The Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman details original plans for Negan after bringing back the villain turned antihero in Negan Lives #1. In this special one-off comic, the first Walking Dead story published since Kirkman unexpectedly ended his zombie saga last July, readers learn what happened to Negan after his final full appearance in the pages of The Walking Dead #174, "A Solitary Life." After he's confronted at gunpoint by the widowed Maggie Rhee over the death of husband Glenn — who Negan killed using barbwire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille in The Walking Dead #100 — Negan disappears from the main book when Maggie tells him to "live with what you've done."
In the Letter Hacks column ending Negan Lives #1, Kirkman notes it wasn't Maggie who spared Negan: it was artist Charlie Adlard.
"Negan was supposed to die in issue #174," Kirkman writes. "I even wrote the full issue script, ending with Negan's death. Charlie Adlard saved his life."
Kirkman shared an email reply from Adlard, who admits he was "a bit unconvinced by the way Maggie shoots him."
"Are you trying to say that this is some sort of 'id' thing where deep down inside, that's what she wants to do, even though she's being convinced she doesn't have to shoot him," Adlard writes. "It just feels a bit forced. As I said, the more I got to know Negan — especially over these last few years — the more I wished he'd stayed around till the end. I wish redemption would've worked for him."
In his email, the British comic book artist explains his criticism of a recurring trope in western literature and entertainment:
"Because the majority of us find the death penalty — therefore an eye for an eye adage — abhorrent, we carry it out in fantasy," Adlard writes. "Hardly any western villain gets away with not dying at the end. We, as an audience, always demand the ultimate punishment for our fantasy bad guys. It's a shame we didn't break the mould with Negan... the baddest of bad guys, but very far down the road to redemption and forgiveness, who pays the usual ultimate price — death. Imagine, if he lived, what we could say about our society?"
Kirkman earlier revealed Negan was originally planned as a short-lived villain who would have died after just nine issues in The Walking Dead #108.
Negan Lives #1 is on sale now.