"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything."Sin City
— Marv, "The Hard Goodbye"
is an irregular comic book series about the venal
Basin City (known as "Sin City" to the people who live there) and the seedy inhabitants who lurk in its alleys and doorways. It is probably writer/artist Frank Miller
's best known work (other than The Dark Knight Returns
Infamous for its absurdly macho writing
, Sin City
reads like an Affectionate Parody
of Film Noir
turned Up to Eleven
: every hero is a mentally or physically scarred bruiser
and every woman is a beautiful dame with a heaving bosom
. Black and Gray Morality
The series's other defining attribute is its artwork, which is largely black and white, with occasional spot colouring for certain important characters
. Miller plays heavily with silhouettes, high-contrast images
and negative space to create a series of visually striking images that look like no other comic on the market.
Because it is almost exclusively set in and around Basin City's criminal underworld, Sin City
has a number of recurring characters, although the protagonists vary from story to story. Additionally, some plotlines overlap or weave together
in subtle ways (The Hard Goodbye
and A Dame to Kill For
are both mostly set on the same night, with the protagonists driving past one another in a single scene in both comics).
The currently available collected editions are, in order:1: The Hard Goodbye
- Originally just titled Sin City
until the film adaptation, this story follows Marv, a street thug prone to psychotic episodes, who falls in love with a beautiful prostitute one night, only to find her dead the following morning and the cops beating down his door to take him in for her murder. On his quest for vengeance, Marv shakes down the criminal underworld, does battle with corrupt cops and discovers a sick conspiracy.2: A Dame to Kill For
- Dwight McCarthy, a freelance photographer with a vicious temper, is pissed off when his beautiful ex — Ava, the dame of the title — contacts him out of the blue. But his anger is allayed when he discovers that her life has been threatened. With time running out, Dwight must save Ava from her cruel husband and his bizarre manservant. But is Ava what she appears to be, or is Dwight being manipulated into making the biggest mistake of his life?3: The Big Fat Kill
- Dwight gets into more trouble when his new girlfriend, Shelly, is harassed by her abusive ex-boyfriend, Jackie-Boy. Dwight chases after him, but can only watch as Jackie and his pals are killed by prostitutes for threatening to rape one of their number. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem — the prostitutes of Old Town are given free rein by the police — but Jackie has a dangerous secret, one that might tear Sin City apart.4: That Yellow Bastard
- John Hartigan
may well be Sin City's last decent cop, but not for long: It's his last day on the job. But Hartigan's refusing to go quietly, especially since a well-connected young serial killer/rapist has just kidnapped little Nancy Callahan. It's no big thing — Hartigan's spent his entire life taking down scum like him. But this time, there will be repercussions...5: Family Values
- While picking up some intel for his new
new girlfriend, Dwight learns of a mafia war that's about to go down in Sin City. Captured by one side of the impending war, Dwight has to rely on a certain enemy-turned ally for help: the deadly ninja Miho.6: Booze, Broads and Bullets
- A collection of short stories from various sources, including back-up strips from the early issues of The Big Fat Kill
and stories from the various Sin City
one-shot specials.7: Hell and Back (A Sin City Love Story)
- Wallace is an interesting guy: an artist, a war hero, a short order cook and a lightning-quick fighter. His life is pretty dull, though, until he saves a suicidal woman named Esther and they begin a tentative relationship. In typical Sin City
style, however, Esther is kidnapped and Wallace must pull the city — and the lives of some of its most privileged men — apart to get her back.
Several of the Sin City
comics were turned into an anthology film by director Robert Rodriguez
, simply called Sin City
, which was released in 2005.
Rodriguez quit the Director's Guild to let Frank Miller take co-director status. Even his friend Quentin Tarantino
was given a co-director credit, since he came over on a day of shooting to film a scene. Rodriguez shot the film pretty much panel-for-panel from the comics, using black and white footage and Green Screen
backgrounds to get the perfect Sin City
The Sin City
film comprised The Hard Goodbye
, The Big Fat Kill
and That Yellow Bastard
and was bookended by an adaptation of "The Customer is Always Right", a short story featured in the Booze, Broads and Bullets
A sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
, was released in August 2014, and at least one more Sin City
film is planned. Originally, the first sequel was planned to include the titular story, along with a brand-new sequel to That Yellow Bastard
and the three Blue Eyes
short stories. The final film drops the Blue Eyes
stories for a second original story and another Booze, Broads and Bullets
yarn, "Just Another Saturday Night".
The other sequel will be centered around Hell and Back
. Both films were originally scheduled for a 2008 release, but were in Development Hell
for seven years until 2012, when they were Saved from Development Hell
. Sadly, the recent deaths of two important actors - Brittany Murphy
(Shelly) and Michael Clarke Duncan
(Manute) - and the disappearance of Devon Aoki (Miho) from acting caused some difficulties
. (Duncan and Aoki have been replaced by Dennis Haysbert and Jamie Chung◊
respectively, with Jeremy Piven taking over from Michael Madsen
The second film contains two original storylines not shown in the comics.1: The Long Bad Night
- Johnny is a young man with charm and great skill at slots and card games. Looking to make a name for himself in Sin City, he crashes a private poker game hosted by Senator Roark and cleans him out. However, considering who he just beat, Johnny's luck might not last the night.2: Nancy's Last Dance
- Four years after "That Yellow Bastard", Nancy still can't come to terms with Hartigan's suicide. She plunges into a self destructive spiral until she decides on what she must do. She has to kill the man responsible for Hartigan's death: the infamous Senator Roark himself.
Not to be confused with SimCity
, which is potentially
a whole lot nicer. Or GTA Vice City
, which is definitely not
all that nicer. Or Las Vegas
, for that matter.
Sin City contains examples of:
Since the film is such a direct adaptation of the comicbooks, listing the tropes separately probably won't be necessary.
open/close all folders
- Acceptable Targets: In-universe. Marv notes that he loves hitmen, because he can torture and kill them all he wants without ever feeling bad about it.
- Adaptational Attractiveness:
- Adaptational Modesty:
- Nancy does not dance topless in the film due to a no-nudity clause from Jessica Alba.
- Dwight appears naked at the start of the original comic The Big Fat Kill, while he's practically fully clothed in the film.
- The Yellow Bastard is naked when torturing Nancy near the end of his story. He was given shorts in the film.
- Gail is naked when Manute kidnaps her in The Big Fat Kill, but is wearing clothing in the film.
- Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
- The movie moves Dwight's "Most people think Marv is crazy" monologue from A Dame to Kill For to The Hard Goodbye. This works fine in a standalone movie, but in the comics the chronology of that night is very well fleshed out. Its revealed that while Marv was drinking at Kadie's after Goldie's murder two cops were questioning Shellie about Dwight's whereabouts. At that point in the story Dwight is recovering from events in his own story, so he couldn't be anywhere near Kadie's that night. Furthermore, he underwent plastic surgery which gave Dwight his appearance in the movie but that only happened months after the events of The Hard Goodbye, at which point Marv was on Death Row. It seems the films has addressed this by altering the timeline to make the entirety of Dame to Kill For take place before Hard Goodbye.
