Tony Masters is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned mercenary and assassin, better known as Taskmaster. He possess the ability to replicate the physical skills, be it combat or athletic, of anyone he observes thanks to his photographic reflexes. Overtime due to the growing number of super heroes he decided to put his skills to better use, becoming a teacher based out of the Taskmaster's Academy to train government agents, villains, heroes and henchmen alike.
Tony Masters was born with the ability to duplicate the movements of others through brief observation. At the age of 8, he continued to discover his photographic reflexes to immediately copy other skills like learning to dive in a swimming pool when he saw someone else having performed a dive, learning special techniques from the best NBA basketball players, and learning to twirl a lasso by watching cowboys on T.V.
As an adult, Tony joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and became an agent. During a mission, Tony found an elderly scientist, shot in the chest and slowly dying. Before the scientist died, he gave Tony a syringe containing an experimental Nazi version of the Super-Soldier Serum to enhance the abilities gained through his photographic reflexes. After Tony injected himself with the Nazi Super-Soldier Serum, he began to develop additional powers, set back by the fact that the memories he gained by watching others overwrote his personal memories. As a result, Tony forgot his wife and field agent partner, Mercedes Masters, as well as his own history with S.H.I.E.L.D. Mercedes crafted an elaborate set-up to help control and guide Tony in his new guise as "Taskmaster". Using a series of muscle memory and reflexive tasks, she linked Taskmaster to "the Org": his "handler" between jobs and a constant to keep him on task despite his frequently overwritten memory. The Org was actually Mercedes herself, gathering intelligence and feeding it back to S.H.I.E.L.D. thanks to Taskmaster's reports. Tony, therefore, became the ultimate double agent in the super villain underground -- one who didn't even know what he was.
Tony decided to use his stolen capital to establish a base of operations to train criminals known as the Taskmaster's Academy. He took the name Taskmaster and began training anyone that could pay. One of the first men he trained was Don of the Dead, a crime lord and also the governor of Michoacán in western Mexico. To show solidarity to the Don and his men, Tony donned a skull-inspired mask as an homage to the Santa Muerte, a Catholic personification of Death.
When Dr. Pernell Solomon used the Solomon Institute for the Criminally Insane as a front, he used Taskmaster's school's resources to create a clone of himself called Selbe. When Dr. Solomon required an organ donation due to possessing an extremely rare blood type, the clone, learning of his fate, contacted the Avengers. Taskmaster captured Yellowjacket, the Wasp, and Ant-Man when they attacked the site. Taskmaster battled the Avengers, who exposed his front operation. He was defeated and fled after a fight with the Avengers' newest member, the robot Jocasta, whose lack of body language expression made it impossible for Taskmaster to predict her next move.
In addition to his training academies, Taskmaster also lent himself out as a mercenary or private instructor. He trained John Walker to be the new Captain America for the Commission on Superhuman Activities, then trained Cutthroat to fight Captain America on behalf of the Red Skull.
Eventually, the Taskmaster considerably changed his appearance. He wore a costume apparently modeled after tactical body armor, replacing his previous pirate-themed garb. The Taskmaster also ceased carrying an arsenal of duplicate weapons. Taskmaster began operating as a more traditional mercenary instead of as an instructor. He first met Sandi Brandenberg after beginning this mercenary M.O.
Taskmaster spent some time around Wade Wilson after Deadpool became famous for the Four Winds hit and hired Sandi as his personal assistant. Wilson was not responsible for the hit, however, and the real assassin Black Swan came after him and his friends. Wilson and the Swan were seemingly killed in an explosion.
When Sandi found a stray amnesiac with super-healing powers, she brought him home because she thought he must be Mr. Wilson. Taskmaster reluctantly helped train "Alex Hayden" at Sandi's request, but thought such an inexperienced merc would just get her into more trouble. He tried to have Alex killed by setting him up on a job to steal the Punisher's .45s, and later reported to the surviving Four Winds that Hayden was Wilson. When Sandi was put in danger by this last act, though, Taskmaster chose to stand side-by-side with Hayden and his friend Outlaw against the Four Winds.
Alex and Sandi eventually slept together, which nearly drove Taskmaster nuts. Things got even more complicated when both Deadpool and Black Swan returned. In the end, Taskmaster and Sandi seemingly ended up together with Hayden and Outlaw reunited, and the entire group stayed together for a time as Agency X.
