Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Foolkiller

Go To

When the world begets too many fools, nature always provides a Foolkiller.
— Gregory Sallinger, Foolkiller (1990) #10

Created by the late Steve Gerber for Marvel Comics, the Foolkiller is clearly an offbeat character in the same vein as Howard the Duck. The only difference is, he's played totally straight. The name is inspired partially by the O. Henry story of the same name and the novel by Helen Eustis, the latter of which was made into a movie starring, appropriately enough, Anthony Perkins. There is also a minor character of this name in L. Frank Baum's "The Enchanted Island of Yew".

The original Foolkiller was introduced in Man-Thing #3 (March, 1974) and killed in the following issue. Several individuals have adopted the mantle of the Foolkiller, such as Ross G. Everbest, Greg Salinger, Kurt Gerhardt, and Mike Trace. Trace's incarnation appears in the Marvel MAX universe. Each incarnation modified the definition of "fool" to fit his mission. Everbest, being a devout Christian, sought out those whom he considered sinners. Salinger, on the other hand, hunted those who he deemed lacked a poetic soul. Gerhardt's razor-sharp definition of fool caused him to target those whom he judged to be guilty of pursuing "momentary gratification" at the expense of others.

The second Foolkiller, Greg Salinger, unexpectedly reappeared in 2016's Marvel NOW! relaunch as a member of Deadpool's "Mercs for Money": a sort of satellite organization of mercenaries and freelancers who ostensibly worked under Deadpool's command. Due to the unexpected popularity of the Mercs for Money spinoff book, Salinger received a solo book in late 2016, by Max Bemis and Dalabor Talajic. It follows Salinger as he attempts to retire his costumed persona in favor of a life as a successful psychologist, but naturally, it doesn't quite take.

A version of Salinger appears as the primary antagonist of the third and final season of Netflix's Jessica Jones, portrayed there by Jeremy Bobb. In the series, Sallinger is a disgruntled, psychotic serial killer who wants Jessica (and all other super-powered people) dead.

Foolkiller provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Mike Trace's blade is basically a lightsaber in a katana suit, able to behead multiple mooks with a one-handed swing. It's even able to remove the skin of one's face leaving his eyeballs intact!
  • Abusive Parents: It was eventually revealed that Greg Salinger had one, and that it played a role in his becoming the second Foolkiller.
  • Accidental Hero: In the '90s mini-series, Kurt is seen as a hero by the public when he starts killing off criminals and other unsavory individuals in New York. Things change, however when he goes after corrupt authority figures that hold an image of being benevolent, and the public begins to hate him and demand his capture.
  • Action Pet: Mike Trace's pet dog, a ferocious little guy named Jester by his former owner. He is very good at maiming and killing fools, so much so that Trace takes him everywhere.
  • Affably Evil: The Hood speaks very casually for a crime lord, with Shout Outs, Lampshade Hangings and "Whoa, dawg"s aplenty.
  • Alternate Universe: Mike Trace's stories take place in a different continuity from the main Marvel universe.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: One of the White Angels, Fury, appears to have... something going on. Maybe lots of somethings. We know that he can read and understand how to follow map routes, so he's not dumb, but he can't talk without slurring his words and is violently psychotic (and possibly cannibalistic).
  • Animal Motifs: During their email corresponce, Greg and Kurt use the fake names "Ian Byrd" and "Miles Fish", and disguise what they're actually discussing by pretending to talk about hunting squirrels.
  • Anti-Hero: Gerhardt is a Nominal Hero, Trace is an Unscrupulous Hero, and Salinger (when he had the starring role) is a Pragmatic Anti-Hero leaning toward Disney Anti-Hero.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: After he was released from the mental institute, Greg came to regret helping Kurt become the third Foolkiller due to his more extreme (and deranged) brand of crimefighting.
  • Arc Words: Expect to hear the word 'fool' used in all its various meanings in any Foolkiller series.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: A variation; Greg espouses his belief that as long as there is an excess of fools in the world, there will also be a foolkiller to kill them.
  • As You Know: All the prior appearances of Foolkiller (both Salinger and Everbest) and their backstories are recapped for us in the second issue during the talk show. Justified since the audience may not know it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Throughout the latter half of the 2016 series' final issue, we see the Punisher doing a Lock-and-Load Montage, seemingly preparing to find Salinger. He's not the one he's actually looking for, as it turns out.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Greg Salinger in the 1990-91 Foolkiller limited series. Now he really does look like a poet.
