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Posthumous Popularity Potential

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"It's funny how most people love the dead. Once you're dead, you're made for life."

Some works get recognized long after they are released. Some shows become more popular after they are cancelled. But this is when a creator receives a boost in recognition after they have stopped creating... forever.

This may be caused by people who enjoyed the artist during their initial popularity that feel nostalgic after the artist's death, or want to pay respect by keeping their work in memory. People may feel sympathetic if the death was painful or untimely, which causes them to take a more positive view on the artist's work. Or perhaps an artist was simply "ahead of their time" and it just so happens that they die before tastes shift in their favour. In a few cases, artists who were very niche during their lives have even become mainstream names after death.

Compare The Dead Rise to Advertise, when the likenesses of celebrities and historical figures are used to promote products, and the In-Universe equivalent to this reaction, Dead Artists Are Better. Is often a result of Never Speak Ill of the Dead.

To avoid knee-jerk reactions, wait six months after the creator's death to add an example. This is not just a place to gush about dead creators you like.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Maddie Blaustein, was an extremely versatile voice actress, who voiced characters of all genders, owing to her being trans. However, she was associated with the average fan to 4Kids Entertainment (her most frequent employer), who had a bad reputation for censoring the shows they worked on. When she passed away in 2008, she left behind a real legacy and was soon regarded as one of the best anime English dubbers; even by people who didn't care for 4Kids.
  • Before news of his passing broke in 2010, few Pokémon fans knew who Takeshi Shudō was. Once he died, though, he became more appreciated for his work as the head writer of the series up until partway through Johto, as well as writing the first three movies. Having written many fan-favorite episodes, his departure is now often considered to be the point where the series dropped in quality and never quite recovered.

  • El Greco was not appreciated in his lifetime (the 16th century) because his art didn't conform to the norm of realism. Only in the 20th century has his work been reappreciated for exactly this reason. Nowadays it's worth far more.
  • J.O.J. Frost was considered a local eccentric during his lifetime, having started painting in his 70's and never making a recorded sale during his lifetime. The fact he had no artistic training and considered himself a historian rather than a painter probably didn't help. After his death in 1928, his paintings ended up stuffed in an attic at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion for over a decade. However, after they were finally put on display in 1940, they came to the attention of folk-art enthusiasts, and today, Frost is remembered as one of Marblehead's signature artists-slash-historians. His paintings have also become incredibly valuable.
  • Although not known by many outside Korea, painter Jungseob Lee is one of the most famous modern artists in Korea. While his paintings sell for millions of dollars nowadays, he died in Seoul of hepatitis, broke and alone.
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder: For many centuries his work was seen as vulgar and crass because it depicted ordinary peasants. Only in the 19th century did people finally realize that his canvases were amazingly well painted — and the price for his work went up accordingly.
  • Vincent van Gogh managed to sell just one painting during his lifetime. His works gained popularity soon after his suicide. He did actually get some recognition by his contemporaries, however, he just died too early to be recognized by the masters.

  • In life, Lenny Bruce was considered far too risqué for the average viewer/patron at the time (The '60s) and was even put on trial for obscenities in 1964. After his untimely 1966 death, his popularity rose considerably, he was lauded by both historians and fans as one of the greatest comics of all time and he was even eventually pardoned on his charges in 2003, nearly four decades after being first convicted.

