You may not know the Swordsman, but he's got a key place in Marvel Comics history as the mentor of Clint Barton - himself a mentor to Kate Bishop, the second Hawkeye - and even as an Avenger himself.
In fact, Jacques Duquesne himself plays a role in Hawkeye, portrayed by Better Call Saul actor Tony Dalton. It's not yet known exactly how the MCU version of Duquesne may factor into Clint Barton's MCU past, but he has a direct connection to Kate Bishop, as he's engaged to her mom Eleanor Bishop, played by Vera Farmiga.
And even though we don't yet know whether the MCU version of Duquense has the same sordid past and secret identity as his comic book counterpart, he definitely shares the Marvel Comics Swordsman's penchant for and skill with swords.
In comic books, Swordsman and Hawkeye's relationship is well known, and their connection has somewhat ironically led to some of the weirdest, least down-to-Earth Avengers tales yet - a big task for two former circus performers with no superpowers.
So who is Jacques Duquesne, the Swordsman, and what's his comic book history with Clint Barton/Hawkeye and the Avengers? And what might Swordsman's oddly sci-fi-infused history say about the potential future of the MCU?
Sharpen your blades, and let's get into it!
Who is the Swordsman?
Jacques Duquesne started out as your average traveling circus performer with a knack for wielding bladed weapons which he used in his act, and a serious gambling problem. However, he also hid a dark past as a murderous soldier of fortune in Vietnam.
When Clint Barton fled his abusive father to join the circus, he met Duquesne, who instantly recognized potential in the young Clint. Duquesne made Barton his apprentice, teaching him many of his own skills as a hand-to-hand combatant and weapon master.
(Later tellings of Clint's origin added a second circus performer/criminal ally of Duquesne named Trick Shot to the mix, who specifically taught Clint to wield a bow).
But when Barton caught Duquesne committing armed robbery in order to pay his growing gambling debts, Duquesne ran him off, leaving Clint for dead. While Clint went on to become the vigilante Hawkeye, later joining the Avengers, Duquesne embarked on a life of costumed crime as the Swordsman.
When Duquesne resurfaced in Clint Barton's life (in his first comic book appearance, 1965's Avengers #19), Clint was well into his time as an Avenger.
Duquesne, secretly working as an agent of Iron Man's arch-enemy the Mandarin, managed to work his way into the team. Duquesne found a place among the Avengers, impressing them with the power of his special sword, an almost indestructible weapon secretly designed by the Mandarin based on the villain's own ten rings, capable of shooting fire, energy blasts, and more.
He also developed a crush on Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, leading him to betray the Mandarin - though his hero turn came too late, and the Avengers rejected him.
Swordsman became a recurring enemy for the Avengers as part of the Grim Reaper's Lethal Legion team, though he also wound up helping the Avengers on multiple occasions - longing to rejoin the team as an actual hero.
Swordsman eventually got his wish when he met Mantis, the so-called 'Celestial Madonna' and chosen holy figure of an alien race known as the Cotati (more on them later). Swordsman and Mantis (who MCU fans know from her slightly different incarnation among the Guardians of the Galaxy, played by Pom Klementieff) sought out the Avengers, convincing the team of their sincerity as heroes.
Unfortunately, Mantis' destiny as the so-called Celestial Madonna came calling, as none other than Kang the Conqueror came to claim the power inherent in Mantis' destined role.
Though Swordsman saved Mantis from Kang, it came at the cost of his life, and Mantis departed the Avengers with a broken heart over the man she had come to realize she truly loved.
But that wasn't quite the end of Jacque Duquesne.
Swordsman in the Marvel Universe
Mantis took Swordsman's body to the Cotati, a plant-like alien race who are ancient enemies of the Kree, with whom the Cotati once shared the planet Hala.
The Cotati reanimated Duquesne as a Cotati clone, essentially a plant-like being with the likeness, memories, and personality of the Swordsman, while also placing Mantis in stasis and inserting her consciousness into her own Cotati clone.
The reanimated Cotati hybrid versions of Mantis and Swordsman became lovers, even rejoining the Avengers for a time, before departing for deep space to raise their child Sequoia - the so-called 'Celestial Messiah' destined to restore the Cotati to their original homeworld of Hala, now solely ruled by the Kree.
Years later, Sequoia, Mantis, and Swordsman returned to Earth to recruit the Avengers to help them fight the burgeoning Kree/Skrull Alliance, ruled by Teddy Altman/Hulkling/Emperor Dorrek VIII. But as it turned out, the Cotati were actually the aggressors, wreaking havoc on Earth and the Avengers in the story Empyre.
In the end, the Cotati were defeated, with the reanimated Swordsman apparently perishing again in the conflict's finale.
There's another Swordsman in the Marvel Universe with a much weirder backstory and power set - Andreas Strucker, the son of Baron Strucker of Hydra. A mutant who shared his power to generate energy blasts with his twin sister Andrea as the collective mutant villain duo Fenris, Andreas became the Swordsman after his sister's death.
Unable to activate his powers without holding hands with his sister, her flesh was used to wrap the handle of Andreas' sword, and he was recruited into Norman Osborn's incarnation of the Thunderbolts after being brainwashed by the villainous Purple Man.
Osborn later killed Andreas with his own sword, though the pair were both later resurrected through mysterious means. Oddly enough - and seemingly unrelated to their resurrection, which they credit to their father Baron Strucker - both Andrea and Andreas Strucker have since become residents of the mutant island nation of Krakoa.
Swordsman in the MCU - spoilers ahead for Hawkeye Episodes 1 and 2
Though we've already met Tony Dalton's Jacques Duquesne in Hawkeye - and even seen his skill with a blade (which he seems to be intentionally hiding from Eleanor and Kate), we don't actually know how or if he may become the Swordsman in the show, let alone whether he has any history with Clint Barton.
What we do know is that the MCU version of Duquesne is engaged to Kate Bishop's mother Eleanor Bishop, who has her own comic book history as a crime boss connected to the villainous Madame Masque - and as vampire. (It also remains to be seen how or if Kate's mom's criminal past will be adapted to the MCU).
What's more, it's implied that Duquesne may have killed his own rich uncle in Hawkeye Episode 1 and that he may have recognized and has knowledge of Kate Bishop's activities as Ronin. Interestingly, Armand Duquesne III, Jacque's murdered uncle, also has a history in Marvel Comics as a government official in the fictional dictatorship of Sin-Cong.
That all said, Marvel Studios very intentionally wants viewers to be very suspicious of Duquesne and what his intentions are but given Episodes 1 and 2 is the first act of the six-episode series, it would be unwise to draw any conclusions. MCU stories often zig where you expect them to zag and they almost always use viewers' expectations against them in the final act.
But weirdly enough, Swordsman's connections to Hawkeye and the Avengers are just the tip of the iceberg with his potential MCU relationships.
Duquesne's relationship with Kate Bishop is just one of his potential connections to characters in the MCU - including Wanda Maximoff, Mantis, and even, potentially, Teddy Altman, should he show up somewhere in Disney Plus' upcoming Secret Invasion show.
Of course, there's a lot more mystery than revelation about the MCU Swordsman at this point - and the seeds of a story like Empyre haven't quite been sown just yet, though the aforementioned Secret Invasion MCU show, adapted from the Secret Invasion comic event about a hidden Skrull invasion of Earth, could take the next steps toward bringing a saga of that magnitude to the screen.
Whatever comes of Swordsman's involvement in Clint Barton and Kate Bishop's MCU story, we'll get at least a few more answers when Hawkeye episode three premieres on November 30.