Who Is Taskmaster?

With the release of the the final trailer for the upcoming Black Widow movie on May 1 of this year, the main villain is highlighted specifically. Now to most, he just looks like another faceless bad guy who will survive for one maybe two movies before the hero kills him. But to myself and several others who are big fans of the character, Taskmaster is finally going to get some of the recognition he deserves. His first appearance was in The Avengers #195 in May of 1980.

Who is Taskmaster and what makes him so special that he’s the main villain of the Black Widow movie? Let’s dive in and find out.

HISTORY

Not much is known of Taskmaster’s origin but it is believed he was born in Brooklyn in New York City. He was born to an unknown family with the name of Anthony “Tony” Masters. Since his childhood, he has had the ability to completely mimic anyone’s actions that he witnesses. He used this ability to become a peak athlete and olympic level contender. He works as a freelance mercenary for anyone who is willing to pay him. He has on several occasions taken contracts to kill some well known heroes and some not so well known ones. He normally trains enemy forces in combat to counter a specific hero. He has been contracted by governments, namely the USA, the train some state sponsored heroes, like US Agent (an antagonist in the upcoming Falcon & Winter Soldier show on Disney +).

Taskmaster classic look

When he was a young boy he watched a show about cowboys doing tricks with ropes and was instantly able to mimic their technique and feats. His mother contacted several mental health professionals and they came to the conclusion that Tony had what they called “Photographic Reflexes”. He only needs to watch someone perform an action one time and then he can mimic it perfectly. he used this ability to become the star quarterback of his high school football team after watching one single NFL game on TV. Following his high school graduation, Tony briefly considered using his abilities to become a costume hero, but in the end he opted to become a career criminal because it was a far more lucrative choice.

Going hand in hand with his ability to mimic the techniques of others, he is also able to mimic their voice and mannerisms. This has resulted in him impersonating several different heroes over the years for various purposes.

He has worked for major organizations such as Hydra, AIM, Cabal, SHIELD, Thunderbolts, Agency X, The Frightful Four and even the Secret Avengers.

NOTABLE STORIES

TASKMASTER vs. MOON KNIGHT

Following a brutal fight with Bushman, in the 2006 Moon Knight run by Charlie Huston and David Finch, Marc Spector (Moon Knight) is left broken and battered. He begins spiraling into a depression with his broken legs, a pill addiction and begins driving his friends and loved ones away. Taskmaster is hired by the Committee to put an end to Spector while he is at his lowest. Taskmaster begins dismantling Spector and attacking him subtly before finally going for the kill shot by attacking Moon Knight in his home. He savagely beats Moon Knight and is preparing to deal the killing blow with his sword when Moon Knight’s longtime love interest, Marlene Alraune, draws a gun and attacks Taskmaster to protect Marc. Taskmaster hits Marlene to stop her assault which sends Marc over the edge and he beats Taskmaster before smashing him through his television. Taskmaster retreats and leaves Marc to help Marlene recover. Taskmaster returns to the Committee’s HQ and begins scolding them for misleading him.

Taskmaster beats a depressed and broken Marc Spector

When he was hired he was told that Moon Knight was beaten and craving death, which is the only reason he took the contract. Knowing of Moon Knight’s mental instability he didn’t want to get involved unless he was sure he could win. As he demands more money from the Committee to finish the job, a newly restored Moon Knight crashes one of his moon copters into the building and confronts Taskmaster. During he fight, Taskmaster gets some good shots in but is unprepared for the rage and ferocity that Moon Knight has. Spector beats Taskmaster to the ground and pulls out one of his razor sharp crescents and proceeds to carve the mask off Taskmasters face. Moon Knight then tell him to leave and never come back or the next time it won’t be just his mask.

It’s also worth noting, which I’ve mentioned several times before, that Taskmaster refuses to copy Moon Knight outright. He will mimic any other hero’s method of fighting except for Moon Knight because Moon Knight would rather take a punch and continue the offensive than block and lose his momentum. Which for someone as inherently cowardly as Taskmaster, that doesn’t fit with his whole self preservation motif.

CIVIL WAR

When the actual Civil War broke out, Taskmaster was given amnesty and hired by the government to hunt down the Secret Avengers. He was placed in the Thunderbolt program and given leadership of one of their teams for field operations. Eventually, his team and the Secret Avengers come face to face during the final climactic battle in New York and he ventures beyond his mission parameters. Knowing that Sue Storm (Mrs. Fantastic) was allied with the anti-registration forces, he saw a moment in the battle to try and eliminate her permanently. He hefted his rifle and fired a shot at Sue to permanently take her out of the fight. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) saw what was happening and managed to get between Taskmaster and Sue, taking the bullet for his wife. Sue became enraged and used her powers to encase him in a forcefield, crushing him into unconsciousness.