    Comic Books 
  • Jack Kirby, though the main workhorse of Marvel Comics throughout The '60s, was never quite as well-recognized as Stan Lee, and many of his projects from The '70s onward were not particularly successful—the most notable being New Gods, which, despite a decent amount of promotion, was cancelled before it even came close to the conclusion of its grand Myth Arc. Most of his business in The '80s and The '90s was dedicated to small creator-owned projects or his legal battles with Marvel. While he still carried a lot of weight among fellow creators, he was widely viewed by fans as a dinosaur past his prime—when he illustrated a number of characters for DC's Who's Who, DC apparently got mail claiming they should use less of his art. It was only after he passed away in 1994 that he became properly recognized as one of the great architects of comics, and his star has only risen since then—his DC creations have become a core part of its universe, his lesser-known projects have come under increasingly greater acclaim, and it's not uncommon to hear people naming him the true creator of Silver Age Marvel, after learning how much creative control he really had on most of those books. Even as a person, he's something of a Sacred Cow, due to both his insane work ethic (he was writing, drawing, and inking at least fifteen pages per week in his DC days) and his incredibly forthright and moral personality, with his strident antifascism being a major theme of his stories.
  • Since his untimely death from bone cancer in 2008, artist Michael Turner tends to be remembered more for his surprising work ethic in his final years than the fact that much of his output was cheesecake-laden comics like Fathom and Soulfire.
  • During his lifetime, Wally Wood was respected by many of his peers, but had fallen into obscurity among the public, as much of his later work was in the comics underground (and a lot of that was pornographic.) Since his suicide in 1981, he has been hailed as one of the great artists of the The Silver Age of Comic Books, with his "22 Panels That Always Work" being considered a must-read for any artist hoping to work in the industry.

  • Edgar Allan Poe's work was critically acclaimed and fairly popular in many circles while he was alive; however, his chances at lifetime success as an author were rendered more or less nonexistent due to his tendency to almost always give scathingly harsh criticisms to the works of his fellow contemporary authors, which led to them doing the same to his own works. One of them even tried to blatantly ruin his reputation immediately after his death. As time passed by (and despite the efforts of the man who tried to ruin his reputation), his works have become classics.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald was popular during The Roaring '20s, but afterwards saw his reputation falter badly. It wasn't until after he died that The Great Gatsby became celebrated as one of the greatest American novels.
  • Franz Kafka was little-known in the literary circle until he died and his friend Max Brod edited and published his unfinished manuscripts. Max also invokes the reversal of this trope, as he was a very popular and acclaimed author at the time, but is now primarily known as Kafka's friend. It's also interesting to note that Kafka specifically told Brod to burn his unfinished works, and Brod directly disobeyed his dying wish.
  • As both a journalist and novelist, David Foster Wallace was a critically acclaimed wunderkind in the mid-90s literary world. But most outside of those circles knew him only for Infinite Jest being the doorstopper to end all doorstoppers. Following his 2008 death, he received a tremendous amount of attention and many younger writers and journalists now namecheck him as an influence. His posthumous novel The Pale King had more pre-release anticipation than any of his other novels received during his lifetime, and was one of the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
  • H. P. Lovecraft, whose stories were only known among genre fans during his lifetime, achieved posthumous literary success, thanks in part to other writers who added onto the Cthulhu Mythos and kept it going. This is one example where death directly made his reputation: his works went into the public domain instead of staying with an estate, which made it easy for other authors to play in his creative sandbox.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien. While he was a noted author and respected linguist during his lifetime, it wasn't until after his death that he has become a household name. He has been the inspiration for every fantasy fiction author, and all his works are fundamental parts of Geek Canon. Vindicated by History: only after his death have The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings been recognized as great works of the 20th century English literature.
  • John Kennedy Toole was unknown and unpublished when he committed suicide in 1969. Thanks to his mother's efforts over the course of eleven years, A Confederacy of Dunces was published to huge acclaim in 1980, and won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • Philip K. Dick was an acclaimed science fiction writer, winning a Hugo award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, but his reputation as a giant of sci-fi really didn't take off until after his death in 1982, when a series of movie adaptations of his work became popular, most notably Blade Runner. Blade Runner itself was initially a flop before becoming popular on home video.
  • Stieg Larsson died shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Millennium Trilogy, a series which has proven wildly successful.
  • New Zealand author Ronald Hugh Morrieson once feared that he would become "another of those poor buggers who gets discovered when they're dead." He was proven right, his fame persisting long after his death in 1972.
  • Zelda Fitzgerald was merely just defined as 'the wife' of F Scott Fitzgerald, and known more for her Hard-Drinking Party Girl ways and being a quintessential 1920s flapper. It was only after her death that her own writing received examination, discovering that she had plenty of talent as a writer herself (and in fact, her husband had lifted passages from her letters and diaries to use in his own work). It got to the point that Christina Ricci produced a series about her, and both Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence were attached to Zelda-related projects for a while too.
  • Zora Neale Hurston (who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God), despite coming from the prolific Harlem Renaissance period, struggled to make a living throughout most of her life. She died relatively young and penniless, and was buried in an unmarked grave. It wasn't until decades later when Hurston (along with Maya Angelou) was seen as a revolutionary voice for black female writers, posthumously paving the way for writers like Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Toni Morrison (Beloved).

