When I think of The Walking Dead comic book series, there are two names that instantly pop out into my head: Rick Grimes and Negan. Since the very first issue, Rick Grimes has been the protagonist that the zombie apocalypse has desperately needed. What started out as a quest to find his wife and son has led Rick onto a path that is legendary. He has led his forces through prison inmates, sociopathic governors, hunting cannibals, and thousands of undead zombies. These adventures led them to the utopian Alexandria Safe-Zone. Here, Rick Grimes' instincts made it so he almost immediately took control, and has saved Alexandria from countless threats. Rick Grimes saw everything there is to see...except for one man: Negan. Negan's first impression on Rick was bashing in a very close confidant's skull, and they have been at war ever since. Negan is definitely the biggest antagonist in the whole existence of The Walking Dead, including The Governor. He is the very first man to put Rick in a situation where he had to bow down to the enemy, and it took THREE communities to take his kingdom (no pun intended) down. In this bloody war of "whose-dick-is-bigger," Rick and Negan seem to have the biggest dicks in the whole Walking Dead universe, but they are surprisingly even. Rick may be the protagonist, and Negan may be the antagonist, but it would be far too simple to cast them off as hero and villain, respectively. The case of these two is much more than meets the eye.
In the beginning of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes was cocky, kind, and unfazed by the apocalypse. He never had to dirty his hands until the prison riot of Issue 19 where he killed Dexter. This was his first kill, and it was something that bore into his mind for a long while. This created a downward spiral for him that resulted in his fight with Tyreese and the infamous "We Are The Walking Dead" speech. From this point on, Rick was a changed man. He was not afraid to kill, and he did just that again when he targeted Caesar Martinez of Woodbury. It's debatable that Rick's kill was justified, but the means of his doing are what really set it apart from the rest. Rick ran the man over with a RV, and rather than shoot him in the head and put him out of his misery, he suffocated the minimal remains of life from Martinez. From here on, Rick seemed to be okay until the fateful prison attack. Rick did not kill anybody in this, but this is where he lost his wife, Lori, and his newborn daughter, Judith. This has a profound effect on not only him, but his son, Carl. Tensions arise between the two, and it ends up with Carl nearly refusing to be with his unconscious dad anymore. These conflicts are somewhat solved when Rick wakes up, but it takes one event to fully mend their relationship: the near rape of Carl. When Rick witnessed this, he bit a man's throat out, and stabbed the other one to his content. Also just as controversial, Rick (assisted by Andrea, Michonne, and Abraham) not only killed a tribe of cannibals, but tortured and humiliated them. This marked a significant change in the mentality of Rick. Any mercy he had before was gone. From that point on, Rick was primed to kill anybody who even smelled like a threat. Rick may have even been too far gone if he hadn't made it to Alexandria. Here, he tries to rebuild the life and person he was before, but fails. Domestic abusers, roaming scavengers, invasive roamers, and internal rebellions brought the survivor in Rick. He realizes that he can balance his humanity and monster side here, and he doesn't look back. He is ready to take on a "hostile" community, but it turns out that they were friendly all along. Here, Rick bonds with Paul "Jesus" Monroe, and allies with The Hilltop Community. He hears of a threat to the Hilltop and immediately signs up to take them out. He's fairly successful at first, but it takes the one man to end his confident streak: Negan.
It's fairly unknown what Negan did before his comic book debut. The only thing really stated is that he ruled an iron fist over many communities, including The Hilltop and The Kingdom. What we do know is more than enough to decipher his character. He makes a first impression on Rick by beating Glenn to death, and forces Alexandria to submit to his will. This is changed by a fateful joint ambush by Alexandria, The Hilltop, and The Kingdom on Negan himself. Though Negan survives, it is the start of the biggest war in Walking Dead history: All Out War. Rick leads his forces against the tyrannical Negan for justice, right? Negan is the big bad who kills to kill, right? This is a black-and-white war with a good guy and a bad guy, right? No, it's not.
Rick Grimes and Negan are kings of their specific tribe. As a king, it is damn near impossible to not dirty your hands, but these two seem to enjoy it. Negan is a sociopath who will force your community into submission under the promise of death if they don't. Rick isn't this cruel, but he will jump at the chance to kill you if you threaten his way of life. Negan and Rick are ruthless, uncompromising, and unmerciful. In Issue 141, Negan points out every lie that Rick tells himself. He could have left the open cell to cause chaos in Alexandria, but he doesn't. He stays put and waits for Rick. In return, Rick pulls a gun on him and treats him like an animal. Not to blame Rick, but Negan had a point. Someone like him didn't do anything, while someone like Rick seems to be doing everything. The lines continue to blur between the two, and it may end up with Rick becoming a monster even worse than Negan. Rick will grow paranoid, angry, psychotic even. He may become a representation of The Governor, Negan, and every evil he has tried to vanquish. Rick remembers well what he did, despite him wanting to forget and evolve. He spends his time trying to be the good guy, but the evil in him may manifest and conquer his being. Rick Grimes and Negan are one-in-the-same, and it may only take one little push for Rick to become the monster Negan always has been.