He was built up all through the second half of Season 6, and then in the dying moments of The Walking Dead season finale, Negan was finally introduced with one hell of a speech, before launching into a savage attack which is set to change the face of the show forever.
With Season 7 about to begin, we know that we're going to see a lot more of this charming sociopath, but who is Negan, and what do we really know about him? Let's take a look:
Note: the second half of this article will contain spoilers from The Walking Dead comic series.
From the TV series: What we know about Negan
At some stage in the apocalypse Negan formed (or took control of) a group of people collectively known as the Saviors. The Saviors are a large group, and on top of having a main base, also seem to have at least two outposts.
Negan and the Saviors established their dominance in the area after visiting smaller communities and demanding half of their supplies in return for not destroying their walls and leaving it to be overrun with walkers. To make sure the communities knew Negan was serious about the arrangement, he kills a member of the group as a warning to the others, murdering a 16-year-old named Rory at the Hilltop, and a yet-to-be revealed character belonging to Alexandria. Viewers also saw that the Saviors killed an entire group of survivors in Episode 16 because they broke the rules set out by Negan and his men.
Negan's weapon of choice is a barbed wire-covered baseball bat which he calls Lucille, he uses Lucille to kill the member of Rick's group at the end of Season 6.
From the comics: Life before the apocalypse
In the comic series Here's Negan (which is still being released), readers are finally being given some of Negan's backstory. While the TV series may or may not choose to reveal Negan's backstory, if they do there's a good chance they'll use material from Here's Negan.
So far in the series we've learned that prior to the apocalypse Negan was a school coach, or perhaps a gym teacher. He was also married, and his wife was diagnosed with cancer some time before the outbreak. Negan was unfaithful to his wife, though in the end chose her over his mistress, and cared for her tenderly through to her last moments in hospital. Shortly before his wife died, the hospital was being evacuated because of the outbreak, though Negan refused to leave his wife's side. It was revealed at the end of the most recent Issue of Here's Negan that his wife's name was Lucille, and was the inspiration for his trademark weapon.
From the comics: Wild Negan storylines ahead!
While we don't know much about Negan's backstory, and the birth of the Saviors group yet, we do have many issues worth of Negan to refer to for possible future TV storylines in the future.
Note: I'm not going to go any further than Issue 114 (the TV show is currently mid-way through the events of Issue 100), because I don't believe the first half of Season 7 will cover much much more than that.
Following the horrific events of Issue 100 (Glenn's death), Negan began implementing the "new world order," and soon showed up at the gates of Alexandria to collect on this supplies. He riles up the residents, insulting many of them and intimidating Rick. However when he returns to his base, he unknowingly takes stowaway, Carl Grimes, with him.
After Carl reveals himself (and takes out a few Saviors in the process), Negan takes him to his quarters, and the two talk about his eye injury. This is the start of a weird relationship between Negan and Carl - not a friendship, but perhaps something akin to mutual respect out of fear for the other (let's face it, Carl's pretty intense for someone so young). Despite having Rick's son in his custody, in the end Negan actually opts to give him back to Rick unharmed, perhaps as a show of faith after the Alexandrian's allowed Dwight to leave unharmed.
During the time at Negan's base (called the Sanctuary in the comics) we also learn that he keeps a harem of women (Negan's "wives"), and he also has an interesting and brutal method of punishment for his followers - burning the side of their face with a hot iron.
Negan soon returns to Alexandria while Rick absent, and decides to wait until his return. While there he talks to Spencer Monroe, who tried to ask Negan to give him leadership of Alexandria once Negan has killed Rick. Negan regards this as a gutless act from Spencer, and kills him.
When Rick and his crew attempt an attack on Negan as they leave Alexandria, Negan reveals he always places backup crews around a community before a pick-up, and a fight ensues where a member of Alexandria is nearly killed before the well-timed arrival of Jesus, Ezekiel and a crew from the Kingdom. After suffering loss at Alexandria, Negan announced to his Saviors that this latest attack means war.