Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pity The Fools!

The late Steve Gerber created many an interesting and famous character, but one of the most intriguing was Ross G. Everbest, self-titled "The Foolkiller".

The name was apparently inspired by an O. Henry story. Here's how that story begins...

"Down South whenever any one perpetrates some
particularly monumental piece of foolishness every-
body says: "Send for Jesse Holmes."

Jesse Holmes is the Fool-Killer. Of course he is a
myth, like Santa Claus and Jack Frost and General
Prosperity and all those concrete conceptions that
are supposed to represent an idea that Nature has
failed to embody. The wisest of the Southrons can-
not tell you whence comes the Fool-Killer's name;
but few and happy are the households from the Ro-
anoke to the Rio Grande in which the name of Jesse
Holmes has not been pronounced or invoked. Always
with a smile, and often with a tear, is he summoned
to his official duty. A busy man is Jesse Holmes.

I remember the clear picture of him that hung on
the walls of my fancy during my barefoot days when
I was dodging his oft-threatened devoirs. To me
be was a terrible old man, in gray clothes, with a
long, ragged, gray beard, and reddish, fierce eyes.
I looked to see him come stumping up the road in
a cloud of dust, with a white oak staff in his hand
and his shoes tied with leather thongs. I may
yet --"

For the whole story check out "The Fool-Killer".

Gerber's Everbest was a religous zealot who found his disappointment in the weakness in men too much to accept, so he turned murderer, using his "Purifier Gun" to extinguish at once the sin and the sinner.

He was dispatched by the Man-Thing in issues three and four of that muck-monster's first magazine, but alas rated no cover appearances.

Here's a look at his origin as written by Gerber and drawn by Val Mayerik.

The first cover devoted to the Foolkiller was actually to Greg Salinger, who became enamored of Everbest's cause in prison and adopted his secret identity and Purifier Gun to seek out foolishness of a more aesthetic and poetic variety.

Salinger battled the Defenders, Omega the Unknown, and Spider-Man before being committed to a prison for the insane. He though inspired the next Foolkiller.

Kurt Gerhardt became the Foolkiller and sought to become a purer Punisher type, taking out those he deemed to be criminally wasting their lives.

The Foolkillers even show up in the alternate future universe of 2099 where a man named Gideon becomes the last of the line.

In more recent years another name has been added to the Foolkiller line, a man named Michael Trace, who has appeared in the MAX line. This one seems unconnected to the other Foolkillers though.

The Foolkiller concept as derived originally by Gerber was a great notion, a comment on heroes and villains and how villainy often imagines itself to be doing the right thing. That makes the world a good deal more complicated for the do-gooders in general and the audience can find itself oddly sympathetic to the baddies they are automatically geared to reject.

Steve Gerber created lasting characters of real depth.

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