Alter Ego: Anthony "Tony" Masters
Notable Aliases: Captain America, Contingency T, Minister of Defense, Laughing Skull
First Appearance: The Avengers #195 (May, 1980)
Taskmaster (Tony Masters) is a Marvel Comics character. He first appeared in "Avengers" vol. 1 #195 (May, 1980), created by David Michelinie and George Pérez. He serves as a sometimes hero, sometimes villain of the Marvel Universe. His trademark is the ability to copy the movements, and, therefore, skills of those he watches, which he calls "photographic reflexes". What's interesting about him as compared to other power mimics is that he doesn't copy the powers of those individuals he sees, only their mundane skills. One example of this is when he's working for the 50 State Initiative and copies the movement skills of Spider-Man for use in training the Scarlet Spiders.
Taskmaster has appeared in the following works:
Notable Comic Books
- Taskmaster (2002)
- Taskmaster v.2 (2010-2011)
- Taskmaster: Unthinkable
- Secret Avengers Vol. 2 (2013)
- Taskmaster (2020)
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3
- Marvel Heroes
- Spider-Man (PS4), voiced by Brian Bloom
- Marvel's Avengers
Has nothing to do with the British comedy show Taskmaster, or the similarly-named video game TaskMaker. It also has zero relations to the wrestler Kevin Sullivan who uses "Taskmaster" as his wrestling name.
Taskmaster provides examples of the following tropes:
- Amnesiac Lover: He's married, but can't even remember it for more than a few minutes after his wife Mercedes tells him. She implies this isn't the first time it's happened.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: As described above, he can copy the skills and movements (but not powers) of anyone he sees. Not only that, but he can use this knowledge to predict what his opponent will do next. Too bad it's useless against people like Deadpool people who are nuttier than squirrel poo. And it doesn't grant him Required Secondary Powers, like trying out a dive while he didn't know how to swim.
Stewardess: We're in trouble! The pilot and co-pilot are both out cold. Do you know how to land a 747?Taskmaster: I've seen it done.
- He also spends a huge amount of his down time absorbing knowledge and skills that he may have a use for at some point. If Taskmaster says he's seen whatever-skill-is-needed-in-the-heat-of-the-moment you know he's got the situation covered.
- Despite the above comments, he has managed to work out some of Deadpool's fighting style to the point where he can copy some of it, and notes some consistency in his Confusion Fu (such as the fact that he apparently always dodges to the left). This proves useful when Deadpool hired him to disguise himself as a second Deadpool to trick the Thunderbolts.
- Arch-Enemy: To Scott Lang. It's not mutual though; Tasky doesn't even consider him a threat.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: His ability to mimic the fighting style of anyone he encounters often leads to this, and he's been known to talk down to his opponents about how over matched they are while they fight. It gets him in trouble in All-New Wolverine while fighting X-23, as while he can certainly adapt to her moves, he's so busy admonishing her on how hopeless it is for her that he completely forgets (or just plain didn't realize) that her claws aren't all in the same place as Logan's...
- It's also possible that due to his amnesia, he may simply have forgotten that she had foot claws or didn't get a chance to study up on her in the first place.
- Badass Normal: One of the most badass normal of the marvel multiverse.
- Big Bad: Most of Scott Lang's sometimes involve him.
- Boxed Crook: He works off his time by teaching heroes.
- Brooklyn Rage: In his first full appearance, states he's from the Bronx.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Taskmaster has on several occasions copied and used explicitly superhuman physical abilities in a pinch (Shi'ar martial arts, which require a lighter, stronger-than-human skeleton and musculature, and bullet-catching, respectively), and has taught himself to move at "twice the speed the human body was designed for" by watching video of various techniques on fast-forward.
- Additionally, he once underwent an experimental process to allow himself to copy actual superpowers via observation, but unfortunately, was interrupted before the process could fully "take".
- That said, he's still otherwise human and such feats take a toll on his body.
- Cloak & Dagger: He's worked for just about every secret agency in Marvel that you've ever heard of. And a few you haven't.
- Consummate Professional: The mercenary that most fits this trope in the Marvel U. Other mercenaries are either too emotional and thus prone to goodness (Silver Sable), too amoral (Bullseye), or too batshit crazy (Deadpool).
- Crippling Overspecialization/Cursed With Awesome/Blessed with Suck: Taskmaster's ability has been retconned so that he can only remember things related to fighting and survival. He can't remember things that he did last week.
- Deadpan Snarker: Since his debut, But particularly when written by Gail Simone.
