First published in February 1996–July 1996, That Yellow Bastard
is a six-issue comic book
miniseries, and the sixth in the Sin City
series. It follows the usual black and white noir style artistry of previous Sin City novels. That Yellow Bastard
is currently under publication by Dark Horse Comics
; the first edition became available in July 1997 (ISBN 1-56971-225-5
The story begins more than eight years before any other Sin City book takes place, with possibly the most noble, and heroic protagonist
in the Sin City universe, policeman John Hartigan
(suffering from severe angina
problems) on his final mission before his forced retirement. Roark Junior, son of one of the most powerful and corrupt
officials in Basin City, is indulging his penchant for raping
and murdering pre-pubescent
girls. It is Hartigan's mission to rescue Junior's latest quarry, a thin eleven-year-old named Nancy Callahan
Hartigan succeeds in rescuing Nancy by disabling Junior's getaway car, which was being guarded by two guns-for-hire with 'delusions of eloquence', Burt Schlubb and Douglas Klump. Hartigan knocks them out and kills the twin guards Benny and Lenny. He chases the escaping Junior to the pier and then proceeds to use his revolver to surgically shoot off Junior's left ear, right hand, and genitals. Before he can finish Junior off, Hartigan's corrupt partner Bob, who fears angering Senator Roark, shoots Hartigan several times. Hartigan then stalls Bob for as long as he can to save Nancy when backup arrives, going so far as to pull a spare gun and have Bob unload his gun on him. Bob leaves the fallen Hartigan who, with the scared Nancy in his arms, goes unconscious.
Roark Jr. lapses into a coma
from his injuries, and Senator Roark takes issue with the abuse of his son. Hartigan finds himself alive thanks to Roark who does not wish for Hartigan to die but suffer for the rest of his life. He is framed for raping
Nancy, branded as a pedophile
and sentenced to a lengthy prison term amidst a public outcry that brands him one of Sin City's most hated citizens. Despite his innocence and the pariah
status he has achieved as a result of his conviction, he remains silent about his pain, knowing that Senator Roark would have anyone who ever found out the truth executed. The only one to whom Hartigan spoke in the hospital was Nancy, who sneaked out against her parents' wishes to see the man who saved her. Fearing she will be killed, Hartigan tells her to stay away from him, so Nancy tells Hartigan she will write him letters instead. She will sign her name as "Cordelia" to hide her identity from Roark Junior. Hartigan complies and says goodbye to her. Before leaving, Nancy tells Hartigan she loves him.
After his stint in the hospital, Hartigan is seen tied to a chair, cuffed and being beaten by Det. Liebowitz in order to force him to sign a false confession. Amidst the hours of repeated punching and being tempted by prison luxuries and even sex with an Old Town prostitute, Hartigan doesn't crack under the pressure, although he hallucinates that he is granted the strength of Hercules, breaks from his cuffs and kills Liebowitz by exploding his head.
Afterwards, alone in prison and abandoned by his wife Eileen (who proceeds to re-marry and finally have children) and his friends, he finds solace in the carefully disguised weekly letters he receives from Nancy. Hartigan quickly develops a paternal love for young Nancy, and sees her as the daughter he never had. For eight years, he drags himself through his jail time, his only respite the letters his young admirer sends him, until finally the letters stop coming. Although he initially believes Nancy has merely outgrown her childhood hero, Hartigan soon becomes increasingly worried that Senator Roark has finally found her. His fears are confirmed when a deformed, hairless visitor with sickly yellow skin who smells distinctly like garbage arrives at his prison cell and punches him out. Hartigan awakens and discovers the same type of envelope Nancy always uses containing an index finger from the right hand of a nineteen-year-old girl.
Believing Nancy to be in imminent danger, Hartigan's passive view of his current incarceration changes. He decides to find some way out, and contacts his lawyer, Lucille (the lesbian
parole officer from The Hard Goodbye
). Much to her surprise and disgust, Hartigan decides to claim responsibility to the crimes of which he was accused. At his parole hearing, he is humiliated again when Senator Roark acts like a good man who's willing to forgive Hartigan. Hartigan knows it's a ruse to insult him, but to show sincerity that he's a reformed man, he asks Senator Roark for forgiveness for what he did to his son. Hartigan is finally released on parole, apparently due to Senator Roark's satisfaction over his confession and submission.
