This December 21st, Dark Horse Comics will publish Dead Inside, a new creator-owned series from critically acclaimed writer John Arcudi and Veil artist Toni Fejzula. Dead Inside is a twisted and bloody murder mystery—in a place where there should be no mysteries: behind prison walls.
The Jail Crimes Division of the Sheriff’s Office in Mariposa County investigates crimes committed inside county jails. With a limited number of suspects who can’t escape, these are usually easy cases to solve—but not this one. As Detective Linda Caruso gets closer to the heart of the case, she discovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her job, and herself.
Read an exclusive interview with John Arcudi about writing a murder mystery set in prison!
A murder mystery in a prison is essentially a locked-room mystery. How does setting the story in a prison make establishing the story/characters easier? How does it make it harder?
This is a level 2 prison—the cells are not always on lockdown—so it’s not really a locked-room mystery. People can get in and out of their cells, and that’s what’s happened here. Sure, maybe all the potential perps are inside the prison—or are they?—so there’s that. But since every inmate is a criminal, it hardly limits the suspect pool.
The prison seems to be its own unique character. How much research went into prison life, prison politics, and the deteriorating prison system, and will that be a theme throughout the series?
I was a troubled kid. Picked up a few times, stood in front of a few judges, so criminal justice was a part of my life early on. I never lost interest, but thankfully it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a courtroom (except on a jury). As for the failings of the prison system in 21st-century America, that’s a part of what makes this story what it is but not an overriding theme. The real story, for me, is always the people.
Tell us about Detective Linda Caruso.
Linda Caruso was a great cop! A deputy Sheriff in Mariposa County who was more or less coerced to seek advancement to Detective. But she wasn’t as good a detective as she was a street cop, and that’s plagued her personal life and her career. For the purposes of this story, JCD is a dead end for Linda. A department where crimes are usually easily solved, where her less-than-stellar detective skills are adequate to the task. So she’s not happy, but this story will give her hope.
The comic has some pretty gory scenes—what’s the collaboration process like with the artist? Do you both share a vision and work to get it on page, or does one tend to shape the other more?
We talk a lot, and I’m pretty specific in my scripts, but really Toni and color artist Andre May are the ones who win the day. Toni is an incredible artist who can do anything!
What are your favorite prison comics/movies/TV shows?
Brute Force is easily my favorite prison movie. The Glass House is also great.
How does writing crime stories differ from writing superhero stories?
You try to strike a more “realistic” tone, that’s all. Realism being a relative word, of course. You’re still shaping the narrative to fit your purposes, but you want people to believe in your characters, in your world, as if it’s the real world.
Have you ever thought about writing novels?
Sure. Never went a whole lot further than thinking, though. Too busy with comics—which is not a bad thing at all!
Were you into comics as a kid, or are they something you picked up later in life?
I didn’t get into comics until later than most of my friends, but when I did, I really took to them and went all in.
What’s a comic trope/cliché you hate? What’s one that you love to see?
All cliches are awful. As to what I love to see, more show and less tell. Dialog can get in the way of a good scene.
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Critically acclaimed author John Arcudi got his start working on a number of comic books based on films, including: RoboCop, Terminator, Predator, Alien, and The Thing. Arcudi also contributed as writer for Batman: Black & White Vol. 1 and Batman: Black & White Vol. 4.