    Live-Action TV 
  • As The Agony Booth's Albert Walker remembers and describes as "Dying Young Retroactively Makes You More Talented", the suicide of Jonathan Brandis earned him this status.
    Walker: Seriously, prior to his death, reviewers mostly described Brandis' SeaQuest DSV character as a dopier version of Wesley Crusher.
  • Chris Farley became a breakout performer when he was in the cast of Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s and starred in Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and Beverly Hills Ninja, which were commercial hits even if they were unpopular with critics. After his death in 1997, Farley became recognized as one of the most iconic comedic actors of his time, with his brother writing a biography, The Chris Farley Show, and fellow SNL alumni and friend Adam Sandler paying tribute to him.
  • Although Phil Hartman did not win an Emmy posthumously for Outstanding Supporting Actor for NewsRadio (causing his co-star Dave Foley to humorously quip, "What does a guy have to do to win an Emmy around here?"), the outpouring of respect for him since his death has been immense. Many have since cited him as the "glue" that kept Saturday Night Live together during its second creative peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and while he rarely got to be known as a superstar like his fellow cast members (Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley), he's now regarded as one of the greatest (and perhaps the most versatile) performers of SNL's history. Additionally, he was extremely popular for his recurring work as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz on The Simpsons, with some even stating that his death coincided with the point where the series started to lose its luster.
  • Jim Henson was very well appreciated in life, but the general opinion of him especially outside of the Muppet fandom escalated after he passed away in 1990.
  • Crocodile Hunter: Steve Irwin was undoubtedly popular when he was alive, but he was also a frequent source of parody for his Awesome Aussie antics and considered somewhat embarrassing by some Australians for it. His sudden and shocking death from a sting ray in 2006 put an end to virtually all of the jokes about him, and his passionate conservationism and animal rescue work (which his family continues to this day) became much more well-respected and lauded by the public.
  • Following the death of news anchor Peter Jennings in 2005, many remembered him as an anchor who continued to deliver news in an unbiased and impartial manner as well as how he made the news open and accessible even to children. The public had a similar reaction in 2009 with the death of former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite and in 2020 with the death of PBS anchor Jim Lehrer. For all three, the public remembers how they handled issues from breaking news of tragedies to Presidential debates and election nights without the interjection of personal opinion or giving stories any degree of emotion and feel that it's how news media should continue to be set.
  • Anne Kirkbride's Deirdre Barlow wasn't a particularly popular character on Coronation Street (with a lot of fans mockingly nicknaming her 'Dreary' for her habit of ending up in depressing storylines). However, when her actress Anne Kirkbride died suddenly of breast cancer in 2015, she was re-evaluated as one of the soap's important long-running characters (she'd been on the soap since she was 18 and died at 60) and the media was more appreciative of her role in several important storylines - most famously her imprisonment in 1998 and the subsequent "Free the Weatherfield One" campaign. Anne Kirkbride was then posthumously given an Outstanding Achievement Award.
  • While he was alive, Ernie Kovacs was a critical and cult favorite but never had much in the way of mainstream success. He was rediscovered after his death and is now considered one of the founding fathers of TV comedy.
  • Sean McCann was a Canadian actor who was relatively unknown outside of his own country. It wasn't until he died in 2019 that more people got to know who he was, with many fans uploading clips of his work in tribute. In addition, his death increased awareness of The Noddy Shop, where he played the main character, after a couple of fans posted tributes to him specifically mentioning the show.
  • Cory Monteith. He was well-respected before his death, but afterwards, his work has become much more respected — like Selena, this is mostly due to imagining what could have been. In fact, much outrage was sparked when it was reported that Monteith would be featured prominently in the 2013 Emmy Awards' "In Memoriam" montage, whereas other actors had been excluded. When Jack Klugman was excluded from the montage, his son Adam was very critical of what he believed was over-promotion of Monteith's life and career.
  • Trevor Moore quickly faded into cult fandom after his show The Whitest Kids U' Know ran its course and his movie Miss March tanked. However, his sudden and premature death in 2021 led to not only plentiful tributes; but also a new resurgence in his other work, such as his comedy-music album and Uncle Mortys Dub Shack (which he co-wrote and starred in).
  • Gilda Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live when it first aired in 1975. Throughout her tenure on the show, Radner managed to stand out as one of the great performers in the era. She kept a low profile in the 1980s, with a few TV appearances as well as starring in a few unmemorable movie roles, including a few with her husband Gene Wilder. Towards the end of the decade, Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which claimed her life in 1989. On the night of her death, Steve Martin hosted SNL and scrapped his planned monologue and instead introduced a classic sketch he did with Radner during her time on the show. Since her death, Gilda Radner has been celebrated as one of the greatest female SNL cast members in the history of the show.
  • John Ritter was never much of a ratings draw after Three's Company ended. But after his sudden and unexpected death (less than a week before his 55th birthday), everyone fell over themselves proclaiming him a genius and Company one of the greatest sitcoms of all time (as well as the show he was starring in at the time of his death, 8 Simple Rules, to a lesser extent). The media circus surrounding his death — on the two-year anniversary of 9/11, no less — was so massive that his widow Amy Yasbeck joked that she "married Elvis".
  • Another Glee example is Naya Rivera, whose death in 2020 made worldwide headlines partly because of the tragic circumstances surrounding it; she had been out swimming with her four-year-old son and managed to get him to safety on their rented boat before drowning. Her body was not found until five days later, coincidentally on the anniversary of co-star Cory Monteith's death. Her Glee performance of "If I Die Young" (itself a tribute to Cory Monteith) received a surge of attention. Likewise, her character Santana was evaluated as an important step in both Latino and LGBT representation of The New '10s.
  • Tanya Roberts was a sex symbol in the early 1980s after starring in Charlie's Angels and Sheena. However, her stardom was derailed after her performance as Stacy Sutton in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill was slammed by critics and audiences alike. She later bounced back in the late 1990s as Midge Pinciotti in That '70s Show before leaving to tend to her husband during his struggle with terminal cancer. Her passing in January 2021 came as a shock for fans of the show, especially given the initial conflicting reports of her death. Making things worse was that the Sequel Series, That '90s Show was announced later that year, leaving fans saddened that they're not going to see one of the show's beloved characters returning.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Fred Rogers, much like Jim Henson above, was deeply admired while he was alive, but his squeaky-clean persona led to more cynical folks parodying him as a Depraved Kids' Show Host or a Memetic Loser. However, a decade after his passing, kids raised on the show grew up and began pointing out the Values Resonance of its messages, and it became increasingly clear that Rogers' public image was more than just a persona. By the end of The New '10s, Rogers and his show became viewed in a saintly light, and jokes at their expenses are retroactively seen as unacceptable.
  • Stefán Karl Stefánsson's death from cancer lead to an increase in popularity in LazyTown, where he played Robbie Rotten. It helped that he returned to the spotlight a little bit before, due to the "We Are Number One" meme.
  • Patrick Swayze was already an iconic film star, but after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008, he started gaining newfound appreciation as he did the short-lived police drama The Beast while undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, despite positive reviews, the show had low ratings because Swayze was unable to promote it himself. The show was put on hiatus after its first and only season, with the intention to revive it once he was in better shape. Sadly, he died from the cancer in September 2009 and the show was summarily canceled, but his Determinator attitude earned him greater esteem.
  • Adam West. In the late 1960s, he was a primetime TV star and the actor charged with bringing Batman (1966) back to life after being crippled by The Comics Code. Head to the '80s and the return of the Dark Knight, and West is a persona non grata, firmly stuck as a reminder of what was then seen as an Audience-Alienating Era of Batman. This is lampshaded in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, in which a character based on and voiced by West is portrayed as a washed-up has-been matinee idol remembered only by hardcore fans. But toward the end of his life, he was a staple voice actor in comedies such as Family Guy precisely because of his history as Batman and trademark overdramatic voice. Adam West's particular incarnation of Batman has enjoyed repopularization via the light-hearted Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the comic book Batman '66, as well as a general reappraisal of the 60s series itself, with it being appreciated for the Affectionate Parody that it is. West's death in 2017 caused much more public sadness than it likely would have a decade previously.
  • Andy Whitfield achieved his Star-Making Role in Spartacus: Blood and Sand right before he was diagnosed with cancer. He died eighteen months later and his role as Spartacus was recast, but he was still considered the star of the show and touted as a real-life badass by fans — often treating him as if he were Spartacus in real life. In lots of ways, his critically acclaimed performance in the show has led to his previous work being rediscovered.

