

    Tabletop Games 

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

    Web Animation 
  • Eddsworld's creator, Edd Gould, passed away on March 23rd, 2012 from leukemia. Episodes would continue under the direction of Thomas Ridgewell from 2012 to 2016 and Matt Hargreaves from 2020 onwards.
    Ridgewell: Edd may be gone, but his world will keep on spinning.
  • Monty Oum passed away on February 1st, 2015 after a severe allergic reaction. RWBY continued without him, though its third volume was delayed a few months.

    Western Animation 
  • Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the rest of the Disney gang created by or under the supervision of Walt Disney (the man), who died in 1966. In fact, we can thank Disney (the corporation) for the current length of U.S. Copyright — 70 years after the author's death or 95 years after publication — for while the Walt Disney Corporation will not lose control of the characters when the original shorts finally fall into the Public Domain, since the characters are trademarked (and trademarks can be renewed indefinitely), they'll still lose the ability to be the only ones to profit on those shorts and films. And we can't have that, now can we?
  • Looney Tunes: All of the original creators and directors responsible for the shorts are dead, with the last major one (Chuck Jones) passing away in 2002. The original shorts are still played on TV today and also live on through DVD collections, new shorts, and direct-to-DVD movies, as well as (legal) internet streaming
  • Hanna-Barbera characters have not only outlived the people who created them — William Hanna died in 2001 and Joe Barbera in 2006 — but also the company which created them, with the production studio being succeeded by Cartoon Network Studios and the brand absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation.
    • This includes Scooby-Doo, with co-creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears both passing away in 2020.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks, well outlived their original creator, Ross "David Seville" Bagdasarian Sr., who passed away in 1972. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., took over the franchise in the 1980s.
  • Following Stephen Hillenburg's sudden passing of ALS in November 2018, SpongeBob SquarePants continued with Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli as the show-runners.
  • Jean-Yves Raimbaud, the creator of Oggy and the Cockroaches, died ten weeks before the show premiered. Oggy still aired new episodes well into 2019, 21 years later.
  • The Pink Panther was co-created by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng, both of whom are dead now; Freleng in 1995 and DePatie in 2021. By the time DePatie died, there was already a second reboot of the film series in the production phase, which, unlike the past movies, actually stars the Pink Panther himself (in contrast, "Pink Panther" referred to a pink diamond in the previous films, with the actual character limited to the intro/outro).
  • The characters of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were revived in the series Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, released nine years after Fred Rogers' death. The same can also be said about Donkey Hodie.

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

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Pokémon anime has managed to outlive Takeshi Shudō, the head writer of the original series (Kanto, Orange Islands, and Johto); he left the series after Johto concluded in late 2002 and died in October 2010 while the anime was airing its fourth series. The creators of the franchise as a whole are all alive and well though.

    Comic Books 


    Live-Action TV 
  • The Ministry of Time co-creator Pablo Olivares died from ALS three months before the series premiered, only getting to see an unfinished cut of the first episode.
  • Sesame Street (first aired in November 1969) took more than 50 years to outlive its co-creator Lloyd Morriset (died in January 2023).

  • AC/DC has outlasted lead singer Bon Scott and guitarist (as well as song composer) Malcolm Young.
  • The Beach Boys (began 1961) have outlived founding members Dennis Wilson (died 1983) and Carl Wilson (died 1998).
  • The Bee Gees (began in 1958) originally called it quits in 2003 when Maurice Gibb died, but Maurice's twin brother Robin and their older brother Barry resurrected the group as a duo in 2009. The group definitively ended with Robin's death in 2012.
  • Def Leppard (evolved from an earlier band, Atomic Mass, in 1978) has outlived original guitarist Steve Clark (died in 1991). It also survived the left arm of drummer Rick Allen (joined the band later in 1978, lost the arm in a 1984 car crash).
  • The Doors released two more albums after lead singer Jim Morrison died in 1971, plus the reunion in the 2000s with Ian Astbury of The Cult replacing Morrison.
  • Loudness (began 1982) has outlived original co-creator Munetaka Higuchi (died 2008) and 1992 bassist Taiji Sawada (died 2011).
  • Pink Floyd (began 1965) released one more album in 2014, The Endless River, after the deaths of founding members Syd Barrett (died 2006, though he had left the band in 1968) and Richard Wright (died 2008).
  • The Rolling Stones (began in 1962) have outlived founding members Brian Jones (died 1969) and Ian Stewart (died 1985), as well as Charlie Watts (joined in 1963, died in 2021).
  • Versailles outlived original bassist and co-creator Jasmine You for around two years after his death before going on hiatus—to reform as a new band consisting of every one of the surviving members except the vocalist.
  • The Who (evolved from an earlier band, Detours, in 1964) has outlived co-founder John Entwistle (died in 2002), original drummer Doug Sandom (left in April 1964, died in 2018), and the drummer of its classic lineup, Keith Moon (joined in May 1964, died in 1978).
  • X Japan (began 1982, obtained these members in 1987) has outlived lead guitarist hide (died 1998) and 1987-92 bassist Taiji Sawada (died 2011).

  • The long-running countdown show American Top 40 has outlived three of its four creators — Tom Rounds, Ron Jacobs, and original host Casey Kasem.

    Tabletop Games 

  • A Chorus Line and 42nd Street competed as long-running Broadway musicals of the 1980s, and both productions continued running for years after the deaths of their respective director-choreographers, Michael Bennett and Gower Champion. Champion died before his show's opening performance; producer David Merrick famously announced his death at the Curtain Call, without informing the cast and crew beforehand.

    Video Games 
  • The lead writer for AdventureQuest (and a contributor for other games by Artix Entertainment) between 2003 and 2017, known to the general public by his screen name, Falerin Ardendor, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest on July 23, 2019. The game continues to receive updates to this day.
  • Metroid outlasted Gunpei Yokoi, the producer of the first three games. The director of the original Metroid, Yoshio Sakamoto, is still alive and has been involved in all of the recent games in some form or another.
  • Erik Cassel, who co-founded Roblox alongside David Baszucki, passed away of cancer in early 2013, which was confirmed in a community post by administrator Keith. David, however, is still alive as of a decade later and continues to serve as the CEO of the Roblox company.
  • The Wolfenstein franchise has outlived Silas Warner, the creator of the original DOS game Castle Wolfenstein. Although he wasn't involved with further games, he endorsed the use of the name.
  • Ubisoft's Tom Clancy games have continued after the death of Tom Clancy himself in 2013.
  • Satoru Iwata helped create the Nintendo Switch, which was announced as codename NX in 2014. He passed away a year later before the Switch launched in 2017.

    Web Original 
  • Video-game website Giant Bomb and its flagship podcast, the Giant Bombcast, continue after the untimely 2013 passing of Ryan Davis, who was a co-founder and instrumental in establishing the tone and direction of the site.
  • The Co-Optional Podcast has continued after one of its founding members, John "TotalBiscuit" Bain, passed away from bowel cancer in May 2018. Following his death, his wife, Genna, took over his hosting duties.

Alternative Title(s): Literary Necrophilia