To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.
The (back)story has been told: across 16 months, and four pages at a time, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has explained the pre-apocalyptic life of Negan, the tyrannical, yet still charming baddie who has killed favorite characters and tormented others in hero Rick Grimes’ universe.
Kirkman’s Here’s Negan special, which concluded its 16-issue run in Image Plus magazine this week, dove deep into Negan’s life as the apocalypse broke out and the time immediately afterwards. While the story doesn’t provide redemption in terms of revealing Negan had been a nice guy who turned brutal as a result of the new world (he wasn’t, and he didn’t), Here’s Negan does shed light on the motivation and philosophy that guides Negan’s rule of the Saviors.
Among the major disclosures in Here’s Negan:
* The foul-mouthed one was a high school coach, but he did not feel the need to curb his salty language in front of his students, even when his wife — Lucille — yelled at him about the cursing after his students’ parents called her to complain about her husband;
* Yeah, Lucille the bat was named after Lucille the wife, the one who died after a brief battle with cancer just as the apocalypse began. Negan, a self-proclaimed “piece of dog s**t,” had been cheating on Lucille, and only ended his affair after his wife was diagnosed. As she lay dying in the hospital, walkers began to attack, but when an orderly tried to get Negan to leave Lucille and get himself to safety, Negan refused to leave her. Lucille died, reanimated, and tried to eat him, but he couldn’t bear to put her down. After saving the life of a teen boy who was being attacked in the hallway, and learning exactly what was happening with the undead, Negan asked the boy to kill zombified Lucille. He did, and the two fled the hospital together to go somewhere safer.
* After the teen told smart aleck Negan he’s wasn’t very nice, Negan shared his thoughts on sex with the 13-year-old: “I traded in nice for funny a long time ago,” he told him. “Nice is boring. Nice has never led to f***ing in the history of anything, ever. Funny f***s all day and night… You’re old enough to know that life is just a constant hunt for any path that leads to f***ing. Our body wants us to make babies… but we try not to think about that part. It’s gross.” The two bond as the boy talks about a girl he’s crushing on, but while trying to get to Negan’s car, the boy is attacked by a walker, becoming the first of many walker victims that will frustrate Negan, and spark his approach to survival.
* He met up with a group of people who are impressed with his tales of zombie kills and penis skills, but a herd of walkers attacked. While Negan was fighting them, the rest of the group was killed. He left the scene, taking one of the dead men’s baseball bat, which Negan had used to kill the walkers. As he traveled, he continued to run into other survivors, who continues to get attacked by walkers. Negan becomes angrier that people kept dying.
* Negan killed a rabbit for dinner, and while roasting it over a fire, he was approached by a new man: Dwight. Dwight took Negan back to his camp, which also included his wife, Sherry. Dwight introduced him to everyone, but Negan didn’t want to know anyone’s name, saying he’d learn them if they survived more than a few days. He and the group later found a hotel to camp in, and Negan began to emerge as the group’s leader, as he instructed them how to fight against a pack of walkers. “We can do this!” he told them during the battle. “If we work together, we can all survive!! Nobody has to die today!”
* Despite a show of jealousy by Dwight, Negan strengthened his position as the group’s leader, while picking up his signature leather jacket, revealing his former job as a gym teacher, and displaying his deep love of dropping the F-bomb into nearly every sentence along the way. His group met up with another group, but when one of the men in the new group encouraged Negan to rape one of his women, Negan declared he wouldn’t tolerate it. The new guy objected and pushed Negan into some barbed wire, which led to a physical fight. Negan shocked himself and everyone watching when he beat the man to death with his bat, then wrapped the bat with some of the barbed wire. He told everyone he understood they were frightened and confused, and said it was time he told them about Lucille.
* In the final installment of the backstory, Negan explained “Lucille” was someone who meant everything to him, and it was “Lucille” who kept him sane, kept him from feeling sad or afraid as everyone he met in the apocalypse kept dying. “Truth is, I met nothing but a long line of people who couldn’t push things just a little bit harder for those they loved,” he told the new, expanded group. “They cracked. People died. They died.” He didn’t die, he said, because he was in a “bubble” protected by “Lucille” his bat, which he thrust above his head to introduce her. Negan told the new group members Lucille could protect all of them now, too, that they could consolidate their supplies, protect each other, and live as one joint collection of survivors… on one condition. “We can make this work, but let me be clear,” he said. “You work for us now. We’re your saviors.” One member of the dead man’s group objected, and Negan promptly shut him down: “I know you think you’re King S**t of F**k Mountain, and you’re not accustomed to taking s**t from anyone,” Negan said. “But things are different now because… here’s Negan!”
So there we have it: the origins of Lucille (the woman and the bat), the leather jacket, the barbed wire covering Lucille, Negan’s stance on sexual assault, the beginning of his relationship with Dwight and Sherry, and his feelings on how best to survive in the new world.
These are all topics we’ve seen covered in both The Walking Dead comics and the TV series, but the details of what inspired his many rules and the setup of the Saviors community makes Negan one of the most layered characters in Kirkman’s universe. Will we ever forgive him for killing Glenn, and Abraham in the series? No. And the Season 8 trailer confirmed he’s going to continue to cause a ruckus for Rick and company with the events of the comics’ “All Out War” storyline inspiring the new season.
Kirkman has said he didn’t schedule the timing, so it is serendipitous that Here’s Negan has unfolded new details on Negan’s past just as he and the Saviors are about to go into full-on battle against the alliance of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom.
Negan viciously killed two beloved characters on the show, in the name of protecting a carefully designed way of life that he concocted to keep more people alive. Rick executed Pete Anderson at the behest of grieving Deanna and because of danger Pete posed (behavior he’d been suspected of, and had been allowed to get away with, previously). Did Negan need to be that brutal to maintain the Saviors’ way of life? Did Rick need to murder someone to prevent Pete from hurting anyone else, as opposed to jailing him? Negan and Rick could each be painted as both villainous and heroic for various actions they’ve taken throughout the series so far. That duality continues to prevent the series adaptation of the comic book from becoming a cartoon, and could help shape Season 8 into one of the show’s’ best.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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