  • Emily Dickinson wasn't even published before her death. If she had been well enough to destroy her own work before she died (instead of trusting a friend to do so) we never would have seen a word of it.
  • After John Keats's death, literati everywhere said he would've surpassed William Shakespeare if he had lived longer. He did die at the age of 25, though, and only really began producing once it was clear he was dying, so they might have a point.
  • Sylvia Plath. When she was alive, she struggled to gain recognition at all for her poetry. After her death, she was the first poet to posthumously win the Pulitzer Prize, is now regarded as one of the key figures in confessional poetry. Joyce Carol Oates hailed the publication of Plath's unabridged journals as a "genuine literary event."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Ashley Massaro is a downplayed example. In her life, she was touted as a symbol of everything that was wrong with WWE's women's division in the 2000s - as she was a Diva Search winner pushed quite heavily even with no experience, and even got two matches at WrestleMania because she had appeared on the cover of Playboy (one of which was regarded as one of the worst women's matches in the event's history). She also became a frequent punching bag on websites like Diva Dirt for her personal problems such as frequently no-showing her indie dates. Sympathy had increased before her death, as she revealed that WWE had never trained her properly, and yet continued to be put in the ring; the aforementioned bad Mania match happened while she had a broken foot and spent the entire evening not sure if she'd be even competing, only being told at the last minute "yeah, we can squeeze you guys in". Her tragic suicide in 2019 at the age of 39 led to her career being looked back at more fondly, specifically certain matches that pointed to potential she might have tapped into had WWE trained her properly (one of her last matches at ''WrestleMania 24'' was noted to be a significant improvement in her skills). Likewise, fans pointed to her unique look and charisma that made her popular with live crowds, and the prominent role she played in the memorable Trish Stratus/Mickie James feud.
  • Chyna didn't have the best relationship with WWE after her departure from the company due to her career in pornography, but after her death in 2016, both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon acknowledged her accomplishments. She was eventually posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X, which seemed very unlikely while she was still alivenote  A greater awareness of mental health issues, and the treatment young women often have to face in the public eye led to a more sympathetic reflection of her tragic personal life. A 2021 release of a VICE documentary made up of footage from a planned comeback documentary that was scrapped when she Died During Production - detailing just how much she was exploited by those around her - led to increased sympathy.
  • As a rule of thumb, songs by professional wrestlers tend to be So Bad, It's Good at best. However, Randy Savage's rap album, Be a Man, has been looked upon much more favorably after his death. The Bryan & Vinny Show went so far as to point out that rap artists have been known to release albums posthumously, so they expressed hope that another one would be released someday.
  • Shad Gaspard was quietly dropped from WWE in 2010 after a failed heel turn and break-up of his stable Cryme Tyme. He wasn't a significant presence on the indies, or went to another major company afterwards, and had transitioned into acting and stunt work at the time of his 2020 death. The sad circumstances surrounding it were eerily similar to Glee actress Naya Rivera, who died around the same time and herself became an example of this trope - drowning while saving his child. An outpouring of grief from his former co-workers led to re-examination of how Cryme Tyme were one of the few tag teams to endure in the scarce tag division of the 2000s. He was even announced a posthumous recipient of the 2022 Warrior Award from WWE.
  • Ultimate Warrior had built a standing over the last couple of decades as a recluse, bridge-burner (he basically refused to involve himself with anything WWE-affiliated), Cloudcuckoolander, and cynic (with some mild-to-moderate bigotry suggested as well). At WrestleMania XXX, he put all that to rest and made up with several people whom he shared beefs with, got inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame, mending things over with the audience the night after, which preceded his death from heart failure the following day. All this went to restore his reputation, allowing him to be fondly remembered in the times after as a great wrestling legend without the need for posthumous reconsideration.