- There's also The Salesman, the assassin from "The Customer is Always Right," who later becomes The Colonel, the Big Bad of Hell and Back. Since The Colonel is dead by Boom, Headshot (and quite deservedly so) at the end of Hell and Back and the events of The Big Fat Kill take place after that story, the Salesman doing to Becky what he did to his "customer" in the other story at the very end of the film adaptation can't exactly happen in Sin City canon unless someone else is the Colonel in the film adaptation of Hell and Back.
- The first movie has a newspaper near the end of The Hard Goodbye showing a headline involving Senator Roark denouncing the death of his brother. The second movie has as a major plot point Nancy's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Senator Roark...with Marv's help—thus clearly setting that story before The Hard Goodbye.
- Adapted Out: Shellie was cut from A Dame to Kill For, probably because Frank Miller thought Brittany Murphy was perfect as the character and she wasn't very important to the new stories anyway.
- Alas, Poor Villain: In Hell and Back, Wallace feels some pity after he kills Deliah, the contract killer who tried to seduce and kill him, calling her a "strange, sad creature", before silently closing her eyes.
- The Alcoholic: Jackie Boy seems to be one and Dwight is a recovering case.
- Alien Blood: The Yellow Bastard has yellow blood, though this is more of a stylistic choice than an indication of alien-ness. Either that, or it's because of the large amount of medical procedures done on him after his castration messed with his body's ability to get rid of waste - the blood, given its color and smell, is a direct result of that.
- The Alleged Car: Nancy's car. "No one but me can keep this heap running." Also the clapped out banger without enough space for all the bodies or enough fuel to get them to the tar pits and a cop-attracting broken tail-light. Also the battered old VW Beetle from Family Values. The ironic thing is, The Heap is a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a very desirable car, and the car Dwight is given to ditch at the Pits was a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, both Cool Cars. Part of Dwight's narration mentions that it once was a Cool Car, but after years of abuse and neglect, it became a clapped out banger at the end of its life.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Shellie. She dumps the abusive boyfriend Jackie Boy and goes for the much nicer Dwight McCarthy. But as readers know, Dwight's no angel either, and he even killed a former Femme Fatale girlfriend in a previous issue—but he's still a far cry from the sexist scumbag that Jackie-Boy was.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese theme is "Violet Sauce" by Namie Amuro.
- Always Identical Twins:
- Marv talks about a pair of twin prostitutes who "even smell the same." Then again, Marv is crazy enough that he mistakes one for the other... even while knowing full well that one of them is dead.
- There's also Benny and Lenny, Rourke Junior's bodyguards, although they don't last long.
- Always Save the Girl: Subverted. At the end of The Big Fat Kill, Dwight tricks Manute and his men that Gail is all he wants in exchange for Jackie Boys head. The head was filled with explosives, and as soon as it goes off, every girl from Old Town shows up on the rooftops and fires every bullet they have into Manute and his men.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted. Marv tells Wendy that due to his looks, he wasn't even able to buy a woman before the night with Goldie that started it all.
- Anachronic Order: The comics were published in anachronic order, and the segments of the film are shown anachronically as well.
- And Show It to You: The natural conclusion of Marv's brutal interrogation technique.
- And This Is for...: Right before Nancy caps Senator Roark at the end of "Nancy's Last Dance", she says "This is for John Hartigan, fucker!"
- Antagonist Title: That Yellow Bastard refers to Hartigan's antagonist, the serial killing, child molesting Roark Jr. whom he must destroy to protect Nancy. It's the form Roark ended up as after the experimental treatment his corrupt father paid for to regrow his penis.
- Anti-Hero: Every damned protagonist. Most of them are straight on Type IVs who like to Pay Evil unto Evil.
- Anti-Villain: Liebowitz to some small extent. He's as corrupt of a cop as any other and beats up Hartigan for not not signing a false confession. Despite this, he is a devoted family man and is willing to turn on the Colonel, going so far as to kill him. In that instance, he's probably the only sympathetic villain in the entire series.
- In the the second film, Liebowitz goes out of his way to warn Johnny to leave the city after he beats Roark in a poker game.
- Anyone Can Die: Many heroes and villains are offed in both movies. Hartigan and Marv who are two of the three main heroes end up dying. Senator Roark Lampshades this in the second film by saying sooner or later everybody dies in Sin City, which is an ironic line considering his fate at the end of the film.
- Art Evolution: In the first few issues of A Hard Goodbye the characters and backgrounds are drawn with more realistic proportions and with subtler shading, looking more like a standard black and white comic. By the end of the book the art is crystallized into the high-contrast, over-exaggerated, blocky artwork that became the standard of the series.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Herr Wallenquist (AKA The Kraut), the German crime lord. "Wallenquist" is a Swedish name.
- Ass Shove: Jackie Boy falls on Miho's swastika shuriken and gets it stuck in his ass. In The Big Fat Kill, Miho apparently shoves her katana up a merc's ass (in the movie, she just stabs him through the back).
- Bigger Bad: Senator Roark and Mob Boss Wallenquist. The former is an immensely powerful and unashamedly Corrupt Politician who can get away with anything while the latter is an immensely powerful crime lord controlling most of the organized crime in the city. While both men are responsible for the greatest evils in Basin City and perpetuate the Crapsack World itself, neither would really qualify as the main villain in any of the stories. Their organizations and influence are so vast that they're usually concerned with larger matters than direct confrontation with the (Anti-)heroes.
- Bittersweet Ending: This is the best kind of ending you're gonna get in Sin City. Only on occasion will this be subverted in lieu of a more "happy" ending—such as in The Big Fat Kill (all the villains are gunned down and the mob is humiliated) or Hell and Back (Wallace and his love interest beat the villains and leave Sin City).
- Black and Gray Morality No one in Sin City is good. Some folks are better than others, but none are good. Even the best of them like Dwight, Hartigan, and Wallace are Good Is Not Nice. Granted though, this isn't as clear in the first film adaptation.
- Blithe Spirit: Nancy acts as this, not only to Marv and Hartigan, but to the series as a whole.
- Bloodier and Gorier: The film adaptation of Marv and Manute's fight actually shows Marv ripping out his eye, while the book just showed Marv beating him.
- In the comics, Lucille's severed hand is wrapped up in bandages. In the movie, we see the stitched up stump.
- Book Ends
- Though several examples exist, Hartigan's concluding speeches in the film's second and penultimate chapters are especially notable, as both close with Hartigan getting shot and losing everything so Nancy can live.
- In the movie, the Salesman from "The Customer is Always Right", which opens the film, reappears in the final scene.
- Born in the Wrong Century: Dwight suggests that Marv would have had a better life in ancient times, as a warrior on the field of battle or a gladiator in the Roman arena.
