The age of Negan has arrived. After being teased for a good nine episodes or so, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) finally turned up on AMC’s dark zombie hit The Walking Dead during the season 6 finale, ushering in a new era of violence to a show that has hardly been a stranger to the concept. But who exactly is this Negan? Why is his gang known as ‘The Saviours’? Who is Lucille? And how do you pronounce Negan, anyway? Here’s what we know from Robert Kirkman’s original comic series.
Warning: there are major spoilers for both the TV series and comic book versions of The Walking Dead from the start.
He’s the ultimate villain
Negan (rhymes with ‘vegan’, though it’s a safe assumption that Negan himself is a meat eater) first appears in issue 100 of The Walking Dead comic, although he is mentioned by name a few issues earlier. The leader of the Saviours (see below), he is, by all accounts, an entirely psychopathic figure.
In terms of utter villainy, Negan has been frequently compared to The Governor. But while the eyepatch-wearing leader of Woodbury hid his psychopathy behind a charismatic sheen, Negan wears his madness on his sleeve. Unafraid to show his brutal side, Negan inspires fierce loyalty through fear and bloody intimidation. He’s also shown to be cunning and manipulative, with a taste for psychological warfare.
He opts not to kill Rick early on, for example. “I’m not going to make a martyr out of you,” he tells the longtime protagonist. “The name of the game is breaking you in front of them. Then they’ll fall in line.”
His weapon of choice is Lucille
Central to Negan’s iconic villainy is his weapon: a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, which he calls Lucille. Unlike most survivors, he generally refrains from using a gun, and prefers physical combat – the bloodier the better, ideally.
He rules over the Saviours
Negan runs a fearsome cult of personality with a group of survivors known as the Saviours (or, in American English, the Saviors). Essentially a deranged motorcycle gang, the Saviours swear absolute loyalty to Negan, worshipping him with the kind of feverish obedience that would make Kim Jong-il wince.
Originally formed as a splinter group from the Hilltop community, they live in an abandoned factory referred to as ‘The Sanctuary’, surrounded by a grisly barricade of impaled walkers. They run a protection racket of sorts in the DC area, forcing survivor communities to provide them food supplies, in exchange for safety from walkers (hence the group name).
Dedicated as they are to the cause, the Saviours are not allowed to have wives or girlfriends; instead, Negan holds a harem of women he refers to as his wives. Punishment for breaking this rule is a hot iron to the face.
Who does Negan kill?
In the comics, Negan makes for quite an entrance: ambushing Rick’s group, he grandly announces that he will murder one survivor, as revenge for their pre-emptive strikes. After a grisly choice of justice – a quick game of eeny meeny miny mo – he ultimately chooses Glenn, whose unfortunate skull meets the barbed end of Lucille. A major character is summarily murdered in a flash, and everyone starts taking Negan very seriously indeed. It remains to be seen whether the TV show will follow suit here, but the internet is ablaze with speculation. The only two characters almost guaranteed to be spared are Rick (who as series leader is effectively immortal) and Carl (who Negan threatens with removing his other eye if anyone steps out of line). We'll have to wait until October to find out definitively if they go down the comics route.
He possesses a salty tongue
Negan loves cursing almost as much as he loves killing. A swing of Lucille is usually accompanied by some flourish of profanity (not all of which, incidentally, is likely to make it past the television censors – his first appearence was full of colourful cursing, but toned down from the comics). “I’ve considered your kind offer,” Negan muses in one comic, “and I’m thinking of an answer somewhere between ‘no motherfucking way’ and ‘go fucking fuck yourself’”.
He attempts to befriend Carl
Despite being a complete murdering bastard, there are morsels of humanity to Negan’s character. These slivers of empathy tend to emerge when he spends time with Rick’s son, Carl, whom he considers a “badass”. The pair strike up an unusual relationship; Carl even removes his bandage to reveal his wounded eye. Despite the illusion of camaraderie, Carl stays true to his aforementioned badassery and confirms that he still wants to kill Negan. So, not quite BFFs, then.
He is eventually imprisoned
In the comic collection “All Out War”, the survivors of Alexandria rise up against the Saviours, alongside other communities. A long and bloody conflict begins, with casualties on both sides; ultimately, Rick calls for a truce – only to sneakily slash Negan’s throat. In the aftermath, Negan survives the wound, and is imprisoned for life, to prove that Rick is the better man.
But in The Walking Dead, Murphy’s Law always rules – if it can go wrong, it probably will. As of the most recent comic, Negan is apparently free and currently in hiding, whereabouts unknown.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US and FOX in the UK.