  • Berserk Button: FOOLS!
  • Big Bad: In the MAX series, the main bad guy the Foolkiller is gunning (or in this case, slicing) for is a crime boss nicknamed "The Cheese".
  • Big Bad Friend: Salinger's superior at S.H.I.E.L.D, Gary Span, in the 2016 run. He turns out to not be working for S.H.I.E.L.D. at all, and is tricking Salinger into eliminating his opponents.
  • Black Comedy: The MAX series, being, well... a MAX series, does this on occasion. A memorable example was when Sickle Moon was forced to sit in a very long plane ride with an obese Motor Mouth of a lady, who he was finally driven to murder after being informed the flight would be delayed an hour or so due to headwinds. He then drowns her in a toilet, and one of the flight attendants, due to the woman's morbid obesity, mistakenly believes she died of a heart attack. Moon is seen in the foreground, sitting in a much more relaxed position.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The very first antagonistic character encountered by the third Foolkiller is a dealer named Backhand who is working for the Big Bad. In an inversion of the trope, he ends up the only bad guy to live through the series, outlasting his hispanic boss as well as their white businessman leader.
  • Bland-Name Product: Burger Clown! A seeming pastiche of two real life major fast food chains.
  • Bloody Hilarious: In the second MAX series: Punisher, after being denied entry into a storehouse containing weapons for the villains, blows a hole into the guard's stomach, killing him... and then proceeds to put his hand through it to press the button to open the door. Foolkiller facepalms in response.
  • Bond One-Liner: Gerhardt loved these. His line before killing the ESU dean in the last issue is a notable example.
    Dean: In rare instances, this may require curtailments upon freedom of speech (...) students who pursue alternative lifestyles are most apt to suffer damage to their self-esteem as a result of insensitive language.
    Foolkiller: Would your self-esteem suffer if I called you a fool?
    I curtail fools. (fires)
  • Book Ends: Foolkiller: White Angels ends with Foolkiller replicating the White Angels' own 'artistic statement' from the first issue by doing it to their corpses instead... only he also lopped off their heads. The Cowboy Cop on the scene remarks that he thinks it's an improvement to the original.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Kurt Gerhardt was disappointed to find that Salinger was trying to get out of the fool-killing life in the 2016 series.
    • Everbest's mentor turned out to be a sinner, and became his very first victim. He ended up preserving the body in a tank as a shrine to what he once represented.
  • Burger Fool: The aforementioned Burger Clown. Ironically despite the trope name, Kurt eventually saw his time working there with rose-tinted glasses after gaining a new, higher-paying job.
  • By-the-Book Cop: One of the recurring cops in the Foolkiller MAX series is this. He wants to clean up the city properly, preferably without the aid of vigilantes.
  • Calling Card: All the Foolkillers have their own calling card which they either send to intended victims or leave at the scene of the killing.
    • Mike Trace likes to leave a simple "The Fool" tarot card on his victims. Though at the end of "White Angels" he leaves it in the victim's blood, and only viisble from a helicopter.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Non-relative example: Kurt calls Salinger out for abandoning his ideals several times in the Marvel Now! series.
  • The Cameo: Despite taking up quite a bit of real estate on the cover, Spider-Man's appearance in the eighth issue of the original run qualifies. He and Foolkiller just barely miss one another.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Aside from the calling card, Kurt Gerhardt also says this:
    Gerhardt: I have no qualms with admitting I'm more like a sexually transmitted disease than an antibiotic.
  • Catchphrase: Salinger: "Live a poem or die a fool". Gerhardt: "I kill fools".
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Foolkiller and The Punisher teamed up in Foolkiller: White Angels #3. They have a Let's You and Him Fight moment, then team up to fight against some members of the titular gang. While covering from a barrage of bullets, they engage in some frustrated banter about the earlier misunderstanding.
    Foolkiller: I figured your supposedly tactical eye might have picked up on the tattoos.
    Punisher: Not with you lurking in the shadows like hired muscle.
    Foolkiller: As opposed to you, creeping around like Rambo off his meds.
  • Character Development:
    • Over the course of the 90s miniseries, Gerhardt evolves from a normal, grieving man into a cold and amoral vigilante.
    • Salinger became remorseful for his actions as the Foolkiller and tried to become better. Last we saw him, he was in therapy again and genuinely interested in becoming a Retired Monster.
