Who is the Main ‘Black Widow’ Villain? Taskmaster Explained

Who is the Main ‘Black Widow’ Villain? Taskmaster Explained

Black Widow, the long-awaited solo adventure for Scarlett Johansson‘s assassin-turned-Avenger, arrives next month. And when it does it’ll introduce a new villain to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Taskmaster, a character who loves to perform menial tasks like running to the grocery store or painting a fence!

Okay, that’s not actually what the character does. But what is the deal with Taskmaster? Who is he? What does he want? And will he perform some tasks for me because I’m so very lazy? Here’s what you need to know.

When Did Taskmaster Debut in Marvel Comics?

Taskmaster first appeared in the Marvel comic issue The Avengers #195 in May 1980. His role there was brief, and he made a much bigger appearance in the next issue,  Avengers #196, in June 1980. He even appeared on the cover of that issue, complete with the caption “Introducing the treacherous Taskmaster!” The synopsis asks: “How does Taskmaster fit into the strange events at the Solomon Institute? Will the Avengers be able to save Wasp from twisted experimentation at the hands of Solomon?” Good question! Writer David Michelinie and artist George Pérez are credited with creating the character.

What is Taskmaster’s Origin Story?

In the comics, Taskmaster is Anthony “Tony” Masters, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned mercenary and assassin. Tony grew up in the Bronx and discovered he had unusual abilities as a child. He was able to perfectly mimic the movements of anyone he watched, a discovery that alarmed his mother enough to call in some psychiatrists (as we all would do if our child was suddenly a master of tasks). The doctors determined Tony had “photographic reflexes,” which is kind of like photographic memory, but more specific to actions (or tasks if you will).

In adulthood, Tony joined S.H.I.E.L.D. During one of his missions, Tony encountered a dying scientist who gave him a Nazi version of the Super-Soldier Serum that helped create Captain America. After injecting himself, Tony’s abilities were enhanced, but there was a catch. He became so good at remembering the actions of others that he began to lose other memories. This partial amnesia was so strong that Tony forgot he worked for  S.H.I.E.L.D. and forgot he was married, to another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Mercedes Masters.

With his S.H.I.E.L.D. days over, Tony briefly considered becoming a superhero but opted to become a supervillain instead. Why? Because it’s more lucrative (superheroes don’t get paid). And thus Taskmaster was born. Taskmaster took his supervillain role very seriously, going so far as to establish a center to train other criminals with the goal of becoming “a supplier for criminal organizations around the world.” That’s right – Taskmaster invented a school for supervillains. Where’s the movie about that, Marvel?

What Are Taskmaster’s Superpowers?

As mentioned above, part of Taskmaster’s power involves his photographic reflexes. As the Marvel Wiki explains, Taskmaster can “watch another person’s physical movements and duplicate them without any practice or training, no matter how complex.” He can also “copy the subtle muscle movements of others so precisely that he can at times do things such as copying another person’s voice so precisely as to fool voice recognition software although he must practice a voice to ensure he has perfected it enough to fool such devices.” In addition to all of that, Taskmaster has limited superhuman speed, superhuman reflexes, and superhuman agility.

It’s worth noting that all of these details come from the comics but they may not be exactly replicated in Black Widow, since the MCU has been known to take plenty of liberties when it comes to adapting characters to the big screen. That said, it’s been confirmed that the character will maintain his ability to mimic others.

“Taskmaster has studied the Avengers,” Black Widow fight coordinator James Young revealed in an interview. “You see flashes of Captain America, you see flashes of Bucky, you see flashes of Iron Man, and you see Spider-Man in this sequence. How do you fight someone that can embody all the Avengers at once? The hard part of the fights is to make those moments read, but it’s the moments you’re going to remember.”

Who is Playing Taskmaster in Black Widow?

Ah, here’s where things get tricky/interesting. While Taskmaster is in Black Widow, and even featured in the trailers, it has yet to be revealed who is playing the character. This possibly implies that a cast member we know about is secretly playing the Taskmaster character. I’ve seen some people suggest that the body language of Taskmaster in the trailers seems feminine. I haven’t seen Black Widow yet so I can neither confirm nor deny if that’s the case, and it might be dead wrong. But it’s something to think about.

The Taskmaster Character Poster Looks Weirdly Like the Unabomber Drawing

Look, this has nothing to do with the movie, but in writing this article I noticed the official Black Widow character poster for Taskmaster looks eerily similar to the infamous composite sketch of the Unabomber. So much so that I am 100% convinced this is deliberate – as if the poster artist said, “I have a funny idea,” and came up with this. Make of this what you will!

How Could Taskmaster Fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

The idea of a supervillain who can mimic the fighting styles of the MCU heroes is full of potential, and it would be fun if it carried over into other films. However, it’s worth remembering that Black Widow is a prequel movie, and there’s a good chance that Taskmaster doesn’t survive the film. If so, there won’t be a big part for the character to play in the MCU. Then again, never say never. After all, Marvel found a way to bring Red Skull back for Avengers: Infinity War.

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Black Widow opens simultaneously in theaters and through Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9, 2021.

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