The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman hinted at future stories with baseball bat wielding villain-turned-antihero Negan before ending his long-running comic book in 2019, one year before readers revisit the zombie apocalypse in special one-shot comic Negan Lives #1. The 36-page comic, sold exclusively at comic book stores starting July 1, reveals what happened to Negan after his final appearance in the main book: before Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard concluded The Walking Dead after 193 issues in July 2019, Negan exiled himself and became a recluse in the wake of an emotional confrontation with the widowed Maggie Rhee in December 2017's The Walking Dead #174.
In his final full appearance, Negan was last seen discarding a recreation of his beloved barbwire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille, after using the original to murder Glenn Rhee in The Walking Dead #100. Negan would only be seen once more, appearing in just one panel in the book's final issue.
Before issue #193 was revealed as the book's finale when it released July 3 last year, Kirkman vowed Negan would not return in future issues of The Walking Dead. In his "Letter Hacks" column ending issue #192, Kirkman wrote: "Let me be clear... Negan is not coming back. We will not be seeing him in this series again." In response to a fan letter opposing Negan's return, Kirkman added, "No. More. Negan."
That same column ended with Kirkman teasing Negan as the new focus of the series following the death of Rick Grimes, who was gunned down in issue #192. This was revealed as a ruse when readers flipped to the final page of issue #193, where Kirkman confirmed the end of The Walking Dead.
Wanting the book's surprise final issue to be similar to a shock death, Kirkman commissioned fake covers and solicits for issues #194, #195, and #196. In a lengthy goodbye letter ending issue #193, Kirkman signed off with the biggest hint at his future one-shot comic: "P.S. Negan Lives."
During last year's San Diego Comic-Con, Kirkman claimed he had no plans for a Negan spinoff comic but said there was "an option" for a story detailing Negan's life of exile in his solitary farmhouse.
"I think that's a really cool tidbit. Theoretically living in that farmhouse. Theoretically there might be a story to be told there; it's possible that's my escape hatch if my career ever takes a hard nosedive, just roll out a Negan comic," Kirkman quipped in response to a fan's question about Negan's return. "There's no plans as of yet, but there's an option there, sure."
Kirkman then joked, "I've clearly said too much, I regret answering your question."
Nearly one year later, Kirkman revealed Negan Lives #1.
"While Charlie Adlard and I had laid the series to rest, this felt like something special we could do for the store owners who made our series a success to begin with," Kirkman said when announcing the new comic. "To that end, I'm happy to report that 100% of the revenue generated from this book will go to the stores selling it. The retailer community does backbreaking work to get comics into the hands of our loving fans, we should all be doing more in these trying times to show them how appreciated they are."
Negan Lives #1 goes on sale Wednesday, July 1. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.