  • Formula One has the Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna. He was one of the most talented and noteworthy drivers from the '80s-'90s, renowned as an effectively aggressive driver who won three world championships within a short time and a master at driving in heavy rain. Though, admittedly he was not without powerful rivals. Following his shocking death in the 1994 San Marino GP, however, he has become an unrivaled legend that absolutely nobody in the future can match, especially considering the extreme They Changed It, Now It Sucks! attitude from the fanbase. This is especially true in Brazil, where Senna became the country's biggest sporting hero, even surpassing Pelé, after his death - to the point that other Brazilian F1 champions like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet are completely forgotten, and good Brazilian drivers who never won the championship like Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa are treated as symbols of shame. Many former Brazilian F1 fans insist F1 died with Senna.
  • Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez did very well for a player who was in the early years of his career, including two All-Star Game appearances and winning Rookie of Year. His untimely death during a boating accident in September 2016 has ensured that he will always be a legend and one of the most beloved players in the team's history.
  • Kobe Bryant was one of the most popular NBA players of all time thanks to his success on the Los Angeles Lakers, but even then, he was not quite the icon that, say, Michael Jordan was, especially when taking into account Bryant's 2003 sex scandal. That all changed following his sudden death in a helicopter crash in January 2020, along with his beloved teenage daughter and seven others, among them two of his daughter's youth basketball teammates. Within hours of his passing, people were calling for the NBA silhouette to be changed to one of Bryant, and for his numbers #8 and #24 to be retired league-wide like the MLB did for Jackie Robinson and the NHL for Wayne Gretzky. Mark Cuban quickly announced that the Dallas Mavericks would retire #24 despite the fact Bryant never once played for them (or any other team); the Grammy Awards, which were held at the Lakers home Staples Centernote  that night, quickly became a tribute to him; and guess what the NBA All-Star Game trophy was renamed to?
  • In the North American racing series, Dale Earnhardt Sr. (NASCAR), Dan Wheldon, and Justin Wilson (IndyCar) all won Most Popular Driver awards in the seasons they were killed in action, although like Senna, many can argue they were still at or almost at the peak of their talents when they died.
    • An even bigger example is Bryan Clauson, who won Indy's Most Popular Driver award in 2016. Unlike Wheldon or Wilson, he never started a single race in the series outside of the Indianapolis 500, and wasn't even killed in an Indy car crash, but rather a sprint car crash on a dirt track. Much of his popularity from that season came from his campaign to run a combined 200 paved and dirt races in various disciplines (including the 500) in 2016 and reviving the old-school dream of short track open-wheel racers working their up to the promised land of Indianapolis.
  • Former NHL player Pavol Demitra gained a lot of fans when he passed away, along with the rest of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, in a plane crash.
  • Pete Maravich was considered a phenomenal basketball player but the lack of success of the teams he played for was held against him. LSU never made the NCAA tournament during his college years and he never made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs. Also, he ran into injury problems. But after his premature death at age 40 more attention was paid to his individual accomplishments and he's now considered one of the true legends of basketball.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente was one of the great Major League Baseball players of the 1960s (15-time All-Star, MVP in 1966). After his death in 1972note , a special Hall of Fame election was held four months later to waive the five-year waiting period (he was elected with a 92.7% percentage of the vote).note  His career total of 3,000 hits is now considered the standard for a Hall of Fame-level player.