- Also, Hartigan is one of the last honest cops in Basin City. He appears to belong to a better age, and follows his own code of morals and honour, when no-one else does.
- Bottomless Magazines: In the first part of the film version of "That Yellow Bastard," Hartigan's partner, Bob, shoots him 8 times with a 6 shot revolver without being seen reloading.
- Christianity Is Catholic: The Catholic Church seems to be a big power player in the city, and crucifixes are a motif throughout the series. The Babe Wore Red also features a nun who is shown in a much more positive light than usual for Sin City.
- Chroma Key: Generally quite good in the movie, but a notable "jerkiness" occurs when Miho stabs several people through the head with her sword.
- The City Narrows: The Red Light District is run by the whores. The police do not go in at all, if a police car gets to the edge of the red light district, it will turn away or around and go somewhere else.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Marv is really fond of it, but only towards bad guys. Examples include:
- Cold Open: The opening balcony scene.
- Colonel Badass: The Colonel, the most dangerous hitman in Basin City.
- Combat Parkour: The gunfighters tend to have very standard action movie/crime noir moves except for Wallace. He tends to do a lot more hopping around and is probably the most skilled protagonist of the series.
- Comforting the Widow: Mort, a mostly honest Sin City cop, tries to do this with Ava Lord and ends up tangled in her web.
- Continuity Drift: There are a couple of plot aspects in "The Hard Goodbye", that while not being straight up continuity errors, don't quite gell with the other stories. Goldie hooked up with Marv because she was looking for protection, and went to bars trying to find the biggest and meanest looking guy in them. Future stories show that she was the boss of the Old Town girls, a position that certainly would have allowed her the services of Miho, who might well be the most dangerous person in the series. Marv also says that with his looks, he was never able to buy a girl. In the other stories, the only requirement for hiring an Old Town girl is money, and they certainly don't come off as the type of group to turn a customer away just for being ugly.
- Continuity Overlap: The movie has this with "The Hard Goodbye" and "The Big Fat Kill", as both take place on the same night, both protagonists pass at the same bar, and several characters (such as the prostitutes) appear in both. The same applies for Part 2 of "That Yellow Bastard" and "The Customer Is Always Right".
- Cool Car: Yet more Author Appeal; many characters drive classic American cars of various ages all in mint condition, to the delight of Marv and Dwight who both think modern cars look like electric shavers. The only modern cars treated with respect are European sports models like the Awesome but Impractical Ferrari in which Shlubb proposes to smuggle Hartigan's body.
- The 'Heap' owned by Nancy, and later, The Captain in Hell and Back, is a 1957 Chevy Nomad, which is in such disrepair that only Nancy can keep it running, and the 1957 Thunderbird Dwight uses to take the bodies of Jackie Boy and his buddies to the local tar pits has been abused and neglected so much that it just barely holds together for the trip, has a broken taillight, and doesn't even have enough gas to make it.
- Cop Killer: Dwight kills his girlfriend's abusive ex-boyfriend, realizing too late that he's actually a cop. If the body is found, the fragile truce between the corrupt cops and the Band of Brothels will be broken in the cops' favor, so they need to disfigure and get rid of it.
- Corrupt Politician: Senator Roark.
- Cradling Your Kill: The Salesman does this in "The Customer is Always Right." Word of God states that the victim actually hired the assassin, and requested that he comfort her in her dying moments.
- Exploitation Film: With a heavy dose of Film Noir for good measure.
- Explosion Propulsion: Apparently Miho has the ability to Rocket Jump while taking no damage whatsoever.
- Exposition Victim: Happens off-screen when Kevin kidnaps Marv's parole officer.
- Expy: Hartigan is an expy of Dirty Harry according to Word of God
- Extreme Melee Revenge: In A Dame to Kill For, Dwight has Marv help him rescue Ava. As Marv is beating up the security guards, he notices Manute (who had given Dwight a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown earlier) among them and yells "You! You're the bum who hurt my pal!", before tackling him through a window and beating the crap out of him. After the beatdown Marv sits beside Manute panting, he hears Manute gasp for breath, and continues beating him up. It is later revealed he also gouged out one of Manute's eyes.
- Let this sink in for a second. Marv is a badass determinator who has shrugged off bullets, cars, and all manner of attacks on his person, has thrown people through walls, and has generally proven to be Made of Iron and an Implacable Man...and he beats Manute up so damn badly he tires himself out.
- That Yellow Bastard gives us the page quote for this trope. Police Detective John Hartigan saved 11-year-old Nancy Callahan from being raped and murdered by Roark, Jr., then was framed for the rape and spent eight years in prison. After Hartigan is released, Roark gets a hold of Nancy again and tortures her. Hartigan doesn't take it well.
- Eye Scream: Marv rips Manute's eye out of his socket. In most cases of this trope, this would be out of desperation. Not here. Marv just did it for the hell of it.
- Face Death with Dignity:
- Marv and Hartigan, the former of whom merely snarks at his own execution to annoy the guards, the latter of whom performs a Heroic Sacrifice.
- The unnamed female character in the short story The Customer Is Always Right fits this trope as well, but it's implied that she put the hit on herself. According to Frank Miller, she took the hit out after breaking up with someone in the mafia, who swore vengeance.
- Face on a Milk Carton: The Colonel's fate at the end of Hell and Back.
- Fair Cop: In Family Values, Dwight is hit on by a rather comely female officer. Since Dwight is at the moment on a mission for Old Town with the nearby and concealed Miho, who will kill the cop if anything goes wrong, he makes it seem like he's gay to blow her off.
- Facial Markings: The hitman cop who visits the Roark farm in "The Hard Goodbye" has some pretty cool looking tattoos.
- Fallen Hero: Jack Rafferty was once a hero cop nicknamed "Iron Jack". Word of God states that he used to be a good man but the corrupt system eventually ate away at him.
- Family-Friendly Stripper: Nancy in the movie.
- Taken to the extreme in the sequel, where Nancy does normal stripper stuff like jumping the stage, spanking herself and getting on all fours yet the scene is played out as self-destructive behavior and Marv even leaves the bar disgusted by the raunchiness, even though it's pretty standard stripper stuff and she's not even topless.
- The Family That Slays Together: The Roarks. Also, the unnamed family in Daddy's Little Girl (assuming they actually are related).
- Family-Unfriendly Death: That Yellow Bastard. Hartigan tears his balls off with his bare hands before beating him to death.
- Also Kevin, who is dismembered, graphically eaten by his pet wolf, and finally decapitated.
- Pretty much any way Marv kills a person. One particular instance has him squeezing a man's head so hard it pops like a grape.
- Fan Disservice: That Yellow Bastard is also shown in full glory.
- A good number of attractive actresses get naked (or wear very little) in the name of art. Carla Gugino brandishes a gun topless and wears a thong, Rosario Dawson is in her underwear, Brittany Murphy is in nothing but panties and a button down shirt, and Jessica Alba is a stripper as well. In the comics, all of these characters are depicted naked at one point or another, even if their actresses weren't nude in the movie. We can also add Miho to the mix. Pretty much half of Ava's total screentime in the second film is without clothes. And Sally in the second film is always either topless or in lingerie. No other options.