- Depending on the Artist: Oh God, this guy could be the most triumphant example of this trope, even in the same series his mask looks more like a skull◊ or◊ like◊ a ghost◊or something else◊
- Diner Brawl: Ensues at the end of the first issue.
- Ditto Fighter: He can mimic every move he sees once, but he cannot replicate the strength of the opponent he's copied. So he can mimic Hulk's smash but not the sheer destructive power.
- Downer Ending:
- His miniseries ends with Mercedes successfully getting him to remember her... only for him to sacrifice those memories again to save her from the villain of the story. The worst part is she implies this isn't even the first time this has happened and that he's remembered and forgotten her dozens of times.
- Avengers Academy also has one. Throughout the fight, he jokes with Finesse, before finally admitting that he might be her father, but honestly doesn't know — and that soon he won't even remember her, because she's like him in that her fighting style comes from everyone else's; there's nothing that's really unique enough for him to remember her.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sometimes it usually depends on how incompetent his students are, what he's getting paid for, and how he wants to work them. Averted during his time as drill instructor for Camp Hammond. The first thing he says is "that whole Full Metal Jacket thing the guy before me did? Not doing it."
- Dual Wielding: Shows a fondness for doing this with pistols in the Udon mini-series and concurrent issues of Deadpool and Agent X.
- Epic Fail:
- ANYTIME when Taskmaster fights Deadpool, mainly due to the former's inability to fully remember non-survival actions and the latter's Confusion Fu.
- Subverted in Deadpool vs. Punisher #4. By making use of Frank Castle's no-nonsense combat style, Tasky was decisively beating the hell out of Wade before Frank managed to save him, and he even put up a solid fight against both at once.
- During a fight against Slapstick, Slapstick managed to get his hand on Taskmaster's broadsword. As he attempts to swing it at him, Taskmaster attempts to mimic the way Slapstick contorted his body to dodge his earlier attacks. Taskmaster ends up breaking his own spine in the process.
- While fighting the All-New Wolverine, he assumes that she has the same powers as her father. She uses this to her advantage when he makes him block a kick with his hand, only to pop her foot claw out while he's holding her foot.
- ANYTIME when Taskmaster fights Deadpool, mainly due to the former's inability to fully remember non-survival actions and the latter's Confusion Fu.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- In the "Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe" mini series taking place in an alternate universe, he's disgusted when he sees that Deadpool had killed the Power Pack, who are a team of kids! He even says that Deadpool deserves to die for that.note
- He mentions in the Udon Studios Taskmaster miniseries that he feels sorry for security guards, since they're usually underpaid, and prefers not to kill them if possible.
- Evil Mentor: He's does it for a living, running schools for mercenaries to train them as either Elite Mooks or full-fledged super-villains, although some of his students (like U.S. Agent and the original Spider-Woman) eventually qualified as heroes. He occasionally turns into a Treacherous Advisor, especially when working for the Red Skull (in one case sending the worst students to be "sparring partners" for his boss, which was a death sentence) but can be more efficient by-the-book on his own sometimes hiring other super-villains to form formal academies, like the time Anaconda worked for him as a calisthenics instructor.
- The Faceless: He never takes off his mask on-panel, whether others are around or not. When he is defeated and his mask is stolen in his own miniseries, we see him only in silhouette, and then from behind, before he retrieves his mask and makes sure the ones who took it aren't going to be telling anyone.
- One of the Udon comics actually did show him without the mask on... in a flashback to when he was twelve or so.
- Goes so far that when he's working with Deadpool and wearing a copy of his costume, he can be seen wearing his traditional skull mask underneath his Deadpool mask.
- It was shown once when Moon Knight defeated him and threatened to cut off his face literally but instead decided to just cut his mask off.
- We actually do see his face in All-New Wolverine: After Laura gets the upper hand against him while he's mouthing off about her not being able to beat him, she adds insult to injury by ripping his mask off.
- In the 2010 series, he spends the opening of the first issue out of costume, and his face is fully shown.
- Foil: To Deadpool, whenever he shows up. Taskmaster is calm and professional, while Deadpool is unpredictable and crazy.
- Hidden Depths: He was unhappy when he discovered that he would be unable to remember Finesse, who is possibly his daughter (all of her fighting skills are copied like his, so he can't remember her using them as he had hoped, and was very concerned about Mockingbird, right up until she killed him while she was brainwashed. Of course, it turns out he's not actually dead, as Mockingbird deliberately missed his vitals when she shot him.