Back on the streets, the now sixty year-old ex-con/ex-cop sets off to find Nancy. He looks her name up in a phone book and learns she lives somewhere on North Culver. He goes to her apartment, but finds it empty and in disarray. The only clue to her whereabouts is a pack of matches from Kadie's bar. He follows that lead in hopes of discovering where Nancy, now nineteen, can be found, or at least maybe get more leads. Hartigan finds that she is no longer the little girl he rescued from a child-murderer 8 years ago, but is now a woman who works in the club as an exotic dancer - and is unharmed. The envelope containing the finger was merely a ploy to get him to crack and lead Roark to Nancy. Hartigan smells a set-up, and something far worse, the distinct odor of rotting garbage. "That Yellow Bastard", the man who arrived at the cell with the envelope, has followed him and found Nancy.
Nancy recognizes Hartigan and jumps into his arms kissing him. They leave Kadie's and get into her car. There is a high-speed pursuit, with the "Bastard" close on their tail, Hartigan uses Nancy's revolver to fire a precise shot that hits the "Bastard" in the neck. Hartigan insists on stopping to confirm the kill; accompanied by Nancy, he discovers the "Bastard's" foul-smelling blood everywhere, but no body. Eventually, he and Nancy hide out in a motel. There, they share a kiss, where Nancy reveals she is in love with him; but Hartigan refuses to move any further because of the paternalistic nature of his relationship to Nancy. Unknown to them, the "Bastard" has hidden in the backseat of Nancy's car, and emerges while they talk.
Hartigan, in the shower, is ambushed once again by "That Yellow Bastard", who reveals himself to be Roark Junior. Senator Roark used his vast financial resources to resurrect his son using new medical techniques to re-grow his severed body parts. As a result, Junior lives, but with some side-effects. Junior knocks Hartigan down, lynches him naked with a noose, and boasts of raping and killing dozens of girls over the past eight years. He then talks about how clever and pretty Nancy was, and while older than his usual girls, he'll forgive himself "just this once." With that said, he kicks the desk out from under Hartigan and escapes with Nancy.
Hartigan seems to reluctantly accept his failure and lets himself die. Though he suddenly revives himself through sheer will, breaks a window and cuts his hands free with a glass shard. Schlubb and Klump, show up to dispose of Hartigan's body (in a Ferrari
with no trunk); they are quickly subdued, and forced to tell Hartigan that Junior had fled to the Roark family farm (described as a place where bad things happen) to rape and murder Nancy.
Racing to the Farm, Hartigan suffers a severe angina
attack, but soldiers through the pain. At this time, Nancy is being flogged by Junior and, like Hartigan, won't allow her torturer the pleasure of her pain by screaming. Hartigan takes down a few corrupt police officers guarding the Farm and confronts Junior, who has Nancy at knife point. Hartigan fakes a heart attack to catch Junior off guard. He stabs him, removes his genitallia and beats him to death. Nancy and Hartigan share another, more passionate, kiss, and Hartigan tells Nancy to flee, assuring to her that he will call up some old police friends of his to clean up the scene of the crime.
After Nancy leaves, Hartigan narrates that he had to lie to her as no sane man would prosecute Senator Roark. Also now that Junior is dead, Hartigan has made a far deadlier enemy out of Roark who will stop at nothing to get to him now. He will likely use Nancy to get to Hartigan. With that in mind and with no other option, Hartigan knows he must end the entire ordeal. In an act of pure love and sacrifice, Hartigan shoots himself in the head to save Nancy and end Roark's vendetta.
In Rodriguez's adaptation, Bruce Willis
stars as Hartigan, Jessica Alba
as Nancy, Nick Stahl
as the Yellow Bastard/Junior, Powers Boothe
as Senator Roark and Michael Madsen
as Hartigan's partner, Bob. There are only a few notable differences in the film version: Mort is replaced by Bob when Hartigan is released from prison, and an appearance by Carla Gugino
as Lucille is omitted (but reinstated in the extended version released to DVD).
In the DVD commentary, Frank Miller indicated that he was initially motivated to write That Yellow Bastard after his disappointment with The Dead Pool
, the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry
series. Nancy -- who prior to this story had no last name -- was named "Callahan", a name shared with Clint Eastwood's character.