Taskmaster was sent to the Negative Zone prison along with the rest of the anti-registration forces following the battle in New York. Shortly after his incarceration, Deadpool, who was looking to re-establish his credit as a mercenary, freed Taskmaster to have a showdown in front of potential contractors. Throughout the battle Deadpool kept referring to Taskmaster as Tasky to annoy him into making a mistake. The two fought with several notable contractors and other assassins looking on. Deadpool eventually did manage to beat Taskmaster but it didn’t earn him back his reputation. After the fight, Deadpool thanked Taskmaster for letting him win; Taskmaster responded with ” The truth is… you’re that good. You’ve always been that good. But it won’t get you a cup of coffee until you learn how to be a professional”.

Later after his escape, he was contacted by the United States government to test the security on the SHIELD helicarrier. Without any sort of difficulty he was able to infiltrate the helicarrier while it was airborne and put the deputy director of SHIELD, Maria Hill at the time, in his cross hairs. He was permitted to leave the helicarrier and was given a full presidential pardon for his past actions. Once he was gone, Hill returned to her quarters and found a message he left on her mirror saying that if he ever wanted to, infiltrating SHIELD would be easy.

DARK REIGN

During the Dark Reign story line following the Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn was the director of SHIELD, which he renamed HAMMER, and created his own team of “Dark Avengers” with him leading it as the Iron Patriot. The Dark Avengers were nothing more than well known villains masquerading as their hero nemeses during press releases and what not while continuing their evil ways out of the sight of the public. During this run, Taskmaster was hired to lead the Shadow Initiative who’s first task was taking down a HYDRA cell in Madripoor. Under Osborn’s direction, Taskmaster is hired to retrain villains to act as heroes to help fool the public.

During the run of HAMMER and the “Dark Avengers”, Blastaar (enemy of the Fantastic Four and Annihilus from the Negative Zone) attacks and takes over Prison #42 which is holding all the heroes and villains captured under the superhuman registration act. As Blastaar takes the prison and begins attacking the inmates, Osborn dispatches a team led by Taskmaster to take the prison back.

While he retrains villains he is also offered a spot on the Cabal (Marvel’s version of the Legion of Doom). He initially declined the invite to join but then was attacked by Dr. Doom and hospitalized. When Osborn went to meet him in the hospital and ask him to join again, Taskmaster still refused. Osborn then cut the oxygen line to Taskmaster and while the latter was struggling to breathe told him “I plucked you from obscurity and this is how you thank me?!” Taskmaster reluctantly agrees to join and when Asgard falls he fights for Osborn against the Avengers and the Asgardians. During the battle he connects with his long time ally, Constrictor, and the two of them flee the battle before Osborn’s forces are captured. Following the fall of Asgard and the return of the Avengers, Taskmaster and Constrictor return to their previous lives of mercenary work.

POWERS & ABILITIES

As I’ve said before, Taskmaster’s main ability is his Photographic Reflexes. He can physically replicate any movement he can observe.

This ability was not something he got from birth though. He took an experimental drug primer made by SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst Gorscht. The drug itself was a modified version of cortisol which was meant to unlock the procedural memory of an individual. This flies in the face of his previous origin where it was just something he was born with and could do since he was a child. Either way, the net outcome is still the same, he can replicate any talent and or fighting style he witnesses.

He is limited by the confines of his body. What I mean to say, is that he can replicate anyone’s actions but cannot replicate super strength or other powers. For example, he could watch a video of Captain American punching someone and perfectly replicate the technique and form, but it will lack the same power as Cap’s super human strength. He is also able to move his vocal chords to replicate anyone’s voice which has helped him to infiltrate both the Avengers and SHIELD on more than one occasion.

He is an Olympic level athlete that trains every day to maintain his physical fitness.

He typically arms himself with:

  • A Replica of Captain America’s Shield emblazoned with his symbol
  • A sword
  • Bow
  • Quiver of Arrows
  • Lasso
  • Billy Club
  • Nunchaku
  • Throwing Darts
  • Various Firearms
  • He also stole a device from SHIELD that let’s him make constructs out of hard light/solid energy.

UPCOMING INCLUSION

As it’s been announced, Taskmaster is going to be the villain in the upcoming (now delayed) Black Widow movie. The first time I saw the trailer I was super excited to see him finally getting some big screen recognition. I will admit that I’m not the craziest about his costume and look. I wanted the classic Skull mast with the long white cape, but this look is far more modern and looks more practical.

MCU Taskmaster

I will say that in the trailer it looks like whoever Taskmaster is, he’s been observing the Avengers for a while and can mimick not only Cap and Widow, but Spider-Man, Panther, and Thor as well. The brief summary I’ve been able to find says that Taskmaster is running the training in the red room and teaching the new generation of Widows how to fight like the Avengers. This could be an amazing story if they do it right!

There you have it! A brief rundown of the next big villain for the MCU. I really hope that they keep him for future installments and don’t kill him off right away, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

See you next week!

Taskmaster mimicking Black Panther in Black Widow trailer

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