Anthony “Tony” Masters (Taskmaster)

The second character spotted in the Black Widow trailer is the big bad, and one of my personal favorites from the comics: Taskmaster, the world’s deadliest mercenary. I can’t say I like the design of his armor and mask for the movie, but at least he’s got the shield and the bow and arrows along. The fact that no actor has been revealed of the role lets us thinking that the MCU version of Taskmaster will be somebody other than Tony Masters, his alter ego from the comics, and most likely he’ll be some of the other characters, an alleged good guy, in disguise. We’ll have to wait and see to confirm this, but at least we can take a look at the original one.

At first, it was believed that Tony Masters obtained his formidable photographic memory with an experimental serum that unlocked the unexpressed potential of the human brain, but truth is he was special since he was born, and the serum only augment his natural abilities. As a kid, he learnt to dive, to play basketball, to throw a lasso just by watching for some minutes people performing said tasks on tv. His brain instantly memorized all movements he saw, a knowledge that was imprinted into his muscle memory, so that he was able to replicate to perfection any move he saw even for a few seconds. With this kind of ability, he was easily selected to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., distinguishing himself as one of the best ever on the field. During a mission, he crossed paths with the dying Nazi scientist Horst Gorscht, that gave him the serum that allowed his body to follow to perfection the movements dictated by the brain. Unfortunately, his brain was now incapable of retaining this many memories, and every ability he learnt, every move he copied, overwrote some of his personal memories: soon, he forgot to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and he even forgot his partner in life and on work, his wife and fellow agent Mercedes. Following Nick Fury‘s orders, Mercedes disguised herself as The Org, a handler, and guided her husband into a path to become Taskmaster, an infallible mercenary who sold his incredible abilities to the highest bidder; Taskmaster was soon employed by many known supervillains, and while The Org officially acted as his “external memory”, reminding him of things he constantly forgot, she also provided S.H.I.E.L.D. with reports on several supervillains’ activities, without Taskmaster being aware of it. After making a name for himself as a mercenary, Taskmaster opened an academy to train anyone who could pay him, and from there he became the best teacher any villain (or hero) could hope for. It was while running his school that he got first noticed by the Avengers, who weren’t happy to have an academy for supervillains in the neighborhood.

The Avengers exposed Taskmaster’s school and attacked him, but they found out he was a formidable opponent: since he instantly memorized any fighting pattern he saw, he easily predicted all his enemies’ moves, and he effortlessly overpowered Yellowjacket, Wasp and Ant-Man, capturing them. When the rest of the team came, Taskmaster fought and bested them all… until he met the heroes’ new recruit, Jocasta, who, being an android, didn’t have any body language to read. For the first time in his career, Taskmaster was unable to read an opponent, and he got defeated. Of course, he managed to escape nevertheless, and his activity flourished even more from there on: fighting against the Avengers and humiliating most of them was a victory under many points of view, and it attracted a lot of clients, both good and bad. Having memorized the combat style of Captain America, for example, he was hired both by the Commission on Superhuman Activities, who wanted him to teach them to John Walker, who was supposed to be Cap’s replacement as US Agent, and by the Red Skull, who used him to train his Cap-killer Cutthroat. He kept working as both a trainer and a mercenary, crossing paths with a number of heroes and villains and copying everything he could from them, becoming even more valuable on the market, collecting victory after victory, and transforming even the rare defeats into occasions for “professional growth”. When the US Government approved the Superhuman Registration Act, Taskmaster was one of the registered “heroes” who were employed in the Initiative: he was assigned to Camp Hammond, where he trained recruits to fight against the former superheroes now outlaws since they refused to register. When Norman Osborn took power, he enlisted Taskmaster’s services the same way, but Tony fled during the siege on Asgard, after fighting with unexpected success against two different Captain Americas and even Thor. He resumed his work as a mercenary and everything was going just fine… until in Tokyo some of his original memories started reemerging, and Masters found out he had always been the perfect double agent, so deep undercover that even he had forgotten whose side he was on…

Tony Masters is a genius and a hard worker, with no moral scruple nor particular interest in his client’s ideals or intentions: he sells his services to whoever can afford them, with all the commitment and professionalism one would expect from him. As Taskmaster, he can instantly memorize any movement he sees even for a few seconds, and replicate them to the detail; he can also imitate any voice he hears, and by learning combat patterns he can predict the actions of every opponent (apart from Deadpool, who’s crazy enough to be unpredictable); so far, he’s copied martial arts from Captain America, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, Elektra, Wolverine, Black Panther and countless others, swordsmanship from Silver Samurai, Black Knight, Swordsman, archery from Hawkeye and Trickshot, acrobatics from Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Falcon and others, firearms from Punisher, Solo, Agent X, Bushwacker, throwing weapons from Boomerang, Bullseye, Thor, and countless other abilities from countless other individuals; the serum also allows him to move at superhuman speed for a little while imitating the movements of fast-forwarded videos, and augments his physical abilities. One of the world’s greatest assassins and trainers, Taskmaster is a man who has everything… apart from the fact that he has no idea of who he really is, as the true Tony Masters is buried somewhere in his miraculous brain, a series of memories lost amidst far too many identities overlapped one on the other.

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