- Not to be outdone, the ladies are treated to Dwight getting naked in almost every one of his stories. Hartigan and Wallace also both get Male Frontal Nudity scenes.
- Famous Last Words: That the best you can do, ya pansies?
- Fat and Skinny: Mr. Shlubb and Mr. Klump.
- Femme Fatalons: Ava, Blue Eyes, Mariah, the Old Town Girls, Daddy's Little Girl, etc.
- Finger in the Mail: Hartigan gets a severed finger in the mail instead of his usual letter from Nancy. Junior couldn't find her, so he tricks Hartigan into tracking her down.
- Finger-Lickin' Evil
- Forced to Watch: Poor Lucille...
- Fragile Speedster: As Marv proves, Kevin isn't so tough when he can't hop around.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The date of Marv's trial and therefore the series' timeframe, which is in the '90s, can be seen on a newspaper if you freeze at the right point.
- Freudian Threat: Shellie threatens to cut the manhood off of one of Jackie Boy's friends when he hits on her. A couple of pages later, Dwight holds Jackie at knife point and says he'll cut him in ways that would "make you useless to a woman."
- Friend to Psychos: The Roark brothers to Junior and Kevin.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Dwight fights Manute in the buff in A Dame to Kill For and the Yellow Bastard engages Hartigan while naked at the end of his story.
- Gag Nose: Otto the bartender. It borders on being a Non-Standard Character Design.
- Genius Loci: The general idea is that the city is the main character of the series. It's not uncommon for characters to talk about the city as if it were alive.
- The Ghost:
- We know that the third Roark brother is an attorney general but otherwise, he's only mentioned a couple times, never shows up in any stories, and is not even named. The movie, understandably, did not mention him at all.
- Kadie, owner of the eponymous Kadie's Club Pecos. Apparently an overweight transgendered woman, she's never appeared in any issue.
- Herr Wallenquist in the first movie. Finally seen in the sequel, played by Stacy Keach in heavy facial prosthetics making him unrecognizable and ugly as hell.
- The Glomp: Just when Hartigan is hoping to sneak out before Nancy recognises him, she leaps off the stage and throws herself into his arms, letting Yellow Bastard know exactly who she is.
- Going by the Matchbook: Hartigan, when looking for Nancy
- Gonk: Marv, in-universe. Before Goldie, he states that he'd never even been able to buy a woman.
- Good Guy Bar: Kadie's. Not so much of a Good Guy Bar as it is an Anti-Hero Bar since the main protagonists, Marv and Dwight, frequent the establishment. Not to mention that this is where a few major side characters work as well.
- Good Is Not Nice: Many of the series' more ethical characters skirt (if not outright embrace) this trope. Perhaps justified, considering that Basin City is a pretty nasty place where most people are either victims or victimizers — being neither of those, in this setting, seems to require a degree of hardassery. Again though, this isn't as clear in the first movie adaptation.
- Good Old Fisticuffs:
- Marv likes taking care of things this way.
- Averted with Dwight who simply either uses guns or his martial arts to do a lot of flying kicks since he hates skinning his knuckles.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Most characters smoke but the good guys usually have cigarettes while the bad guys chomp on cigars.
- Gorn: Kevin's collection of severed hooker heads. Hartigan ripping out Junior's testicles. And several more incidents.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Sometimes invoked... sometimes averted.
- Groin Attack:
- Hartigan to Roark Jr., who certainly deserved it. Twice.
- Marv also shoves a hatchet into a cop's crotch and at one point, crushes Weeval's balls in order to get him to comply.
- When he first meets Dwight, Manute gives him a good kick in the junk.
- Guns Akimbo: Everyone wielding a gun (i.e everyone) almost always ends up with two of them.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: It's hard to tell because the comics are largely black and white, but Nancy Callahan is canonically blonde. A young woman working herself through law school by working as a topless exotic dancer off hours, she's probably the kindest and most innocent character in the comics (Word of God calls her "an angel" living in a Wretched Hive). She's acquainted with a lot of the major characters, who protect her from abusive or downright evil men out to hurt her.
- Hand Cannon:
- Hartigan uses a Smith & Wesson Model 29 in the beginning of the film. Later on he uses a Ruger Blackhawk, also a .44 Magnum.
- Some of the Old Town prostitutes also use Blackhawks, noticeably Dallas.
- The (likely fake)revolvers Nancy Callahan uses in her cowgirl outfit are stainless Blackhawks. In the sequel, Nancy uses a real gun (specifically Hartigan's old revolver) during her stage acts and isn't afraid to fire very real warning shots at any patron who grabs her.
- Has a Type: The Yellow Bastard has a type: little girls. He says that Nancy isn't his type now that She's All Grown Up... but he's willing to make an exception. Partly to hurt Hartigan, partly because she's The One That Got Away.
- Her Boyfriend's Jacket: Shelly wears Dwight's shirt when Jackie Boy arrives at her apartment. He is not amused.
- Heroic Suicide: At the end of That Yellow Bastard, Hartigan kills himself so that no one will hurt Nancy to get at him.
- Hero of Another Story: Thanks to the fact that many stories feature Kadie's Bar many characters appear in each other's stories. Marv holds the record for most appearances for a protagonist, appearing in six stories while only being the protagonist of three. Dwight and John Hartigan both have a quick cameo outside of their own stories as well. Wallace is the only protagonist to only be seen in his own story.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Marv is telling Nancy they need some tools to take on Roark's men, when three armed-to-the-teeth outlaw bikers turn up intent on tearing up the joint. Our anti-heroes quickly relieves them of their delusions, weaponry, and motorbikes. And their lives.
- Holier Than Thou: The Cardinal
- Humiliation Conga: Jack Rafferty's last night on Earth was a bit of a rough one, even by his own admission.
- I Call It "Vera": Marv's pistol Gladys, named after the toughest nun he ever met. He thinks it has almost lived up to its name.
- If I Do Not Return: Before his final confrontation with Kevin, Marv tells Wendy to leave if he doesn't come back in twenty minutes.
- Ignore the Fanservice: When Ava Lord of A Dame to Kill For allies with Wallenquist, he tells her, "I'll warn you once and only once, Mrs. Lord do not flirt with me. I have no use for your charms."
- I'm a Humanitarian: Kevin and Cardinal Roark, who occasionally joined in.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in many cases. Every hero has been pinned down or even clipped by Mooks. Shlubb and Klump, who are typically Plucky Comic Relief badguys, even prove to be expert marksmen. There have also been a few unnamed snipers who proved to have decent aim.
- Implacable Man: All the heroes get this treatment but Marv is probably the main offender.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Miho, Wallace, and Dwight all get these moments.
- Even Hartigan, as old as he is, is able to shoot a man's ear off with a crack shot.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It
- Innocent Innuendo: In "Hell and Back", Wallace is in a car chase with Blue Eyes in the passenger seat. When the bad guys are about to open fire on them he tells her to get her head down, so she, well...