    • Mike Trace's icy heart is thawed by McBride's plight during the first MAX miniseries.
  • Character Filibuster: Most Foolkillers do this on occasion... if they're not shooting you in the head.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The flask of sulfuric acid seen in Merle's apartment. It was part of some backstory between her and Salinger. She would use it to help Gerhardt later.
  • Comic-Book Time: Curiously averted, partially. In the 1990-91 limited series, The Runyan Moody Show dates the activities of the First Foolkiller as far back as the early seventies. Salinger, in explaining his inspiration for taking on the mantle, refers to elements of the same decade that he found annoying. He refers to the shallow banality of the music ("Disco back then") and the testimonies at the Watergate hearings. The 1990-91 limited series is clearly set during the year of publication. The aversion, however, is not without faults - Spider-Man is not 10-15 years older like Salinger obviously is.
    • In the 2016 series, Greg acknowledges that he missed most of The '90s, not because he was too young to remember, but because he was locked up for the decade. This evidently places his original Foolkiller years at least twenty years ago in his time.
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime: In the 2016 series, Greg goes after his patients who instead of addressing their very serious malefic actions (such as, but not limited to, rape, assault, and murder), opt to talk about their more banal compulsions such as OCD, chronic bedwetting, and being a furry.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • In the Raft breakout in New Avengers and his appearances in Deadpool, Gerhardt is wearing his original face. The last issue of the '90-'91 miniseries makes that highly improbable. As part of his plan to vanish, he uses the sulfuric acid to destroy his original face as a pretext for needing extensive reconstructive surgery.
    • Salinger receives a letter from Gerhardt in the 2016 series during a flashback, despite the fact that this wasn't how they communicated in the original miniseries.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Though Everbest and Salinger were practically identical, Gerhardt and Trace act quite differently from their predecessors, especially after Gerhardt goes through Character Development. Then, in the NOW! series, Salinger gets to be this to Gerhardt, due to having Taken a Level in Kindness.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Remember that Punisher/Mike Trace Foolkiller teamup? In one of the scenes where Trace was arguing with Frank, he told the latter that there was no art to what he did. Conveniently, a Mook tries to gun them down at that moment, and Frank shoots him in turn - splattering his blood onto a canvas that happened to be behind them! Fran then points to the canvas and tells Trace, "There, art. Enjoy".
  • Cowboy Cop: One of the recurring cops in the Foolkiller MAX series is this. He's always holding a bottle and hopes the Foolkiller will do his job for them.
  • Cultured Badass: Mike Trace and Greg Salinger are very well-read, the former mostly inferred through his references to classic poets and other learned men.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Salinger and Trace both had terrible childhoods. The former had an abusive father and the latter got his killed because he shoplifted some comic books, even though his dad specifically told him anyone who'd live by exploiting others was a fool.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gerhardt in particular seems to delight in mocking his victims with dry sarcasm. The others have their moments, though.
  • Death by Origin Story: Part of Kurt Gerhardt's Start of Darkness involved his father's death from foolishly not listening to his warnings about living in a dangerous neighborhood.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The Hood's stoolie betrays him to The Punisher due to not getting paid enough money.
  • Double Standard:
    • A certain way to get a death sentence in this series:
      Reverend Mal Flapton: Of course the police pledge to hunt him down. He shoots white fools too.
    • And one issue later:
      Reverend Mal Flapton: What right does he have mass murdering minority children... Why haven't the police caught him yet?
    • And five issues later, the coup de grĂ¢ce:
      Reverend Mal Flapton: An' who're you calling a racist? Racism is the tool by which the powerful exploit, exclude and oppress the powerless. See my skin? I'm powerless! By definition, I can't be a racist!
    • Regarding a sexism issue at Empire State University:
      Female Student: So does this mean I can have someone expelled for calling me a nymph?
      Dean at ESU: We certainly wish to safeguard the rights of women. However, students who pursue alternative lifestyles are most apt to suffer damage to their self esteem as a result of insensitive language.
      Kurt Gerhardt: Would your self esteem suffer, Dean — if I called you a fool?
    • Even Mike Trace gets in on the fun!
      Mike Trace: (to the White Angels) Vernon Donaldson. The White Angel I killed two nights back. I looked into his background. Ellis Island Immigration reports show his family entered the United States in 1923. The ancestors of Darius White, the man you lynched, have been in this country since the early 1700s.
      (as the White Angels lay dead around him) Fools.
