There are many ways to mark the passing of a loved one. Some choose cemetery plots, some choose solemn memorials, and some choose to tattoo the name of the departed on their back. People who have control of a creative enterprise can choose something else… giving the deceased a small slice of immortality.
10. Geordi La Forge (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
The beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation had many characters based on pre-existing ones, such as Data being a modern take on Pinocchio and Riker being based on a character named Decker who was going to be in a follow-up to the original series that never happened. As for Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, he was based on a real fan named George La Forge.
During the 18 year break between Star Trek: The Original Series and The Next Generation, creator Gene Roddenberry befriended La Forge who, like his eventual namesake, suffered a disability. While Geordi was blind, George suffered from muscular dystrophy that left him wheelchair bound. He passed away in 1975, 12 years before The Next Generation debuted.
9. Erik the Slayer (Skyrim)
Erik the Slayer is a barbarian in the world of Skyrim who resides in Rorikstead’s Frostfruit Inn. He was named after a fan named Erik West who used the online alias Immok the Slayer and enjoyed a tour of the game developer’s studios thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He so impressed the staff with his knowledge of the game’s setting that they decided to immortalize him. Erik passed away in May of 2011, six months before the release of Skyrim. His Deviantart account remains to this day, containing his artwork and poetry about The Elder Scrolls games and the other things he loved.
8. Fry (Futurama)
The character of Zapp Brannigan from Futurama was created with Phil Hartman in mind. Hartman was a beloved Saturday Night Live star who was also known for his numerous film appearances and voice-over jobs, most notably as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure on The Simpsons. In 1998 Hartman was murdered by his wife, an event that sent shock-waves through the entertainment industry.
The role of Zapp eventually went to Billy West, who did an impression of Hartman as a tribute. The main character of the show would become a memorial to Hartman as well. He was originally known only as Fry, but his full name was revealed to be Phillip J. Fry. The Phillip was a tribute to Hartman, while the J. was a reference to Homer J. Simpson.
7. Clara (Doctor Who)
The current companion of The Doctor (as of 2015, he goes through a lot of them) is Clara Oswald. The character is named for Elisabeth Clara Sladen, who portrayed perhaps the most famous companion of them all, Sarah-Jane Smith. Sarah-Jane is the longest running of all The Doctor’s companions, having been a regular from 1973 to 1976 and appearing sporadically until 2005. In 2007 she received her own show called The Sarah-Jane Adventures, a kid friendly spin-off.
In 2011, Elisabeth Clara Sladen passed away, with her death making national news in the United Kingdom. The following year, Clara Oswald was introduced to the show.
6. Nova (Marvel Comics)
Nova is a mantle that’s passed down from hero to hero. The Nova Corps are an interstellar police force involved in the cosmic affairs of the Marvel universe. Originally appearing in 1976 in his own series, Nova has shown up sporadically in the decades since. His most recent rise to prominence came during the 2006 event Annihilation, where he became one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe by being the last survivor of the Nova Corps and absorbing the power of his deceased comrades. The current incarnation of Nova is Sam Alexander. This new teenage version of the character was named after Sam Loeb, the son of the character’s creator Jeph Loeb, who passed away at the age of 17.
5. Mako (Avatar: The Legend of Korra)
The Fire Bender Mako from Avatar: The Legend of Korra is named after famed Academy Award nominated actor Mako Iwamatsu. Mako, who was usually credited by his first name alone, had a long career in the entertainment industry, most notably as a voice-over artist in cartoons and video games. His final role before his death was Master Splinter in the 2007 film revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT.
He had previously voiced the character of Iroh in Korra’s predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender. During an appearance at the 2011 Comic-con, designs for the new characters were shown. One was Mako, who the series’ creator confirmed was in honor of the man who voiced Iroh.
4. Kenny (Divekick)
Divekick is an indie fighting game funded through Kickstarter. The gimmick is that the player has only two moves, jumping up and kicking down. The game is essentially a contest to see who can hit their opponent first. One of the final characters added to the game was Kenny, a former Divekick champion who was murdered and became an Angel in heaven. By winning numerous Divekick tournaments in the afterlife he was allowed to return to Earth to solve the mystery of his death.
Kenny is named after the deceased brother of one of the biggest backers of the game. Even though the Kickstarter was eventually taken down when the game was purchased by a studio, the pledge was still honored and Kenny the Angel was created.
3. Stargirl (DC Comics)
The Justice Society of America is considered the original superhero team. They first appeared in All Star Comics #3 in 1940, and have been a force in the DC universe ever since. One of their current members is Stargirl, who’s taken up the mantle of original JSA member The Star Spangled Kid. She fights crime using a Cosmic Staff which allows her to fly, fire energy blasts and control gravity. She fights crime alongside her sidekick S.T.R.I.P.E., a guy in a suit of robot armor similar to Iron Man’s.
Stargirl’s real name is Courtney Whitmore. She was created by Geoff Johns, who named her after his sister Courtney Johns who died in the TWA Flight 800 disaster in 1996. He’s stated that Stargirl’s personality is also based on his sister.
2. Robin the Genie (World of Warcraft)
The World of Warcraft is filled with memorials to the dead. The most recent and well known is for Robin Williams, the famed actor and comedian who took his own life in August 2014. He was known as an avid gamer and was a fan of World of Warcraft. In honor of his passing, a genie named Robin was added into the game.
Robin is the most famous of over 30 known memorials, most of which are for employees or associates of development company Blizzard. There are also memorials for big fans of the game whose friends and families petitioned Blizzard to be included. Characters, shrines and other places of remembrance dot the landscape as virtual tributes to loved ones.
1. Natalie McDonald (Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire)
In July 1999, while working on the fourth Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling received a letter from a nine year old fan in Toronto. Her name was Natalie McDonald, and she had leukemia. The letter was a request for Rowling to tell her what happened to the characters at the end of the series. The message didn’t reach Rowling for several weeks — she responded by email, but by the time it reached Natalie’s family it was too late. They received the message on August 3rd, one day after Natalie passed away.
In the years to follow, Rowling became close friends with the McDonald family. Whenever she visited Canada and performed live readings of her work they were always honored guests. Natalie’s mother kept the contents of the email private until the release of the final book, as it contained spoilers for the fates of the main characters.
In honor of Natalie’s passing, she was made into a character in Goblet of Fire. When Harry witnesses the sorting hat ceremony for first year students, a girl named Natalie McDonald is sorted into Harry’s house of Gryffindor.