WE SEMI-TOPICAL NOW
For u/cuttups on reddit, here’s an article that would probably have been way more relevant a month or so ago! Yaaaaaaaay!
Negan is… something else. He’s from a sort of moral gray area that no other character has really been a part of in these articles so far. He’s no Madder Red, where he’s a repentant person with a horrible background. He’s certainly no Deadpool, where his mass-murdering antics usually have a positive outcome. No, Negan is simply a man utterly convinced that the atrocities he commits are “the right thing”. But enough analysis in the intro paragraphs, we’ll save that for later.
SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD AHOY, obviously. Both the show and the comic. I mean, it’s more likely that I’m going to be spoiling the show for people who aren’t caught up with the comic, as Negan has been around for awhile in the world of print media. He’s also a pretty big deal in the world of the apocalypse, which is why he gets such a memorable introduction in the show. The reason why his introduction ends on a GOD DAMN CLIFFHANGER IN BETWEEN SEASONS TO FIND OUT WHO HE MURDERED is because the computers that write the Walking Dead show have clearly learned how to hate.
Without further ado, let’s fake an education in comics!
Well, I found a way to top the Snoop Dogg joke.
SCENARIO: Let’s say you finally got all caught up with the current season of the Walking Dead, and hey, you’re digging it so far! And Negan is pretty cool, which is exciting, because the show hasn’t been nearly as entertaining since it lost The Governor. After all, it definitely needs a main antagonist, otherwise it just becomes an hour of people whining at each other, like the dark ages of Herschel’s farm all over again. And we get a cool first person point of view of a victim getting killed by Negan! Surely, it will pan out and show us who tragically died, cementing how much of a threat he is, right?
Ha! NOPE! Thanks for watching, fuck you! You don’t get to find out until next season, asshole!
Sure, if you read the comics, than you know that it’s probably MASSIVE SPOILERS AHOY Glenn MASSIVE SPOILERS OVER, but we all know at this point that the show isn’t exactly the most faithful adaptation of the comics, and that certain characters seem to be protected by a massive layer of fan-armor. Seriously, if my math is right, Daryl is literally invincible. Now, Negan should be the answer to that problem by killing who he’s supposed to have killed in the books, but we aren’t going to know if he actually managed that until next year or so. At the very least, he seems to have been set up to perfectly fill that Governor-shaped hole in our hearts. But what makes him different from the G-Man, and how is he a more interesting villain that you can brag about knowing from before the show to your comic-challenged friends? Read on and find out!
Step One: A Creature of Necessity
As of right now, we know almost nothing about Negan before the world went to shit. In fact, literally the only piece of information we have on him from that time was that he might have been a used car salesman, which should be a pretty good indication of exactly the kind of person we’re talking about here. In the post-apocalypse, however, we have a pretty good idea about who he is.
Unlike the Governor, who always came off as a sort of tragic figure in spite of the unimaginable cruelty he showed to others, Negan is… well, he’s not that. In fact, if the Walking Dead were a different sort of comic, he could very well be the hero of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a good person, but he’s actually done quite a lot for humanity in terms of rebuilding society. Basically, he epitomizes the concept of the Perfect Survivor, a person who could almost immediately shed any preconceived notions of ethics and morality in favor of a system that will ensure not only their own continued existence, but the continued existence of the species as a whole.
Like most of the great leaders of civilization throughout history, Negan’s kind of a gigantic asshole. When the reader is first introduced to him, he is the leader of a group known as the Saviors, who terrorize several survivor communities into paying them protection, like the Mafia. To further cement the whole “Mafia” schtick, Negan is almost always seen with slick hair, a baseball bat, and a leather jacket. Seriously, he looks like he’s straight out of a group of Italian-American enforcers from 1950. Also, because he’s a fucking cool guy, he named his baseball bat Lucille. Named weapons are always cooler, that’s just a fact. But I digress.
Negan actually expressly states that the goal of the Saviors is to rebuild civilization, and in all fairness, he was doing a pretty okay job of it. He had laws, he had order. I mean, sure, he was a ruthless, violent, possibly maniacal tyrant, but sometimes you need that kind of guy to get the ball rolling. Just look at Julius Caesar, or Napoleon. Yes, they were pricks on a colossal scale, but they got shit done. Hell, even Hitler forced a couple huge medical and scientific breakthroughs, and he’s pretty much universally agreed upon as the worst human being of all time. The issue isn’t quite what’s being done (in Negan’s case, not Hitler’s. Please don’t think I’m a Nazi), the issue is if it’s worth the cost. Going back to Hitler, when he forced those breakthroughs, it was at the cost of millions of human lives. Napoleon was a warmonger blinded by his own hubris. Caesar was just kind of a dick. And Negan is an amoral psychopath who seems to get off just a little bit on bashing in people’s heads with a baseball bat named Lucille.