  • Heinrich Von Kleist is considered one of the great classics of German theatre, but before his 1811 suicide, he only managed to get two of his plays performed on stage, both in a mutilated form. For instance, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (in his capacity as director of the theatre in Weimar) felt it necessary to transform Kleist's one-act comedy Der zerbrochne Krug ("The Broken Jug") into a three-act play, thereby completely spoiling its effect. In some respects, Kleist was so far ahead of his time that he had to be Vindicated by History, which helps to explain why his Penthesilea and Amphitryon would have to wait until 1876 and 1898, respectively, for their first performance.
  • Terence Rattigan. Ask any critic or theater buff in the '40s and '50s, and they'd probably list Rattigan — author of The Deep Blue Sea, Separate Tables and The Winslow Boy, among others — as one of England's great playwrights, a master of witty dialogue and refined, well-plotted drama. Just a decade later, with the advent of the "Angry Young Men" (John Osborne, Harold Pinter, etc.) and their more emotional, formally fluid and class-driven work, Rattigan became despised for the very qualities that he'd been praised for. After decades of disfavor, critics in the '90s began analyzing Rattigan's plays through the prism of personal identity and sexual repression, viewing thematic content previous generations had ignored or dismissed. With frequent revivals and film adaptations of his work, Rattigan has regained his reputation.
  • Believe it or not, the works of William Shakespeare (who, during his lifetime made enough money off of something to buy his family a coat of armsnote ) did not become the canonical greatest writer ever until some 170 years after his death. Some of this has to do with social changes (English Civil War, the Restoration) which led to a period in which The Diary of Samuel Pepys wrote about several of them that they are either terrible, or merely So Okay, It's Average. In France, an Anglophile like Voltaire loved John Locke, Newton, Swift and Pope, but really thought Shakespeare was bad for violating the classical unities. Shakespeare-craziness really hit high gear in the late 1700s, first in England (under Samuel Johnson) and then in Germany (where the Enlightenment and Romantic writers were revolting against the French neoclassicism) started celebrating Shakespeare as an example of "genius" where Shakespeare's "little Latin and lesse Greek" (as his good friend Ben Jonson wrote in a commemorative elegy on the First Folio) didn't actually hurt the appreciation for him but made him even more of a "miraculous genius" granted natural talents by divine providence.

