When the man known as Taskmaster was a child, he discovered he had photographic reflexes after watching a cowboy program on television. He found out that he could duplicate the rope tricks exactly. He used these powers for his own gain, including becoming the high school star quarterback by watching a single pro football game. After graduation he considered becoming a superhero, but decided being a super-villain was more lucrative.
Watching broadcasts of superhuman activity, he executed several successful grand larcenies but underestimated the dangers involved in such work. He thus used his profits to start up academies where he trained aspiring super-villains, including Crossbones, to become professionals. He designed a costume and took the name Taskmaster. He remained undetected until the activities of one head of an academy caused the Avengers to become aware of these facilities. Taskmaster battled Captain America and Iron Man, and was forced to flee; as during his confrontation with Jocasta he was unable to predict her future movements because of her lack of body language.
Taskmaster was created by David Michelinie and George Perez and first appeared in Avengers #195.
Taskmaster was soon noticed by the terrorist organization Hydra and was hired to train their new recruit, Spider-Woman. Taskmaster had several run-ins with superheroes, especially Spider-Man and Scott Lang as Ant-Man. Each time he was defeated he managed to escape. Taskmaster also teamed up with Wizard, Deadpool, and Constrictor to form a new incarnation of the Frightful Four, though this association didn't last long. Taskmaster continued his training business. He even had a hand in training John Walker to become the next Captain America in a scheme run by the Red Skull to disgrace his image. He also began to train henchmen and servants for Red Skull himself. Taskmaster is very good at training others. Among those he has trained is: Agent-X, Crossbones, Cutthroat, Diamondback, Hauptmann Deutschland, Spider-Woman, Spymaster and U.S.Agent. Taskmaster specially trained the Scarlet Spiders by having his mind connected to theirs and relaying recordings of Spider-Man's moves collected by SHIELD.
Major Story Arcs
At one point Taskmaster became a mercenary, doing work for both Agency X, the Committee and Triune Understanding, failing most of his missions. Such missions included being hired to kill Moon Knight. This mission failed however, as he was misled with bad information. Moon Knight scared Taskmaster when he appeared immune to pain and humiliated him but let him live. Also in an attempt to discredit the Avengers, he failed to deceive them, but the overall mission succeeded.
Deadpool freed Taskmaster from his imprisonment to show his own potential as a mercenary and bested Taskmaster with his hands and feet bound. When Deadpool thanked him for letting him win, Taskmaster replied, "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..." After the Super-Human Registration Act and the Fifty State Initiative, Taskmaster reluctantly joined the Thunderbolts in hunting heroes and villains that refused to register. He attempted to shoot Invisible Woman but Mr. Fantastic took the bullet for her and, in outrage, Susan crushed him, knocking Taskmaster unconscious.
For his efforts to help the government, he was given a full presidential pardon for when he tested the defenses of the SHIELD heli-carrier, 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, SHIELD is no difficult feat. Taskmaster also became the replacement of Gauntlet as the Drill Instructor at Camp Hammond. When KIA went on a rampage around Camp Hammond, Taskmaster decided to sit the battle out with one of his charges, Ant-Man.
Taskmaster is appointed field leader of Camp HAMMER (formerly Camp Hammond) by Norman Osborn, and assigned to train super-villains in among other things to pose as heroes should the need arise. Taskmaster once again aligned himself with Deadpool to help him against the Thunderbolts, now the personal Black Ops of Norman Osborn. Despite being enemies in the past, they worked together to escape them, all the while hitting on their leader, Black Widow.
Norman Osborn, unaware that Taskmaster had aided Deadpool (who was trying to kill Osborn), made Taskmaster head of the Initiative (with Hood there to help him). First, he got Constrictor to give Osborn good press by Constrictor showcasing his cyborg arms and saying he could never pet his dog (which was made up) and that everyone should give Osborn a chance. Then, Hood and Taskmaster presented a new Initiative with members like the U-Foes, the Psionex, Razor Blade, a Brother Grimm, Cutthroat, Vampiro, and Mandrill, as well as old members like Diamondback and Sunstreaker. Taskmaster stood by and watched apparently un-phased as Hood devoured recruit Vampiro for eating people, which Hood thought could reveal the Initiative's nefarious actions.
Hood then explained to Taskmaster and Baron von Blitzlag that the Negative Zone prison created during Civil War had been overrun by aliens, and was a portal to Earth. Hood suggested that instead of using up the major Initiative members in an attack, washed-out recruits, ex-cons with a chance of freedom, and people reluctant to serving Osborn, be promised success and get tricked into being cannon fodder in an attack to wear down the enemy before the real soldiers came in. Taskmaster agreed, and created a new Shadow Initiative with many members to do the task. The Hood left the initiative and left Taskmaster in charge, which caused Norman Osborn to take him more seriously and invite him to join the Cabal.
