Don't worry, a lot of comic book readers haven't heard of the Swordsman either.
The character, who increasingly looks like he'll play a key role in Disney Plus' Hawkeye streaming series is in fact, despite being somewhat obscure, one of Marvel's oldest characters, and serves a key role in the Marvel Comics' origin of Clint Barton - the titular Hawkeye. And he's even been an Avenger ... though he's been a supervillain too.
The ultimate motivations of the MCU's mysterious Jacques Duquesne, portrayed by Better Call Saul actor Tony Dalton, are yet to be revealed, including if he has any ties to Clint Barton's MCU past. What we do know is that he's engaged to series co-star Kate Bishop's mom Eleanor Bishop, played by Vera Farmiga, and like his Marvel Comics counterpart has an interest in and is highly skilled with swords.
Whether he is, was, or will be a superhero or supervillain remains to be seen but the relationship between the comic book Swordsman and Hawkeye - two former circus performers with no superpowers - has somewhat ironically led to some of the weirdest, least down-to-Earth Avengers tales ever.
So who exactly is Jacques Duquesne, the Swordsman, and what does his comic book history with Clint Barton/Hawkeye and the Avengers look like? And what might Swordsman's oddly sci-fi-infused history say about his potential future in the MCU?
We'll cut right to the most important parts of his history right now.
Sorry, that was dull 'sword' wordplay.
Oops, we did it again...
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 Jacques 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 through 3
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 Hawkeye episodes 1 through 3 is just the first half 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.
December 1's Hawkeye episode 3 ended abruptly with Jack getting the jump on Hawkeye and putting the Ronin blade he took from his later-murdered uncle up to Clint's neck when he and Kate are caught sneaking around her mom's Manhattan townhouse, so we'll likely get some answers as to who he really is at the beginning of episode 4.