    Video Games 
  • Prior to his untimely passing in 2020, Rick May was an obscure voice actor who had very little to his résumé in a long time, despite having birthed the famous "Do a Barrel Roll" meme. It was only after his death that his IMDB page got a profile picture and gamers started becoming truly aware of who he was, most famously the voice of Peppy and Andross in Star Fox 64, Genghis Khan in Age of Empires II, Dr. M in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, and the Soldier in Team Fortress 2.
  • Satoru Iwata, former president of Nintendo, was a rather polarizing figure for his strategy of attracting new, "casual" gamers with the Nintendo DS, and Wii, as opposed to appealing to established players. Many called for him to resign after Nintendo's infamous E3 2015 presentation. After he passed away shortly thereafter, the fans have started to regret how they treated him as the scapegoat of their fury, given he was suffering from a bile duct tumor that ultimately killed him. News articles also began circulating around this time on how he was fellow gamer who cared for Nintendo's audience, along with his many Genius Programming feats being illustrated — almost universally turning his portrayal amongst gamers into a positive one. It also helps that his Swan Song project, the Nintendo Switch, launched nearly 2 years after his death to acclaim from casual and hardcore gamers alike, capturing the appeal of the two markets in a way that the Wii failed to do.

    Web Original 
  • Monty Oum was somewhat renowned and respected through his early animating career for neat personal passion projects like Dead Fantasy, but Volume 1 of his last work RWBY released to a rather lukewarm reception, with critics citing janky animations and low production values. Just as the show was starting to hit its stride with Volume 2, Monty shockingly passed away in February 2015 from an allergic reaction he experienced during a medical procedure. Colleagues have continued Monty's work and turned RWBY into a juggernaut which has become a smash hit in Japan and was featured in the Arc System Works Fighting Game BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, while Monty is considered to be one of the best (if not the) 3D web animators to have ever lived.

