Marvel and the MCU
Marvel has, with no doubt, been one of the most ambitious companies when it comes to adapting comics into TV shows and movies. The MCU consists of 20+ movies and TV shows that all exist in an interconnected universe telling an ever-expanding story, that has plans to continue years into the future. This has brought more and more people into the world of Marvel and their comics, introducing them to characters such as the popular Spider-man and Iron man, to lesser known ones like Taskmaster or Crossbones. However, as more and more characters get introduced conflict begins to rise over how these characters are portrayed. Comics have the luxury of time and longevity when it comes to building their characters. They can tell stories over numerous issues that build the character up, showing all aspects of the character, and giving them special moments with side characters. Movies and TV shows don’t have this luxury. Movies have a certain amount of time to tell their story, so certain side plots or special moments have to get cut. The same thing with TV shows, especially those that have a limited number of episodes to wrap up their story.
The Task of Taskmaster
A prime example of this is the character of Taskmaster. Taskmaster made her MCU appearance in the Black Widow movie, where she is a brainwashed assassin sent to kill Black Widow. This is an entirely different take than that of the comics. In the comics, Taskmaster is Anthony Masters, a former SHIELD agent turned mercenary who uses his powers to train people and carry out jobs. The elements of the character are the same: the photographic reflexes, the mask that resembles a skull, and the use of various different weapons to take out their opponents. Their backstories, however, make them almost two entirely different characters. The recharacterization of Taskmaster upset some Marvel fans who thought Marvel “ruined” the character. This was because they made Taskmaster a woman, though since the character of Taskmaster is not tied around gender, the story could work just as well or the same regardless. In the above comic panel, we can see that Taskmaster is mildly witty, making jokes at times, as dry as they may be. He has banter and is more than just a mercenary and assassin, an issue that the movie version accidentally creates
What truly ruins the characterization of Taskmaster is changing who they are as a character. The change of struggles, character dynamics, and background essentially strips the character of who they were and rebuilds an entirely different character with the same name. This upset fans of the original character because that is who they want to see presented, they were promised the character that they had read and seen in the comics. Instead, they get a completely new character who has replaced the old one, causing them to feel cheated. This also causes confusion for writers and people who were introduced to the comics by the movies. There you can see the reverse, people who want to see more of that Taskmaster and get confused when they instead get introduced to the comic version. As for the writers of new comics, they now have to decide which version of the character they want to continue with. Marvel does have the multiverse which helps ease that issue narratively. Depending on who is writing it they can choose to just say it’s a different universe and use whichever Taskmaster they please, or even create their own version of the character. Though even this basic aspect is threatened by the existence of the MCU which has challenged the comics. For instance, which one is truly the base universe, Earth-616, in recent Spiderman and Dr. Strange movies.
To save a Universe
In conclusion, while Marvel has built something near unparalleled with their comics and cinematic universe, it has run into as many issues as successes. While many want to see their favorite comics turned into movies, they aren’t ready to have their characters changed or turned into something completely new. Just as comic writers have liberties with the characters when they take over, so do directors and actors when it comes to their portrayal of them.
For more reading about the history of Taskmaster, here is the official Marvel website on him.