[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead.]
AMC's The Walking Dead has already had a whole array of antagonists from Jon Bernthal's Shane to David Morrissey's Governor. But as the TV show wisely leans on Robert Kirkman's comic book source material, it was only going to be a matter of time before the series' main characters came across a villain who makes the others look like candy floss in comparison. To mark issue #100, Kirkman introduced readers to one of the most despicable villains in comic book history: Negan.
The brutish and foul-mouthed leader of a rival group to Rick Grimes and the survivors, Negan and his 'Saviors' act as a kind of post-apocalyptic mafia - imposing a protection racket on other groups in exchange for fifty percent of their scavenged food and resources. It's worth noting that he's not just another level up on the baddie-gauge either, as Negan is more nuanced, in control and has a strong moral code despite being totally psychotic, as noted by Kirkman in a recent interview.
Here is what Kirkman had to offer EW, with regard to Negan as a character:
Negan is kind. Negan is respectful. Negan is psychotic. Negan is ruthless. This is a very nuanced character that has a lot of different shades to him. There’s a lot of honor to him. There’s a rule system in place. I think he’s unlike anything anybody’s experienced in The Walking Dead thus far. He’s definitely a different kind of bad guy. He’s sadistic and dangerous and all those things that you would expect from a Governor, but he’s much more in control. He’s much less sporadic and he has much less of a temper. This is not a guy who’s going to lose control and start shooting his own people the way the Governor did...
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) will be picking up Negan's barbed wire covered baseball bat on The Walking Dead, but how close to the comics would the TV series' interpretation of the big brute be? Cast members like Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn, expressed great excitement at the thought of Negan's entrance in the extended 90 minute finale to The Walking Dead season 6, and there's also been the reassurance that the TV show will stay faithful to Negan's comic-book entrance. That would mean a major character gets their head smashed in by Negan's baseball bat, Lucille... or will they?
A 30-second Dutch promo for the Walking Dead season 6 finale (one that has now been pulled offline) offer a quick look at Negan and Lucille alike. The only glimpse we get is that of Morgan's back, a partial shot of his front torso, and him speaking the words "Hi, I'm Negan" over a close up of Lucille. While this doesn't give much away, it's clear that his look is faithful to the comics with leather jacket, slicked back dark hair - and of course, Lucille. Vocally, Morgan doesn't sound like he's putting on a gruff voice but speaking with his own, as he did with The Comedian in Watchmen.
It would be hard to call a judgement on Morgan's interpretation of the character thus far, but what we do know is that he looks much more faithful that Morrissey's The Governor, whose redneck look and injuries sustained by Michonne were largely toned down. Kirkman's certainly appears very happy with the interpretation and casting:
I’ve seen moments from the comic come to life before my eyes, and it’s all very touching. But seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan in costume, holding Lucille, saying lines — yeah, I don’t get goosebumps a lot, but that definitely happened. And seeing the joy and the elation that I had from seeing that character existing in a real space, coming to life as they say, I know that the fans are going to feel the same way.
So as perfect a casting as everybody seems to think it is, I can confirm that that is 100 percent the case, and I’m just very excited for the world to get to know Negan the way that we have. It’s going to be great.
The Walking Dead creator's approval and knowing what Morgan can do in a similar role as The Comedian, leaves high expectations of what he can achieve as he takes on this character starting with the season 6 finale. If anything, it just leaves fans as hungry as the undead to witness his grand entrance in just over a week's time.
The Walking Dead continues this Sunday March 27th, with 'East', followed by the 90 minute season 6 finale 'Last Day on Earth' on Sunday, April 3rd.