- Informed Ability: Wallace is said to be a great artist, but we never see any of his work. This is of course to avoid the usual problems with this trope. If the audience never sees it, there's no need to worry about it living up to the readers' expectations.
- Informed Attractiveness: Nancy is often seen as the most beautiful woman in Sin City. While she is drawn quite lovely, she doesn't seem to be all that different from say, Shellie, who looks very similar.
- In Love with Your Carnage: Delia and Mariah express admiration for Wallace's combat abilities in To Hell and Back.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Miho, the silent ninja assassin.
- Interquel: All four stories in A Dame to Kill For take place between "That Yellow Bastard" and "The Hard Goodbye" since Marv is alive and well in each story. In the comics "Blue Eyes," "Wrong Turn," "Wrong Track," "Just Another Saturday Night," "Family Values" and "Hell and Back" were written as interquels, being published after the earliest and latest stories in the series timeline ("That Yellow Bastard" and "The Big Fat Kill").
- Is That the Best You Can Do?: Marv asks Kevin this during their second fight. Kevin responds by planting his foot on Marv's face. They also end up being Marv's last words, after the first shock from an electric chair fails to kill him.
- Internal Retcon: A recurring theme in the series is characters having to cover up what actually happened because of the disastrous consequences if the truth were known.
- Interrupted Suicide: Wallace stopped Esther's suicide attempt.
- Invincible Hero: Ex-Navy SEAL Wallace. While the other protagonists accomplish their goals by either taking a lot of punishment (Marv and Hartigan) or by having tons of back up (Dwight), Wallace almost single handily takes out every one in his way easily, with nary a scratch to show for it. He's also not held back by any particular moral standard like Marv's dislike of hitting girls. The only time he's seriously inconvenienced are when the bad guys manage to sneak up on him and tranq him.
- Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Hartigan hurts his hand punching out his partner Bob, and Dwight later tries to avoid skinning his knuckles in a fight.
- I Own This Town: The Roark Family
- Ironic Echo: "Hell of a way to end a partnership."
- "Deadly little Miho. You won't feel a thing. Not unless she wants you to."
- "I take away his weapons... both of them."
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Marv is really fond of this. Amusingly, when the Old Town prostitutes try it on Marv, he takes several blows from a .38 revolver used to Pistol Whip him and explains himself. Then he calmly rips out of their ropes like they were tissue paper, and could have done so the whole time.
- Jerk Jock: The story Just Another Saturday Night has a group of jerk jocks from a fraternity. This being Sin City, they don't stop at just being jerks, though. They like to light homeless people on fire.
- Just One Man: Despite all the political power and muscle with guns controlled by the Roark brothers and Ava Lord, each of them are taken down by one determined protagonist on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Karma Houdini:
- Subverted in the movie with Becky, who seemingly escapes with nothing but is killed by The Salesman in the movie's final scene. In the book her segment's based on, she dies along with everyone else.
- Downplayed with Senator Roark. He may not get his comeuppance, but with Junior dead and Hartigan's suicide denying him revenge, he's still screwed. By the movie A Dame To Kill For, Roark's Karma Houdini meter runs out as his reputation is first ruined by his (literal) bastard son, then he's killed by Nancy for what he did to Hartigan.
- Kick the Dog: All the bad guys love to do this but special mention goes to Lucca from Family Values who shoots a dog and ends up inciting a Roaring Rampageof Revenge, a massive No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, and a Mob War.
- The Killer Becomes the Killed: Kevin.
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Salesman approaches a women outside of a party and tells here that he has come to help her face her troubles, and that he loves her. Then he subverts it. He was never there to be her shining knight; she hired him to kill her in a delicate fashion because a mob figure threatened to brutally murder her after she broke up with him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Despite the stories often ending with the hero dead or in dire straits, the bad guys usually get what they deserve before all is said and done. Even if they survive, they usually lose whatever they held dear. Case in point, Senator Roark is still alive but he lost his son and has to live with the fact that the Roark family lineage is now cut. Considering this family has lorded over Sin City for more than a century, that's a hell of a letdown for him and his one surviving brother. And the film A Dame To Kill For takes this Up to Eleven with Nancy killing Roark, effectively ending their reign over the city.
- The short story Rats has a Nazi war criminal being shoved in an oven.
- The Last DJ: John Hartigan, the last honest cop in Sin City.
- Lightning Bruiser: Marv is big and tough but he proves to be very fast and agile, as evident in his fights with the cops.
- Lolicon: Junior is a particularly disturbing example of one of these, in that he likes to slash his victims to ribbons once he's done raping them, and he Loves To Hear Them Scream. It's quite telling that when he gets his hands on Nancy again, he says that she's "too old for him", despite her being nineteen years old at this point.
- Little Useless Gun: Ava shoots Dwight with a .32. Marv tells him he'd be in trouble if she'd used "a real gun" on him. The .25 Dwight carries in the climax of A Dame To Kill For also counts, as the six shots it carries barely fazes Manute.
- Local Hangout: Every main character hangs out at Kadie's these days. Even Roark, the Big Bad goes there for his weekly poker game!
- Lotus Position: Wallace meditates in this position to clear his mind.
- Loves To Hear Them Scream: Junior.
- Mad Bomber: The psychopathic Irish henchman in The Big Fat Kill.
- Madness Mantra: "He made me WAAAAAAATCH!"
- Made of Iron: Marv and Kevin.
- Magic Realism: It's in the crime genre but that doesn't stop it from dabbling slightly with mysticism (Miho, Kevin, the empathic elements of the Farm) or even light sci-fi (Yellow Bastard, the Colonel's operations). There was also the torture technician in Big Fat Kill who could cause pain with a simple touch. This was changed to Manute in the movie.
- According to Frank Miller, Miho and Kevin are two sides of the same coin: he refers to them as the "demons" of Sin City, Miho being the "good demon," Kevin being "the bad." This is in reference to their silent, super-violent, sadistic natures, and the fact that both are incredibly difficult to harm.
- Major Injury Underreaction: There are quite a few bits in both movies where people with grievous injuries don't exactly react in a way you'd expect people to react. Stuka's reaction to being shot by an arrow through the chest in The Big Fat Kill is downright nonchalant.
- Male Gaze: The Big Fat Kill has a deliberate closeup shot of Becky's butt—in skintight leather pants, natch—that takes up an entire panel, when Jackie Boy is scoping her in his car.
- The Man Behind the Curtain: Cardinal Roark.
- May-December Romance: Nancy and Hartigan. He doesn't go so far as to actually sleep with her, since he understandably thinks he's way too old (around 65 at the end of the story) to enter a relationship with a 19-year old, but they do share several very passionate kisses and he describes her as "the love of my life" in his internal monologue. This is really a subversion, as Hartigan explicitly rejects the relationship due to the age difference.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Hartigan's ghost appears multiple times during Nancy's story in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which suggests that Nancy has gone insane over the four years since his death. His mirrored reflection at the end of the movie which gives Senator Rourke a Jump Scare suggests otherwise.
