A Criminal Past
Salinger witnessed a mugging but allowed the mugger to live, assuming he worked for a bigger fool, and followed the mugger to Dunbar, his drug dealer. Making the same decision with Dunbar, he followed the dealer to loan shark Mr. Trottio. After Trottio pistol-whipped Dunbar, Salinger confronted him with his business card and gave him 24 hours to repent or die. After Trottio plead for his death, admitting abhorrence for his criminal life, Salinger decided the criminal had a poet’s heart and let him live.
His early caution with killing abated, Salinger dispatched several so-called fools, at some point murdering artist Merle Singer’s ex-boyfriend, who had thrown acid in Singer’s face. Singer became Salinger’s confidant, assisting him when she could.
He then sought the trail of Professor Harrison Turk (a personality fragment associated with the Lunatiks, all fragments of Arisen Tyrk, god-king of extradimensional Other-Realm) and encountered student filmmakers Dollar Bill and Ledge, also investigating Turk. After Salinger shared his story with them, Dollar Bill decided he should take the Foolkiller to meet his friends the Defenders, thinking they could capture the violent vigilante. Foolkiller agreed, having seen Dollar Bill’s documentary on the Defenders and thinking them fools worth eradicating and also that the film was tasteless and insulting.
Salinger, Dollar Bill and Ledge met with Rory and Hart’s roommate Amber Grant, taking a train to the Defenders’ Long Island headquarters. The train was forced to an abrupt stop because Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, was sitting on the tracks. An angry Foolkiller threatened to kill the train’s crew, but Rory and Hart talked him down. They finally arrived at the Defenders riding academy base, and Salinger attempted to murder the heroes. Stunning Defenders’ member Valkyrie with a burst from his purification gun, he disintegrated a ceiling support and collapsed the building on the Defenders and their allies. Valkyrie braced the ceiling, saving the civilians while Salinger went after her teammate Hellcat. Hellcat led him on a chase through the academy grounds until Valkyrie recovered sufficiently to punch Salinger unconscious. Though Foolkiller was defeated, the Defenders’ headquarters burned down, leading an irate Nighthawk to temporarily disband the group. As Salinger was being moved by ambulance to a hospital, the ambulance crashed in the rain, and Salinger escaped.
Afterward, Salinger retired as the Foolkiller, determining there were simply too many fools in the world, and enrolled in Empire State University where he befriended teaching assistant Peter Parker, secretly Spider-Man. When FBI agents Lou Caldwell and Sam Buckley came to investigate Salinger under the pretense of investigating a friend, Salinger became edgy. Shortly after, he had troubles with the registrar’s office and lost financial aid paperwork. As his irrational hatred came back, his presence would set off Parker’s danger-detecting Spider-Sense, but cease activating it when he became aware of Parker’s presence, as he trusted Parker and his violent thoughts would subside.
Increasingly feeling put-upon, Salinger resumed his Foolkiller identity and sent one of his calling cards to the FBI agents, arranging a meeting. When they arrived, Foolkiller disintegrated Buckley, and as Caldwell ran, Foolkiller taunted him before killing him as well. As his registration problems compounded, Salinger decided Registrar Harvey McNamara was a fool and broke into his office to kill him. McNamara was rescued by Spider-Man, and Salinger fled, disintegrating part of the street causing it to collapse onto the subway tracks and forcing Spidey to save civilians rather than chase him. Back at ESU, Salinger, looking for Parker, the only person he trusted, asked about his whereabouts to chemistry department secretary Debra Whitman and called her a fool when she couldn’t answer. After Peter made an off-handed comment about fools running the campus mailroom, Salinger hurried away. When Whitman mentioned Salinger’s earlier insult, Parker began to suspect Salinger was Foolkiller.
Salinger went to the college’s mailroom and began shooting randomly, avoiding hitting anyone until Spider-Man arrived. Salinger fled, but Spider-Man followed him until the vigilante hid in an alley, telling a homeless woman he was going to kill the web-slinger. She claimed Spider-Man was a hero, and anyone who tried to kill him was a fool, and Salinger, taking it to heart, attempted to kill himself with his purification gun. Spider-Man webbed him up before he could pull the trigger, and Salinger was committed to the Mitchell State Hospital in upstate New York.
At some point, he was transferred to Central Indiana State Mental Institution where he was cared for by Merle Singer. When Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, was searching for the villain-killing Scourge of the Underworld, he suspected Salinger, but found him still incarcerated and mentally unbalanced.
While incarcerated, Salinger once attempted suicide and was plagued by nightmares. In therapy with Dr. Alvin Mears, he decided to share his story with the media, but newspapers didn’t respond so he contacted TV talk shows. Mears was concerned that Salinger’s letters were judgmental and angry, but allowed them to go out anyway, hoping Salinger would learn from the reactions he received. Salinger’s anger increased as his letters received no reply until Runyan Moody of the Monarch Syndication Service contacted him for an interview. Chief of Staff Dr. Charles Wiggins refused the request, but Moody threatened him with a First Amendment lawsuit and the interview was allowed. Salinger recounted his history on the Runyan Moody Show, revealing he didn’t think he was insane when he began his career, but became so when he realized he had changed nothing with his actions.
