Spoilers for The Walking Dead are below.
You’ve heard his name. You’ve seen what he’s capable of. You’ve felt his presence, though luckily not on the top of your skull. He is Negan, and he’s not someone whose bad side you want to be on. Actually, you don’t really want to be on his good side, either, and I’m positive that The Walking Dead is going to continue beating us over the head with how much better everyone’s lives would be if Negan wasn’t around. But before we all start relishing in our jubilant hatred for this monster, let’s get to know him a little better using Robert Kirkman’s source material, shall we?
Negan is a LeaderArguably the most successful post-apocalyptic leader in the known Walking Dead universe, Negan is the head honcho for a survivalist group that goes by the name The Saviors, and TV viewers have already seen a ton of these guys. Quite a lot of them got murdered in some form and fashion, too, which is what got Negan's goat so hard in the finale. Similar to the show’s presentation, Comic Negan also initially existed solely through namedrops and threatening messages, supplying an urban legend ominousness to his pre-introduction.
And when readers actually do meet the guy, it’s immediately obvious how he has commanded such a zealotic flock, many of whom show Negan unfettered worship inside and out of the group’s central hub, an old factory dubbed The Sanctuary. Negan rules with an iron fist that allows for zero outside-the-lines behavior, though he’s not entirely without a moral compass with characters that adhere to protocol, and it's this perverse sense of justice that gives the character even more of an unpredictable complexity as he hits different points of the authority spectrum that the Ricktatorship isn’t allowed to tap into.
Negan is PsychoticRather than the kind of crazy that sees people talking to coat racks and eating bugs off the sidewalk, Negan falls more under the “mad with power” branch of the loony tree. He’s the kind of guy who will let you live if you try to kill him, assuming your effort was admirable and clever, but he’ll kill a random stranger to prove a point to someone else who merely insulted him verbally. This is precisely the kind of hyper-erratic personality that informs a good leadership (by its own standards) in a walker-filled world, since even the thought of a revolt or a mutiny is tantamount to getting one’s skull completely caved in.
Because if Negan’s personality can be summed up wordlessly through any one particular item, it would be his prized baseball bat, named Lucille, which is wrapped in barbed wire and is more often than not decorated with brain matter. Negan speaks affectionately to Lucille at times, but this isn’t what implies he’s missing a few empathetic screws. No, it’s when he mentally gets off on using Lucille to turn characters’ heads to porridge, or burning people’s faces, or just about everything else he does. That’s what makes him look like a psycho.
Negan is Really SmartOut of all the moronic things that someone can do on The Walking Dead, from not staying in the house to believing Carl will stay in the house, one of the most ill-advised moves would be to assume that Negan’s controlled insanity and bloodlust somehow indicate that he’s also a dummy. To underestimate Negan is to sign one’s own death warrant with one’s own entrails, since the barbaric tyrant always seems to be at least one step ahead of anyone that attempts to go against him. After all, Negan’s rise to glory began with his Hilltop Colony citizenship, and it was there he built up his Saviors population before striking out and subsequently holding every discovered community to the ultimatum of “give me your shit or die.” (And we know what kind of a leader Gregory is by his agreement with them.) It takes brains, as well as guts and muscles, to do something like that.
Negan is smart enough to know that fear is an excellent motivator to make a population bow down, and he’s also realistic enough to know that fear alone can’t often sustain itself. Thus the head clobberings. At the Sanctuary, there’s a point system in place for the citizens to earn goods and supplies through work and other deeds, as well as a set of ground rules to keep everyone in check. In our world, Negan’s methods are absolutely archaic, misogynistic and all kinds of other –ic words (and icky words), but they’re unquestionably effective within a collapsed society. He also knows that it doesn’t hurt to be charismatic in his mayhem, which helps him create interesting bonds with certain characters, particularly Carl.
Negan Has a Filthy MouthDo you have that one friend who can’t seem to go four words into a sentence without dropping an F-bomb on everyone? Negan is like 300 of those friends stitched together in one hulking body half-covered in a leather jacket. Sailors would refer to it as “cursing like a Negan.” If someone tried to wash his mouth out with soap, you’d hear tiny “fucks” every time bubbles popped. Here’s a sample quote form the comics.
We're the big swinging dick of this world--have been for a long fucking time...but it seems people are forgetting that. So now our big swinging dick is going to swing harder...and faster, until we take off like a motherfucking helicopter and blow all these motherfuckers away.
Negan didn't get a ton of on-screen time in Season 6 – his lone scene was both extremely powerful and overwhelmingly frustrating – and he didn't really get into very much expletive-laden jibber-jabber when we saw him. (Pee Pee Pants City!) But we do know that Scott Gimple and director/effects master Greg Nicotero filmed two versions of his scene, one cleaned up for the finale's airing and one with the R-rated language intact to show up as a special feature on the Blu-ray release. So we’ll definitely get to hear “true” Negan at some point. Season 7 is going to put up some of the most hilariously extreme phrases when it debuts later this year, so it’ll be nice to get a taste of what’s to come.
In the end, take sordid amounts of comfort in knowing that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is not only the most interesting and vicious villain The Walking Dead has given audiences (in theory), but also one of the most memorably debaucherous characters in all of fiction. Now we just have to deal with that agonizing wait to see who he killed.
The Walking Dead will be back on AMC for Season 7 later this year. Feel free to test yourself with The Walking Dead trivia question below...