It’s been some time since we’ve encountered a TV villain quite as evil as The Walking Dead (opens in new tab)’s Negan. The first half of season 7 proved that while he does have a moral code, it doesn't include not murdering innocent people. There's a side to this character that AMC hasn't shown you though and it might surprise you. If you've read the spin-off comic Here's Negan you know what I'm talking about, but if you don't know Negan's tragic (and not so dark) backstory, read on and find all your questions answered.
Spoiler warning: if you want to go into the second half of The Walking Dead season 7 without it being spoiled, maybe don't scroll down.
Who was Negan before the apocalypse?
He was a PE teacher. Yes, really.
Before the zombie apocalypse Negan was a stand-up member of the community (sort of); a PE teacher at the local school, who also dabbled in a bit of car salesmanship. Sure, he was a high school teacher that frequently upset parents with his coarse language and humiliation tactics, but a teacher nonetheless.
When it came to research, Jeffrey Dean Morgan took his homework seriously, telling EW (opens in new tab): "I have stacks of all the comic books, and what I have taken from those panels is a posture or a smile or whatever it is, and then filling those blanks in between. And as closely as we follow what Negan says and does in those comic books, we also have to add and subtract. We’ve added a lot, obviously, that’s not in the comic books with Negan."
Does Negan have a wife?
Yes, and I'm not just talking about the weird harem of 'wives' Negan revealed in show. Back when he was a PE teacher he had a wife he cared about very much, but sadly she's diagnosed with cancer.
Struggling with his wife’s declining health, Negan indulges in an extramarital affair, so while he isn't evil Glenn-killing Negan just yet, he isn't exactly a saint either. When he reveals to his lover that his wife has cancer she ends it and he confesses all to his wife, telling her it's over and that he loves only her. She doesn't take it incredibly well but eventually forgives him.
Why is Negan's bat called Lucille?
Negan's wife eventually gets worse and is moved to a hospital ward where he cares for her until one day the hospital is evacuated... and I bet you can guess why. Refusing to leave his wife, Negan looks out of the window to see that the zombie apocalypse has begun. He barricades them in as things get progressively worse until he discovers that his wife has passed away without him noticing and is now a zombie. *SOB*
As she falls out of the bed attempting to eat his brains, Negan says her name: Lucille. Yes, his bat is named after her dead wife. Will the show make any reference to this heart-breaking link? Jeffrey Dean Morgan told THR (opens in new tab): "I can't imagine us not sticking that in an episode with his backstory and I've mentioned a few times who the bat is named after. But I'd love to see that backstory in an episode, that would be awesome."
Running out of the hospital room he sees a boy fighting off two Walkers. Negan saves the boy and in return asks him to go back and 'take care' of Lucille. The boy agrees and after the task is done the two leave the hospital together.
What turned Negan bad?
Was it his wife's traumatic death which turned Negan into the man we know and hate so much in The Walking Dead? Well, yeah, obviously.
"I lost someone... very close to me. It was right before all this happened." Negan says in issue 156: "One day they were there... and then it all just fell apart. They died. And it broke me. I don't feel anymore. I don't feel sad... I don't feel scared... I don't feel happy. I'm just... here.
"That's my strength. That's why I'm alive. You tell me I have to crush a field of babies to keep breathing? Sure. You say people who rely on me aren't going to live unless I turn someone's head into a bowl of gravy? I'm there. I don't feel bad about it. I don't think about it. It just is what it is. It's survival. But like I said... I'm broken. That's not living. I can't feel things. No matter how hard I try. Not after what I lost. I'm dead to this world."
Will Negan finally get what's coming to him?
If you think the comics can tell us how season 7 will end, you're in for a disappointment. Negan currently remains Rick’s greatest antagonist and there’s no sign he’s going anywhere just yet.
While TV fans have barely begun to know the bat-welding bad guy, he’s been in the comics since issue #100, which means he’s been around for over a third of the entire comic book series.
He's temporarily incarcerated by Team Grimes, frequently blurs the line between friend and foe, and loses bat Lucille in a fatality bat-busted storyline, so perhaps we have these developments to look forward to on the show, but I wouldn't bet on a final ending for the character any time soon.
Will Negan's backstory feature in the show?
While it's safe to assume elements of Negan's backstory - such as his wife and how he started the Saviors - might come up in the TV show, don't get your hopes up for a Negan-inspired flashback episode just yet. Jeffrey Dean Morgan told American talk show host Rich Eisen (opens in new tab): "There’s not going to be a Negan flashback this year, but I think that there’s time." Adding: "We have a little bit of time, and moving forward, it would be something I would love to do, certainly."
But what does comic book creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman have to say about it? "It's not something we've really thought about," he tells THR (opens in new tab). "That story works best when Negan has been around for many years. I'm not going to go on record to say that Negan lasts as long in the show as he does in the comic. You never know. But if we do get to that point, it'd be nice to see that story adapted. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan with a burning fury of a thousand suns and I would love to see him tell that story and see the character go through those paces. It's a great way to get more context into who this guy is. It'd be neat but there are no plans as of yet."