clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who is Taskmaster, the villain of Black Widow?

The Avengers foe finds a new rival in Natasha Romanoff

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

On Monday, Marvel Studios unveiled the final trailer for Black Widow, the start of Marvel Phase 4 and the technical prequel to Avengers: Infinity War. In the movie, directed by Cate Shortland (Lore), Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff reunites with her trained killer family — including David Harbour’s Red Guardian — and faces off against an army of more junior Black Widows.

But there’s a clear antagonist in the trailer: Taskmaster. Played by an unknown actor (character reveal, alert!), the maniacal masked mimic is the big bad of Black Widow, and the person pulling the strings on the notorious Red Room. Taskmaster has a history in the comic books that may or may not show up in the movie, but just in case, here’s everything you need to know about them.

Taskmaster was co-created by legendary artist George Pérez and David Michelinie (Michelinie also co-created Venom, Scott Lang, and James “Rhodey” Rhodes), and he first appeared in the pages of 1980’s The Avengers #196. The story was called “The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster.” That’s not important, it’s just great alliteration.

Taskmaster’s movie costume favors muted reds and blues, and a chromed mask that isn’t exactly skull-like, as his comics inspiration, but definitely skull-evocative. He also carried his trademark sword and shield, and the footage we’ve seen clearly shows his trademark superpower: Instantly learning his opponent’s skills.

In the comics, Taskmaster’s true identity has always been unknown, but his abilities are well documented. When he was a kid, he discovered that he could master any physical skill simply by watching someone perform it, a phenomenon that doctors referred to as “photographic reflexes.” As an adult, he turned his talent to the criminal sphere, observing the techniques of as many superheroes and villains as he could in order to master their skills. Then, to make things worse, he used his ill-gotten gains to open training facilities for other criminals and henchmen.

This has often made him a formidable enemy for low-powered and martial-based heroes like Captain America, Daredevil, and Iron Fist. Now, in his screen debut, he’ll take on the Black Widow, when Black Widow hits theaters on May 1, 2020. We do not yet know who is playing the role.