Taskmaster

Taskmaster

[task-mas-ter, tahsk-mah-ster]

Taskmaster is a fictional character, a supervillain in the Marvel Universe. Created by writer David Michelinie and artist George Pérez, the character first appeared in Avengers (1st series) #195.

Fictional character biography

Taskmaster is a mutant with the power to mimic the physical movements of anyone he witnesses. He trains others to become lackeys for other villains by utilizing the techniques he has learned from his observation of superheroes and participates in mercenary jobs from time to time. In the past, he has usually been on the opposite side of the law, but he was also employed by the federal government to train USAgent at the request of the Red Skull. Taskmaster doesn't serve any ideology. He will work for nearly anyone for the right price.

Early career

The man who would become Taskmaster first demonstrated unusual abilities during childhood. After watching a cowboy show on television, he found himself able to duplicate the sophisticated rope tricks he had just watched the cowboy perform. Psychiatrists, called in at the mother's request, determined that the boy had a form of photographic memory which they called "photographic reflexes." He employed his power several times during his youth for personal gain, most notably when he became a star quarterback of his high school football team after watching one pro football game. Upon graduation, he briefly considered a career as a crimefighter, but opted instead to become a criminal, which he perceived to be far more lucrative.

Taskmaster then began a program of observing the fighting techniques of a large number of costumed heroes and villains (using archival television news broadcasts). He initially used his fighting skills to execute several successful grand larcenies, but he had not properly anticipated the dangers involved. He decided to use his stolen capital to establish a center for training aspiring criminals to become polished professionals. His goal was to become a supplier for criminal organizations around the world. Designing a costume, he took the name Taskmaster and began to train a large number of thugs at criminal academies he had located around the United States. However, his existence was eventually revealed when the head of one of these academies used the school's resources to create a clone of himself when he required an organ donation; learning of his fate, the clone managed to contact the Avengers, and Taskmaster was subsequently forced to flee after a confrontation with Jocasta, whose lack of body language made it impossible for Taskmaster to predict her next move.

Training U.S. Agent

Deciding to further explore the use of a circus as a front for his academy, Taskmaster took over yet another small outfit, and used it for many months to great success. However, while it was playing a small town in Ohio, the Thing and Vance Astrovik (who would later become Justice) assisted a government agent in foiling Taskmaster's activities. While escaping, the Taskmaster was captured by a group of FBI agents and taken into custody, but there is reason to believe that the Red Skull was behind the Taskmaster's capture, since a group of normal men were able to capture him.

Through Douglas Rockwell, the head of the President's Commission on Superhuman Activities, "Mr. Smith" (actually the Red Skull) arranged for Taskmaster to train John Walker (then known as Captain America, later known as U.S. Agent) in order to make him appear to be the real Captain America. In order to conceal the Red Skull's involvement, Douglas Rockwell had the Commission work out a deal to have years taken off Taskmaster's sentence in return for training Walker. After Taskmaster successfully trained Walker, the Red Skull arranged for him to escape from the Commission's detention center so he could continue training lackeys and the Red Skull himself.

Training supervillains and henchmen

Taskmaster's more skilled, successful, and notable students include such characters as Crossbones and Cutthroat (both henchmen to the Red Skull), U.S. Agent, Hauptmann Deutschland, Diamondback (the one-time girlfriend of Captain America), Spymaster, Spider-Woman I (Jessica Drew), and Agent X. On the other hand, Taskmaster also trains many of his students to serve as low-rent henchmen and cannon fodder. In his early appearances, Taskmaster mentions putting intellect-reducing drugs in the diet of his students. He also routinely sent groups of his more disappointing students to serve as "sparring partners" for the Red Skull, who routinely engaged several of them at a time, killing them all. (Hauptmann Deutschland, having infiltrated the academy, used one such session as an opportunity to kidnap the Red Skull.) He has also employed other supervillains, such as when he hired Anaconda as his academy's calisthenics instructor.

