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Who was The Walking Dead’s Negan before the apocalypse?

Fans of The Walking Dead know the newly introduced character of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as the ominous villain who carts around a barbed wire-wrapped bat named Lucille, and isn’t afraid to use it. But what do we know about who Negan was before the zombies took over? A new preview sheds some light.

ComicBook.com reports a rather normal life for the man who has become the almost cult-like leader of the group known as the Saviors. According to the just-released first four pages of the Here’s Negan story from comic book publisher Image Comics, which created the comics on which The Walking Dead TV show is based, Negan was actually a schoolteacher, and a Ping-Pong coach. That latter occupation may reveal why he has such great skills at whacking a bat. (Surprisingly, he wasn’t an MLB star.) What did he teach? Perhaps economics?

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In the story, a young Negan apparently still has the same potty mouth he carried with him to adulthood in The Walking Dead comics (the television persona is a bit more PG-13 in his speech, though just as frightening). His competitive nature shows while playing Ping-Pong, as he resorts to gloating and using “colorful language and sexual references.”

Most interesting, however, is Negan’s desire to be known as the “cool” teacher, which might explain the vulgarity in attempts to “fit in.”

Particularly revealing is what may be the true motivation behind his awful ways: following a heated Ping-Pong match, his significant other approaches, and has a seizure right in front of him. It’s said that she “loses her footing,” which leads one to believe that he may have witnessed her death, or at least a terrible injury. Might she have been the real-life Lucille?

So it looks as though, like many others on the show, Negan was just a regular ol’ Joe. Interestingly, his previous occupation shows some parallels with the lead male character in spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead, Travis (Cliff Curtis), who was also a teacher before the infection spread. It just goes to show that anyone, no matter how soft and trusting, could become just as ruthless as Negan.

More information about Negan’s back story will be revealed as additional pages of the story are released at a rate of four each month. There will be 48 pages in all, so there’s clearly a lot to know about Negan as he progresses from one group of students, to a “kill now and ask questions later” group of followers in the apocalypse.

You can immerse yourself in the first four pages in the Image+ preview magazine.