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"This is the last story. Ever. SO if another story happens to get written about the adventures of Shamoosh, or Grinch's in general, you can know its fake. Since al the grinchs are dead." -- 'The death of all Grinchs, by Shamoosh',

A writer has created a franchise, but he doesn't own the legal rights to what will happen to the franchise -- the publisher/network/studio/whatever does. Or maybe he shares the rights with someone else and just doesn't have as much control as he likes. He wants to stop writing it and move on to something else.

But he doesn't want anyone else being able to handle his property, even though he doesn't legally own it -- and even if he did own the franchise, what happens when his kids get their hands on the franchise after his inevitable Author Existence Failure? The solution? Torch the Franchise and Run. Write one last story that totally wrecks everything. He kills off everyone he possibly can. He makes the lives of all of the characters a living hell before executing them. He makes 100% sure that everyone (or nearly everyone) is dead, and those that aren't have no way of returning to the status quo or main premise of the show.

Essentially the authorial version of breaking your own toys so that nobody else can play with them.

See also: Kill'Em All, though this is done less for the story and more for the personal or legal satisfaction of the author. Related to Writer Revolt. When this happens in a physical sense, you get Trash the Set.

Fan backlash can cause this to backfire in the most unpleasant ways, even before there was an Internet to inspire an Internet Backdraft. May force the author to use an Author's Saving Throw if the new franchise he attempts to start sinks like a stone - either because it didn't have the same spark as the old series or his old audience is so angry at him they refuse to follow him.

As many of these examples show, this isn't guaranteed to succeed even in its main goal of ending the franchise, never mind the fan reaction. If the publishers want to keep the franchise going badly enough, they'll find a way, whether that's making Prequels, finding a way to press the Reset Button, or, if push comes to shove, retconning the entire Downer Ending and restarting from an earlier point.

Examples of Torch the Franchise and Run include:


Anime and Manga

  • One reason for Yoshiyuki Tomino's Kill'Em All tendencies was a desire to avoid making sequels. It didn't stop one of his shows from becoming one of the biggest franchises in all of anime.
    • His most infamous case of this happening was with Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, which, legend says, he wrote deliberately to try to kill off Gundam for good. Didn't stop them from making more.
    • Interestingly, Tomino admitted that he regretted pulling this off when he wrote the novel trilogy of said series, noting that if he knew it was going to be that big, he wouldn't have done it.
  • Master of Martial Hearts ended its last episode with a huge Take That towards its viewers, anime in general, and especially panty fighter series. It wasn't exactly the highest-quality production in the first place, but still.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima received an extremely abrupt Distant Finale ending that had many fans puzzled as to the remaining unresolved plot threads. A short time later it surfaced that Akamatsu had decided to end the series as a protest against his publisher Kodansha for their attempts to take away all the rights to the work, including the copyright itself. Nobody is killed off, however, the story goes out of its way to make any sort of continuation completely impossible. The Big Bad is dealt with offscreen somehow and the romance is left ambiguous apart from Ship Sinking for the four most popular pairings for the main character.
    • And it's not the first time Kodansha tried to do so. Gunnm: Last Order nearly ended not even close to its conclusion due to copyright dispute between Kodansha and Yukito Kishiro. Luckily, Kishiro managed to retain his copyright and moved to Shueisha, continuing the story.
  • Harenchi Gakuen, the first series written by Go Nagai, ended this way because of the Moral Guardians coming down hard on the magazine that published it. It may explain why Nagai has done his own publishing for most of his career, as well as why many of his works have a Downer Ending.