On another occasion, Taskmaster was hired by the Triune Understanding- a religious group secretly masterminding a smear campaign to paint the Avengers as being religiously and racially intolerant- to stage an attack on a Triune facility. Posing as Captain America, he contacted Warbird, Ant-Man, Silverclaw and Captain Marvel, claiming that he needed their help to destroy a Triune building containing a mind-control machine. Although they saw through his deception and subsequently defeated him- thanks to Captain Marvel transforming into Rick Jones mere milliseconds away from Taskmaster, thus causing a complete change of attack before Taskmaster could react-, the building was destroyed in the ensuing battle and Taskmaster escaped, leaving the heroes lacking any evidence of their story.

Taskmaster continued to train numerous villains and thugs until the Avengers began to search out and shut down some of his academies across the United States. Taskmaster began to spend more time working as a mercenary in order to make up for the loss of profit. This led him to join Agency X at the behest of his love interest Sandi Brandenberg, in missions from time to time, while continuing to teach at his academies around the world. More recently, Taskmaster is once again seen as a hired mercenary, contracted by the Committee to kill Marc Spector, Moon Knight. Here, though clearly in Taskmaster costume, he is only so far referred to as "Contingency T" and "Tasky" when talking to himself. Taskmaster was misled with information that Moon Knight was broken, desiring death and friendless. During the conflict these factors all proved to be false as Marc's ex-girlfriend and his butler came to his defense and he found the will to fight back. Despite his superior fighting abilities, Taskmaster was defeated. Moon Knight then carved off the skin of Taskmaster's facemask, though left him alive.

Civil War

When the Civil War broke out, Taskmaster was hired by the government and enrolled into a team of Thunderbolts given temporary amnesty by the government to take down Captain America's Secret Avengers.

In the final issue of Civil War, Taskmaster was among the Thunderbolts battling the secret Avengers in New York. He attempts to kill Susan Storm, only for Reed Richards to take the bullet. Enraged, Sue crushes him with an invisible telekinetic field, rendering him unconscious. He was sent to the Negative Zone Prison with the other 'Major-League' members of the Thunderbolt army such as Lady Deathstrike, but was apparently freed by Deadpool during the events of Cable and Deadpool #36. In order to regain his reputation as a mercenary, Deadpool frees Taskmaster from his imprisonment in order to have a showdown with him while potential merc contractors watched from their captive position in a nearby prison. Taskmaster is again referred to as "Tasky" by Deadpool, and a fight ensues between him and a manacled Deadpool. He mentions his professional ethics, but this simply comes down to deciding to simply maim his opponent rather than kill him. In the end, he is defeated by Deadpool, who, in spite of the victory, fails to impress his captive audience. After being thanked for letting him win, Taskmaster tells Deadpool that he had not let him win, "The truth is... You're that good. You've always been that good. Which won't get you a cup of coffee until you figure out how to be a professional..."

Taskmaster was given a full presidential pardon for his efforts in testing the security of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, in which he was able to break in and place Deputy Director Maria Hill in his sights. Though he was allowed to leave, a threatening message left in Hill's private bathroom revealed that if he ever desired, S.H.I.E.L.D. is no difficult feat.

The Initiative

Taskmaster replaces Gauntlet as Camp Hammond's drill instructor and is tasked with training registered superheroes for the Fifty States Initiative. Taskmaster would also be involved in the MVP cloning process inputing (via technology) the original's move set and, for the Scarlet Spiders, the move set of Spider-Man.

Powers and abilities

Taskmaster possesses the mutant ability of photographic memory that ties directly into his muscle memory, giving him an ability he refers to as "photographic reflexes." This ability enables him to watch another person's physical movements and duplicate them without practice as long as it is physically possible for an ordinary human to accomplish. This power is only limited by its inability to mimic the superhuman powers of others, and by the fact that the Taskmaster does not have superhuman strength or other superhuman attributes. He is capable of emulating the styles of, among others, Daredevil, Elektra, Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man, the Punisher, and Deadpool. In addition, he is a very capable marksman, able to emulate Bullseye's perfect aim, as well as that of the Punisher and Hawkeye.

Taskmaster's power to duplicate the abilities of others is purely dependent on sight, and restricted to physical motions. For example, he could copy a virtuoso pianist's performance by watching him play, but would not gain the ability to read sheet music. As a child, he almost drowned when he perfectly duplicated another swimmer's dive, forgetting that he had not yet learned how to swim once he hit the water.

