Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) was a performer at various circuses and carnivals. His act demonstrated his mastery of knives, swords, and other bladed weapons.
At one carnival he met a young Clint Barton. Seeing great potential in him, Swordsman and Trickshot trained the boy in blades and archery respectively, with Clint often being a secondary performer in the Swordsman's act.
Swordsman's gambling problem left him heavily in debt. One day the carnival paymaster was robbed, and Barton later found Swordsman with the money. Barton ran from him and climbed the high wire. Swordsman cut it by hurling his sword. Barton fell to the ground and the Swordsman left thinking he was dead. Barton survived and grew up to become Hawkeye. (It is presumed that he and Barton reconciled years later.)
The Swordsman committed various crimes around the world, causing him to be barred from several nations. He sought out the Avengers thinking that posing as a hero would lead to much bigger crimes. His offer of service was refused. Angry, he attacked Captain America (Steve Rogers) but was soon surrounded. The Mandarin teleported Swordsman to his location, thinking he would make a useful double agent against Iron Man. He outfitted the Swordsman's sword with several embedded devices through Makluan technology. He also sent a faked message from Iron Man asking the Avengers to allow the Swordsman to join them. Although they suspected a trap, he was allowed to become a member.
Surprisingly, Swordsman fit in well and even developed a crush on the Scarlet Witch. Ordered by Mandarin to lure the Avengers to a bomb, he feared she would be injured and tried to dismantle it. When the other Avengers arrived, it looked like he had been caught setting the bomb instead. Swordsman fled, and although he had regrets, he soon fell back into a pattern of crime. He served alongside a brainwashed Black Widow and Power Man (Erik Josten) on many occasions. He still longed to be a part of the Avengers, and even joined them in Asgard to fight Ares and the Enchantress. His heart was no longer in crime, and he began to drink heavily while serving Monsieur Khruul.
The beautiful Mantis was also working for Khruul as a barmaid. She convinced him he could be a hero again. He was still reluctant until becoming injured on one of Khruul's assignments. Mantis helped him recover and the two left to the United States. Revitalized, Swordsman asked to rejoin the Avengers, and his sincerity won them over. Swordsman was a valuable member although he still doubted himself. He fell in love with Mantis but his feelings were not reciprocated by her. An angry Khruul captured Duquesne and tortured him on one occasion.
It was soon revealed Mantis was the Celestial Madonna. Kang began a mad quest to make her his bride. He was stopped by the Avengers and another version of himself, Rama-Tut. Kang decided that if he could not have Mantis, no one would and aimed a ray gun at her. Swordsman instinctively jumped in front of his love while Tut was able to grab the gun and alter his aim. The blast travelled up Swordman's sword, fatally wounding him. Mantis realized that she really loved Duquesne as he died.
Swordman's body was buried in a garden maintained by the Priests of Pama near where Mantis had grown up. This garden contained sentient plants known as the Cotati. It was actually the eldest 'tree' that was destined to mate with Mantis. It inhabited Swordman's body and approached Mantis, explaining itself to her. Immortus married the two, then they left Earth transforming into energy. The Celestial Messiah has since been born.
The Swordsman was one of a number of dead Avengers resurrected by the Chaos King, and apparently survived the end of the Chaos War, unlike several of the others in that group.
1966 cartoon series
The Swordsman appeared in the Captain America/Avengers portion of The Marvel Super Heroes (1966).
Avengers: United They Stand
The Swordsman appeared in the The Avengers: United They Stand episode "Comes a Swordsman", voiced by Paul Essiembre. In this episode, he is depicted as a mentor to Hawkeye, but also working for the Zodiac.