The Leader (Samuel Sterns) is a fiction character that appears in comic book published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Tales to Astonish #62, and was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. In 2009, The Leader was ranked as IGN's 63rd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
Actor Tim Blake Nelson portrays Dr. Samuel Sterns in the 2008 superhero film, The Incredible Hulk.
Born Samuel Sterns in Boise, Idaho, he worked for a chemical plant there in a menial capacity. While moving radioactive materials into an underground storage area, some of the radioactive materials exploded, bombarding Sterns with gamma radiation. He recovered, and found that the radiation had changed him from an ordinary human into a green-skinned, super-intelligent entity with an oversized brain housed in a towering cranium. As was the case with most individuals mutated by Gamma radiation early-on, the particular set of characteristics Sterns acquired by exposure to it were said to result from a subconscious desire; in his case, the desire to be as smart as his brother Philip, who was a physicist in the employ of the same facility. Calling himself the Leader, Sterns embarked on various ambitious criminal schemes, with the Hulk as his primary nemesis, consistently backed by a self-constructed army of super-strong, virtually invulnerable plastic Humanoids. These included an attempt to rewrite the Earth's history by infecting the primordial ooze with gamma radiation in order to recreate society in his image, with himself as its ruler.
The Leader began his career as a would-be conqueror by creating a spy ring to overthrow the United States federal government. He dispatched his ally the Chameleon to capture the Hulk for study. Although the Chameleon failed, the Leader succeeded in capturing the Hulk by sending a horde of Humanoids to subdue him. He also succeeded in stealing the Absorbatron, a device invented by Banner that could absorb the energy of a nuclear explosion, and thereby render any nation that possessed it immune to nuclear attack. The Hulk eventually escaped the Leader and destroyed most of his lab, along with the Absorbatron, but the Leader himself escaped. Eager to sell his Humanoids to hostile nations, the Leader gave a demonstration of his power by activating a 500-foot-tall Humanoid and ordering it to attack a nearby missile base. The Hulk eventually encountered the Humanoid and managed to thwart the Leader's plans. Curious to learn more about the power of the Hulk, the Leader then rescued the Hulk from the Army, who had cornered the monster in a cave. After operating on the Hulk to save his life, the Leader reminded the Hulk that he was in his debt. Using this leverage, the Leader sent the Hulk to the homeworld of the Watcher to raid the Watcher's "Ultimate Machine", a device containing all the knowledge in the universe. However, this huge amount of knowledge proved too much for the Leader. He collapsed to the ground, unmoving, and the Hulk assumed that he died of shock. General Ross soon discovered the Leader's abandoned base and accidentally activated the "Hulk Killer" a large Humanoid designed to defeat the Hulk.
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