Step Two: Fall of an Empire
The Saviors had been doing really well for themselves up to the point when they made their grand debut in the funny books, but like any empire, they would soon begin to decay. As reasonable and occasionally sympathetic he could be, Negan is still a man who made his foundations on violence and fear, and as such, his rule wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been. It’s better to be loved than to be feared and all that jazz. This led to his eventual downfall, or at least, the downfall of the old Saviors, as he lost forces that he thought he could control to Rick, simply on the sheer virtue of Rick not branding people for minor transgressions. In the battle that followed, Negan was eventually captured and held in a cell at Alexandria, while the Saviors became a more benevolent group that dedicated themselves to helping the surrounding settlements establish trade routes.
Essentially, if Negan hadn’t created his group of horrible thieves and murderers (with, admittedly, some pretty agreeable zero-tolerance policies on sexual assault), the other settlements joining together might never have happened. Which, in a way, makes him indirectly responsible for the best thing to have happened to anyone in the never-ending cesspool of misery that is the Walking Dead. Compare that to the Governor, who was basically just a pain factory, and you have a much more interesting character.
It’s commonly said that the best stories are only as good as their villains. What’s even more true is that only the best villains make you question not just the hero, but your own morals as well. Of course, they usually turn out to be wrong, or doing the right thing the wrong way, or any other variation on “it’s actually super hard to make someone agree with a horrible murderer”. And sure, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll agree with Negan in almost any way, but he still plants those little seeds of doubt in your mind. Whether or not you realize that he’s mostly wrong in his beliefs is up to you, but it’s almost universal that he’ll get into your head a little bit.
That’s why the concept of the Perfect Survivor is so scary, honestly. For that kind of person to exist, they would have to be barely human in the way that we know, and almost completely malevolent, but somewhere, deep down inside, a primal part of you knows that what they do is, on a basic animal level, right. Not right as in “yeah, that’s a cool thing to do”, mind you, but right in that you know that it’s what will keep a person alive. And once you strip away every other aspect of human morality, you’re left with two basic things that are considered “right” or “good”: survival and propagation. And with Negan offering up a place at the top of the new food chain, it makes sense that he held his position for so long.
Step Three: Post-Post-Apocalypse
Of course Negan eventually escapes from his cell, because come on, that was just bound to happen. And of course he left to meet up with the Whisperers, because villain team ups are great. Beyond that, it’s still unclear what he’s currently up to, other than the occasional philosophical tirade. But at this point, we’ve learned exactly what kind of a man Negan is, and we can surmise what he may or may not be up to. We know that Negan is a man comfortable in a position of great power, so it’s likely that he’s going to attempt to take over the Whisperers, or at least try to manipulate them into taking out the other survivors. Or rather, he would use them to knock out the key members of his opposition, strategically crippling the single largest threat to Negan’s survival.
The real question is, however, not what Negan will plan to do, but what he will actually do when he reaches his destination. Should Negan succeed, Rick is as good as dead, as are most other members of the leadership. But Carl poses a significant threat, not because of any actual, physical danger, but because Carl seems to be the only person to have successfully gotten into Negan’s head in, well… ever. Negan pities him, and appears to actually empathize with him on a certain level, which is more than can be said for anyone else. Negan’s had wives, legions at his command, he’s known many children, he’s known so much more suffering than almost anyone else. And yet, for some reason, seeing Carl and his gross-ass eye socket just shuts the guy down a little. Even after he loses his war, even after he’s locked away for two whole years, he seems to genuinely think that Carl is his friend. So what’s going to happen when they come face to face? Can either one really kill the other?
More importantly, how poorly will the show represent this relationship in favor of showing off how fucked up the new big bad is?
Step Four: Named Weapons are the Coolest
Seriously, we all know that naming your murder tool makes it infinitely better. Ask yourself: what’s cooler? Being stabbed by “a sword”, or being stabbed by “Frostmourne, the Lich Blade”?
Exactly. That’s why naming a plain ol baseball bat “Lucille” elevates it from a regular murder weapon to a fucking icon. Also it helps that Negan seems to think that Lucille is alive and that he kind of wants to fuck it, which basically makes him the grown up version of Everybody’s Hero.
Statistically speaking, maybe three of you either remember or even care about this movie.
Also, is it just me, or does his name kind of remind you of Nergal?
Well, there you have it. Feel free to come back and yell at me for how wrong I am when it turns out that Negan totally did kill Glenn on the show, and remember, I’m here every week. Usually. Most of the time.
Just come back next time damn it.