  • The Dragon: Drug lord Backhand to Emilio Mendoza who in turn is this to Darren Waite. Interestingly, Backhand survives the story, Waite and Mendoza don't.
  • The Dreaded: Mike Trace is so feared, he's basically an urban legend at the start of the MAX series.
  • Droste Image: The cover of Issue #3 of the Marvel NOW series depicts Salinger holding a comic book with a cover depicting Gerhardt in the same pose, himself holding a comic (in his case, the original miniseries' first issue). Salinger looks at the reader and asks "what, me - meta?"
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Salinger's first appearance in Omega The Unknown #9. His costume consisted of a cowboy style hat with no red sash, a simple domino mask, and a cape. This variation of the costume never appeared again.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Foolkiller kills fools, though what that means is subject to change drastically depending on who is under the mask.
  • Freudian Excuse: Greg Salinger and Mike Trace had some rather awful childhood experiences, while Everbest was orphaned at the age of nine.
  • Foil:
    • The White Angels' laid-back brutality is contrasted with the Foolkiller's quiet retribution throughout the second MAX series, such as how both have a penchant for turning their kills into artistic statements, or having one's lines mirror the actions of the other after a scene transition.
    • In the same series, the Punisher argues with Trace about guns being more effective than a sword, the need for them to work together while dealing with the White Angels, and the lack of need to pose the bodies in a showy way like Foolkiller does.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Nate McBride keeps stealing money from his employers, and then wasting it all on gambling. Careful, Nate. With a trope name like that, you could get in trouble.
  • The Fundamentalist: Everbest believed that all criminals, sinners, and dissidents were fools that needed to be eliminated by an acting agent of God and that he had been chosen by God to be that agent.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Greg's second Foolkiller costume is equipped with an ever-present and seldom-used pair of goggles. The glasses he wears as a psychologist are also phony though they're meant to prop up his image as a respectable mental health care specialist.
  • Grand Finale: In the final issue of the 90's series, Kurt murders his way through basically every prominent recurring character (save one), while Salinger's psychologist finally discovers his involvement in the events.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The Foolkiller's calling cards all start with "e pluribus unum", which means "out of many, one". It's hard to see how that relates to their mission (aside, perhaps, from showing how they're not foolish because they know a latin phrase).
  • Hannibal Lecture: Gerhardt tries to do one of those to Greg in the 2016 series, only for Salinger to do a Shut Up, Hannibal! with his vaporizer gun.
  • Heel Realization: During his battle with Spider-Man, Greg Salinger, the second Foolkiller, runs into a bum that tells him that only a fool would want to fight Spider-Man, as Spidey is a genuinely good person who puts himself into danger to protect innocents. As soon as he realizes this, Salinger tries to turn his purification gun on himself, but Spidey stops him.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Gerhart trades the Zorro-style costume of his predecessors for this. In the 1991 Marvel Year in Review, Salinger, during an interview, explains "He kept the gun but made himself a more fearsome costume. I guess he's not as flamboyant as my predecessor or me." There is a certain irony to his statement since Gerhardt's costume would not be out of place in a BDSM scenario.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Mike Trace treats his attack dog quite well from what little we see of their relationship. Certainly, he had no obligation to take him in and feed him despite being destitute. Though Jester has also proven quite useful.
  • Heroic BSoD: An aging barfly who befriends a depressed Gerhardt unknowingly shows him something that blows his mind and helps solidify his definition of fools. Mavis points him to a sign that she says renews her faith in her own intelligence. Gerhardt stares at it for a very long time oblivious to everything around him. The sign in question is a mechanic's advertisement where they mispell the word alignment (as in auto alignment) as alinement. Mavis' point being that "A fool is someone who would trust his car to someone who can't spell what he does for a living''.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: This is what McBride ends up having to do to protect his daughter from Sickle Moon. It costs him his life.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Averting this is the whole reason The Hood seeks out Salinger. He wants him to help him become more effective.
  • Hollywood Hacking: How else is Salinger able to use his mental institution's computer to access an online bulletin board (the 1990 version of the internet) even though he was only allowed to use it on the assumption that he was writing a book? Although this is years before internet tracking, it is before cable modem, so it should have at least shown up on the institution's phone bill if nothing else, especially as they log and monitor all phone activity in and out of the facility.
  • Janie Needs an Organ: Nate McBride's daughter is badly in need of a heart transplant, and unless he comes up with a lot of money, fast, she's not gonna get it in time.
