Sin City
John Hartigan
Occupation: Police Detective
Gender: Male
Comic Appearances: That Yellow Bastard
Just Another Saturday Night
Film Appearances: Sin City
Sin City:A Dame to Kill For
Affiliation(s): Nancy Callahan
Portrayed by: Bruce Willis
Death is just like life in Sin City. It always wins.
— John

John Hartigan is a major character in That Yellow Bastard, a Basin City Police detective who refuses to bow to the corruption that has engulfed the city. His dedication to law and order lands him on the wrong side of Senator Roark, who targets him for revenge.


At the start of That Yellow Bastard, Hartigan is "pushing 60." He has a distinguishing cross-shaped scar on his forehead, the cause of which is undisclosed. He is presented as a muscular and imposing man, capable of holding his own in a fight. He also suffers from angina, which consistently affects his work, despite his attempts to ignore and/or fight through it. He is almost always dressed professionally, most commonly wearing an oxford shirt, tie, and dress slacks, along with his signature trenchcoat.


A veteran police detective of Basin City, Hartigan is gruff, stoic, and cynical. He is also completely selfless; he cares little about his own well-being as long as he can protect his fellow citizens. He risks his own safety and reputation to achieve that end throughout the graphic novel; this process eventually destroys his life. Hartigan possesses a seemingly indomitable will, able to withstand multiple bullet wounds without collapsing, and most notably being capable of willing himself back to life after being hanged to death. Much like the older Batman in Miller's other series, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Hartigan often refers to himself as a "stupid old man" after a close encounter.

That Yellow Bastard

Hartigan served the force for 30 years and was married to Eileen. He was known to be "law and order" and "by the book"

His last case prior to his retirement is the investigation of a serial killer and rapist, who preys on prepubescent girls. He eventually discovers that the killer is Roark Junior, the son of Senator Roark. Despite rampant corruption in the legal system and numerous attempts on his life by Senator Roark, he pursues the case.

On his last night on the job, Hartigan is called to rescue Junior's newest intended victim, 11-year-old Nancy Callahan. His partner Bob (who is secretly accepting bribes from the Roark family) petitions him to let the case go, but Hartigan refuses, punching Bob out and proceeding to the crime scene alone. Once there, he dispatches Roark Junior's henchmen and brutally punishes Roark Junior, shooting off the rapist's left ear, right hand, and gentals with a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. Before Hartigan can kill Junior, Bob arrives on the scene and shoots Hartigan in the back several times, and in the chest shortly thereafter with a .357 Magnum Colt Python revolver.

That night, Senator Roark visits Hartigan in the hospital, telling John that he will be framed for raping Nancy, and threatens to kill anyone who knows the truth. He pays to cure Hartigan's angina to ensure the detective will not be spared any misery. Hartigan is tortured by Liebowitz and never confesses to the crime during the trial, but he doesn't say a word concerning Junior's guilt and allows himself to be convicted as a child rapist.


Over the next eight years, everyone he loves abandons him — except for Nancy, who writes him a letter every week and thinks of him as her hero. Nancy becomes his only reason to live; he accepts his fate so long as he believes Nancy is safe.

In a ploy to trick Hartigan into revealing Nancy's whereabouts (as she is the lone witness to John's innocence), Junior arranges to have the letters held from Hartigan. At first, Hartigan suspects she's simply forgotten about him. However, Junior then sends him a letter containing a human finger, and then visits Hartigan in person. Because of Junior's vastly altered appearance (due to the extensive treatment in an attempt to repair the damage Hartigan originally caused), Hartigan does not recognize the rapist during their meeting.

Disturbed by their meeting and by the mysterious letter, Hartigan calls his attorney, Lucille, and confesses to raping Nancy at his next parole hearing, in an effort to gain freedom and seek out Nancy. With Senator Roark's approval, Hartigan is granted parole.

