The release of Jessica Jones Season 3 is pretty monumental because this is the end of the line for the long-running Netflix/Marvel relationship. When you add it all up, it’s the 13th season of The Defenders corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and between that and the actual movie part of the MCU trying to get ready for the likes of the Eternals and Shang-Chi, well, we’re a long way from the A-list Marvel characters. For her final season, Jessica Jones’ big villain is Jeremy Bobb (Russian Doll) playing Gregory Salinger, who appears to be a garden-variety serial killer, but who Marvel fans will recognize as Foolkiller.
Foolkiller was never in any Marvel cartoon. I’m fairly certain he has never made a video game appearance. Hell, the only action figures you can get of him (Marvel Legends and Funko Pop) are literally Deadpool figures painted blue. But he did have a couple comics to his name and that’s good enough.
There have also been five different Foolkillers by this point. They have always been treated as more deranged Punisher knockoffs, allowing the writers to tell Frank Castle-type stories while leaning into how crazy and morally-gray the characters can be. The version on Jessica Jones Season 3 is based very loosely on the second one from the comics, Gregory Salinger (although note that the show spells him as Gregory Sallinger with two l’s).
The original Foolkiller first appeared in Man-Thing #3 back in 1974, created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik. He actually showed up a mere month after the Punisher first popped up in Spider-Man’s book. While it has taken decades for Marvel writers to lean into how nuts the Punisher is, the Ross Everbest version of Foolkiller was depicted as completely deranged from the very beginning.
His gimmick was that he’d dress like Zorro, would hand out cards to his future victims to let them know that they were going to die in 24 hours, and then he’d “purify” them out of existence with a laser pistol. Everbest would hunt after “fools,” which could be anything from criminals, sinners, people against the Vietnam War, or anyone who questioned his actions. To go further on how messed in the head he was, his hideout kept the corpse of the priest that inspired him as a child floating in a tube. The priest died because Everbest saw that he had slept with women and strangled him for betraying what he was supposed to be.
Even though Foolkiller got the best of Man-Thing in his first appearance, Man-Thing regenerated and returned in the issue that followed and accidentally helped cause Everbest’s death.
Then came Gregory Salinger, created in 1976 by the great Steve Gerber and Jim Mooney. A convict sharing a cell with a Man-Thing supporting character Richard Rory, Salinger heard the story of Foolkiller and for whatever reason decided that that was the coolest idea ever. After getting out of prison, he stole Everbest’s gear, sought out Rory, and told him, “Check it out! I’m going to become a kickass vigilante like the crazy, religious guy who fought the living swamp gunk creature!”
He debuted in the latter issues of Omega the Unknown, which ended rather abruptly. Salinger’s Foolkiller didn’t really get to do much outside of killing the villain Blockbuster. Rather than fade completely into obscurity, he made sporadic appearances in other books. First he showed up in a couple issues of Defenders, where he got his ass handed to him by Valkyrie.
Then he appeared in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, where it turned out Salinger and Peter Parker went to college together. Parker figured out Salinger was Foolkiller in like ten seconds of conversation due to his spider-sense and the fact that the word “fool” was being dropped in the dialogue more than an episode of The A-Team. Foolkiller evaded Spider-Man until a random homeless woman told him that someone would have to be a fool to try and kill Spider-Man. Foolkiller took this to heart by attempting suicide on the spot, only to be apprehended via webbing.
Salinger was thrown into an institution and remained there for many years. Captain America visited him at one point, since the Scourge of the Underworld was killing supervillains left and right and Salinger made for a potential suspect. Instead, Cap found an incoherent inmate who was in no way capable of being the Scourge.
In 1990, a ten-issue series by Steve Gerber and JJ Birch brought back the Foolkiller concept. Salinger was still locked up, but had written up a manifesto or two that ended up in the hands of Kurt Gerhardt. Gerhardt already had issues, but then he got his hands on the Foolkiller laser gun and costume and went full-on Taxi Driver. He also changed the appearance to be less Zorro and more Gimp from Pulp Fiction. The series ended with him being horribly burned, but still at large.
Foolkiller remained fairly out of the picture for a while, mainly coming back in the late 00s thanks to two MAX miniseries by Gregg Hurwitz. With a man named Mike Trace as the protagonist, it played the concept a lot more down-to-earth, even if there were plenty of references to the previous Foolkiller storylines here and there.
The Salinger version of Foolkiller made a brief comeback in the pages of Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool run. At some point, the mercenary Solo decided to pretend to be Deadpool for the sake of getting better pay. During this, he rescued Washington DC and helped turn Deadpool into a beloved household name. Deadpool was a fan of this and decided to franchise himself with the Deadpool Mercs for Money.
All the heroes were Marvel characters who were kinda-sorta like Deadpool. Solo was the antihero mercenary. Stingray was the superhero that nobody took seriously. Terror was the horrific-looking detective for hire. Slapstick was the literal cartoon. Masacre was…whatever he was. Lastly, Foolkiller was the deranged vigilante.
The Mercs for Money were part of Deadpool’s status quo for a year or so, getting their own miniseries spinoff, but eventually being replaced by a team run by Domino that didn’t last for long. Foolkiller’s deal was that he was trying to right himself and was studying to become a psychiatrist. Regularly, he would use his skills to assess Deadpool’s issues.
Like other original Mercs for Money characters, Foolkiller got his own spinoff miniseries. Like the others, the Deadpool connection did little-to-no help for its sales. Max Bemis and Dalibor Talajic put together a tale about Salinger quitting his position as Foolkiller and becoming a psychiatrist. As successful as his life was, he kept falling into old habits and would kill his villainous clients if they couldn’t keep walking the straight and narrow. This got him in trouble with the Hood and led to a final issue confrontation with the Kurt Gerhardt Foolkiller.
That ended before it could begin.
Salinger ended up accepting his own insanity and had himself committed yet again. This time, he was at least able to do good by giving his fellow inmates someone to confide in.
More recently, yet another Foolkiller appeared in the pages of Daredevil: Man Without Fear #3. While he wasn’t given a name, the adventure included a team-up between Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. I mean, if a Foolkiller is supposed to be the villain of Jessica’s show, better late than never on having them actually meet in a comic.