Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) almost had a free ticket to Easy Street, with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) long gone by the time "The Walking Dead" Season 8 rolls around.

Negan was introduced in "The Walking Dead" Season 6 finale, and declared war in "The Walking Dead" Season 7 finale. He'll definitely be around in Season 8, and may continue on from there. But that was not the original plan.

Robert Kirkman, who writes the ongoing comic book series and executive produces the AMC show, revealed that he originally planned to kill off the latest Big Bad after just nine issues of the comic book.

Negan makes his first appearance in TWD Issue 100, when he holds his big lineup and kills Glenn. In the Letter Hacks section of the recent TWD Issue 166, Kirkman revealed that he had planned to kill Negan in Issue 108. Instead, Negan kept going, and Issue 108 just introduces King Ezekiel and reveals Dwight's plan to double-cross Negan.

Here's more from Kirkman's Letter Hacks response to a fan asking about the initial idea for Negan (via Comicbook.com):

"Dwight double-crossing Negan during All Out War sort of grew organically as I wrote, and was not planned from the beginning. Negan was originally going to die in issue 108, so he'd have been in the book for... nine issues only. But I liked the character so much I just kept coming up with more for him to do.

"I know fans seem to want to know things are planned out from the beginning because that makes things seem more well-written. It's hardly ever the case. Vince Gilligan has done writers a huge service by constantly talking about how Breaking Bad was a series of them setting up crazy future sequences, and then figuring out how to get to those moments.

I plan a lot on Walking Dead, I always know where I'm going... but having the freedom to change your mind and alter stories you have planned, honestly... it just makes things better. I'm certainly not just making the story u as I go along... but the times where writing gets dangerous and new and you have to figure out in the moment how to make it.... well, that's when writing is the most fun and rewarding, and I feel, more often than not, it makes the stories better."

How would Negan have died, back in the original Issue 108? Kirkman doesn't say. Maybe Dwight would've killed him, or someone else. (Sherry? That might've been cool.) What would the next big storyline have been, if Negan was already gone so soon, and there was no All Out War? Would Kirkman have skipped right on to The Whisperers? Maybe he'll address this alternate universe in a future Letter Hacks issue.

"The Walking Dead" Season 8 premieres in October.

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