- The miniseries which revealed his backstory, and revealed his Wild Card status is the result of him being too heroic to fully commit to being a villain, but hates himself too much to be a hero because he feels immense guilt for leaving his wife when he lost his memory of her but doesn't remember what he actually did, and has convinced himself its an unforgivable Moral Event Horizon.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The nature of his powers makes this a legitimate possibility any time he mimics something his body is physically incapable of because of a lack of Required Secondary Powers. In one issue of Deadpool he snapped his own spine while mimicking Slapstick's fighting style. Because while he can certainly learn the moves by observing, he can't mimic Slapstick's Cartoon Physics and Rule of Funny powers, so Reality Ensues.
- I Know Mortal Kombat: He is capable of doing this, as this is his power. Due to "photographic reflexes", he can perfectly emulate any humanly possible physical action he's seen someone else perform, both in person and on video. He once used Gun Fu on a bunch of guys and claims he learned it from a Jet Li movie marathon he'd watched the previous night. He has even been known to watch kung-fu movies on fast-forward and temporarily use the styles he saw at the same increased speed. Unfortunately, it also erases an equal portion of memory from his brain to make space for the new technique, i.e., his name or knowing that he has a wife. There's also some limitations; if a technique has Required Secondary Powers at best he won't be able to perform it at all. At worst he may just end up injuring himself while trying it (such as when he tried to mimic Slapstick's Toon Physics).
- Identity Amnesia: He's really an ex-SHIELD agent whose only reason for being a bad guy is the feeling of guilt he can't escape of abandoning his wife Mercedes. Even after the rest of his memories are gone, he can't escape it.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Observation of Hawkeye, the Punisher, Bullseye and others has given him this with a variety of implements ranging from the usual bows and guns to lead pencils.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Implied to be the reason for his carrying one in the Udon mini-series. Outside of UDON books however, he prefers double edge swords. (The preeminent swordsman in the Marvel Universe at the time of his creation was the Black Knight, so Tasky copied his skills.)
- Know When to Fold 'Em: During the KIA Incident during Avengers: The Initiative, Taskmaster survived the mad clone's initial rampage through the facility, and spent the rest of the event sitting in the basement with Eric O'Grady watching Chuck.
- Lamarck Was Right: Finesse of Avengers Academy has his powers and is implied to be his daughter, though he can't remember if it's true.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Justified a little better than most cases in fiction. It is explained in his mini-series that all of his explicit memories, which makes up his past, have been wiped out because of damage to the hippocampus. This leaves only the implicit ones, which contain his skill set, left.
- Logical Weakness: He is not capable of duplicating a physical feat if the effort to do so requires superhuman power.
- Made of Iron: Has shrugged off multiple bullet wounds, getting drop-kicked through a wall by an enraged Spider-Man and being run over by speeding cars.
- The Mentor: Due to knowing the movesets of many heroes and villains, he's often hired for teaching others how to fight. For example, Agent X, in the eponymous mini-series, and the Iron Spiders, whom he imprinted with Spider-Man's moveset.
- Mood Whiplash: His miniseries has a severe case. It goes from scenes involving a South American village full of Adolf Hitlers trying to kill each other to Taskmaster's inner monologues reflecting on how horrible life is being unable to have an identity thanks to his memory loss.
- Mundane Utility: He uses his powers to impress women, gamble, cook and perfect his golf swing.
- One Steve Limit: Subverted in that he shares the same first name as Iron Man, but Taskmaster is very rarely addressed as Tony.
- Only in It for the Money: He'll work for goddamn anyone if they pay him enough.
- Pet the Dog: He and Constrictor both allowed Initiative washout Butterball to take a picture looking like the kid had beaten them in a fight.
- Photographic Memory:
- So much so that there's been some debate on whether it makes him super-human, mutant, or just "gifted". Supposedly, learning new moves overwrites other memories. However, while the "Learning moves erases my memories" bit sounds believable, it's false. The human brain can store a virtually unlimited amount of information. Even Taskmaster's amnesia is portrayed unrealistically. In real life, there is a condition where people lack the ability to form new memories, or at least, long term memories. Because of this they have no concept of time. A man who obtained the amnesia in, say, 1980, would always think it's 1980. Yet, when Taskmaster's amnesia is shown, its effects are nowhere near as extensive as this.
- His wife Mercedes Merced also counts.
- Powers as Programs: His brain in the 2010 miniseries was said to be reformed after consuming an attempted recreation of the Super Soldier Serum. Now it acts more like a computer where it will "dump" what it finds is unnecessary and only keep fighting moves as well as some small analyzable cues in movement like a computer whose OS is set to delete anything not related to certain subjects. It's one of the reasons why he fights Finesse in an effort to remember her, though due to her training he's able to tell she has no unique attacks only is replicating others like he does. It's been shown he's to be able to recall some things unrelated with fighting but only with a complex set of mental triggers, and has learnt to fake remembering people to hide this (which is largely why he wears a mask; no one can tell how surprised he is when they approach him).
