What makes Gregory Salinger so disturbing is that he has the perfect disguise. He’s a white, balding, mid-thirties American male who too easily slip into the crowd. He doesn’t look like a Marvel supervillain, he looks like a bad Tinder date. But it’s this interpretation of the comic book villain known as “Foolkiller” that strikes into the heart of the Marvel/Netflix universe.
In Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 3, streaming now on Netflix, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) team up to take down a deranged serial killer, Greg Salinger (played by Jeremy Bobb, from Russian Doll). Unlike Kilgrave, whose pheromones gave him control over people, there’s no power in the Foolkiller, his moniker in the comics. Here, in Jessica Jones, he exists as a far more subdued character.
Or, as he puts it in Episode 6:
“All I am is a man with my feet on the ground, and a brain in my head. And yet, I can bring pain to power just by getting close. I have the only superpower that is not a fraud, because it was evolved through sheer human pain. And that is extraordinary. Because it’s real.”
He’s different in the comics. There, Greg Salinger was a petty criminal who took up the name “Foolkiller,” the identity of another villain who hunted people he deemed to be society’s “fools.” Unlike his predecessor, who hunted anti-Vietnam protestors, Greg Salinger hunted “mediocre” individuals trapped by materialism. He’d later become Deadpool’s therapist. (Yes, seriously.)
Even in the comics, the Foolkiller — of which three have held the mantle, including Salinger — never had any powers, though they usually carried a laser gun that could disintegrate targets. Otherwise, they were “normal.”
That’s what’s so chilling about Salinger. If he weren’t a Marvel villain, as a serial killer, he could have been the subject of a Netflix true crime documentary: A totally personable mentor to young children like a middle school wrestling coach. I wrestled in high school. I had coaches. I knew Greg Salinger.
No spoilers, but there’s a scene in Jessica Jones Season 3, Episode 5 where Salinger, with freshly-carved body parts in his luggage, disappears into the streets of New York. That’s when and where I found myself scared of Salinger the most. In the subway, on the streets, at the bar, I could have been next to another Greg Salinger every time. And I wouldn’t know it.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.