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 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.
Deadpool freed Taskmaster from his imprisonment to show his own potential as a mercenary and bested Taskmaster while the merc with a mouth had 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 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 freaks out of course but she has no alternative but to leave with Taskmaster in order to stay alive.
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.
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 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, Silver Samurai, Spider-Man, Swordsman, Thing, Thor, Tigra, Toad, Vision, Wolverine and Zaran. (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.
Taskmaster has a lot of gear that he usually carries on him. He stole a wrist-mounted device from SHIELD that would let him create simple shapes out of energy. He used it to mimic weapons that go with styles he's stolen: Captain America's shield, Spider-Man's Web Shooters, Daredevil's billy clubs, Wolverine's claws, etc. Before he had the device he just carried all the extra weapons on him. Currently he is back to doing that instead of using the device, but there is no explanation as to why. He also uses an advanced image-inducer that allows him to take on the physical appearance of whomever he wishes.