- Pragmatic Villainy: For a while there he was the only Marvel villain who had never been captured because of his willingness to abandon his criminal endeavors whenever things got too hairy. As he said in his first battle with the Avengers, he might actually have been able to beat all of them, but it was too risky to try and there wasn't any profit in it.
- Professional Killer: Compared to Deapool, Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, Deathstrike, and even Wolverine he is the most professional assassin.
- Punch-Clock Villain: So much that he can even be a Punch-Clock Hero sometimes. In short, Taskmaster seems to go with whichever side will make him the most reliable, most hassle-free money.
- Reality Ensues: Not always enforced, but most of the time if Taskmaster tries to copy the moves of someone whose moves are only possible because of their superpowers, he will at best not do it very effectively, and if he's really unlucky he'll actually hurt himself trying to pull it off - just because you threw a punch the same way the Hulk did does not mean you can punch through a brick wall like he did (or even just not break your hand).
- Real Men Wear Pink: Likes the Spice Girls.
- Required Secondary Powers: Noticeably averted when it comes to his photographic reflexes; he can't effectively copy a move or ability that requires superhuman strength, as well as any energy or projectile-based techniques, although it should be stated that he is still much stronger and faster than the average human. His mind is still human despite his photographic memory, so he has a limit to how much he can remember and recall.
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: The drawback to his abilities is that every time he learns a new combat skill, he loses his memory and any non-combat data. This was made up in the latest mini, as he often watches cooking and golf shows to learn those skills, and his first few uses of his abilities is learning to lasso and diving.
- Sadist Teacher: Often seems like this to his students.
- Skeletons in the Coat Closet: As an homage to the Mexican personification of Death, he wears a skull mask.
- Skull for a Head: As mentioned above, he traditionally wears a mask that resembles a skull.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: His real name is Tony Masters.
- Strong as They Need to Be: His prowess and physical ability can fluctuate. Supposedly, his only real power is his photographic reflexes, and outside of that he's just a "peak human" who's greatest asset is his mind and skill. Yet he's pulled off feats that go beyond that, as detailed below, and can be a true superhuman fighter when the need arises.
- Stuffed in the Fridge: Discussed. In the 2020 run, Taskmaster notes how many superheroes seem to be waiting for one dead woman to push them over the edge so he adopts a "No wives, no girlfriends, no mothers" policy. He says targeting loved ones is "gross" and also doesn't want a hero to have a grudge against him the way Daredevil has a grudge against Bullseye.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The latest mini-series makes his copying powers out to be the result of taking a formula devised by German scientists towards the end of WWII.
- Super Reflexes: Is capable of perceiving and reacting to the world around him at faster-than-human levels, allowing him to function consciously while using his double speed ability and to perceive bullets in flight and catch them with his hands or otherwise deflect them.
- Super Speed: In addition to the aforementioned bullet-catching, he's also been seen shooting multiple arrows near-simultaneously (from a bow, which, being a direct copy of Hawkeye's, requires more arm-strength than the average fit, adult male human possesses to even pull back to its full draw-length even once) and killing half a dozen men standing yards apart from each other with a sword in less than a second. When other characters fight him it can seem like he's everywhere around them all at once.
- Super Strength: Seems to exhibit a some form of this (despite ostensibly only being "peak human"), being able to generate enough force through a shield throw to temporarily short out Iron Man's armour, knock giant characters off their feet despite being a dozen or so times smaller, casually punch a grown man several times his body-length through the air and hold his own against the superhumanly powerful Asgardians.
- Take That!: Gets into a fight with the daughters of Tarantula and Batroc the Leaper and, after expressing surprise since he thought they were gay, declares he hates ethnic stereotypes before shooting them both.
- Those Two Guys: With Black Ant, whenever he's written by Nick Spencer.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: He and Deadpool have this type of "friendship"- perhaps said best by Taskmaster: "The things I do for the friends I can't stand..."
- Vocal Dissonance: A scary super-merc with a skull mask, who also happens to have a thick Brooklyn accent. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Steve Blum's portrayal of him reminds quite a few of Moe Szyslak, yet it's entirely accurate for him to sound like that.
- Wild Card:
- Taskmaster will work for HYDRA one moment and S.H.I.E.L.D. the next - his only loyalty is to the one paying him.
- Seemed to be changing when despite M.O.D.O.K.'s expectations, Taskmaster genuinely joined S.H.I.E.L.D.'s side, and seems to have liked Mockingbird.