Superhero-Mania shows no signs of abating and Marvel Comics certainly rules the big screen right now. I have a soft spot for comic books because reading them as a kid led me to mythology, one of the big loves of my life. I’ve covered superheroes here at Balladeer’s Blog in the past and with Marvel’s Deadpool, Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse all out this year I figured I’d explore a character Marvel never seemed to get a handle on: the Foolkiller.
This character’s lingering appeal first seemed to come from his Zorro-esque appearance. Beginning with the second man to don the costume and wield the Purification Gun the appeal started to come from the figure’s potential similarities to the Punisher and Paladin, with overtones of Rorschach before there ever WAS a Rorschach. (Oddly, Marvel tried a 1990 reboot with Foolkiller in which he was much like Deadpool, who didn’t debut until the following year.)
I took an hour or so for some escapist fun and buried myself in the various reboots Marvel attempted for the character over the decades. I would say Marvel REALLY missed their chance way back when Foolkiller faced the Defenders. Nobody asked for it, but here is my issue by issue look at how this misused figure could have been incorporated into the Marvel Universe beginning with Defenders # 74.
For readers unfamiliar with this obscure vigilante/ maniac I’ll pepper in relevant facts as we go along. For starters, outside of the name, this Foolkiller has no connection to the satirical figure from the 1800s American South. Marvel’s original Foolkiller (who died in just his second appearance) was a religious fanatic who killed people that he felt were spiritual “fools” designated by Heaven for him to slay. He donned the cool Zorro-type costume and used a Purification Gun (origin STILL unknown) that fired as yet undefined energies.
The power of those energy blasts varied wildly (you know comic book writing) but could do anything from blasting a regular human being to bits, to annihilating a supervillain called Blockbuster to blasting holes through stone and metal walls or even stunning the incredible Hulk. The unusual fabric of the red sash connected to the Foolkiller’s hat had expandable qualities, like when the figure would use it as a parachute when leaping from a tall building or airplane.
At the time that Foolkiller clashed with the Defenders the man using the costume and Purification Gun was blonde poet Greg Salinger. Unlike the original Foolkiller – the religious zealot Ross Everbest – Salinger’s criteria for “fools” to be killed was more secular, putting him one step closer to Punisher or Proto-Rorschach territory.
DEFENDERS Vol 1: Number 74 – FOOLS RUSH IN (August 1979)
A. Synopsis of the “real” story – Foolkiller (Greg Salinger) fresh off his encounters with Omega and Blockbuster (well, in comic book retcon time, anyway) travels to the Defenders’ Long Island Headquarters – the Richmond Riding Academy. He claims it’s because he is considering joining the Defenders, whose previously secret existence was recently exposed by “Dollar” Bill English’s televised documentary. In the cliffhanger ending it turns out that, in reality Foolkiller has designated the Defenders as his latest fools to slay.
B. Balladeer’s Blog’s Alternate Treatment – This could have been the start of a long run for Foolkiller with the Defenders and made him a potential hit instead of a never-was. There was no real risk in trying him out as a Defender. Hell, the Defenders had had a hero-villain like Sub-Mariner as a member, the forever-fugitive Hulk was STILL a member at the time as was Nighthawk, a reformed supervillain. They had even had unconventional figures like the feared Silver Surfer, the Son of Satan and Devil-Slayer as members.
That said, the reason there was no risk was that if the fans hated having Foolkiller as a Defender he was easily disposed of after a few months – have him carted off to an insane asylum (like the Defenders really did after defeating him in the next issue), or just kill him off or have the other Defenders get fed up with him and treat him like any other supervillain and send him to jail.
From what I gather the sales figures for the Defenders at the time were already faltering (hence the repeated “Defenders try to subdue their member the Hulk” storylines and covers). The comic book could definitely have used some pizzazz. By this time – 1979 – Wolverine over in the pages of The X-Men had shown that an abrasive, potentially deadly wildcard character could really liven things up.
Foolkiller’s running battle with the Hulk on the train to Long Island in the original story could have spilled over all the way to the Richmond Riding Academy. Nighthawk had just resigned as necessitated by the Federal Investigation into his alter ego Kyle Richmond’s legal troubles stemming from Nighthawk’s questionable past. (Kyle’s secret identity was publicly known by then)
The remaining Defenders at the Riding Academy HQ – the Valkyrie, Clea and Hellcat – could have been drawn to the chaos of the Foolkiller/ Hulk fracas, by now taking place on the Riding Academy grounds. Naturally they would side with their teammate the Hulk and join him in fighting Salinger. Somewhere in the course of the battle a cliffhanger situation could arise. Continue reading