the walking dead
Who did Negan kill in season 6? AMC

The highly-anticipated Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead was officially announced during the show's San Diego's Comic-Con panel on Friday (22 July).

Fans went wild when it was announced that the zombie apocalypse series returns this autumn on 23 October at 9pm on AMC. A preview special will also air on 14 August.

Like previous seasons, the show's seventh comprises 16 episodes and will be split into two parts. The first eight episodes will commence in October while the final eight will air in February 2017.

Chris Hardwick will host The Walking Dead preview on 14 August that is expected to give fans an early insight into what happens in the upcoming season – including interviews with the cast and executive producers and behind-the-scenes moments. But will they let on who Negan killed? You'll have to tune in to find out. A recap of the first six seasons will also be shown on 16 October.

Meanwhile, Robert Kirkman spoke to The Walking Dead magazine and confirmed the safety of one character after Negan possibly killed 'someone' with his barbed wire bat named Lucille. The American comic book writer claims that show runners were aware about the plans of season six before it began – and that they had been discussing who they thought should and shouldn't be Negan's 'victim'.

The Walking Dead season 7
Negan will be around Alexandria to terrorise his victims with his baseball bat Lucille AMC

He said in the interview: "From the beginning of season six, it was all decided and set in stone. The actor was informed but not everyone else was told. I see a lot of speculation online where people are like, "Nobody knows who dies," and we were waiting for that reaction.

"It was all inaccurate and weird speculation. The [season seven premiere] was written when that finale aired, so we've known for a very long time," he added.

Though most people are confident that Rick is safe from Lucille, Kirkman appeared to confirm it as he spoke about season 7's direction and how Rick plays into things.

He continued: "But looking at this as Rick's story, if you watch season six, you see from the very first episode, when they are dealing with the herd and Rick is fighting with the people in Alexandria, that he's 100% in control. [...] Season six Rick is probably more confident, more secure, more relaxed and comfortable than we've ever seen him.

"Look at Andrew Lincoln's performance, trembling and shaking and saying nothing and just listening to Negan. He's powerless to what's coming. When we see who was killed and what the outcome of that is, and where that leads Rick and the rest of the survivors – I guess I just gave up that it's not Rick, so it's not Rick – that's the beginning of a new story," he added.

So it seems that Rick is safe, for now. But it's a big presumption as the actors apparently did not know. The big bosses have planned the outcome far in advance and decided what road season 7 should go down. Roll on October.