The Walking Dead appeared to incorporate a piece of Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) comic book origin story in 10x05, “What It Always Is.” On the run after breaking out of jail with an unidentified accomplice, Negan is trailed by psychopathic tag-along Brandon (Blaine Kern III). During their search for “someplace safe,” Negan and Brandon encounter Amelia (Virginia Newcomb) and son Milo (Roman Spink) when Negan races into a bus to save the straggling survivors from a small pack of walkers. When readying to escort Amelia and Milo to the Hilltop colony, Negan bonds with the pre-teen Milo, crudely schooling him on the art of “nut tapping.”
In creator Robert Kirkman’s 16-part miniseries later collected as ‘Here’s Negan,’ Negan forms a similarly short-lived bond with an unnamed kid in the earliest days of the zombie outbreak. After cancer-stricken wife Lucille dies in the hospital, Negan races to save the unarmed kid when he’s trapped by walkers, using a nearby fire extinguisher to bludgeon the two attacking walkers to death.
Negan then offers to escort the kid home. Along the way, a crass Negan asks the 13-year-old if he’s a virgin before imparting an inappropriate lesson about sex. Like Milo, who is murdered by Brandon, the kid meets a sudden and tragic end when he’s attacked by a surprise walker.
In that story, Negan was a high school gym coach who came under fire from parents over his churlish language towards students. In the show, Negan’s affinity for children played out through Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming).
“I spent the last year [Season 9] — in show years I think it was seven years, I think, approximately Negan’s been in the slammer — and among other things, he formed a relationship with the youngest Grimes, Judith Grimes, who we now see is like an 11-year-old girl,” Morgan said recently on Conan. “So you see a different side of Negan.”
That friendship has been key in redeeming Negan in the eyes of fans, Morgan noted.
“We know the pre-apocalypse life he had, he was a teacher, he worked with kids. I think he has a certain affinity towards kids anyway, and he really likes Judith,” he said. “And I think seeing that side of him has done a lot for his reputation with fans, maybe they don’t want to kill me as much as they used to.”