  • Iconic Outfit: Foolkiller's Zorro-esque classic outfit.
  • Illegal Gambling Den: Featured prominently in the MAX series, as the villains are all involved in one, with the possible exception of Sickle Moon who may be just a freelance hitman.
  • Insanity Defense: This is why Salinger is in a mental hospital in Indiana and not a prison or death row. Also, the only fool that he is publicly known to have successfully killed was an annoying second string supervillain named Blockbuster. All his other known crimes were failures to kill his intended targets.
  • Ironic Name:
    • The White Angels - a white supremacist gang in the MAX universe. It's entirely possible they picked the name in earnest, but the reader and the public know better. If they really think they're angels, more fool them.
    • Arguably, the Foolkillers themselves can act in ways that seem very foolish, if not outright insane.
    • Jester, a dog named after a profession for which 'fool' is a synonym, is now the loyal Action Pet of the MAX universe's Foolkiller.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: This is exactly how Kurt breaks off his relationship with Linda.
  • It's What I Do: "I kill fools".
    Witness: So I asked him why he had to kill they guy and he says "Because that's what I do. I'm the Foolkiller, not the Fool Reprimander."
  • I Work Alone: Mike Trace insisted that Nate would never get involved or work with him directly and tried to get him to just stay put while he handled the situation on his own. It doesn't take.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mike acts abrasive, but he's willing to help Nate save his daughter. And he loves his dog.
  • Karmic Death: The ringleader of the White Angels dies when Mike Trace lassoes him by the neck while driving a pickup truck. It's not pretty, but this being the leader of a The Klan-esque white supremacist gang, one can't deny it's deserved.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Greg and Kurt have both appeared to have given up the purification raygun and adopted conventional firearms and weapons, probably because the purification gun(s) were confiscated or destroyed and they don't know how to build their own or where to get more.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Mike Trace is very grim and humorless.
  • Knight Templar: The first Foolkiller fits the stereotype greater than most, but they all qualify.
  • Laughing Mad: Sallinger laughs uproariously in reaction to Kurt's actions as the third Foolkiller at least twice, once even having to be restrained due to disturbing the other patients.
  • Legacy Character: One, two, three Foolkillers in one continuity, each inspiring more foolkillers.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Normally, a hero battling a Foolkiller would be very much justified, but The Punisher and the MAX version of the character did have a classic 'Marvel Misunderstanding' during the second MAX series, and then teamed up.
    Punisher: You're the Foolkiller? Why didn't you just say so?
    Foolkiller: Hard to talk with your fist in my mouth.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Nate McBride's daughter in the MAX series is suffering from a heart condition, which he does not have money to afford a transplant for. He ends up serving as her transplant in the end.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Salinger does this in his series. So does the Punisher before he shows up at Hood's doorstep.
  • Logical Fallacies: You don't want to resort to these when trying to debate the Foolkiller, especially not in the 1990s limited series. As demonstrated by the following:
    Gerhardt: Excuse me. But do you always demonstrate for peace by grabbing other people's property and kicking them in the face?
    War Protester: Get off my case, geek. There's nothing wrong with using force to resist repression. That's what King George (Bush) is doing, right?
    Gerhardt: I see. He can't achieve peace through violence, but you can? You're a fool. I kill fools.
    • This, by the way, is an example of a "tu-quoque" fallacy, a variant on the ad-hominem.
  • Name Drop: Gerber mentions Reagan, Bush, and Willie Horton, all on the same page in issue 2. But he had a good reason.
    "I voted for Reagan in '80 and '84 and Bush in '88. I was even swayed by the Willie Horton ad: the one about the killer-rapist on furlough from prison. But now my wardrobe looks more like Willie Horton's than George Bush's, and so does my bank account."
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Mike Trace's dog, a Rottweiler mutt named Jester. He's well-behaved but attacks on command.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Hood is appropriately terrified when The Punisher comes a-knockin'.
  • On the Next: So what exactly was "Greg's Secret Sorrow"? That's what was promised in the blurb at the end of issue 9 of Omega the Unknown (Salinger's first appearance). But we were left hanging due to the unexpected cancellation of the series with issue 10. That issue, instead was dedicated to trying to tie up all the loose ends with the title character Omega. Actually, they didn't manage to do even that.
  • Origins Episode: Mike Trace's origin is detailed in the second issue of his first miniseries.
