Black Widow packed a surprise into its storyline with a reveal of Taskmaster’s identity. In comics, the character is known as Tony Masters. First appearing in The Avengers #195 in 1980, Tony Masters has since developed a loyal following (many of which are sharing their opinions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version). When the marketing for Black Widow kept the identity of Taskmaster a secret, it became an expectation that the character would not be a replication of its comic book counterpart (major Black Widow spoilers ahead). Instead, Taskmaster turned out to be Antonia Dreykov, the daughter of Red Room mastermind General Dreykov, tying the character into Natasha’s past as she thought she had killed Antonia as a young girl as a means to also put an end to Dreykov. In an exclusive interview with ComicBook.com, Black Widow writer Eric Pearson opened up about changing Taskmaster’s comic book identity for the movie.
“There was a previous draft where it was a Tony Masters character,” Pearson revealed. “It was hard because we had certain things that we knew certain constants. One of the constants was we were right after Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War which meant our great threat, the Red Room… One of the bigger kind of complications was figuring out a villain plot that could succeed and go unnoticed, which ultimately, I think kind of works out for a spy thriller film and also for Dreykov as an ultimate villain because he is a bit of a cowardly man who wields power from the shadows, but spends most of his time isolated, like a weird Howard Hughes, just talking about how big he is to himself because he’s too scared to actually kind of like get out there in the world.”
After looking at the villain and overall story of the film, Pearson and the team on Black Widow decided a comic book-accurate version of Taskmaster was not the right fit. “Tony Masters didn’t seem to really fit into that,” Pearson said. “And meanwhile, we had this mystery of ‘What happened to Dreykov’s daughter?’ And I don’t know it seemed like because Natasha Romanoff’s story is always going to be more grounded, but you still want some Marvel fun fantastic in it.”
This is not the first time Marvel has changed character by comparison to their comic book counterparts. Comic fans remember when The Mandarin was marketed and built up through Iron Man 3 only for the character to be an actor standing in for a role with Aldrich Killian pulling the strings behind-the-scenes. Pearson dives into this comparison in Wednesday’s episode of ComicBook.com’s Phase Zero podcast and the messages he has already been receiving from fans taking issue with the change to Taskmaster. Still, he enthusiastically shared the details of landing on Antonia filling the identity of Taskmaster and Natasha’s history which Loki first teased in 2012’s The Avengers when he told the audience she carries the guilt of Dreykov’s daughter.
“The idea of an accident going wrong and we’ve already got this facility now in the Red Room that is constantly with working on and the idea of mind control and rebuilding and controlling the human brain,” is what rooted Pearson’s efforts to keep Taskmaster’s story rooted in Black Widow‘s. “The idea of an accident going wrong with a loved one and using the technology to reconstruct that person’s mind finding something new, finding the photographic reflexes in rebuilding that mind that felt like a good Marvel comic book addition to an otherwise more grounded spy thriller thing.”
What did you think of Black Widow? Share your thoughts in the comment section or send them my way on Instagram! For a deeper dive into Black Widow with Pearson, subscribe to ComicBook.com’s MCU podcast Phase Zero on any major podcast platform to hear the 30-minute spoiler-filled discussion on Wednesday’s new episode. Black Widow is now playing in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.