Black Widow: Who Is Taskmaster?

On Saturday as San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Marvel Studios revealed its Phase 4 slate. It all begins with the Black Widow movie coming in May 2021. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige brought director Cate Shortland up to the Hall H stage. He then introduced the film’s cast, including Scarlett Johansson returning as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, David Harbour as Alexei aka The Red Guardian, Florence Pugh as Yelena, O-T Fagbenle as Mason, and Rachel Weisz as Melina.

There’s another character in the film who wasn’t presented on screen. That is the villain Taskmaster, later revealed in official concept artwork for the film. Taskmaster is a fan-favorite villain from the Marvel Comics universe and some feel he's the perfect villain for the Black Widow movie. He has appeared in Marvel video games and animation. Still, he isn’t the most iconic character in Marvel’s stable, so here’s everything the uninitiated needs to know about him to get up to speed.

David Michelinie and George Perez created Tony Masters, aka Taskmaster. The character made his debut in Avengers #195 in 1980. He has a unique skill referred to as “photographic reflexes.” This ability allows him to learn and master the fighting style or abilities of anybody by seeing them in action once. After he learns an opponent's fighting style, he can predict their attacks in a fight. Using this skill, Taskmaster is capable of being as deadly with martial arts as Iron Fist or Shang-Chi and as accurate of a marksman as Hawkeye or the Punisher. He even carries around a shield to use the shield-fighting skills he learned from watching Captain America. Using these abilities, he was able to fight both Captain America and Iron Man to a standstill in his first story.

Taskmaster remained a B-list villain for years, often working for more recognizable villains, most often the Red Skull. He later became known as the man responsible for training most of the minions of the Marvel Universe, such as A.I.M. and Hydra agents.

Taskmaster’s newfound popularity began with his rivalry with Deadpool, but the most character-defining work on Taskmaster comes from Fred Van Lente and Jefte Palo’s Taskmaster miniseries. The series revealed Masters was once a SHIELD sleeper agent embedded in a criminal organization. The leader of that organization was his S.H.I.E.L.D. handler as well as his wife. While Taskmaster has had his special reflexes since he was a child, he enhanced those abilities by injecting himself with a corrupted version of the Super Soldier serum. The serum came with a side effect. The skills he learns overwrite his personal memories, detaching him from those around him, including his wife.

After the Superhuman Civil War, the government used Taskmaster to train young members of the Initiative. He was later recruited for missions by the Secret Avengers. He left all that behind and returned to mercenary work. He began working for Hydra and became a member of the false Captain America’s Hydra-backed Avengers team during the events of Secret Empire. He switched sides towards the end of Hydra’s occupation of the United States, freeing some of the captive heroes. He's since returned to mercenary work.

Taskmaster’s star is on the rise. After appeared in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in 2011, and had his own line of sidequests testing Spider-Man in 2018’s hit game Marvel’s Spider-Man. He’ll be featured again in Square Enix’s upcoming game Marvel’s Avengers.

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Are you excited to see Taskmaster on the big screen in Black Widow? Let us know in the comments. Black Widow opens in theaters on May 1, 2020.

Other upcoming Marvel Studios projects include The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in fall 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in spring 2021, Loki in spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If? In summer 2021, Hawkeye in fall 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.

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