  • Mad Artist: Mike Trace is one of the only heroic examples you'll find, elaborately staging the bodies of his victims to make a grand artistic statement relevant to their misdeeds. Since the subjects range from child molesters to white supremacists, it's hard to say he's going too far.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The White Angels wear these ghoulish white stitched-up masks to protect their anonymity as they commit their hate crimes.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • If not for Greg Sallinger deciding to give Kurt his Foolkiller equipment and guide him along his new path, none of the carnage of the 1990 series would have happened.
    • Darren Waite in the original series, The Cheese in the first MAX series, and in the Marvel NOW series, The Hood.
  • Master of Disguise: Gerhardt's incarnation more than any of the others.
  • Motive Decay: Kurt and Greg both came to suffer from this, going from vigilantes to hired guns in their own ways, although after leaving the Mercs for Money, Greg's appetite for slaughtering fools is coming back.
  • Mutually Fictional: The MAX and mainstream Marvel characters seem to be. Mike Trace shoplifted some comics featuring the Everbest Foolkiller, and the 2016 series starring Greg Salinger made mention of the MAX series as a comic book.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Marvel MAX series has a bookstore named Salinger's, and a company called Kingpin Industries (before the MAX universe ever had a Kingpin), a prison called the Gerhardt Detention Facility and a warehouse company named Everbest Storage.
    • In the first issue of the MAX series, some hospital orderlies gossip about the Foolkiller over a card game, with the things they've heard (being institutionalized, working at Burger Clown, etc.) applying to some of the mainstream universe's incarnations.
    • The two comics that Mike stole as a child were Omega The Unknown and Man-Thing, where the Salinger and Everbest Foolkillers first appeared in the original continuity. This may explain why those orderlies got confused.
    • Trace quotes from Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift (poets, Salinger's obsession) and says 'actions have consequences' in his ending monologue from his first miniseries (what Gerhardt wrote on his calling card).
    • The alias that Gerhardt goes by as seen at the very end of the series is Gregory Ross Curtis, a pastiche of all the three Foolkiller's first names. The picture seen on his driver's license looks like the face of Richard Rory.
    • In the 2016 Marvel NOW series, Salinger recalls that there was a comic book roughly based on the Foolkiller. The panel with this narration shows a picture of the Marvel MAX incarnation of the character. This isn't uncommon as it has been established that Marvel Comics actually exist in the Marvel Universe and that they do publish fictionalized adventures of characters who exist in their version of real life.
  • My Nayme Is: Unlike other noted uses of the name (Eustis, O. Henry, Baum), Foolkiller is one word instead of two.
  • Never Win the Lottery: Mike Trace won a lot of money from a slot machine, and managed to use to become a corporate mogul... but then he sold it all out of guilt after a bad decision of his lead to his mother's death.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mal Flapton is Reverend Al Sharpton. Darren Waite is a thinly disguised Donald Trump. Runyan Moody is Morton Downey Jr, right down to a thinly disgused version of the Loudmouth logo. This creates a dilemma as the Marvel Universe is supposedly a mirror of the real one. Therefore, Sharpton, Trump, and Downey allegedly do exist in the Marvel Universe as some of them have been referred in dialogue or briefly visually depicted, which is protected under satirical rights.
    • Trump is also name-dropped in the same series in which Darren Waite appears, implying Expy Coexistence.
  • Not So Similar: Proving this appears to be at least some of the reason the Punisher was included in the MAX Foolkiller's second mini. They both punish criminals, but Foolkiller has more of a flair for the dramatic whereas Frank prefers to be efficient, something highlighted by their respective weapons of choice.
  • Out-Gambitted: Richard Rory agreed to take his friend Salinger to meet the Defenders (friends of Rory). Salinger expressed interest in joining them. Rory anticipated that the Defenders would realize that Salinger was a danger and find a way to non-violently put him out of action. Salinger, however, actually secretly planned to kill the Defenders as he deemed them fools for letting supervillain Lunatik escape.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • In Foolkiller: White Angels #4, the credits are inserted into a speech balloon otherwise filled with Blah, Blah, Blah.
    • Mike Trace's thought boxes are stark white, in contrast to the color-gradient thought boxes of all the other characters. It makes him seem colder, somehow.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Kurt's father's death in the original miniseries, and Darius Goode's death in the second MAX miniseries. Though it should be noted that the former was only a part of why Kurt had his Start of Darkness.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The second enemies the MAX iteration of Foolkiller faces are a white supremacist group calling themselves the 'White Angels'. Their very first act as seen by the reader is assault and lynch a black man while saying tons of politically-incorrect phrases. They also listen to anti-immigrant talk shows.