    Western Animation 
  • Christine Cavanaugh was another respected voice actress in the '90s, voicing many popular characters like Chuckie in Rugrats, Dexter in Dexter's Laboratory, Bunnie Rabbot in Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), and Babe in Babe. However, by the time she passed away in December 2014, she had been retired professionally and publicly for almost 15 years. It still didn't stop the news from reaching national headlines, and ensuring her work would reach classic status for nostalgic '90s babies.
  • Clay Martin Croker was one of the many notable people who passed on in 2016. He did animation and voices for Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Toonami, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Brak Show. But until that point, he was obscure to the general public outside the most hardcore of Adult Swim fans.
  • Elizabeth Hartman had been retired from acting for a few years before her tragic suicide in 1987, and had fallen into obscurity thanks to a lifelong struggle with mental health. These days however, she's recognized for being the youngest actress at the time to be nominated for Best Actress for A Patch of Blue (she was 22), getting to star in several classic films of the time, and her iconic performance as Mrs. Brisby in The Secret of NIMH (her final role, and considered one of her best). In fact, Mrs. Brisby's first name isn't revealed in the film, but this trope has led to fans naming her Elizabeth after the actress.
  • For the last few decades of his life, Gene Deitch's overall animation work was polarizing to many. Some enjoyed his work, but most weren't too keen on his style. His Tom & Jerry cartoons in the 1960s were especially hated amongst fans. When he passed away in April 2020 he was suddenly hailed as an animation genius, with numerous people now calling his Tom & Jerry shorts as "legendary works of art".
  • Comedian Kevin Meaney increased in popularity following his fatal heart attack in 2016, causing more fans to learn about his roles in animation, which were relatively unknown prior to his passing.
  • Looney Tunes examples:
    • Bob Clampett's problem had more to do with the fact that his 1930s and 1940s cartoons weren't seen that often in theaters and TV after the end of World War II. He was also subject to a bitter hate campaign from his fellow colleague Chuck Jones, who claimed that Clampett was an egotistical liar who took credit for things that he didn't invent in the first place. He got his reputation as an acclaimed cartoon director when his cartoons became available on TV. Many cartoon historians like John Kricfalusi praised him for his work, years after his death in 1984.
    • Frank Tashlin was for many years more famous for the live-action films he directed (particularly those starring Jerry Lewis) than the many Looney Tunes he directed. Like with Clampett, easier accessibility to his work allowed people to appreciate his many contributions to animation.
    • Robert McKimson was quite shy and his work was always seen as more conformist compared to his fellow colleagues at Warners. His only two creations, Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian Devil were far more obscure compared to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and they would only get more popular after his death. Today McKimson's work is re-evaluated as fine draftsmanship. Two of his creations in particular (Taz and Speedy Gonzales, though the latter only became popular after Friz Freleng redesigned him) are among the most popular characters in the Looney Tunes staple. Taz even earned his own TV show.
    • Tex Avery: Though his work was very popular and influential during his lifetime, the man himself never received the respect he deserved so well. It didn't help he was extremely shy and didn't like to be in the spotlight. He died in obscurity. Only after his death in 1980 did his reputation grow to critically lauded proportions.
  • Judith Barsi, a child actress best known for her roles in Don Bluth's The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven, died under tragic circumstances before either film came out. Because her story ended suddenly in 1988, it can only be speculated as to how a teenage and adult Judith's career would have played out. That being said, Don Bluth himself was so impressed with her performance as Ducky that she was cast in All Dogs Go To Heaven without an audition, so she was definitely regarded as a Child Prodigy while alive (before voice acting, she had booked several commercials and guest roles in TV series. Oh, and she's one of the few bright spots in a really bad movie).
  • Mary Kay Bergman was a very respected voice actress in the '90s, but to most, she was best known as the woman who did all the female voices on South Park. After her sudden and tragic suicide however, her work became very highly regarded, and she's often cited as one of the greatest and most versatile voice actors of all time. Her passing also brought a lot of attention and awareness to mental health struggles.
  • Stephen Hillenburg's death in 2018 lead to an increase in interest in SpongeBob SquarePants, the show he created. After years of slumping ratings for the show, they started to slowly increase following his death. It helps that the original target demographic was old enough now to have kids to share the show with.