What would you do if you could have all the knowledge in the world at the cost of forgetting all your personal experiences? This is a struggle that Taskmaster deals with on a regular basis. First introduced as an enemy of The Avengers in 1980, Taskmaster was created by David Micheline and George Perez. The character went on to feature in various titles, becoming a well-known enemy/ally of Deadpool. Taskmaster might have been introduced as a supervillain, but there’s far more to him than meets the eye.
Tony Masters can absorb knowledge rapidly. This has allowed him to mimic the fighting style of people like Captain America, Iron Fist and Elektra. Called ‘photographic reflexes,’ Masters’ ability is linked to muscle memory. In the past, he’s mimicked the swordsmanship of Black Knight, the accuracy of Hawkeye and the athleticism of Daredevil. Another way he can use his abilities is to watch a video in fast-forward and learn to move at superhuman speed. He can also manipulate his vocal cords and mimic someone else’s voice.
Taskmaster’s powers have given him a useful career as a mercenary. After carrying out many successful crimes, he set up a training academy to teach villains how to fight. Some of his most skilled students included U.S Agent, Diamondback, Spider-Woman, Agent X and Crossbones. True to his name, Masters proved to be a tough teacher, sending students who disappointed him to the Red Skull so they could be slaughtered.
But Taskmaster’s abilities come with a price. The more knowledge he gains, the more he loses his memories. This can be broken down into receiving implicit memories e.g. new skills and forgetting explicit memories such as his family and where he comes from.
The severity of his amnesia was shown when Taskmaster needed to rediscover who he was after a bounty was put on his head. He met a woman named Mercedes Merced and after travelling to Bolivia, Taskmaster regained his memories. He remembered being an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D agent, sent to kill Horst Gorscht, a Nazi scientist who’d created a corrupted version of the super-soldier serum. Gorscht’s formula could give someone the ability to gain knowledge instantaneously, which Masters injected himself with.
He remembered Mercedes was his wife and acted as his handler and surrogate memory. Before Taskmaster could reconcile with Mercedes, the Minions’ International Liberation Front, led by Redshirt the Uber-Henchman, attacked him. To protect his wife, Taskmaster absorbed the knowledge of Redshirt’s fighting skills and killed him. This caused him to forget Mercedes again.
It goes to show that Taskmaster used to be a good man, but he’s trapped in a loop he’ll never be able to escape. It highlights the importance of memory and why we need to hold onto the good times because one day we might forget them.