Taskmaster was eventually hired by the Committee to take out Moon Knight. He raided Spector's apartment but was unable to kill him. Spector piloted his Mooncopter to the Committee's Manhattan headquarters and flew it directly into their office. Miraculously, all of the Committee members survived the attack.
After earning a presidential pardon by way of Maria Hill for proving the security problems on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, he was briefly one of the Thunderbolts' detainees, later being released and assigned to Camp Hammond to serve as a trainer for Initiative recruits while their former drill instructor, Gauntlet, recuperated from injuries sustained from one of his trainees. During this time, a formerly deceased Initiative member, Michael Van Patrick acquired a weapon called the Tactigon and began assaulting everyone at the camp. The Taskmaster had little interest in participating in the fight, preferring instead to sit on the sidelines with one of his charges, Ant-Man.
Dark Reign and Siege
After Norman Osborn's power grab, Taskmaster took over training for the entire Initiative and participated in the siege of Asgard. He joined in the fight against Thor since it would help reputation as an assassin. He fought both Captain Americas at the same time with unexpected success. Able to see that his side was not winning the fight, Taskmaster fled with the Constrictor to return to mercenary work. He taunted Norman Osborn with the knowledge that he had earlier assisted Deadpool.
Discovering His Past
After losing his weapons in Tokyo, Tony began a quest to remember some of the things he had been forgetting. On this quest, his former handler, The Org, seemed to put out a billion-dollar bounty on his head. Many of the teams he formerly trained, including A.I.M. and Hydra, attempted to collect the bounty by killing him, but only succeeded in tracking him on his quest. It was during this memory quest that Tony temporarily learned his true past, that of a married former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who mistakenly took a Nazi serum that granted him his extraordinary abilities. He also briefly met his wife and handler, Mercedes Merced. Ultimately, he was forced to learn the new fighting skill of Redshirt, the man who put out the fake bounty, which erased all of his knowledge regarding his past. Apparently, this had happened repeatedly in the past.
Taskmaster was asked to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Secret Avengers team after being rescued by Nick Fury Jr. from the criminal nation of Bagalia. His first mission was to join A.I.M.'s High Council as a double-agent, taking the role of Minister of Defense.
When he tried to free Mockingbird from A.I.M. captivity, he was attacked from behind by the TESS-One, and shot in the head by Mockingbird who had been brainwashed by A.I.M. However, Mockingbird purposely missed any vitals and Taskmaster was revealed to be alive but left in a vegetative state. As they thought he was dead, the Secret Avengers left him behind, but his survival was discovered by Mentallo, who had developed a friendship with him. Mentallo kept his survival a secret and sought to cure him with his nanobots.
After briefly becoming a part of Baron Zemo's Hydra, Taskmaster moved his base of operations to Bagalia, becoming the sheriff of the small lawless country. Around this time, Captain America had been secretly supplanted by an evil version of himself from an alternate timeline. He was involved in an operation in Bagalia, and Taskmaster managed to obtain a recording of him showing his loyalty for Hydra. Taskmaster and Black Ant attempted to sell the recording to Maria Hill. However, Elisa Sinclair, an ally of the evil Captain America, intercepted them and forced them to become her new bodyguards.
By the time Hydra rose to power and conquered the United States, the duo had become members of Hydra's own Avengers. Both Taskmaster and Black Ant decided to switch allegiances during the final battle between Hydra and the resistance as soon as Hydra started losing. They freed some of Hydra's prisoners, namely the Champions, in hopes that the young heroes would later put in a good word for them. Following Hydra's fall and the return to normalcy, Taskmaster returned to operating as a mercenary.
Kraven hired Taskmaster and Black Ant to capture all animal-inspired criminals to be imprisoned in Central Park for him, to fight against poachers, so that everyone he thought acted dishonorably would annihilate each other. Ants are also animals, so Kraven convinced Taskmaster to betray Black Ant, paying more for him than other prey.
Tony felt guilty for cheating his best friend, and shortly thereafter he was forced through blackmail by the Lizard to pretend to catch him and take him to Kraven, so that Curt could find his son, who was one of the many to have been kidnapped. When the force field collapsed, some prisoners tried to take revenge on Black Ant, but Taskmaster prevented it and took Eric to safety, consolidating their friendship.
