Who Is Taskmaster? 'Black Widow' Movie Villain Knows The Avengers' Weaknesses

The enigmatic masked villain, Taskmaster, will take on Natasha Romanoff in this year's Black Widow, introducing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a comic book character with abilities that are particularly effective against members of the Avengers.

Shown wielding a bow in a Black Widow teaser trailer released in December, and a shield similar to Captain America's in the "Special Look" trailer released this week, Taskmaster is capable of mirroring the fighting techniques of other superheroes. While a relatively obscure character when compared to villains like Thanos, Loki and Mysterio, Taskmaster has been a thorn in the Avengers' side since his first appearance.

Who Plays Taskmaster in Black Widow?

The actor behind the Taskmaster mask has not yet been revealed. Marvel Studios

Black Window arrives in theaters on May 1, which leaves nearly five months before Taskmaster's full role in the movie will be revealed. For now, Marvel Studios is being intentionally vague about the nature of the character in the movie.

Even his casting is a secret. Taskmaster may be played by O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid's Tale), who was cast in Black Widow as Rick Mason. Mason is described as an old contact of Black Widow's, with a possible "romantic undercurrent" between the two, Fagbenle told Entertainment Weekly in July.

Casting announcements characterize Mason as a leading role, suggesting Fagbenle will be playing more than just a name in Black Widow's rolodex—but does that mean he's Taskmaster? For now it's the best available answer.

Ray Winstone (Cats, The Departed) was also cast in an unknown role in Black Widow, but it's hard to picture the 62-year-old actor mimicking Natasha's acrobatics. Of course, there's always the possibility that Taskmaster will be played by an unannounced actor as well.

Introduced as a masked archer in the December Black Widow teaser trailer, Taskmaster's presence may also answer a related mystery regarding the Black Widow cast: will Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) appear in the movie?

The appearance of Budapest in the trailer suggests Black Widow will depict whatever awful experience the duo survived in the Hungarian city (referenced in 2012's The Avengers). Having Taskmaster wield a bow and arrow in the teaser trailer suggests he'll have the opportunity to mimic the Avenger's archery abilities, lending credence to Jeremy Renner making an unannounced appearance in the movie.

Taskmaster's Powers

Taskmaster seemingly mimicking Hawkeye's archery abilities in a trailer for 'Black Widow.' Marvel Studios

Taskmaster has "mnemonic talents," that extend far beyond memory, allowing him to duplicate any fighting style with something called "Photographic Reflexes." He would later enhance these powers with Nazi Super Soldier serum, granting him the ability to absorb, retain and mimic even more skills... for a price.

Taskmaster can duplicate another person's physical movements, without any practice, after watching those actions performed a single time, even sourced from a TV. In fights, particularly against superheroes he's studied, Taskmaster can nearly predict his opponent's next move. His physicality is enhanced slightly all-around, with higher agility, reflexes and strength than a normal person.

His powers also have advantages beyond fighting. Taskmaster can duplicate voices by mimicking someone's throat muscles. He can even watch sped up footage and briefly duplicate it in the real world, giving him an ersatz superhuman speed, at least temporarily.

Taskmaster's Origin Story

Taskmaster was created by writer David Michelinie and artist George Perez and debuted in May, 1980, in Avengers #195—30 years before Black Widow hits theaters. In the issue, Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket shrink down to infiltrate the Solomon Institute for the Criminally Insane to rescue the Wasp. On the last page of the issue, the trio are confronted by a new enemy when Taskmaster reveals himself.

Taskmaster on the cover of 'Avengers' #196. Marvel Comics

In the follow-up, Avengers #196, we learn a bit more about Taskmaster, previewed by his brag on the issue's cover: "Anything the Avengers can do, I can do better!"

Like so many Marvel villains, Taskmaster is eager to talk about himself, revealing to the Avengers the "photographic reflexes" he was born with, which allow him to emulate the fighting styles of any superhero. The Solomon Institute for the Criminally Insane is Taskmaster's wealth-generating scheme: a secret training school for henchmen, which Taskmaster supplies to enemies of the Avengers. After equalling Captain America in combat, Taskmaster manages to escape.

Taskmaster's origins were further explained in his own 2002 comic series. In its final issue, Taskmaster #4, we see more of Taskmaster's childhood in the Bronx. Born Tony Masters, as a boy he used his powers to duplicate swim team divers, NBA players and TV cowboys. A subsequent four-issue Taskmaster series in 2010 explored his early career as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., including his defection after losing his memory to a powers-enhancing Nazi Super Soldier serum.

This backstory, introduced 30 years after the character's creation, provided an explanation for why Taskmaster remained so mysterious during all those years as an opponent of the Avengers. With his own past lost to him, Taskmaster is chameleonic in more than just his superpowers. It also made him a greater threat than ever.

"I pick up anyone's moves just by seein' 'em," Taskmaster says in 2011's Avengers Academy #9. "That's a lotta data. More'n my brain's got room for, I guess. So I... forget things. Things that ain't about combat, about survival. People, places... I can't remember what I did last week. By Monday, I probably won't remember this conversation."

As a consequence of his heightened abilities, Taskmaster is always losing more of his past, making him a tragic figure whose current alliances and ideology are always in question.

Taskmaster in Video Games and TV

Taskmaster in the video game 'Marvel's Avengers.' Square Enix

2020 is a big year for Taskmaster, and not just because of his role in Black Widow. The character will also appear in Marvel's Avengers, the upcoming game from developer Crystal Dynamics, coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Google Stadia on September 4. Gameplay footage released by Marvel Entertainment features a fight between Black Widow and Taskmaster on the Golden Gate Bridge (starting at 12:00).

During the fight, Taskmaster alludes to their shared past with S.H.I.E.L.D., while Black Widow speculates that the longer they fight, the more of an edge Taskmaster's mimicry gives to him.

Taskmaster has also been a staple villain in Disney animated series like Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble and the Marvel Animation movie Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United—in each voiced by character actor Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers, Billions, The Mandalorian).

Taskmaster's Future After Black Widow

Since Natasha Romanoff dies in Avengers: Endgame, many have speculated what Black Widow might mean for coming Phase 4 movies like The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Set between Captain America: Civil War and Thanos' assault in Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow may offer a pathway toward returning Romanoff and Johansson in future Marvel movies, though that seems unlikely. It's also possible that Black Widow's sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) could take up the mantle, joining the Avengers at a later date.

With regard to Taskmaster, it's possible he could survive the events of Black Widow and return to pester the Avengers once more. His long history in the comics suggests many possible avenues of exploration, including his team-up with Deadpool, his mercenary work for the mysterious capitalist cabal known as the Committee or even his role in the black ops "Secret Avengers" established in 2015. Taskmaster's history of fighting for all sides—sometimes on the frontlines and sometimes training other heroes and villains—could make him a compelling character as the Marvel Cinematic Universe reassembles for Phase 4.

Taskmaster will finally be revealed when Black Widow comes out in theaters on May 1, 2020.