In the realm of television villains, Negan already ranks among the most evil — and he’s only appeared in a handful of The Walking Dead episodes. He’s brutalized Glenn and Abraham, terrorized Daryl and the Alexandria Safe-Zone, and systematically broken Rick Grimes down to a shell of his former self. He’s also served as a divisive figure, as his introduction to the fray has in many ways marked a new era for the series. So, you know, he’s kind of a big deal as far as TWD universe is concerned.
Despite all the hype and hullabaloo surrounding Negan, we haven’t actually seen him in action all that much — at least, not yet. But we do have a way to try and guess where his story might be heading, thanks to The Walking Dead‘s source material — Robert Kirkman’s comic series. Negan first appeared in Issue 100 back in 2012, and ended up becoming a major player over the course of nine volumes. He’s become such an important character in the comics that Kirkman even created a spinoff miniseries called Here’s Negan to address his backstory.
So, as you may have guessed, Negan’s story on the TV series is just beginning. While the AMC series’ showrunners could significantly change things up as they adapt the character for the screen, we’re likely to see at least some of what transpired on the page brought to life. And given how seemingly invincible Negan seems now, you might be surprised at where he ends up.
He does a lot more damage
By now, you’ve probably heard that Negan’s violent introduction to The Walking Dead‘s core characters was eerily similar to the comic book’s plot. But his murder of Glenn in the comics was the first of many violent deaths that he either directly or indirectly contributed to. During his time as tyrant-in-chief in the comics, Negan was responsible for the deaths of dozens of people, including characters like Spencer, Abraham, and Denise.
He also proved to be just as vicious toward his own Saviors as he was to the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Alexandria. He didn’t just punish the people who stepped out of line — he humiliated, tortured, and scarred them, both emotionally and physically.
Leading through fear was always Negan’s modus operandi — but he was also a pretty decent strategist. In The Walking Dead Volume 19, he revealed to Rick that he always employed a back-up team for his supply runs, to ensure that he wasn’t getting screwed — or that his people wouldn’t get overrun. He also proved that there was at least some method to his brutal madness.
In Volume 18, Carl managed to cross enemy lines and come face-to-face with Negan, whom he formed a dysfunctional relationship with. Though Negan could have killed Rick’s son, he returned him unscathed, proving that he was capable of mercy. As it turned out, that was probably one of the smartest moves he ever made — because eventually, he found himself on the receiving end of Rick’s wrath.
He’s not always in charge, though
For several volumes, Rick worked with Hilltop and the Kingdom to find a way to overpower Negan and the Saviors. In Volume 21, he finally manages to appeal to his adversary — and ends up finding his weak spot. In the midst of a bloody confrontation between the warring factions, Negan and Rick meet face-to-face, and the former sheriff implores his enemy to think about combining their efforts, rather than battling one another.
Though Negan has shown little regard for the greater good up until this point, he seems to take Rick’s words to heart and lets his guard down. Rick, of course, was simply trying to disarm him — and he slits Negan’s throat. Though the wound doesn’t kill the Saviors’ leader, it effectively ends his reign of power.
Negan spends the next two years in a prison cell, under the watchful eye of Rick, a glowering Carl, and other Alexandrian citizens. Though he finds his role and Rick’s reversed, he does eventually end up finding a common ground with him. In Volume 25, he advises Rick, who is concerned about the threat of the Whisperers. Negan is eventually broken out of his cell by Brandon Rose, who holds a deep grudge against Alexandria’s leader and wants him to suffer under the Whisperers’ wrath.
But Negan, surprisingly, ends up striking a shaky truce with Rick, even after being faced with a chance for freedom and retribution. He agrees to fight the Whisperers on the front lines in exchange for living outside of his prison cell — and as far as we can tell, he’s committed to the task at hand.
It’s hard to know exactly where Negan’s story will end. He could just as easily betray Rick at some point as he could become a trusted ally. But given his bloody origins and the prominent role he’s played in the comic series to date, it’s safe to say he’ll be sticking around AMC’s hit series for quite some time.
Next: But what happens to Rick?
Richard Grimes, aka Rick, is the first character we really get to know in The Walking Dead comics. And, truth be told, his trajectory in much of the comics, especially the first volume “Days Gone Bye,” is quite similar to what we’ve seen play out on TV.
A small-town sheriff’s deputy, he is wounded in a shoot-out and awakens a month later from a coma to find the world has considerably more undead people in it than he remembers. He meets Morgan and his son, Duane, and makes the journey to Atlanta in the hopes that his family and friends — namely wife, Lori, son, Carl, and friend, Shane — went that way, too.
He finds them on the road, along with Glenn, Dale, Andrea, Carol, and a few other familiar faces. And from that point on, he becomes a de facto leader, whether he was ready to be one or not.
In the comics, Rick has landed in many locations that will be familiar to fans of AMC’s series: Hershel’s farm, the prison, Woodbury, and Alexandria have all been key stops along his journey. But the steps he’s taken to get to each of them, and many of his other interactions, have at times been much different.