Artificially Enhanced Physiology: Tony was born with the ability to duplicate other abilities that he either saw someone else performed or watched on T.V. After injecting himself with a experimental Nazi version of the Super-Soldier Serum, his brain capacity begin to absorb knowledge instantaneously. The serum also altered his brain chemistry to make him hypercognitive in the area of skill observation and retention. This particular serum was an elaborate modification of the adrenal steroid cortisol, which even enhanced Tony's short-term memory.
- Photographic Reflexes: Tony's primarily superhuman power is his photographic reflexes. He can watch another person's physical movements and duplicate them without any practice or training, no matter how complex. Tony is able to duplicate almost any physical activity after seeing it done by someone else only once. Taskmaster can use this ability to master complex gymnastics routines and play difficult pieces of music. However, he typically prefers to use this ability to copy the combat skills, both armed and unarmed, of costumed crime-fighters and expert martial artists from around the world. By reviewing recordings of movements periodically, Tony can retain duplicated moves indefinitely. When facing an opponent, he has already studied countless of martial arts, and can virtually predict his enemy's attacks. He can also copy the subtle muscle movements of others so precisely that he can at times do things such as copying another person's voice so precisely as to fool voice recognition software although he must practice a voice to ensure he has perfected it enough to fool such devices.
- Physical Movement Prediction: Tony can also do things such as figuring out the sleight of hand techniques of a master poker cheater simply by watching them. He has often shown the ability to actually predict an opponent's next move before they make it if he has studied their fighting style enough. Opponents who are skilled at improvisational fighting styles, or who have a more random unpredictable style are less likely to have their moves predicted by Taskmaster.
- Superhuman Agility: Due to his photographic reflexes, Tony can push his body past it's natural limits, allowing his agility to match that of Spider-Man and Daredevil's superhuman agility.
- Superhuman Reflexes: Due to Tony's photographic reflexes, his reaction speed is greater than that of a normal human. He easily caught a crescent blade thrown at him from behind by Moon Knight, without even looking. He was also able to deflect bullets with a chain, and even catch a bullet that was shot at him.
- Superhuman Speed: Due to his photographic reflexes, Tony can push his body past it's natural limits, allowing him to temporarily move at speeds twice as fast as a normal human. He has discovered that after watching martial arts movies in double speed, he can briefly duplicate the moves at double speed, effectively giving him a limited form of superhuman speed. However, he can only maintain his heightened state for minutes before risking temporarily physical damage to his body.
Master Martial Artist: Taskmaster is easily known as one of the greatest formidable armed and unarmed combatants in the Marvel Universe. He truly mastered all forms of martial arts including modern and historical styles, boxing, wrestling, swordsmanship, archery, marksmanship, juggling, gymnastics, aerial acrobatics, and sleight of hand. Taskmaster learned the personal fighting styles of countless individuals, such as: Ant-Man, Batroc the Leaper, Black Crow, Black Knight, Black Widow, Blazing Skull, Boomerang, Bushwacker, Black Panther, Captain America, Cat, Constrictor, Daredevil, Deadpool, The Destroyer, Elektra, Falcon, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Moon Knight, MVP, Nomad, Oddball, Punisher, Silver Samurai, Redshirt, Shang Chi, Solo, Spider-Man, Swordsman, Tigra, Tombstone, Tumbler, US Agent, Warbird, Winter Soldier, Wolverine, Zaran, and many others. During the Siege on Asgard, Taskmaster's combat skills were shown to be so advanced that he easily defeated two Asgardian soldiers by outwitting them in both armed and unarmed combat. He has trained numerous of criminals in basic hand to hand combat.
- Advanced Pedagogy Given the number of students that he's taught, Taskmaster is adroit in training students in any of the many styles that he knows.
Weapon Mastery: Due to his powers and his use of different peoples' fighting styles, Tony has become a master in all melee weaponry, including swordsmanship from Black Knight and Silver Samurai. He has displayed skill with billy clubs from observing Daredevil, as well as knife fighting from Winter Soldier.