Once Taskmaster has assimilated another fighter's style, he is often able to predict his opponent's next move. However, this advantage can be negated by fighters who are unpredictable, such as Deadpool and Wolverine. In addition, Taskmaster has discovered that after watching martial arts movies on fast-forward he is able to briefly duplicate the moves at a greatly increased velocity, effectively giving him a limited form of superspeed. However, as he does not have any sort of enhanced endurance, this puts a great strain on his body and he is only able to fight in this manner for short periods of time.

Taskmaster has had his scientists duplicate versions of a variety of weapons used by Marvel characters, which he can use with nearly as great facility as their respective owners. In the past, he carried duplicates of Daredevil's billy club, Hawkeye's trick arrows and bow, and Captain America's shield. He also carried a sword (in emulation of the Black Knight), a lasso, and a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol (in emulation of the Punisher). He has recently been seen throwing "crescent darts" during his bout with Moon Knight, in imitation of Moon Knight's fighting methods (However, Taskmaster has said he prefers not to use Moon Knight's style, since Moon Knight would rather take a punch than dodge it).

Taskmaster's character was considerably revised in a 2002 UDON-created miniseries, which itself led into repeated appearances in the UDON drawn series', Deadpool and Agent X. Most visibly, he wore a costume apparently modeled after tactical body armor, with the addition of a skull mask, replacing his pirate-themed garb. During this time, Taskmaster also ceased carrying an arsenal of duplicate weapons. Instead, his armament consisted primarily of a pair of semi-automatic handguns and a katana, which he wields with the fighting style of the Silver Samurai. He also carried a prototype wrist-mounted device, stolen from S.H.I.E.L.D., which can spontaneously create simple shapes out of solid energy, saving him the trouble of weighing himself down with many weapons. In particular, he was fond of using the device to create copies of Captain America's shield and Spider-Man's webbing. Taskmaster also used a holographic device to disguise his appearance and impersonate others. However, in his recent appearances in Moon Knight and Civil War, Taskmaster has returned to his old costume and weapons.

The Taskmaster's only "weakness" is a deep-set severe fear of drowning, based on the aforementioned childhood trauma.

Other versions

House of M

Taskmaster appears as a member of the strike force known as the Brotherhood. Although this version is classed as a mutant, since Frank Castle is classed as the only human member. However, after he is beaten by Luke Cage for the murder of Tigra, he is found to be a human masquerading as a mutant

Millennial Visions

In a reimagining of the Thunderbolts, Taskmaster is forced to join the Thunderbolts when Hawkeye has Ringmaster hypnotize him

What If?

In a What If? story, The Taskmaster trains the Super-Patriot and BUCkies. He is similar to his 616 counterpart. This Earth is designated Earth-8909

Bibliography

Alphabetical list of comics featuring Taskmaster. Cameos/Reprints not listed.

  • Agent X #1-7, 10-11, 13-15 (2002-2004)
  • Alpha Flight #121 (1993)
  • Amazing Spider-man #308, 366-367 (1992)
  • Avengers #195,196 (1980) [1st Appearance]
  • Avengers #223 (1982)
  • Avengers #26, 38 (2000, 2001)
  • Avengers/Power Pack #1 (2006)
  • Avengers: The Initiative #8 (2007)
  • Captain America #334, 394, 396 (1987, 1991)
  • Captain America #44 (2001)
  • Captain America Annual #11 (1992)
  • Daredevil #292-293, 317-318 (1991, 1993)
  • Deadpool #2, 35, 39, 40, 45, 50, 67, 68, 69 (1997, 1999)
  • Elektra #5, 7(1997)
  • Hawkeye: Earth's Mightiest Marksman #1 (1998)
  • Iron Man #254 (1990)
  • JLA/Avengers #3-4 (2003)
  • Marvel Team-Up #103, 146 (1981, 1984)
  • Marvel Universe 2001 Millennial Visions
  • Moon Knight #3-6 (2006)
  • She-Hulk #59 (1994)
  • Siren: Infinity (1995)
  • Siren #1-3(1995)
  • Siren Special #1 (1996)
  • Spider-Woman: Origins #2-5 (2006)
  • Taskmaster #1-4 (2002)
  • Thing #26 (1985)
  • Wolverine #167-168 (2001)
  • What If...? #3 (1989)

References

External links

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