'Black Widow': The curious history of Taskmaster, a truly 'inspirational' villain

Taskmaster's ability to mimic skills allows him to adapt himself to every situation, which is why it's kind of surprising that he gets defeated so much. He may not exactly be an A-list villain like Red Skull or Doctor Doom but he does have his own unique history.


                            'Black Widow': The curious history of Taskmaster, a truly 'inspirational' villain

Scarlett Johansson’s upcoming ‘Black Widow’ movie will see her go up against an iconic comic book villain who may not be that familiar to the general audience. Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con 2019 panel confirmed that the movie would feature Taskmaster, a mercenary with the ability to mimic other people’s fighting styles.

The character is a formidable fighter who has crossed swords with pretty much every Marvel hero ranging from Captain America to Spider-Man. His ability to mimic skills allows him to adapt himself to every situation, which is why it's kind of surprising that he gets defeated so much. Taskmaster may not exactly be an A-list villain like Red Skull or Doctor Doom but he does have his own unique history. He made his first appearance in ‘The Avengers’ #195 (May 1980), created by writer David Michelinie and artist George Pérez. While the character is most commonly depicted as a training instructor working for various criminal organizations, he’s been a lot more “inspirational” behind the scenes than in the comics themselves.

Manu Bennett as Deathstroke in Arrow (2012). (IMDb)

Deathstroke the Terminator, one of DC’s most easily recognized villains, was at least a little bit of a rip-off of Taskmaster. Deathstroke made his debut in the comics just months after Taskmaster. The Terminator has also been a trainer for multiple young supervillains, just like Taskmaster, and while they may not have the same abilities, Deathstroke is an equally formidable fighter who has faced pretty much every do-gooder DC has to offer.

If you thought this spree of ripping off/parodying characters ended with Deathstroke, think again. Marvel brought out Deadpool in 1991 as a quite obvious parody of the Terminator. For one thing, Deathstroke’s real name is Slade Wilson and Deadpool’s real name is Wade Wilson. As if that didn’t make things obvious enough, Deadpool has a very similar design to Deathstroke and puts a more comedic spin on the Terminator’s “greatest mercenary in the world” shtick by basically being the most annoying merc to ever pick up a gun. Looking back on this history, it’s ironic that Deadpool is also the only person who Taskmaster can never hope to beat.

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. (IMDb)

Taskmaster’s power mimicry isn’t technically speaking a superpower. He can’t see the future, only analyze his opponent’s style and mimic it. This doesn’t exactly work with Deadpool, a homicidal maniac who would be perfectly happy to get stabbed so long as he gets to stab his attacker back. The fact that his healing abilities stop him from sustaining any permanent damage is a convenient perk. Faced with Deadpool. Taskmaster can never guess what to expect because Deadpool himself never has much of a clue what he’s actually doing. Who knew insanity could be a superpower?

You can see more of Taskmaster when ‘Black Widow’ releases in theaters on May 1, 2020.

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