Master Marksman: Tony is a master in the fields of marksman. He has the marksmanship of Hawkeye, Punisher, and Bullseye. Tony also has self-marksman skills, making him extremely proficient with throwing projectile weapons, archery, and firearms.
Master Assassin: Tony is a master deadly assassin. Captain America has stated that Tony is considered to be one of the most dangerous men alive.
Meditation: Tony learned meditation techniques in Tibet that allow him to slow his breathing and heart rate and survive for extended periods of time without air, this also means that to the untrained eye he will appear to be dead. He also claims to have learned forensic methods from CIA Agents and Mossad Operatives.
- The Taskmaster is not capable of duplicating a physical feat if the effort to do so requires superhuman effort. For instance, while he could view an opponent lifting a car, he could not do so because his body can't duplicate the superhuman strength required to do so. In the same way, he cannot duplicate any energy manipulating or projecting capabilities for the same reasons.
- He is unable to copy Deadpool's moves due to his unpredictable nature and fractured mind. Deadpool has defeated him in one on one combat numerous times.
- Taskmaster was unable to copy the moves of Alex Hayden for unknown reasons.
- When Taskmaster copies something new, it pushes old memories out of his brain in a form of amnesia.
- For example, he is only able to retain a total of eight languages.
- As a result of long-term exposure to the enhanced cortisol contained in the modified Super-Soldier Serum, Tony's hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for networking memories and consolidating information for both short and long-term memory) suffered severe damage, which results in Tony having difficulty recalling specific and/or explicit memories.
- For example, he can recognize a place or landscape from a photo or painting, but cannot recall if he actually visited said place.
- In extreme situations, he can even forget who he is, what he is doing or why he is doing it. This also results in him forgetting about people he met, although he can recognize them.
- Taskmaster's Suit: Tony wears a specialized armored suit designed with some level of protection.
- He has also been shown sticking to walls, suggesting that he has special gloves and perhaps boots which can approximate Spider-Man's wall-crawling ability.
- Taskmaster's Mask: Tony wears a protective skull mask that also serves for identity concealment. The mask also has technology built into it that allows Tony to resist telepathic and psychic attacks.
- Image Inducer: Used to project a holographic appearance to aid him in sabotage, spying and escape.
- Taskmaster often kept DVDs and tapes of individuals he wished to mimic and would also acquire new ones to study to help him learn new skills to complete difficult tasks.
Taskmaster used a number of weapons, often determined by the abilities he was using. - Known weapons include:
- Energy Shield: Tony has at times been known to use a wrist device stolen from S.H.I.E.L.D. which created weapons out of pure energy. These weapons apparently had substance even after he let go of them, at least for a short time.
- Energy Claws (to mimic Wolverine's)
- Energy Webbing (to mimic Spider-Man's),
- Shield (to mimic Captain America's)
- Bow & Trick Arrows(sometimes using "trick" arrows like Hawkeye)
- Sword,
- Moon-Shaped Shuriken (to mimic Moon Knight)
- Billy Club (to mimic Daredevil).
- Firearms (most often a pair of .45s),
- The Taskmaster's character was considerably revised in a 2002 UDON-created miniseries.
- Although Taskmaster's real name has been hypothesized being "Anthony Masters", Marcus Johnson dismissed it as probably not being his real name.
- Tony doesn't remember that he was married.
- While being Initiative Commander under the H.A.M.M.E.R., he was granted Security Level 4.
- It was hinted during the Siege on Asgard that he was below Class 50 threat.
- Daredevil once saved Taskmaster's life when the Punisher threw a knife at his heart. Daredevil deflected it with a shot from a pistol, then applied pressure to his wound until help arrived, one of the few times the hero has ever picked up and used a firearm.
- Taskmaster wore a skull mask as inspired by Santa Muerte, Saint Death "The Lady of Shadows" in honor of her solidarity. He picked up this mask on his first mission for Org while re-training Mexican Special Forces.
- Taskmaster has a good friendship with Black Ant.
- 278 appearance(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 15 appearance(s) in handbook(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 24 minor appearance(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 32 mention(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 7 mention(s) in handbook(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 211 image(s) of Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 28 quotation(s) by or about Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 1 victim(s) killed by Anthony Masters (Earth-616)
- 5 item(s) used/owned by Anthony Masters (Earth-616)