Taskmaster's first day in the organization did not go well as Doctor Doom decided to leave the group and attacked them to make his point. He severely burned Taskmaster with an energy attack, and as Osborn had him repaired in the hospital he realized just how in over his head he was. He took part in the Siege on Asgard, where he was convinced he was going to die, but he knew that if somehow he survived he would be known as the guy who faced down Thor and brought down the gods. He was about to be attacked by Thor when the Sentry intercepted the attack and Taskmaster joined in a group of villains as they each attacked the downed thunder god. However when the Sentry started to go insane and lose control, Taskmaster knew it was time to head out. Doing as he always did he found a way to escape, this time by stealing one of Osborn's goblin gliders, and made off with Constrictor who he convinced to join the bad guys again.
The new Taskmaster mini-series starts in Age of Heroes #3 in a short scene where Taskmaster finds himself surrounded by the Yakuza who are mentioning his new bounty. This is followed in Taskmaster #1 with the Taskmaster meeting a waitress at a diner named Mercedes. The two have a conversation where it's revealed that Taskmaster has a memory condition. It seems that the more skills the Taskmaster learns, or recalls for use in combat, the more of his memories he loses. In order to keep his most treasured memories from being overwritten he has created a "memory palace" within his mind that he fills with familiar objects or places that are connected to specific memories. In order to recall these memories he has to go to these certain places or do certain things in the real world to recall his own past experiences.
When Mercedes leaves the table he is confronted by a Hydra agent who reveals that a rather large bounty has been placed on the Taskmaster's head. A large $1,000,000,000 dollar bounty. Not only that but the Hydra agent reveals that Hydra aren't the only ones that are after him, everyone is. It seems that an organization referred to as "The Org" are the ones that put out the bounty and that this organization has connections to every major terrorist organization on the planet. This is the agency that Taskmaster has apparently been getting his orders from on the quiet since the beginning of his career as a criminal. In the middle of the conversation, Taskmaster disarms the agent just as the diner is overrun with terrorists from several different factions, whom are all after the bounty. In a show of skill, he manages to subdue all of his would be attackers while blowing the diner up in the process to send a message to those coming after him. During the fight, Mercedes manages to escape and even made her way back home. When she gets there, there are men waiting for her. It seems she was followed by others that were after Taskmaster's bounty who say they saw him slip her a note at the diner. They assumed it was something important even though it was just a recipe. Taskmaster shows up and rescues Mercedes and then reveals that the Org is now after her as well. She has no alternative but to leave with Taskmaster in order to stay alive. It is later revealed that she is Taskmaster's wife who he does not remember because of his memory condition, and that she's been staying involved in his life in order to push him toward being a good person.
Following a battle with Avengers Academy trainee Finesse, who has photographic reflexes just like Taskmaster's, he admits that, while he can't be certain about it, he is more than likely Finesse's father as she suspects. He confides in her that the way his abilities work, each time he picks up a new technique, it pushes non-combat-oriented data out of his mind forever; so he can't remember much about his own personal life. This is both an explanation for how he could forget having a daughter and a warning for her to heed. This follows through on new aspects of Taskmaster's character introduced recently; establishing his near-amnesiac state as canon continuity.
Max Fury hired Taskmaster to retrieve the Crown of Wolves for the Shadow Council. However Taskmaster decides to renegotiate, demanding more money for the job. The Secret Avengers track him to the Hole in order to get the Crown of Wolves before Max Fury. This led to a fight between Taskmaster and Agent Venom. However, Taskmaster manages to escape and give the crown to Max Fury, only for him to apparently kill Taskmaster when he asks for payment. When the crown's effects don't function for Max Fury, Taskmaster takes the crown for himself, which saves his life by making him the Avatar for the Abyss. As the Abyss spreads, the Secret Avengers members Venom and Ant-Man are able to remove the crown and stop the spread, while Taskmaster and the Masters of Evil are left behind when the Avengers leave with Max Fury in their custody.
The criminals of Bagalia imprison Taskmaster and are preparing to offer him up to the highest bidder until S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Secret Avengers come to rescue him and offer him a position. As their inside man, Taskmaster joins the new High Council of A.I.M. as the Minister of Defense. Mockingbird later sent in to A.I.M. Island to assist Taskmaster reconnect James Rhodes to the rogue Iron Patriot drones. When the mission goes south Mockingbird is left stranded and Taskmaster continues to work undercover in order to free her. However, when he gets the chance to get her off the island, she is unresponsive and they both are captured. During his interrogated, Taskmaster is shot and seemingly killed by Mockingbird, now under the control of Andrew Forson.
Powers and Abilities
Taskmaster has what he calls "photographic reflexes". After seeing someone perform an action once, he can perfectly copy the action. He has used this ability to copy the fighting styles and skills of many heroes and villains, mixing them up and turning them into his own style. The people he has copied styles/skills from include: Beast, Black Knight, Black Widow, Bullseye, Captain America, Cat, Daredevil, Deadpool, Elektra, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Fist, Mister X, Ms. Marvel, Porcupine, Photon (Genis-Vell), Puma, Punisher, Quicksilver, Razorfist, Scarlet Witch, Shang Chi, Silver Samurai, Spider-Man, Swordsman, Thing, Thor, Tigra, Toad, Vision, Wolverine, Zaran, Blazing Skull, Luke Cage, Ant-Man (Lang), Boomerang, Cable, Justice, Machete, Oddball, and Libra. (In crossovers he has learned the skills of Batman and Huntress but it is unknown if he retains them in the normal Marvel Universe). This is just a short list, but it is impressive.