- Mega Crossover: Several stories overlap and there has been at least one instance of protagonists teaming up: A Dame To Kill For.
- Metallicar Syndrome: Characters are often supposed to be hiding out from the cops or mafia, but when they choose rides, they usually get the Cool Car. This trope is actually justified in that most cars in the city are vintage muscle cars.
- Mob War: One starts in Family Values.
- The Mole: Becky.
- Monster Misogyny: Most of Sin City's male villains are some form of misogynistic scumbag, to the point that in A Dame to Kill For, Ava plays on Dwight's violent protectiveness of women in general by casting her perfectly innocent husband as one of these in her Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
- More Deadly Than The Male: This always happens when Dwight teams up with deadly little Miho. Dwight is a brooding noir hero who can hold his own in a fight. Miho is an extremely agile and deadly Old Town assassin, probably the most dangerous character in the books. Dwight tends to stand back while she slaughters whole groups of enemies in front of him.
- More Dakka: This is what the Big Fat Kill refers to. Dwight and the Old Town girls unload on Manute and his men until they're just "wet chunks of meat."
- Mr. Fanservice: While the series is known for its alluring female characters, almost every male protagonist has a nude scene and there are plenty of Shirtless Scenes as well. Not to be outdone, while the movie avoids Male Frontal Nudity due to Double Standards in the movie industry, the male leads are played by the likes of Bruce Willis and Clive Owen.
- The Murder After: Marv and Goldie.
- Murder, Inc.: The Colonel's organization specializes in contract killing next to human trafficking.
- Murder-Suicide: Hartigan commits suicide after killing Roark, Jr., realizing that he's the only link left leading to Nancy (the latest victim). By killing himself, he ensures that she is left alone.
- My Car Hates Me: Subverted with Nancy's car, which waits until Yellow Bastard's taking her away to break down. This is because she's the only one who knows how to get it working right. Played straight with the car Gail provides to Dwight to dispose of Jackie Boy and his crew. The trunk is too small to hold all the bodies and it runs out of gas before he reaches the tar pits.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Happens to Mort after his obsession with Ava Lord causes him to shoot his partner Bob in A Dame to Kill For. The realisation leads to him eating his gun.
- Named by the Adaptation: In "Nancy's Last Dance" it's revealed that Roark Jr's first name was Ethan, which is also presumably the name of his father, Senator Roark. Wallenquist's first name is also mentioned to be Alarich by Ava.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: Not usually, but in "The Big Fat Kill" Dwight says that Gail "Lets out with a string of curses that'd kill the Pope".
- Nazi Hunter: The Janitor, in "Rats", hunts down a Nazi war criminal. This may or may not have taken place in Sin City.
- Nazi Protagonist: The POV character in the two-page short story "Rats" is an escaped Nazi war criminal who served in an extermination camp. "Rats" is what he called the Jews he murdered there. At the end he is killed by a Nazi Hunter.
- Outside Ride:
- Marv hopped onto the back of a getaway car in Just Another Saturday Night and found himself on the hood of a cop car a few seconds later.
- In Family Values Miho rollerbladed after a car, hitched onto the bumper, then climbed into the trunk without the mobsters knowing it.
- Dwight attempted this in A Dame To Kill For, but failed.
- In the first Sin City tale, Marv subverted this by actually hurling himself through the windshield of a cop car as opposed to just hanging on.
- Parental Incest: Such is the case in the short story Daddy's Little Girl. Although its unclear if they really are related, or it's just a fetish.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: A hallmark of the series in general.
- Percussive Prevention: Lucille to Marv and Marv to Wendy.
- Pistol-Whipping: Wendy does this to Marv during his interrogation, and gets lectured on proper techniques by Marv.
- Play-Along Prisoner: Marv, bound by Gail, plays along with an interrogation until his captors understand he wasn't the one who killed the missing girls. Then he just gets up and shrugs off the ropes.
- Plucky Comic Relief:
- Shlubb and Klump are usually the only bright spot in a story if they show up.
- Of all characters, Marv has been used as this when he shows up in brief cameos at Katie's Bar, as opposed to taking a larger role.
- Pocket Protector: Jackie-Boy's badge stops a sniper bullet meant for Dwight's heart.
- Police Brutality: Hartigan being interrogated by Liebowitz.
- The cops have similar techniques against Marv.
- Averted when cops try to beat up Wallace for little reason. The keyword is try.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Arguably one of the best examples in a comic book movie. The stories are mostly frame-by-frame adaptations, right down to the cinematography. However, a lot of narration is chopped out, either in small trimmings (removing a fair bit of Frank Miller's infamous use of repetition) or in entire pages worth of backstory, commentary, etc that would have bogged the movie down. It's done so smoothly that it's not noticeable unless you read along to the movie.
- A pragmatic example: In the book, Marv escapes from a cell by bull-rushing the door, slamming into it with his shoulder, over and over and over again, until he finally jars the bolt loose from the wall. This is implied to take at least an hour. Since this would have slowed down the movie intolerably, he instead simply wrenches the window bars out of the frame.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
Cop: Sir, there's no sign of the target.
- Precision F-Strike: Despite all of its many taboos, the comic is pretty tame in terms of language. The one and only F-Bomb comes from Lebowitcz when he shoots the Colonel and says, "Make a missing person's case out of this fucker."
- The last line of the second film, right before Nancy kills Senator Roark.
"This is for John Hartigan, fucker."
- Prison Episode: Both movie and comic versions include a very existential-looking prison for John Hartigan.
- Professional Killer: Both hitmen and assassins show up. Hitmen are sent after Marv early on in The Hard Goodbye; Shlubb and Klump are specifically described as "low-rent killers" but are often just errand boys for the baddies. Miho and Kevin are used as assassins but they're in it for more than money. The Colonel (The Salesman in the movie) has an entire guild of assassins.
- Psycho for Hire: A good number of people, including one good guy.
- Punctuated Pounding: EIGHT! LONG! YEARS! YOU! SON! OF! A! BITCH!
- Pyrrhic Victory: Marv avenges Goldie, but is captured by the police, blamed for the murders committed by Kevin as well as by him and finally executed in the electric chair.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The IRA mercs and the small group of thugs led by Manute.
- Ramming Always Works: Marv rams the frat boys' car multiple times in Just Another Saturday Night to get them off the road and doesn't mind running straight into armed foes more than once.
- Averted when Dallas rams the IRA members' car in Big Fat Kill. Dwight remarks that she is too excited and careless. This leads to Dallas getting shot to death, Miho getting caught by a grenade, and Dwight almost getting killed.
- Rasputinian Death: Kevin and Marv.
- In The Yellow Bastard, we see type 2 and 3. While Junior was probably going to die after the initial stabbing, he goes on to have his balls ripped off and his head caved in for good measure. Hartigan had his reasons.