Comic Books

  • Grant Morrison ended his run on the comic book Doom Patrol by pretty much torching the place down. The leader turned out to be evil, some characters died, others were permanently exiled to another dimension. The writer who took over only had one or two characters to work with.
    • This is not without precedent, however: the first version of the Doom Patrol ended with all the main characters dying. The version that came before Morrison's version ended with some of the cast dying and one of them in a coma. Interestingly, Morrison's version (which was one of the most popular) ended with only two characters dead and the rest walking away into the sunset.
    • Interestingly, when his run on the much-higher-profile Justice League of America ended, he only wrote out the characters he'd introduced during his run, leaving the same core 'Big Seven' team he started with, and essentially handing the next writer a blank slate. And the only character who died was one Morrison himself had created, since the character's own comic was cancelled before it had a chance to end properly.
  • X-Men spin-off X-Statix creator Peter Milligan did this in the book's final issue. This being superhero comics, it didn't stop him from revisiting the characters for a miniseries.
  • Peter David left his original run as writer on The Incredible Hulk under unpleasant circumstances. So he killed off Betty Banner in a sudden, horrific, ironically tragic, yet not really logical way (she'd been married to Bruce for years. Why did she suddenly wake up covered with radiation burns one morning?), and then made his last issue an alternate future issue set many years in the future, tying off all the comic's loose ends and giving everyone a very sad but definitive ending. Paul Jenkins, the next major Hulk writer, and most of the fandom treated most of David's last issue as a What If story (though Betty stayed dead for a few years).
  • In 1990, after getting a deal with DC, Alan Grant killed off Johnny Alpha, the protagonist of Strontium Dog, to prevent any new writers from messing with him. A few years later, John Wagner started writing prequels, and recently brought Johnny Back From the Dead, to the disgust of the fanbase.
  • Novas Aventuras de Mega Man was almost less Torch the Franchise and Run and more Torch The Franchise And Take Over. One of the writers created the character Princess in an attempt to kill everyone there and use it to make it her own series. Thankfully, someone caught him before it could happen and Princess was Put on a Bus.
  • Alan Moore may or may not have wanted to prevent anyone else from using the characters from Watchmen, but its bleak ending and thorough Deconstruction of the superhero genre certainly had that effect all the same. This is the reason why the story uses expies of the Charlton Comics superheroes: Moore was initially hired to write a story using the Charlton characters themselves, but DC executives looked at his first draft and realized that if they published the story they'd never be able to use the characters again. They asked him to either change the story or change the superheroes, and he changed the superheroes. Watchmen remained a standalone miniseries for over 20 years--and when DC finally did decide to make more stories in that 'verse, they commissioned the new writers to create prequels instead of attempting to continue from where Watchmen ended.
  • And Allan Heinberg did this to the Young Avengers in Avengers: Children's Crusade 9. But only by splitting them up so if a writer really wanted to they could bring them back together.
  • In Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, fantasy writer Ezra Hound attempts to kill off his hero, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, so he can write serious fiction. Bow-Zar, in turn, time travels to the present and attempts to kill off Ezra Hound.