He can only mimic actions to the extent that his body will allow. For example, he can copy the way Spider-Man fights, but can't copy his super strength. He can copy the way Daredevil moves to avoid danger, but he can't copy his radar. He can copy the fighting style of Deadpool but can't copy his unpredictability and healing factor. Copying skills doesn't give him an understanding of what is needed to do them either. He could copy a famous pianist's performance, but wouldn't be able to read sheet music. In a flashback he demonstrated something like this: when he was a child, he almost drowned after perfectly duplicating a swimmer's dive, forgetting that he couldn't swim.
Taskmaster has said that he finds Moon Knight's style of fighting annoying, as Moon Knight would rather take a punch than avoid it. To add to his abilities when he can't find someone to watch, Taskmaster uses the television. He watches movies and TV to study super-humans, athletes, stunt-men, archers, soldiers, wrestlers, etc. In this way, he has gained a wide range of combat as well as acrobatic skills including aerial acrobatics, gymnastics, boxing, martial arts (all the ones presently used and some historical ones), wrestling, swordsmanship, marksmanship, archery, car-jacking, and sleight of hand. By watching a video in fast forward, Taskmaster picked up the ability to move in "double time", giving him super speed for short periods of time. He also learned how to catch bullets during his mini-series.
Another skill Taskmaster has that is unconnected to his photographic reflexes is his ability to mimic voices. With just a couple hours of practice, Taskmaster can fully mimic another persons voice and speech patterns, a tool he uses for impersonation and breaking voice-activated locks.
Taskmaster carries a wide variety of weaponry he uses to mimic the fighting styles he managed to copy along his publication. Within his most consistent and visible gear we can see Captain America's shield, Black Knight's Sword, Daredevil's Billy Clubs and Hawkeye's Bow and Trick Arrows. All this gear along with less known objects were carried manually by Taskmaster until his first solo series in 2002 introducing a new gear, commonly known as UDON suit. He changed his outfit and devices, but most importantly, he stole a S.H.I.E.L.D device which allowed him to create his weaponry by solidifying energy. This change proved to be very practical since he could move faster, avoid possible disarmament and utilize more weaponry in an easier way. Within the added weapons and gadgets: Wolverine's Claws and Spider-Man's Webshooters as well as a very advanced image-inducer that allows him to take on the physical appearance of whomever he sees, this last one is currently visible in Secret Avengers, used by Mockingbird.
The last time he was seen with this suit was in Avengers and Power Pack Assemble! #1 in 2006. Later on he turned back to his classic outfit once again, however, there is no concrete reason as to why this happened.
Earth-1610 (Ultimate Marvel)
Taskmaster is a mercenary working for Roxxon. He ends up in a fight with Miles (currently Spider-man) and Jessica Drew where he convincingly dominates them in combat before he is taken off the playing field by Cloaks shadow powers.
On Earth-58163 (House of M) Taskmaster was part of the Brotherhood because he was thought to be a mutant. On one of their missions when they were sent to take out Luke Cage and the Avengers, he was to snipe Cage but ended up killing Tigra instead. When Taskmaster met up with the Avengers in the precinct he interrupted the meeting between Cage and Punisher. He then taunted Cage about Tigra's death and in a fit of rage, Cage broke every bone in his body after running through an array of attacks. Now in the hospital wrapped up like a mummy, he was abandoned by Thunderbird and Blob for not being a mutant but an enhanced human.
In this reality Taskmaster was a mutant.
In this Marvel Max title, Taskmaster is a woman who abducted young Wade Wilson and his entire boy/cub-scout troop; making them do terrible, though not entirely defined things for her own brand of merit badges. Deadpool is the only survivor of this group of trainees and he looks to Taskmaster as a mother figure, which prevents him from sleeping with her (which would earn him a heart-shaped merit badge, and is, apparently, Taskmaster's final test for him).
In the Ultimate Spider-Man,Taskmaster appears as a gym teacher hired by Dr. Octopus to go to Midtown High and learn who is standing behind the mask of Spider-Man and then get the boy to Dr. Octopus.Taskmaster makes a test to see who is the best at gym and who can possibly be Spider-Man.His three choices are Danny Rand,Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson but in the end he understands that Spider-Man is none of them and has to fight him and White Tiger.He is defeated but he manages to escape.
Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
It was confirmed that Task Master is an unlockable character in the roster of the game. In the game he uses attacks similar to Captain America's Shield Charge and Spider-Man's Web Swing. He also references Black Knight's sword skills and Hawkeye's archery skills in his moves.