‘Black Widow’ Villain Taskmaster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Credit: Marvel Studios

Taskmaster has been a mainstay villain in Marvel Comics since he first appeared in Avengers #195 back in 1980, but he has waited a long time to make the jump to the big screen.  MCU fans might be wondering who this villain is since Taskmaster is set to premiere in the long-delayed Black Widow, hitting theaters on July 9, 2021.

So here is your chance to learn everything that you need to know about Taskmaster before Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) takes him in her first solo outing.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

How Taskmaster fits into the MCU

It looks like the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be reinventing the villainous Taskmaster quite a bit for the upcoming Black Widow film. For starters, in the new Black Widow trailer Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) tells Natasha “He controls the Red Room”, confirming that this version of Taskmaster will be connected to the Russian Black Widow Program.

The Taskmaster from the comics is not connected to the Red Room. And other than this line, Marvel boss Kevin has kept Taskmaster’s role in the film unwraps, so fans have been speculating that there will be a major reveal that he has been gender-swapped and that Rachel Weisz’s character Melina Vostokoff is the new Taskmaster.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

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Other rumors focus on O-T Fagbenle’s Mason as another likely suspect for Taskmaster. Mason does not have a direct comic book counterpart, but fans theorize he could be a version of Rick Mason, a mercenary that dealt with people with special abilities. Though what role this character will have in the film has not been revealed.

He is expected to have a romantic plot with Natasha but since we know he didn’t show up in Endgame, he could easily be revealed as Taskmaster or to be killed off at some point in the film. Even now with the official character posters dropping for Black Widow Marvel Studios is playing it close to the vest as to who is playing Taskmaster.

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Since Black Widow is a prequel, fans already know of the tragic fate of Natasha in Avengers: Endgame (2019). So, any major event from the film may not have any immediate consequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. None of the characters that will be introduced in Black Widow made an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which chronologically takes place later in the MCU timeline.

This could be Taskmaster’s only appearance as a typical MCU one-and-done villain, or they could take on Yelena at some point later if she takes on the mantle of the Black Widow as she did in her comic book origin. Yelena is set to make a cameo in the upcoming original series Hawkeye on Disney+ when it streams later this year and perhaps Taskmaster could show up again with her.

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Marvel Comics Taskmaster
Credit: Marvel Comics

Taskmaster’s origin story

In his Marvel Comics origin, Taskmaster’s real name is Anthony “Tony” Masters. He was created by David Michelinie and George Pérez. He began as a SHIELD agent but when he injected himself with an experimental variation of the super-soldier serum, Taskmaster’s powers led him down a darker path.

This version of the serum gave Taskmaster some increased physiological strength and stamina, but it had the biggest effect on his brain. He was suddenly capable of absorbing information almost instantly. The result was that Taskmaster had photographic reflexes, and he could reproduce anyone else’s physical talents after seeing them only one time.

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Credit: Marvel Comics

The serum had negative side effects on Tony Masters – as it does on everyone who is not Steve Rogers/ Captain America. His new ability came at the cost of slowly losing his own memories as they were replaced with memories of those he watched. As he began to forget who he was, he was manipulated into becoming a double agent and ultimately ended up as a villain.

Taskmaster founded Taskmaster’s Academy and went on to train many other criminals and heroes including Crossbones (Frank Grillo), U.S. Agent (Russell Wyatt), and Spider-Woman. This part of his character may be retconned in the MCU where he will run the Red Room and trained other Black Widow villains.

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Credit: Marvel Comics

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He also led a team of reformed villains known as the Thunderbolts. After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier fans are speculating that Marvel Studios could be setting up either the Thunderbolts or the Dark Avengers for future use.

Taskmaster generally does not have evil intentions in the comics. As a mercenary, he often shows up just because he is getting paid. He will sometimes regain his memories of being a SHIELD agent and return to the side of good only to learn some new skill that would erase his memories again.

In Black Widow, Taskmaster will be leading an army of widows. So if there is a connection to the Thunderbolts and Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier it has not been revealed in any of the Black Widow trailers.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

Taskmaster’s abilities in the MCU

As mentioned above the technical name for Taskmaster’s power is photographic reflexes. It’s a fancy name to say that he can copy anyone’s fighting style or skills. He cannot mimic super strength or Scarlet Witch /Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) chaos magic.

It’s clear from the promotions for Black Widow that while the MCU may have changed Taskmaster’s origins his powers remain the same. The shield that he is carrying is based on Captain America’s, though it may not be vibranium like Cap’s shield.

He is also seen with his own version of Black Panther/ T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) claws and Hawkeye/ Clint Barton’s (Jeremy Renner) bow and arrow. He even mimics Black Widow’s flip against her in the trailer. And he is seen reviewing footage of old fights featuring the Avengers.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

Notably, Taskmaster is seen wielding a sword multiple times. None of the Avengers use a sword like that so the theory on the internet is he copied the moves from a previously unseen character like Black Knight (Kit Harrington) who is set to premiere in The Eternals on November 5, 2021.

Taskmaster does not have a specific hero he always fights against in the comics. His mind allows him to come up with amazing tactical plans and most superheroes struggle to defeat him. The one exception is Deadpool – whose broken and chaotic mind is simply too unpredictable for Taskmaster to copy.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

Taskmaster’s debut in the upcoming Black Widow movie

As of now, before the Black Widow release, all Marvel has confirmed is that Taskmaster will be the antagonist of the film. The plot has been kept secret along with who is under Taskmaster’s helmet.

Black Widow actress Florence Pugh has described the storyline in the film as “horrifying”. And it will deal with victims of abuse by examining Natasha’s past with Red Room, which brings her home to team up with other Russian characters like Red Guardian/ Alexei Shostakov (Davis Harbour). At some point, they will have to take on Taskmaster, who presumably has some elaborate plot involving the Black Widow program.

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Credit: Marvel Studios

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His first look from the trailer and concept art has divided fans, who were disappointed that Marvel’s new design lacked his iconic skull mask.

On Twitter, user Jack_Widman said:

Gonna be honest, the Taskmaster MCU suit is great, beside the mask. I would prefer if they just did a regular skull mask and not the goggles look, hopefully they do one of my favorite marvel villains justice!

For more information on Taskmaster and his place in the MCU going forward check back here after Black Widow finally hits theaters.

Let us know in the comments below if you are pumped for Taskmaster to make it to the big screen!

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