This December, writer John Arcudi and artist Toni Fejzula call forth a tale set in the confines of the criminal justice system that will pull you in with its engaging authenticity, then sideblinding you as it fills your pores with existential dread. In Dead Inside from Dark Horse Comics, Arcudi and Fejzula follow Linda Caruso with the Jail Crimes Division as she investigates a prison murder that will test the limits of her relationships and her sanity.
I spoke with Mr. Arcudi recently about the book, the look of the story, and Linda’s emotional journey.
FreakSugar: For folks considering picking up the book, what can you tell us about Dead Inside?
John Arcudi: A different kind of story, I think. Law enforcement has to investigate crimes committed in prisons and jails just as they do all other crimes, but the challenges are unusual. And in this case, a murder, the suspects are many!
FS: Linda Caruso, the lead of the series, seems to have a very complicated relationship with her boss and the law enforcement system in general. What can you tell us about her?
JA: Linda was great as a Deputy Sheriff on the streets, but her initial efforts as a detective—a job with a completely different skill set required—lacked and she was forced into Jail Crimes Division where her boss thought she would do less damage. Linda resents that.
FS: From what little I know about the justice system, the book has a very authentic feel. What kind of research did you do while writing Dead Inside?
JA: Years of being a juvenile delinquent lead me to a lifelong interest in law enforcement and corrections efforts, so I’ve been researching for decades, really.
FS: Toni Fejzula is the artist on the book. Although the book isn’t as rough as what we saw in HBO’s Oz, I kept thinking the series and the grit that permeated every episode. The art marries to the words beautifully. What kind of discussion did the two of you have in deciding how you wanted the book to look?
JA: We talked about a darker approach than what you may have seen Toni do on Veil with Greg Rucka, or even the Lobster Johnson story I wrote for him. I sent him prison reference and he picked up on it. The efforts paid off, if you ask me.
FS: I’m a big fan of locked room mysteries. Are there any you particularly enjoy that have informed your approach to Dead Inside?
JA: Boy, I don’t know that you can call Dead Inside a locked room mystery, per se. Prisons are communities unto themselves and this is a crime of that community. But a whodunit is a whodunit, and certainly Charles Willeford’s Hoke Mosely books influenced me.
FS: I love the double-meaning of Dead Inside, referring both to the murders and to Linda. Will this book be just as much about Linda’s emotional journey as it is the murders themselves?
JA: If we do it right, yes. The reader will see a real arc in Linda’s life and emotional state.
FS: What can you tease about what you have in store for Dead Inside?
JA: Just that there’s more to Jail Crimes Division investigations than just who’s in jail!
Dead Inside #1, written by John Arcudi with Toni Fejzula on art, goes on sale December 21 from Dark Horse Comics.
From the official issue description:
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.