  • Present Day: Clearly dates the story as it gives the year of the mugging/killing of Gerhart's dad (1989 as seen on the tombstone) and takes place during Operation Desert Storm.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Greg is an interesting offshoot of one of these. If you're willing to change your ways and become a better person, you get an understanding and sincere psychologist. If you decide to stay a bad guy, well, you get the psycho.
  • Punny Name:
    • Mike Trace's dog, Jester. He works for the Foolkiller - get it? Believe it or not, it wasn't Trace who named him - people just seem to be weirdly fixated with jester iconography in whatever town the story is set in.
    • Sound and Fury, antagonists from the MAX universe: Sound can talk, but Fury is mute. Doubles as Stealth Pun since it's not brought up explicitly.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Cheese's enforcers set the tone of the MAX series by doing this to Nate McBride's family... after murdering them. One should learn to expect such things from this imprint.
  • Ray Gun: Foolkiller's purification gun.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When face to face with a fool, the Foolkillers enjoy telling them why and how they consider them to be foolish.
    Gerhardt: You're like a cancer, a malignancy growing on the civilization you inhabit. But a cancer devours its host. Eats itself alive. By choosing that course, you've shown yourself to be a fool.
    Backhand: I repeat: so what?
    Gerhardt: I kill fools.
  • Recurring Element:
    • Fool/Jester imagery is so recurrent in the MAX series' setting, one would almost think Mike is imagining it all.
    • Gambling. Nate McBride was working for a gambling den, leading to his current troubles, and Trace's backstory is tied to him winning big at a slot machine and investing it well. Trace also invites certain fools to gamble with their lives on a coin flip, the game is rigged.
  • Recycled In Space: A member of the Order of the Foolkillers appears in an issue of X-Men 2099.
  • Retired Monster: What Salinger is TRYING to become at the start of the revival series. But it wouldn't be a Foolkiller series without fool-killing...
  • Reveal Shot: In the last issue of White Angels, as the cops are considering the possibility that this new crime scene wasn't the Foolkiller's doing because he didn't do anything artistic with it, the cop on the chopper surveying the scene contacts his colleagues on the ground to tell them something. We then see that, in fact, Foolkiller used the Big Bad's blood to draw a giant red version of his logo on the road.
  • Rule of Cool: The Foolkiller's mission could easily be carried out with any old gun. But then again, he'd just be a clone of The Punisher.
  • Rule of Three: Kurt Gerhardt tries three times to kill Backhand. He does not succeed.
  • Running Gag: Sickle Moon and his hatred of traveling, in the two MAX series.
  • Sanity Slippage: Gerhardt becomes progressively more unhinged over the course of the original miniseries.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: After listening to The Hood's offer, Salinger rejects it, even knowing it's all but certainly going to cost him his life.
  • Serial Killer: All the Foolkillers specialize in being this, some gorier than the others.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the Marvel NOW series, while musing on the history of his alter ego, Greg mentions the O. Henry short story, the Helen Eustis novel, and the Anthony Perkins film all as inspiration for his predecessor, Everbest's adoption of the Foolkiller identity. He also makes an allusion to the MAX comics starring Mike Trace.
    • The Hood references The Sopranos, Analyze This and "its less succesful sequel, Analyze That" in his Motive Rant.
    • The two leaders of the White Angels, Sound and Fury, are references to either Macbeth or The Sound and the Fury.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Salinger (less so in the 2016 revival) and Gerhardt. Mike Trace is just an Anti-Hero.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: A thug in the first issue of the MAX series calls Nate an "obstinate fuck", only for one of his cohorts to question the unfamiliar word.
  • Start of Darkness:
    • Born with leg paralysis and orphaned of both his parents, a young Ross G. Everbest was captivated by the words of a reverend who miraculously managed to make him walk. Initially wanting to become a costumed activist, Everbest went to tell the reverend of his decision, only to find him mired in sinful behavior. Angered by this sight, Everbest murdered the reverend, and began his crusade to rid the world of fools as the first Foolkiller.
    • Gerhardt was a normal man until his life went to hell at the start of the 90's series. Then he saw Salinger talking on TV, and the rest is history.