- Ready for Lovemaking: Ava Lord turns up naked in Dwight's bed. Despite all common sense telling Dwight otherwise, she successfully seduces him again.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Dwight describes Marv's eyes as going "killer red" when he recruits him in A Dame to Kill For. The film version has them literally turning red in the same scene.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mariah and Blue Eyes, the assassins in the Colonel's Guild, although we never see them together.
- Red Light District: Old Town.
- Red Right Hand: Manute has a fake eye. The Yellow Bastard has, well... yellow skin.
- Retirony: Hartigan. On the last hour of his last day, no less.
- Retronym: The very first Sin City story was titled just that... Sin City. The series caught on, resulting in future stories containing secondary titles (i.e. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For). Even when the original story was first collected in a trade paperback format, it retained its original title. Word Of God gave it the nickname The Hard Goodbye and that's what Fanon called it when discussing this particular story. When the movie came out, the collected editions added this title. Likewise, this particular sequence in the movie shares the same title. It resulted in a slightly awkward line, however. Every story name drops its own title but this one never contained the line "the hard goodbye" since that wasn't its original name. The line was added to the dialogue in the movie.
- Road Block: A minor occurrence in the first story (also depicted in the movie). The cops are chasing Marv on foot through the hotel. He drops out of the window and tries to go down the alley, only to see a cop car heading him off, blocking his way. He ends up jumping through the windshield to beat up the drivers and subsequently, take the car.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Hard Goodbye and the end of That Yellow Bastard. Not to mention all of Hell And Back. Frank Miller loves this trope.
- While it's not obvious at first, the story Family Values also ends up invoking this.
- Robbing the Dead: Dwight sifts through Jackie Boy's wallet after the latter was killed by Miho. He finds a wad of cash (which he puts in his own pocket)... And Jack's police badge.
- Marv also takes some money off of the hitmen who ambush him in Kadie's bar.
- Say Your Prayers: In Family Values, one of the mobsters about to be massacred starts doing this.
- Scary Black Man: Manute.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Kevin.
- The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: How Marv and Goldie meet. Subverted in that she dies instead of him, due to some very bad people being after her.
- Scope Snipe: Wallace does this in Hell and Back.
- Self Restraint: Before he goes back to Ava, Dwight struggles with this.
- Wallace fits this as well since he's probably the most calm protagonist in the series.
- Hartigan has to employ this to keep himself from sleeping with Nancy.
- Serial Killer:
- Kevin from The Hard Goodbye, who also practices cannibalism.
- Roark Jr. from That Yellow Bastard. Who also doubles as a Serial Rapist of pre-teen girls.
- In the short story Behind Door Number Three there's such a killer who likes to go after prostitutes. The girls from Old Town give him a very karmic punishment when they introduce him to their private assassin Miho.
- Series Continuity Error: The Big Fat Kill takes place after Hell and Back, but Dwight is seen driving the 1953 Cadillac Eldorado he took from Vito at the end of Family Values, a story that takes place well after both The Big Fat Kill and Hell and Back.
- The sequel, A Dame to Kill For creates a rather glaring one: Nancy, who is having a Sanity Slippage, badly scars her face when she decided to quit her job as a stripper. Not a big problem, except in the the Sin City segment from the first movie, which chronologically takes place after the new one, she is unscarred and still a stripper.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Shlubb and Klump to the point of having Delusions of Eloquence.
- She Is All Grown Up
Hartigan: Skinny little Nancy Callahan. She grew up. She filled out.
- She Knows Too Much: Happens to several of the women of the Sin City verse, particularly Goldie and Lucille.
- Shot in the Ass: An unfortunate bartender in the backstory to "Family Values."
- Shout-Out: As mentioned in the Captain Ersatz section, there are many shout outs:
- Marv names his gun, much like Mike Hammer does in some versions.
- Nancy's last name is Callahan, which is the same last name of a certain iconic movie cop. She also refers to her car as "this heap" which is something Mike Hammer would often do.
- The Hard Goodbye is the name later given to the first Sin City story. Raymond Chandler wrote a Philip Marlowe novel called The Long Goodbye.
- In Hell and Back there is a brief narration by Leibowitz's son that is in the style of romance comics from the 50's.
- Also in Hell and Back, the main character is drugged and we see the only full color sequence in the series. The hero has hallucinations of the following: Captain America, Rambo, Dirty Harry, Hellboy, The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Lone Wolf and Cub, RoboCop, Sgt. Rock, Raggedy-Ann and Andy, and more.
- Marv's profile is almost identical to Dick Tracy's famous profile.
- Signs of Disrepair: In at least one instance, a now entering sign is shown outside the city "Basin City" with the B and A degraded.
- Silent Scapegoat: Marv
- Simultaneous Arcs: A Dame To Kill For takes place during both The Hard Goodbye and Blue Eyes. That Yellow Bastard takes place at least partially during the course of Just Another Saturday Night.
- Sinister Minister: Cardinal Roark as well as the priest Marv interrogates and kills.
- Skinny Dipping: Ava Lord does this in ''A Dame to Kill For", putting on a show for Dwight.
- Slipped the Ropes: Marv combines this with Breaking the Bonds.
- Smash to Black: How Senator Rourke is finished off in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. We don't see Nancy pulling the trigger, but we hear the gunshot just as the screen goes to black.
- Snow Means Death: Hartigan.
- Sociopathic Hero: Several of the main characters skirt this trope, but ultimately subvert it.
- Splash of Color: That Yellow Bastard (and his blood) are constantly colored yellow after the prologue. Other stories, like "Blue Eyes" and "The Babe Wore Red" featured similar use of color. The movie added splashes of color to stories that didn't have them in print, more due to technical issues than artistic choice.
- Stairwell Chase: Marv's escape from the apartment building.
- Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted. In Family Values, the Roaring Rampage of Revenge is to avenge a woman killed by stray bullets from a hitman taking potshots at a stray dog.
- Suicide Mission: This is a recurring idea in the comics, where almost every mission is said to be one in which the hero could easily be killed. Considering the Anyone Can Die structure of the narrative, it isn't far-fetched to believe that they really will meet their end.
- Super Window Jump: When Marv goes to fight Kevin again, he throws a can of gasoline with a burning rag in it into the Roark farmhouse. Kevin jumps through the window a split second before the gas ignites.
- Swirlie: Marv is seen interrogating one man by shoving his head in a toilet. Another time Dwight sneaks up on Jackie while he's taking a leak and shoves his head into the toilet, holding him there long enough until he's forced to take a few gulps.
- Switching P.O.V.: Every story has a different protagonist but aside from that, there's a brief sequence in Hell And Back where Liebowitz's son is the narrator.
- Sword Cane: Giacco Magliozzi draws one out to punish a minion, but Dwight stops him from doing so.
- Teeth Flying: Dwight knocks out Shlubb's protuding lower tooth in "The Babe Wore Red". He has it back in the next chronological story he appears in.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: The ex-IRA mercenaries sent to kill Dwight.