While on the air, Salinger inspired Kurt Gerhardt, a man whose fortune had taken a nosedive, and the two began a correspondence. Salinger lied, telling Dr. Mears he was cutting off contact with Gerhardt while actually arranging secret exchanges on an Internet bulletin board using the name “Ian Byrd” and calling Gerhardt “Miles Fish” while using Mears’ computer under the guise of writing a book. He sent Gerhardt to Singer, who gave him the Foolkiller costume, calling cards and purification gun.
Gerhardt was tempted to abandon them but quickly came upon a mugging; he murdered the muggers and became the new Foolkiller, killing numerous criminals. Guiding Gerhardt via the Internet behind his doctors’ backs, Salinger urged his replacement to continue his mission despite Gerhardt’s increasing doubts, recommending he stick to “squirrels” (small-time criminals) until he was ready for bigger prey. When Gerhardt’s attacks on criminals were met with approval from some of the population, Salinger laughed uproariously with delight, causing Mears to become concerned. Salinger also became agitated when hospital administration assistant Amanda Little caught him using the Internet on the office computer, but she was unaware he shouldn’t be on the Internet and asked him for technical assistance later.
When Gerhardt’s victims expanded from criminals to people whose politics he disagreed with, Salinger was pleased and began to guide him from “squirrels” to “lions.” Meanwhile, Moody began covering the Foolkiller’s activities on his show and riling the audience against the vigilante. When Moody had millionaire Darren Waite on his show to offer a $250,000 reward for information leading to Foolkiller’s arrest, Gerhardt informed Salinger of his intent to kill Waite and discontinued communication with his mentor. After killing Waite, Gerhardt murdered Moody live on his TV show, which caused Salinger to break into hysterical laughter. When he fought interns trying to lead him to his room, Little told Mears she had thought Salinger had been doing well and also noted he was going to show her how to get on the Internet from the office. Mears and Little pulled up Salinger’s computer activity and learned of his exchanges with Gerhardt. Police tracked the host of the bulletin board, which enabled them to find Gerhardt, who faked his death and escaped.
Sometime later, Salinger was freed from custody by corrupt U.S. government agent Mike Clemson and Reverend Nabisco “Nice” Niceiza, who hoped his random killings could be blamed on their enemy Michael Badilino, AKA Vengeance. Loose in San Francisco with his purification gun restored to him and (possibly via drug and/or psychological manipulation) his definition of fools greatly expanded to include couples who make out in the park and people who drive convertibles, Foolkiller committed numerous murders, pursued by Badilino and his partner Agent Rebecca Taylor. After Badilino turned into the demonically powered Vengeance, Foolkiller tried to convince him their goals were the same, but Vengeance knocked out Salinger, who was presumably returned to prison.
At some point, older, out of prison and outfitted in a new armored suit, Salinger fought the Grain Reaper by Yodman’s side. Though the Grain Reaper was defeated, Yodman did not make it. He turned to Yodman’s wife Betty who recommended him to a therapist, Dr. Andrea Mansoor. She listened to his work and health issues, and his worries about being older. To help him through his issues, Mansoor suggested that he join a group or volunteer to help rehabilitate ex-villains. He joined the vigilantes support group and he discovered he liked helping people.
Later, he became a mercenary-for-hire alongside Deadpool and then went back to school to study psychology. Deadpool’s mercs helped him study and he graduated with a degree in psychology but never committed to not kill people if they were going to be fools.
Juggling life as a merc, a psychotherapist, dating, and trying to help others, Captain Gary Span at S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to recruit him to rehabilitate costumed criminals. He joined them, they sent him bad guys, he treated them to see if they could be rehabilitated, and if they were hopeless, he executed them. While he helped one patient, he unintentionally projected his childhood trauma of paternal abuse, though he brushed the incident aside.
Gerhardt, still killing foolish people, was then caught and brought before Salinger who only pretended to be caught so he could sabotage his life and bring him back to his true self, the Foolkiller. They fought and Gerhardt informed him that his pal Gary was actually Stanley Swickle, a corrupt rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was dismissed. Realizing he was manipulated, Salinger killed “Gary” for the betrayal and fought off the other posing agents.
During Salinger’s recovery from the fight, Deadpool kidnapped him and his girlfriend Melanie to help him with his anxiety. Salinger and Deadpool bonded but Melanie left Salinger afterward for hiding the murders from him that he conducted while under the instructions from the fake S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
With his job and relationship ruined, he confronted Gerhardt and killed him. It turned out that the Super Villain Parker Robbins, AKA Hood, was working with Gerhardt to contact Salinger so that he could get help with his self-destructive tendencies and then run his metahuman mafia. Salinger refused to help the Hood despite the Hood threatening his life, and checked himself into the Ravencroft Institute, an asylum for the criminally insane, to get himself help for all the damage he had caused.