Film


Literature

  • L. Frank Baum was caught in a situation like this. He desperately wanted to stop writing stories about the Land of Oz, but his publisher and fans wouldn't let him. He had established that nothing dies in the land of Oz, so he couldn't kill anyone off. In the sixth book, he tried to use the Literary Agent Hypothesis to justify never writing a single thing about Oz again because an invasion caused Oz to become isolationist and totally cut off all contact with the outside world, thus promising to never ever write another story about Oz ever again. When his other books failed to sell as well, he had to begin writing stories about Oz again to pay his bills, backpedaling and explaining that they discovered the radio in Oz that Dorothy could use to broadcast Baum news about Oz.
  • Michael Crichton has attempted to do this twice to the Jurassic Park franchise, to no avail. The first book ends with the fictional Costa Rican air force destroying the island and killing all the dinosaurs. Then, in The Lost World (which Crichton was pressured into writing so a sequel to Jurassic Park's film adaptation could be made), the novel ends by noting that all the dinosaurs on Site B will shortly die off due to a spreading prion infection. Despite this, a third Jurassic Park film was made which wasn't based off any novel and had no involvement from Crichton. It can be argued that Crichton's death in 2008 was an inadvertent third attempt at this; however, a fourth Jurassic Park film, titled Jurassic World, was made and released in 2015. Despite his genius and wits, poor Michael Crichton was no match for Hollywood greed.
    • Crichton didn't intend for Jurassic Park to become a franchise, as he had never franchised any of his work before it. This may explain why he attempted to do this.
    • It doesn't really help that the movie versions actually have very little to do with the novels.
  • Andre Norton shut down the Witch World series in a somewhat similar manner. The last Witch World novel has every single character from the series traveling all over the world to shut down all the Gates so that no one and nothing can come through from Outside again, ever. So far it has stuck.
  • One of the earliest examples is Sherlock Holmes' original death. Also backfired.
  • In-fiction example: In Stephen King's Misery, the author/main character kills off his ongoing romance character and then is forced to resurrect her by a demented fan (the Kathy Bates character in the movie).
  • There was a post-apocalyptic pulp-novel series called The Last Ranger. In the final novel they blew up the Earth.
  • Done in-universe in Hyperion: the poet Martin Silenus, finally realizing that his profitable The Dying Earth series of books[2] has become a brain-dead Cliché Storm, decides to just kill the thing off, completely and utterly, so that he can go and search for his "muse", so he can work on real poetry.
  • This is why the title character regains his sanity and dies at the end of Don Quixote. After publishing what became Part One, Cervantes was dismayed to see other writers producing unauthorized Quixote stories of their own, so he wrote Part Two as he did to give the character a definite ending.
  • Similiarly, Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot in Curtain to give the character a definite ending and prevent other writers from writing more books with him after her death. She actually wrote Curtain during World War II, worried about the possibility of being killed in the London Blitz, but as she wasn't, she continued writing for several decades, and Curtain was not published until a few months before her death in 1976.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space nearly had one of its own. At one point in his career, Niven had decided there wasn't much left to say in that particular universe, and asked a friend what he should do with it. His friend suggested writing a story that basically destroys the entire thing (Niven never asked why, saying he and his friend think alike). This story, "Down in Flames", was outlined but abandoned when Niven read about Dyson Spheres and was inspired to write Ring World. "Ringworld" and "Down in Flames" use mutually opposing assumptions about canon (DiF assumes the Core Explosion was a hoax and a Tnuctipun conspiracy, Ringworld accepts the Core Explosion happened and that the Tnuctipun have been dead for a billion years as early stories said), making it impossible to use "Down in Flames" and keeping the 'verse alive.
  • The last The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book ended with every version of Earth in the Multiverse being destroyed, and almost all of the regular characters dying. Oddly enough, creator Douglas Adams did intend to make a new book undoing the damage, but died before he could write it.
    • Eventually, Eoin Colfer was contracted to write his own continuation.
  • The Witcher gets killed with a pitchfork in the last book of the Saga. Then, the video game comes out with a Cosmic Retcon. Now, the author threatens to introduce another Cosmic Retcon of his own with a new book he's writing, disregarding the video game continuity. The fandom ain't rejoicing.
    • However, in an interview from the Enhanced Edition of the game, Andrzej Sapkowski explains that he is fine with them existing, and he does view them as valid stories in the continuity.


Live Action Television


Newspaper Comics

  • John Darling was a comic strip spin-off from Funky Winkerbean by Tom Batiuk that ran about 12 years. Batiuk and his syndicate came into conflict over the rights so Batiuk killed off the title character and ended the strip, leaving the syndicate with a worthless property. Years later, Batiuk revisited the story in FW to solve the murder. Later still, introduced Darling's daughter, Jessica, as part of the FW cast.
  • Jim Davis ended his first comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, when he got bored with it by having Gnorm stomped by a giant foot.


Video Games


Webcomics


Web Original

  • In "The Day the Music Died" by Sam Starbuck, a short story about everything possible going wrong with a Harry Potter-like fandom at once, this is one of the things that goes wrong. The author -- who's writing the last novel of a series while on his deathbed -- decides to finish with an apocalypse to prevent anyone from writing any sequels after his death.
  • A variant happens in one tandem writing assignment discussed on snopes Rebecca, disliking her partner Gary's attempt to derail the story she was writing into a science fiction action story by killing off the male lead and attempting to write him into a corner by having Congress end the war with Skylon 4 and outlaw war and space travel. He then managed to get around this by having another alien faction attack, killing the female lead and causing the president to decide to veto the treaty. Rebecca then gave up in disgust.
  • Despite having written only one other story involving 'grinchs' and 'were-grinchs', the author of the original fiction 'The Death of all Grinchs' ends the story with its protagonist Shamoosh blowing up all the 'grinchs' and devouring their king's heart to cure herself of being a were-grinch. She then returns to her home town to write a report on their disgusting behavior that would be passed down through eternity. The author concludes by saying that this is the last story, ever, and that any further stories about Shamoosh and the grinchs are fake since all the grinchs are dead.


Western Animation

  • The final episode of Harvey Birdman has the eponymous character being killed-off in a rather anti-climatic way. However, there was a Sequel Hook just in case they want to return to it He has a clone somewhere out there.

Notes

  1. or at least, an unnamed character widely presumed to be Blofeld
  2. Yes, the title is a tribute to Jack Vance. Now have a cookie.
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