“See you next month,” Kirkman wrote when signing off the “Letter Hacks” column ending Rick’s death issue. “And with Rick Grimes gone... who will be the focus of this series?! I’ll give you one f-cking f-ckity guess, you f-ckers.”
The hint is obvious: Negan’s colorful, swear-filled dialogue in the comics is garnished with excessive uses of the “F-word” and its many variants.
The former Savior leader hasn’t been seen since issue 174, released in December 2017, where an exiled Negan made peace with himself and his past sins after a confrontation with Maggie Rhee over the murder of husband Glenn.
Before the tease ending issue 192, both Kirkman and editor Sean Mackiewicz denied the long-missing Negan would be seen again, but the cover for July’s issue 193 already teased Negan’s return.
“LET ME BE CLEAR... NEGAN IS NOT COMING BACK,” Kirkman wrote in all-caps in issue 192’s “Letter Hacks” in response to a fan advocating against Negan’s return. “WE WILL NOT BE SEEING HIM IN THIS SERIES AGAIN.”
When responding to another reader writing in with agreement, Kirkman wrote again, “NO. MORE. NEGAN.”
Kirkman further explained ending Rick’s 16-year tenure as protagonist of The Walking Dead during the ongoing Commonwealth storyline was always the plan and that the murder was not a reaction to the television show, which wrote off its Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in November.
“I’ve said in interviews for many, many years that everyone dies in this story, and that even Rick Grimes won’t survive until the end,” Kirkman wrote.
“While this was always Rick’s story thus far, as written about in the first issue, that doesn’t mean he needs to be alive to be a presence in the series. This is the story of a world, not a man... it’s the story of a world profoundly affected by that man, as we’ll see starting next issue... but it isn’t exclusively Rick’s story.”
The Walking Dead #193 releases July 3.