(Note: This article discusses events from The Walking Dead comic that have not yet occurred on the TV show. While there are numerous differences from the comic at this point (“Hey, where’s Daryl?”), the show has largely followed the same story arcs. So for you spoilerphobic types, consider yourself warned.)
If you stuck around past the credits of The Walking Dead‘s midseason finale back in November, you witnessed a scene where Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham were stopped on their way back to Alexandria by a group of bikers, who claimed ominously that all their property “now belongs to Negan.”
Here it is again for reference:
So what’s up with Negan? Why are comic fans so eagerly anticipating his arrival? Here’s a quick primer.
Who Is Negan?
With his leather jacket and massive frame, Negan is a hulking presence in every panel he appears. This is amplified by his dialog, an unnerving stream of profane politeness that would make the characters on Deadwood blush. He is without a doubt the most worthy — and most terrifying — motherf#@%ing foe Rick and crew have ever faced.
In the comic, he’s the leader of the Saviors, a group that “protects” surrounding communities from the walker hordes by demanding half of each community’s supplies in exchange. In other words, it’s a classic protection racket, held together by a brutal code of honor established by Negan that punishes disobedience with a visit from his fetishistic companion, a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire that he affectionately calls Lucille.
Rick crosses paths with Negan after Alexandria comes in contact with the Hilltop, a community under the Saviors’ protection. The resulting power struggle leaves multiple major characters dead and sparks an all-out war between the factions.
Why Are Comic Fans Freaking Out?
Negan is the most compelling character in The Walking Dead universe, and his appearance shakes up the narrative in a way not seen since the original outbreak. He repels you, and yet at the same time you crave to see what he does next, because it’s rarely predictable.
But what really draws you in about Negan is that in retrospect, there’s an internal logic to his behavior — it’s just warped by his outsized id and the knowledge that after the world ends, the one making the rules is the one swinging the biggest, baddest bat. He respects strong-willed people like Rick and Carl even when they’re actively working to destroy him because they conform to his moral code, in the same way he eviscerates a potential double agent because he doesn’t have the “guts” to face his problem head-on.
Oh, and also? He and his men are responsible for the deaths of two major characters who are currently alive on the TV show.
Comic fans have long debated how the showrunners would adapt Negan. His aggressively extreme characteristics seem difficult to bring to non-premium TV — even on the boundary-pushing AMC. Some wondered if Negan’s arc would appear at all, a rumor comic creator Robert Kirkman stoked when he joked that the show’s pacing meant that they’d get to Negan by “somewhere like Season 12.”
Morgan has directly addressed how the show will handle Negan’s particular quirks, telling Entertainment Weekly: “We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. … It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. It’s very important that that’s who it is. Some of the characters there’s much more leeway, but Negan is a guy that you want to keep as true as possible, and that would be how I want to play him as well.”
Fans will get to see for themselves how faithful he’s been adapted when he makes his first appearance in the Season 6 finale.
Where Can I Learn More About Negan Right Now?
The Walking Dead wiki is your best place to go for expert knowledge on both the show and the comic.
If you want to check out the source material for yourself, I highly recommend purchasing DRM-free digital versions off the Image Comics Web site. Or, if you have a library card, you can try out Hoopla, which currently offers issues 1-144 of the comic absolutely free.
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