True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto is a fan of the comic book works of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, saying in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2010.
The first time I got excited about writing was reading comic books by Alan Moore and Grant Morrison as a kid. Growing up in southwest Louisiana, in a house without many books, the sophistication and depth of their stories were really mind-blowing for a kid.
GeekRex has a great article about the parallels that can drawn between True Detective and certain comics such as From Hell by alan Moore and The Invisibles by Grant Morrison.
But I think that there are also echoes of the comic book series Sin City by Frank Miller, particularly if we compare the Roark family of Sin City with the Tuttles of True Detective as both are wealthy and powerful families with connections to serial killers and child molesters. Although it is as yet unconfirmed in the show I believe that the Tuttle family are ultimately going to be behind all these horrific events.
Rust Cohle believes that the Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle is involved in the death of Dora Lange and the disappearance of children in Louisiana in some way and that his cousin Eddie Tuttle, Louisiana governor in 1995 and a senator in 2012 is inhibiting the investigation.
In Sin City powerful Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark is sheltering Kevin, a cannibalistic serial killer who preys on the titular city’s prostitutes, and housing him at the Roark family farm. Is Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle playing a similar role to Cardinal Roark and sheltering the true killer of Dora Lange? Or is Tuttle more deeply involved and is himself a participant or even the leader of the group that is preying on children and prostitutes?
In addition to having a well respected senior member of the church in the family the Roarks like the Tuttles have a powerful politician in Senator Roark (I don’t think we ever find out his first name). Senator Eddie Tuttle is yet to make an actual appearance in True Detective but he is said to have been very close to his cousin Billy Lee when younger and is thought to have been trying to use his influence to shut the investigation down.
This maybe as far as the similarities go but there may well be the equivalent in True Detective to the character of Roark Junior, the son of Senator Roark and a sadistic pedophile with the hobby of raping and murdering pre-pubescent girls. There is definitely someone abducting children to rape and kill in True Detective.
“Someone once told me time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.” – Detective Rustin Cohle, True Detective.
Not only this but one of Matthew McConaughey’s previous roles, in a show called Unsolved Mysteries, has similarities to his character and elements of True Detective.
As dark as True Detective is in tone it is contrastingly brilliant in the ideas it is exploring. It is much more than just a tale of two detectives hunting a killer over the course of 17 years, it’s an exploration of nihilistic thought and what it means to be a man.
There has been a lot written about True Detective since the first episode was broadcast with wild theories of where the show is going and the identity of The Yellow King and speculation over whether Rust or Marty are involved in the murder in 2012 that has similarities to the case of Dora Lange. I don’t feel like the mystery is the point of the show, this isn’t Lost nor is it an Agatha Christie where the point of the story is uncovering the killer.
Amidst all these speculation are some interesting pieces about the show and other works that have influences on it. The following are I think some of the better articles about True Detective..
5 things to drop into conversation to make you sound smart while talking about ‘True Detective.’
1. “Obviously, you can’t truly appreciate ‘True Detective’ if you’re not familiar with Robert W. Chambers’ ‘The King in Yellow.'”
2. “You realize, of course, that Ledoux and Cohle’s ‘Time is a flat circle’ metaphor is all borne out by String Theory.”
3. “I take it you realize that Rustin Cole’s depressing world view is based upon the antinatalist-nihilist writings of Thomas Ligotti and E.M. Cioran.”
4. “I was pleasantly surprised to see a reference to John Money’s ‘paraphilic lovemap’ pop up in the first episode. Weren’t you?”
5. “Did you happen to notice that True Detective went meta when it broke the fourth wall on Sunday?”
In addition to the more obvious literary influences such as Robert W. Chambers’ ‘The King in Yellow’ and the writings of Thomas Ligotti there are comic book influences particularly some of the works of Alan Moore and those of Grant Morrison, GeekRex analyses them here.
I love the graphical tribute to True Detective at We keep the other bad men from the door by Nigel Evan Dennis.
Pasha Malla writes in Slate: A World in Which Nothing Is Solved – True Detective is not really a whodunit. It’s an exploration of storytelling.
Grantland in their article ‘True Detective’ Precap: A Million Yellow Kings Dancing on the Head of a Pin discuss the mysteries presented in True Detective and the tendency for viewers who gripped by mystery in TV shows will then overanalyse the minutest details.