The final season of Netflix's Jessica Jones is just weeks away, and now the season’s villain is revealed – Greg Salinger, A.K.A. the vigilante known as Foolkiller, played by actor Jeremy Bobb.
For those with a deep knowledge of Marvel’s bench, that name likely rings a bell. In fact three characters have used that codename in the mainstream Marvel Universe over the years (along with alt-universe versions), with some of them operating as anti-heroes and some crossing the line into straight up villainy.
Ross G. Everbest
Gregory Salinger – the villain of Jessica Jones season 3 – is not the original Foolkiller - at least not in comic books.. That dubious honor goes to Ross G. Everbest (created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik), an anti-Vietnam activist who became obsessed with an evangelist named “Reverend Mike” who fueled Everbest’s divine delusions. When Everbest caught Reverend Mike in the act of what he considered blasphemy, Everbest snapped and killed reverend Mike, preserving his corpse and setting out to kill several targets, including the mysterious Man-Thing.
Wielding a “purification ray” that disintegrated his victims with white-hot rays, Foolkiller attacked Man-Thing – but was killed when the tank in which he had preserved Reverend Mike shattered, impaling him.
Things don’t get less weird from here.
Gregory Salinger, also created by Gerber this time with Jim Mooney, is actually the second Foolkiller (and also the most recent, in comics books). His history is a little longer and more complex. Salinger initially learned the story of the Foolkiller in prison while roomed with one of his prospective victims. Once out, he acquired a version of Everbest’s “purification gun” and began gruesomely executing criminals with wanton violence.
Salinger was briefly convinced to join the Defenders – however he quickly turned on them when he decided they weren’t tough enough on crime, burning down their headquarters, embarking him on a career of murderous villainy intercut with institutionalization for his crimes, driven by a lightly explored mental illness.
Salinger gave up the mantle of Foolkiller to Kurt Gerhardt, another criminal who he briefly mentored, before eventually returning to the identity himself (more on that later).
Kurt Gerhardt was a despondent, under-employed struggling father who reached a point of homicidal rage just in time to identify a little too strongly with Gregory Salinger when Salinger was interviewed on a popular talk show. Like his predecessors, Gerhardt was a creation of Steve Gerber with artist J.J. Birch.
Gerhardt and Salinger wound up connecting secretly via an internet message board, with Salinger passing on the mantle and purification gun of the Foolkiller to Gerhardt, who embarked on a vigilante campaign taking out his aggression on criminals.
But Gerhardt quickly broke that streak, going after everyone from celebrities to corrupt industrialists before gaining too much heat and escaping to Arizona under a new identity. Gerhardt showed up again later as an inmate on the Raft, and even once shared a cell with Deadpool.
Merc For Money
Speaking of Deadpool, the Merc With a Mouth is at least partially responsible for Gregory Salinger resuming his mantle as the Foolkiller in recent years. Deadpool tapped Salinger for his ragtag “Mercs for Money” team – and even influenced Salinger to earn a degree in Psychiatry to serve as his therapist.
That reluctant gig led directly to Salinger getting a spotlight in a very unique role in the Marvel Universe – he was hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. to rehabilitate violent criminals. However, even that carried a huge caveat – Salinger’s position in S.H.I.E.L.D. allowed him to kill those criminals who weren’t receptive to his therapy.
Though this was the latest version of Foolkiller to appear in comic books, the version in Jessica Jones doesn’t seem to have much connection to the comic Salinger beyond his name. In the show, he appears to be a blackmailer stalking Jessica – no purification ray in sight.
Of course, Netflix and Marvel have offered up surprises before, so maybe the flames will fly when June 14 brings the final season of Jessica Jones.