Marvel Studios’ Black Widow movie is finally here. And with him comes the Taskmaster, a classic Marvel villain who finally joins the MCU to take on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov in the film.
But who is Taskmaster, and what makes him capable of taking on one of the greatest super-spies in the Marvel Universe? Read on to learn more about this dangerous but tragic mercenary villain.
Who is Taskmaster?
Taskmaster is widely feared as one of the most dangerous mercenaries in the Marvel Universe. This is because his photographic reflexes allow him to mimic the fighting style of anyone he studies. Taskmaster briefly turned to a life of crime, but soon found that his skills were best used to train other villains to fight. Taskmaster will put his knowledge and experience at the service of any organization that can reach its price, whether it is Hydra, SHIELD, AIM or the Thunderbolts. Deep down he’s not that bad, but Taskmaster will never let his morals get in the way of his paycheck.
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Powers and capacities of the head of mission
Taskmaster received an injection of a derivative of super-soldier’s serum that unleashed the full potential of his mind’s memory processes. As a result, he has photographic reflexes. It can recreate the movements and fighting styles of anyone it observes, and it can also predict their movements in combat with near perfect accuracy. This makes him a martial artist as talented as heroes like Shang-Chi and Daredevil and a sniper as expert as Hawkeye and Bullseye. Taskmaster has a large arsenal of weapons that help him replicate the movements of other heroes and villains. He wields a shield similar to that of Captain America, a sword similar to that of Swordsman and Black Knight, and various other projectile weapons.
Besides making him one of the deadliest fighters in the Marvel Universe, this unique talent has made Taskmaster a much-requested martial arts instructor. He often makes a living training soldiers in the arts of self-defense and combat on the battlefield.
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There are some drawbacks to Taskmaster’s capabilities. On the one hand, he can get caught off guard when fighting unfamiliar opponents or someone like Deadpool, whose fighting style is chaotic and unpredictable. And his photographic reflexes cost him dear. The more he relies on his abilities, the more Taskmaster’s brain literally crushes old memories. For this reason, he remembers very little of his past and his family.
Taskmaster: Origin and context
Taskmaster debuted as a cameo in 1980s The Avengers # 195, before making his first full appearance in the next issue. These early stories established a basic origin story and a modus operandi for the villain. They also showed him that he was capable of fighting powerful Avengers like Captain America and Iron Man, although in the end his disregard of the relatively recent recruit Jocasta turned out to be his downfall.
Taskmaster has appeared in a number of stories over the decades since, sometimes serving as a villain and other times more as an anti-hero. As various stories have established, he only cares about getting paid, so he’s just as likely to work for SHIELD or the US government as he takes jobs that pit him against heroes like Daredevil and Spider. -Man. Taskmaster even sided with the pro-recording Iron Man faction in Civil War, eventually becoming a drill instructor at Camp Hammond and tasked with training a new generation of heroes in combat. Eventually, however, Taskmaster returned to a more egocentric illegal lifestyle.
It wasn’t until the Taskmaster: Unthinkable miniseries that the true story and background of the character was revealed. Readers have learned that Taskmaster’s real name is Tony Masters. He was once a SHIELD agent sent to end a rogue Nazi scientist developing his own version of Captain America’s super-soldier serum. When Masters injected himself with this serum, he acquired his characteristic photographic reflexes, but forgot about his old life and even his wife in the process. As he briefly reunites with his ex-wife, Masters is forced to tap into his abilities to save his life, losing his memories again.
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Taskmaster has continued to play both sides of the aisle since returning to his usual routine. One day he acts as a double agent for the Secret Avengers, the next he teams up with Black Ant to kidnap various animal-themed supervillains for the sake of Kraven the Hunter. As long as the money is good, there are few jobs this elite mercenary won’t take on. Yet the good man Tony Masters was is never quite buried forever.
Taskmaster in Black Widow and Beyond the Comics
Taskmaster has appeared in several Marvel animation projects, including the Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man TV series and the live action film Heroes United: Iron Man and Captain America (all of which featured the voice of Clancy Brown). He has also appeared as a playable character in a number of Marvel video games, including Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel Heroes, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (all voiced by Steven Blum).
Taskmaster’s most significant non-comic book appearance to date is in Marvel’s Spider-Man for the Playstation 4. Taskmaster (voiced by Brian Bloom) appears as a recurring enemy in the game, forcing Spider-Man to complete various challenges. while studying its movements. After Taskmaster’s defeat, he reveals that he was hired by a mysterious group to determine if Spider-Man is worthy enough to join them. Taskmaster also appears in Marvel’s Avengers.
Who plays Taskmaster in Black Widow?
Taskmaster was once supposed to appear in Marvel’s Most Wanted, a planned Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD spin-off, but that project was ultimately canceled. Instead, he’s now making his MCU debut in the Black Widow movie, where he’ll be snatching Captain America’s most iconic move. As to who plays him, or what his (or she?) Real identity is in the film, only time will tell. Some fans have speculated that it is actually a woman behind the mask – possibly one of Nat’s allies, like Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff or Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. Or maybe it’ll just be a faceless henchman in the role… but, no, who are we kidding? The identity of Taskmaster must be an important part of the film!
For more on the Black Widow movie, check out our explainer on David Harbor’s Red Guardian.
July 8, 2021: This story has been updated with the most recent information on the Black Widow movie.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by follow @jschedeen on Twitter.