- Testosterone Poisoning: And how!
- That One Case: Roark Junior.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
- Manute and his men are machine gunned to death with an endless hail of bullets. The story's called The Big Fat Kill for a reason.
- The death of Junior involves being stabbed in the chest, manually castrated (again) and stomped to mush by the hero.
- This Bed of Rose's: When Dwight McCarthy is on the run from the cops, the girls from Old Town heal him and let him stay.
- The Magic Poker Equation: Happens twice in two poker games between Johnny and Senator Roark. They seem to pull their very impressive hands right out of nowhere.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels: In "That Yellow Bastard", Nancy reveals to Hartigan that she fell in love with him because he rescued her, and makes a pass at him. He rejects her, because he first met her when she was still a child.
Hartigan: God! There's wrong, and there's wrong, and then there's this!
- Those Two Bad Guys: Shlubb and Klump.
- Thriller on the Express: "Wrong Track".
- Title Drop: Sin City is mentioned in every story for obvious reasons but even then, the secondary titles are always dropped as well (i.e. "The Big Fat Kill" "That Yellow Bastard", "Blue Eyes", etc.)
- Too Dumb to Live: Jackie Boy and the mob enforcer from Family Values both made the mistake of using racial slurs towards Miho.
- A neo-Nazi once insulted the bar tender at Kadie's. Marv asked her if he should step in but she told him to remain calm. Dwight mentioned that Marv was in an "all too generous mood". The Nazi then began to insult the bar tender some more. Marv voiced his displeasure but maintained his cool. The thug then decided it was a good idea to shove a pistol in Marv's face. It didn't end well for him.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Wendy and Goldie.
- Torture Cellar: Kevin's basement.
- Torture Technician: Kevin, also Roark Jr., but with less horror.
- There is also Davis, the torture expert in The Big Fat Kill, who can inflict pain just by touching people. This character was changed to Manute in the movie.
- Tragic Hero: Several of the protagonists.
- While Marv kills Kevin and Cardinal Roark, the men responsible for Goldie's murder, he is convicted of the murders Kevin committed and is executed.
- Hartigan, one of the few honest cops in the city, is arrested after saving a little girl from Roark Jr., a vicious child rapist and murderer who is the son of a powerful politicion. In the end he commits suicide to protect her.
- Trenchcoat Brigade: Pretty much every one of the protagonists.
- Unproblematic Prostitution: Partly justified in that the Old Town prostitutes are self-employed, unionised and heavily armed. Averted with one particular character, who doesn't want her mother to know what she does for a living and is desperate for a way to get out of the game.
- Unwanted Spouse: Ava Lord in A Dame To Kill For starts off hating her mafia-tied husband and begs Dwight to do something about it. He does but it turns out to be a setup for Ava to inherit her husband's estate.
- Urban Legends: The Colonel has many operations going, two of which, involve snuff films and Organ Theft.
- The Vamp: Ava Lord. Very much Ava Lord.
- Also, Blue Eyes, Mariah, and "Daddy's Little Girl" to a lesser degrees.
- Vapor Trail: Marv does this to a wrecked car in Just Another Saturday Night.
- Vengeance Feels Empty: Highly averted when characters enact revenge, they often remark how good it feels.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: The assistant district attorney finally gets Marv to confess to the murders actually committed by Kevin and Cardinal Roark (and their murders, which he was guilty of) by turning off the recorder and showing him a picture of his mother in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Marv breaks his arm in three places, but signs.
- Villain Protagonist: The following stories. The others usually feature dark anti-heroes.
- The "Blue Eyes" stories, in which the protagonist is a Professional Killer pursuing her marks.
- "The Salesman Is Always Right", in which the Salesman is revealed at the end to have come to murder the woman he strikes up a conversation with.
- "Rats" centers on an escaped Nazi war criminal who is living incognito in the United States, and reminisces about all the people he murdered during the war.
- Villain Ball Magnet: Marv just wants to be left alone but he will always end up in trouble with someone. Usually this is just a drunk bar patron looking for a fight. And sometimes it's the Roark family.
- Villain by Default: Many of the villains.
- The Voiceless: Kevin and Miho.
- Wasn't That Fun?: This happens mid-chase in A Dame to Kill For. Dwight McCarthy has just been betrayed, is bleeding to death, is being chased by cops, and has Marv behind the wheel of the getaway car. The entire situation is harrowing for him to say the least but Marv quips how fun the situation is.
- What a Drag: "I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball."
- What Did I Do Last Night?: Marv blacks out a lot due to unnamed mental problems. This is most notable in Just Another Saturday Night where he has to sit down and remember the events of the night in order to figure out why he's surrounded by dead bodies.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Lucille gives Marv one of these when he reveals that he beat up a group of cops.
- Wife-Basher Basher: Marv.
- Woman Bites Woman: Gail to Becky in "The Big Fat Kill," nearly ripping her throat out, after learning that she sold Gail and the other girls out to the mob to protect her own neck.
Gail: Your neck, your neck, your precious little neck...
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: One of Marv's only rules. The only time he breaks it is to spare Wendy from watching him torture Kevin to death.
- Worth It: Marv's quest to avenge Goldie results in his death, along with some pretty brutal baseball bat torture, being riddled with bullets and the death of Lucille. Considering the person he was avenging only slept with him for protection and felt nothing for him some might wonder if it was all worth it. But Marv? When he gets confused and sees Wendy as Goldie he proudly says "I got him for you good, didn't I?" For him it was completely worth it and he'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Ava uses Dwight's violent protectiveness toward women in general to manipulate him into murdering an innocent man.
- Ironically, Dwight does the same thing to Marv when he recruits him to help rescue Ava. Marv, who Wouldn't Hit a Girl, is absolutely enraged when Dwight tells him how Ava is being tortured at the hands of her husband. Dwight knows he's manipulating Marv, but doubts Marv would really care anyways.
- Hartigan does it too. He apparently collapses when confronting the Yellow Bastard the second time, to lure him in close. This also causes Junior to let go of Nancy, who Hartigan was presumably worried about hitting.
- Nancy does it the second film. She cuts her own face and then tells Marv the Roarks did it, knowing that Marv will be so enraged he'll help her attack them. Knowing Marv, he probably would have helped if she just asked.
- Wretched Hive: Duh.
- X Marks the Hero: Hartigan is a shining example of this.
- You Can Barely Stand: Subverted by Hartigan the first time: "You can't even lift that cannon" — "Sure I can."
- Not that Junior learned his lesson the second time around, either.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ava Lord guns down Manute, even through he's completely loyal and literally worships her, offering to let Dwight take his place.
- Your Soul Is Mine: Kevin was a Serial Killer who ate his victims, all female prostitutes. Cardinal Roark, who supported him and joined in, claimed that he ate not only their bodies, but their souls as well, which would "fill him with light" and feel close to God. The story makes it clear that they're just delusional though.
Reader, that's a damn fine coat you're wearing...