Looking for Nancy

His ex colleague Mort waits him outside and tells him that Eileen went on with her life. That night, Hartigan leaves Mort's house and seeks out Nancy at her last known address, a ransacked room with only clue a matchbox from a strip club known as Kadie's Bar.

Hartigan goes to find her (Marv, Dwight, Jackie-Boy and Agamemnon were there too), he talks to Shellie, who tell him that Nancy is "on the stage". Nancy rushes into his arms and kisses him upon his arrival, and after their brief reunion, Hartigan realizes that he has been tricked into revealing Nancy's location. He flees the bar with Nancy, after shooting Junior's car, hiding in Mimi's, a cheap motel to try to evade Junior. During their stay at the motel, Hartigan resists Nancy's advances, albeit half-heartedly. Junior then finds and kidnaps both of them, revealing himself to be the stranger from earlier and explaining his changed appearance. He leaves Hartigan at the end of a noose to die.

It is here that we are shown another example of Hartigan's superhuman strength, as he wills himself from death and departs after Junior and Nancy. Fat Man and Little Boy come to take his body, but he hits them from behind, and they tell him that Junior went to the Farm.

He pursues them back to the Roark family farm, where he rescues Nancy and then re-castrates Junior before beating him to death. After sharing a kiss with Nancy, he instructs her to leave the farm, telling her he will expose the Roarks and clear his name. However, upon her departure, he commits suicide, narrating that this is the only way to protect Nancy from the Roark family. Hartigan dies realizing that with the Roark family dying off, there's a chance that sin city will no longer run on sex and violence.

Just Another Saturday Night

Hartigan appears in Marv's flashback as a cameo. Marv was rather depressed after seeing Nancy leave with Hartigan, as he'd always had an unrequited crush on her, so Josie gives him a bottle to drown his sorrow with which he takes eagerly, getting himself butt drunk.

Sin City (film)

Portrayed by Bruce Willis.

Sin City:A Dame to Kill For

John in The Long Bad Night.

In Nancy's Last Dance, Hartigan's ghost remained in Basin City, speaking to Nancy Callahan as she began a downward spiral of alcoholism and obsession with killing Senator Roark. Though he protests her actions, she barely acknowledges him outright. He ultimately serves as a distraction for Senator Roark in a critical instance by appearing in his mirror, giving Nancy the opportunity to finally kill the senator.


  • The shot where Hartigan shoots himself in the head at the end is very unlike the way Frank Miller originally made it. It is, however, almost an exact copy of a suicide scene at the end of A Dame to Kill For, part two of the Sin City graphic novels.


Sin City (film)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City
Films Sin City - Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Main Characters Miho - Dwight McCarthy - Gail - Marv - Ava Lord - Wendy - Goldie - Johnny - John Hartigan - Nancy Callahan - Bob - Mort - Marcie - Sally - Joey Canelli - Becky - The Colonel - Customer - Lucille - Manute - Shellie - Senator Roark - Wallenquist - Dallas - Delia - Wallace
Groups Girls of Old Town - Basin City Police Department - Roark family - Irish mercenaries - Magliozzi Family - The Bikers - Wallenquist Organization
Locations Basin City - Old Town - Sacred Oaks - The Projects - The Pits - Kadie's - The Docks - Mimi's - Farm
Music Sin City (soundtrack) - Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (soundtrack)
Comics The Hard Goodbye - A Dame To Kill For - The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories - The Big Fat Kill - Silent Night - That Yellow Bastard - Daddy's Little Girl - Lost, Lonely & Lethal - Sex & Violence - Just Another Saturday Night - Family Values - Booze, Broads, & Bullets - Hell And Back
Short Stories And Behind Door Number Three? - The Customer is Always Right - The Babe Wore Red - Fat Man and Little Boy - Blue Eyes - Rats - Wrong Turn - Wrong Track
Original Yarns The Long Bad Night - Nancy's Last Dance
Important Articles Chronology - Fan Art - Sin City - Sin City Comics to Film Differences - The Truce - Yarns