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The Comic Books Behind ‘True Detective’

The Comic Books Behind 'True Detective'

Earlier this week, I noted the significant overlap between True Detective, whose simple murder case has led to hints of other dimensions and quasi-Masonic conspiracies, and Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, which does much the same with the Jack the Ripper murders. Now, GeekRex’s Kyle Pinion has taken it a step further, finding traces not only of From Hell but the Moore-scripted The Courtyard and The Invisibles, written by Grant Morrison. 

The protagonist of The Courtyard, Pinion writes, is a detective named Aldo Sax who specializes in “anomaly theory,’ wherein he collates seemingly unrelated data into a specified whole.” Discovering the connections between three apparently unrelated crimes drives him mad, and that eventually leads him to act out the crimes he was previously investigating. That, of course, sounds a lot like what the present-day detectives suspect True Detective‘s Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) has been up to. The villain in The Courtyard? A drug dealer named Johnny Carcosa.

Morrison’s The Invisibles likewise explores “M-theory,” the origin of Cohle’s “Time is a flat circle” monologue. But I’m particularly interested in the From Hell influence, especially in what it might augur for True Detective‘s finale — which, we now know, is titled “Form and Void.” In From Hell‘s masterful fourth chapter, the purported Jack the Ripper takes his carriage driver on a tour of London, relating the history of the city’s pagan past and its Masonic underpinnings before revealing that the monuments he’s highlighted form the shape of a pentagram — and thus the entire city as a kind of hidden Satanic altar. I wonder if that’s not where True Detective is headed, finally revealing a pattern sketched throughout history that only those who have faced true evil can see — and thence can never forget. 

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I se other influences from Moore’s work, especially the Watchmen. Back And forth between different periods, the perception of all things simultaneously (doc Manhattan), the nihilism of Rorsach/Cohl alongside the cluesness of Dan Dreiberg/Marty Hart…

Dorrie Bly

Of course, that aspect of Moore's 'From Hell' is actually inspired by Iain Sinclair's 'Lud Heat' and Peter Ackroyd's 'Hawksmoor', so it's much more likely that the concept comes from there, rather than via Moore.

Eric Houstoun

I'd say the Carcosa reference has much more to do with the Chambers story than Morrison, especially given the references to the yellow king throughout.

I'd wager to bet this is more of a case of great minds being inspired by the same excellent source material than Pizzolatto drawing from these sources specifically. Though in fairness the truth probably lands somewhere in between the two.

Spike Murdock

You stopped too soon in your research. You need to go beyond the comics to the literature that carries the same themes. Your "comics" are based on them as well – H.P. Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers, Auter Machen, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood…

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