A slightly different trajectory
There are a few big differences, though, to Rick’s comic book origins. For starters, he, Shane, Lori and Carl hail not from the Atlanta area, but from a small town called Cynthiana, Kentucky.
The Rick we’ve seen on AMC’s The Walking Dead only took two seasons to go full dictator. The comic book version has taken a slightly more measured approach to leadership — at least, at first.
Another one of the key differences in his early story is that it wasn’t Rick that put an end to Shane’s misery. In Issue 6, while they’re still outside Atlanta, Carl shoots his dad’s best friend and mother’s boyfriend, after Shane loses it and tries to shoot Rick.
Though Daryl Dixon doesn’t appear in the comic books, Rick hasn’t wanted for confidantes in the comics. In Issue 7, Rick meets Tyreese on the road, and he quickly becomes Rick’s right-hand man, a position he holds for much of his tenure in the comic book series.
Rick has also relied heavily on help from Dale and Andrea, who hung around much longer in the comics than they did on TV.
A long list of enemies
Rick needs all the friends he can get in The Walking Dead comics. That’s because he meets plenty of nefarious characters in his quest for survival — and most of the scariest have been of the living, not the dead. Each of these enemies have played a crucial role in hardening Rick throughout his tenure in the comics.
There’s the Governor, a charismatic man who assembled a seemingly peaceful colony he dubbed Woodbury. The Governor threatens the safety of Rick’s group when they take refuge in a nearby prison. Though Rick tries to make peace with him, the Governor makes it clear he’s out for blood — and proves it by cutting off Rick’s hand in Issue 28.
That’s not the worst thing he takes from Rick, either.
Fans of The Walking Dead’s comic books thought Rick’s encounter with the Governor was epic. But Rick has seen, and conquered, much darker foes in the issues since.
There are the Hunters, a group of cannibals who tried — and failed — to get the best of Rick and his friends while they were on the road to Washington, D.C. In Issue 66, Rick doesn’t just take out the Hunters. He taunts them and threatens to give them a taste of their own medicine. He also participates in their brutal murders, signaling a shift in his attitude toward extreme violence.
And there are the Whisperers, a skilled and stealthy group of survivors, led by the ruthless Alpha. They show up in Issue 130 and have been the most recent deadly threat to Rick’s otherwise peaceful existence in Alexandria, Virginia.
Thus far, Rick has conquered every enemy he’s faced, but not without suffering some serious collateral damage.
As a man with that many enemies, and in the middle of a zombie apocalypse to boot, Rick has had to get used to losing friends and allies. But he’s still suffered some pretty significant losses.
In Issue 39, Lori gives birth to a daughter and survives the labor, unlike in the comics. She and Rick decide to name her Judith, and the whole family is elated. Rick’s relationship with Lori is strong, though they butt heads. So he is understandably devastated when, in Issue 48, Lori and Judith are shot and killed during the Governor’s invasion of the prison.
The event sends Rick into a tailspin, and he experiences what amounts to a psychological break. He experiences hallucinations, in which he can talk to his wife through a telephone. And he carries that phone with him until Issue 121 — a sign it took him longer to recover from the loss than he may have let on.
Moving on and trying to settle down
While Rick was obviously devastated by the loss of Lori and Judith, he did eventually move on. In AMC’s version of The Walking Dead, he eventually falls in love with Michonne. In Robert Kirkman’s comics, Rick falls in love with Andrea, a fellow survivor that has stood by his side since they first met outside Atlanta.
Long before they become romantic, Rick and Andrea prove time and again to be a good match. She’s not afraid to let him know when she disagrees with him, but they’ve also offered each other emotional support. In Issue 90, they kiss for the first time. Their romantic relationship survives the trials and traumas of post-apocalyptic life until Issue 167. Then, she tragically dies after being bitten by a walker.
Andrea isn’t just a source of love and comfort for Rick. She helps him make key decisions about what direction the group should take and stands by his side during many of the most difficult moments he faces.
Leading the charge
Rick is, unquestionably, the most important character in The Walking Dead comics. But he, in many ways, proves himself beyond measure in his conflict with Negan and the Saviors. At times throughout the comics, he’s been reluctant to lead his friends, due to the tremendous pressure he’s faced. But Negan eventually proves to be a threat that he can’t ignore.
So Rick not only leads his fellow Alexandrians to victory, he helps convince the survivors at the Kingdom and the Hilltop to join forces and take Negan down. This alliance leads to an all-out war with the Saviors. And that war lasts longer than any conflict in the comics, thus far — for twelve issues.
Rick and his friends suffer some serious setbacks. Andrea nearly dies, and they almost lose the Alexandria Safe Zone after the Saviors attack. By the end of Issue 126, though, Rick and his allies are victorious against Negan. In an act of true leadership, instead of killing Negan, Rick jails him. And as a result, he ultimately gains the brutal former leader as a reluctant ally.
Rick Grimes’ journey in The Walking Dead comics is likely far from over. And it’s hard to say what further troubles he’ll face before the series wraps up.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!