Dead Inside: Who Is Negan, And Should We Find Out?

Image Courtesy of AMC

Image Courtesy of AMC

“Dead Inside” is a new featurette from That Geek Show, written by contributor Ken Fair. In each article, Ken will delve deep into the world of The Walking Dead, bringing new insights and perspectives to the uber-popular TV show and comic series.

By now I am sure you have heard the name Negan. Even if you are not a follower of The Walking Dead TV show or have never picked up a Walking Dead comic, the latest nemesis of Rick Grimes and his crew in the current season of TWD has dominated social media; most recently thanks to Dave Chappelle who donned the leather jacket and wielded the barbed wired wrapped bat on SNL to wreak vengeance on former Chappelle Show characters. As prophetically stated by the character himself: Negan is everywhere.

Courtesy Image Comics

Courtesy Image Comics

But who is this Negan? First, let me give the obligatory “spoiler altert” if you are not caught up on the show or the comic.

For fans of the comic book, Negan has been around since issue #100, which was published in July 2012. So, after 4 years of anticipation, fans were excited to see Negan make his way into the season 6, albeit for the end of the last episode. The episode concluded with Negan on the point of killing one of Rick Grimes group and left fans with a full 6 months to ponder who had his or her head bashed in off camera.

Robert Kirkman and Image Comics, seeing the interest in this baddie with a barbed-wire bat, decided to capitalize on the fervor and speculation by publishing a serial “Here’s Negan” (perhaps a nod to Nicholson’s famous line from The Shining).

The serial will end up being 48 pages painfully doled out in monthly 4 page increments over the year. It is available through “Image +”, a catalogue for Image Comics. The mini comic promises to provide the origin story for Negan, perhaps giving insight into why Negan is such a complete jerk and why people would follow such a jerk.

On the show, Negan is portrayed as a bit of a sociopath who seems to find a profound (and childish) sense of joy in how far he can push people into submission. We saw a prime example of this during the last episode of TWD, when after forcing his way through Alexandria, taking all the groups medicine and guns, but leaving them some food. He tauntingly makes Rick publicly thank him for this generous gesture, and then whispers to him “I just slipped my dick down your throat and you just thanked me for doing it.”

Courtesy Image Comics

Courtesy Image Comics

In the comic, Negan has had more chance to develop and is more mysterious. After losing the war against Rick and his allies, he is kept alive and in prison by Rick. We see that although he has had chances to escape, he refuses to do so because he claims he wants to earn Rick’s trust. He actually ends up fighting alongside Rick and his group, although he still cannot resist being a jerk, at one point asking Dwight mockingly if he is still mad at him for taking his ex-wife and burning his face. Most recently, we see the first real emotion out of Negan when his beloved Lucille is shattered during a battle and he displays both anger and grief.

So, at this point, do we need to know more about Negan? Sometimes, it is the element of mystery and subsequent unpredictability of a character that draws us to them. Take away the mystery and the character can drop from mythic to mundane. Just think of the Star Wars prequels, which bent over backwards to attempt to give us the origin of Darth Vader, only to fall flat.

However, it seems in this day of instant information at our fingertips, the populous cannot abide a mystery and there is cash to be made and so we are plagued with origin stories.

That said, I would be lying if I told you that I did not jump at the chance to read “Here’s Negan”. (Yes Kirkman, you win). If you do not want the mystery spoiled, stop reading here. For those that, like me, have zero self-control this is what has been revealed so far:

Pre-zombie apocalypse, Negan was a high school gym-teacher/coach who enjoys obscenely taunting students (one looks suspiciously like Glen)in order to gain their “respect”. He is married to a woman named, you guessed it: Lucille, who he is openly cheating on. So far, no real surprises.

Courtesy Image Comics

Courtesy Image Comics

But things take a turn when Negan’s wife is discovered to have terminal cancer. Negan ends his affair and spends the remainder of his time before the zombie outbreak at her side. He is vulnerable, weeps, and blames himself for his wife’s sickness. Negan shows that he is human.

Eventually, all hell breaks loose and there is a great scene where Lucille “turns” in her hospital bed while Negan is caring for her. However, after that, the story gets a bit “clunky.”

Negan manages to escape from being bitten by Lucille and ends up rescuing a boy in the hospital trapped by two walkers. Negan is upset that he just murdered two people, referring to the walkers, but the 13 year-old boy he rescued explains to him the concept of the undead in two sentences and Negan has not only fully accepted the concept, but asks the 13-year-old to kill “one” in the other room (referring to Lucille).

Negan promises to drive the boy home and they bond briefly while walking to the car. Negan sums up his life’s philosophy in two maxims: 1.) being funny gets you further than being nice and 2.) sex is the driving force in the world. Just as Negan comments that he likes the boy’s style, the kid is attacked and killed by walkers. Negan’s reaction seems to be one of resignation.

So, in essence, we see Negan develop from a caring, grieving, guilt-ridden husband to someone who is resigned to the new world of the zombie apocalypse in less than 24 hours. If the point of the origin story was to allow us to connect with Negan’s humanity, the story fails by having Negan react in such an unbelievable and unrelatable way.

There are still four more issues pending of “Here’s Negan”. I am sure we will see how Negan forms the Saviors and how he is able to gain complete control and submission of his followers despite being “not nice”. Of course, despite my criticism, I will eagerly read each issue, my curiosity complicit in the desire to destroy the mystique of such a great villain.

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