    • Mike Trace lost his money and his father at an early age, but that wasn't his start of darkness. That came when he indirectly caused his mother's death as well as that of many others, out of selfish greed. Realizing what a fool he had become, Trace became the Vigilante Man he is today.
    • Gregory Salinger, disillusioned with the modern world and having heard the story of the original Foolkiller and where to find his gear from his friend, decided to assume the mantle. That's it.
  • Strawman Political: Kurt Gerhardt's victims included exemplars on both sides of the political spectrum.
  • Suspension of Disbelief: The exact nature of the purification gun is never explained, nor does it ever run out of power. Similarly, do not ask how Mike Trace's sword cane cuts through bone so easily, or how Sickle Moon can be so effective despite being such a scrawny man.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Gregg Hurwitz reportedly created the MAX incarnation of the character because he wanted to write about The Punisher but couldn't, and Foolkiller was the closest analogue to him that he could find.
  • Sword Cane: As discussed, this is the main weapon Mike Trace uses for his work as Foolkiller, though he isn't above picking up firearms when needed.
  • Symbol Swearing: Ever-present even in the 2016 run.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Sometimes true, but notably averted in the ending of the 2016 series. Salinger shoots Kurt in the face while the latter is in the middle of an attempted Hannibal Lecture to the former. The Hood is completely flabbergasted.
    Hood: I mean, I back it... but nobody does that! Isn't he your big bad nemesis?
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Trace and the Punisher don't like each other much, but agree to cooperate in the White Angels case for mutual benefit.
  • Terse Talker:
    • Kurt Gerhardt is this in his emails to Salinger - much more so as the series progresses. That said, his inner monologues remain eloquent throughout.
    • Mike Trace isn't much of a talker either, and his monologues, though expressing deep thoughts, are similarly dry. In fact, they verge on Rorschach-like at times.
    Trace: They will be taught. And society will be shown. The rule of the mob will not stand.
  • Thieves' Cant: To further disguise their operations, Salinger tells Gerhardt to email him using codenames, and talk with animal hunting-based euphemisms. The word 'fool' is abbreviated as 'f'.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Since he was originally a normal, well-adjusted man, Kurt needs to put himself through some Training from Hell in order to operate as the new Foolkiller effectively.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Arguably, Kurt Gerhardt in the Marvel NOW! series. Though his modus operandi always was killing fools, and he seems to see Salinger as a fool now, so maybe it's par for the course.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Salinger was basically a complete sociopath during his first appearances and even in the first miniseries, but eventually he tried multiple times to retire as he started to feel guilt over his actions.
  • Training Montage: Kurt engages in one intended to increase his resistance to violence, pain and disgust.
  • Unlikely Spare: The second Foolkiller was defeated by the Defenders and Spider-Man. In both cases, it would be logical to assume that his purification gun was confiscated at the time, and Salinger had no direct contact with Everbest, yet he always managed to get a new one... for a while, at least.
  • Very Special Episode: One of the issues in the original miniseries dealt with the the repercussions of the Vietnam War, and how it impacted America. Foolkiller took a break from hunting criminals to deal with fools on both sides of the political divide.
  • Vigilante Man: Mike Trace is one. The others would be, too, if they didn't also go after innocents who just happen to be foolish in their eyes.
  • Villain Protagonist: In the '90s mini-series.
  • Visual Pun: What's the Foolkiller's new logo in Mercs for Money and his NOW series? A FOOL! Or a skull wearing a jester hat, but you get the idea.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A woman is seen vomiting in the foreground of a panel in the final MAX miniseries, in reaction to one of Foolkiller's crime scenes. It's shaded very darkly, so you might be able to ignore it... maybe.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Hood's master plan involved recruiting Salinger to serve as a psychologist to him and his underlings in order to make them more effective, and killing anyone foolish enough to think of betrayal.
  • Wicked Cultured: Salinger and Trace are both familiar with several poets.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The villains in the MAX series all want to kill Nate McBride's daughter (who is in the hospital, by the way) to teach him a lesson.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Salinger's psychologist, after hearing him defend himself against his accusation that he might be involved with this new Foolkiller, concludes he must not be due to the fact that he didn't say anything resembling approval of their actions, and didn't even use the word fool. He's wrong, of course.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: The original Foolkiller calling cards, before Gerhardt shortened the message to just 'actions have consequences', contained a very verbose version of this, warning an intended victim that they had 24 hours to live and to use them to repent, or die a fool.