- —The Leader
Samuel Sterns aka the Leader was a simple American worker in a chemical plant in a menial capacity until an accident working with radioactive material bombarded him with gamma radiation, turning his skin green and making his head grow. The radiation increased his intelligence to genius-level along with his ego and ambition to match. This led him into conflict with the Hulk becoming his self-proclaimed arch-enemy. Having died and being revived several times, the Leader became obsessed with the afterlife, having experimented with the Green Doors and learned of the existence of the One Below All and the Below-Place, though all of this would culminate in him being possessed and then ripped out of the entity, powerless and reduced to a normal human. In spite everything he had done, the Hulk forgave Sam and returned him to the Earthly Plane.
- 1 History
- 2 Attributes
- 3 Paraphernalia
- 4 Notes
- 5 See Also
- 6 Links and References
Samuel Sterns was originally a slow-witted individual and a high school dropout. He was alienated from his family as they doted on his more intelligent and successful older brother. As an adult, Sterns found employment working the night shift at a chemical research plant. One evening, he was moving canisters of waste material when one of the containers cracked open bathing him in gamma radiation. Sterns survived what would normally be a lethal dose of radiation, but not without cost. Initially, however, the side-effects seemed completely beneficial. Sterns discovered that his intellect had increased a thousand-fold, and he retained information with the accuracy of a computer. He began reading voraciously, accumulating as much knowledge as he possibly could. Before long, however, his gamma-irradiated body continued to mutate. His skin turned permanently green, and his cranium increased in size.
Abandoning his true human name, Sterns instead began to refer to himself as the Leader. Over the course of a year, he used his heightened intellect to become a criminal mastermind, and he developed an extensive spy ring with plans of taking control of the United States government. His efforts soon earned him the attention of another gamma-spawned mutation, physicist Dr. Bruce Banner, also known as the Incredible Hulk, clashing with him on numerous occasions and at one point, even ruining Banner's wedding to Betty Ross.
Eventually, Sterns' increased mental capabilities began to lessen. It was not until too late that he noticed this, until the external changes were seen through his reversion to a regular sized head and the disappearance of his green skin. The Leader attempted to retain his super-intellect, but realized the time had run out that he was now an ordinary human with baseline intelligence. Resigning himself to his fate, he took advantage of the regaining of his ordinary appearance to reintegrate himself into conventional American society and abandon his delusional ideas of taking over the United States, eventually getting a job as a coroner's assistant in New Mexico. Much to his surprise, he was asked to help on a job at Gamma Base, to retrieve the body of General Thaddeus Ross after his death at the hands of Zzzax. Sterns killed his co-worker and took the ambulance that had Ross' corpse within, following Bruce Banner, who was on his way to one of his old hidden laboratories. Though he arrived too late to save the gamma-ray equipment that the Hulk destroyed after manipulating Banner into using it on himself. He told the now gray Hulk that he could permanently get rid of Banner if he helped get Rick Jones' version of Hulk's gamma radiation into Sterns' body. Hulk managed to use the knowledge in the Banner part of his brain to construct a new gamma-ray machine before knocking out the Jones-Hulk and strapping him into it. The resulting experiment successfully infused the gamma radiation into Sterns' body but also destroyed the lab, causing Hulk and Jones to believe The Leader had perished. He escaped and stole Ross' body, making his way to one of his own labs.
With his regained intelligence, Sterns also had a larger, bald cranium which was more mutated than his former look. He contacted a being called Half-Life and gave him work to stall the Hulk lest he stop the Leader's plotting. After Half-Life's defeat, Leader gathered up his parts and returned him to his base, outfitting him with a suit of armor and a camera, then sending him out again. He knew that Hulk would ultimately win, and so recorded a message to him which he would later leave. He developed technology around this time that was capable of returning life to dead bodies. He used it on General Ross though the procedure resulted in a waking-coma, life without a mind.
Two former Hulkbusters were convinced to join his ranks and outfitted as Rock and Redeemer. He sent the two to steal a gamma bomb from a US government facility, then had them plant it in Middletown, Arizona. Taunting Hulk with the fact there was a bomb that would go off in mere hours, Leader waited for him to find it before setting Rock and Redeemer on him. In the resulting battle, Hulk was weakened but triumphant, reaching the bomb with minutes remaining. Leader, being a sore loser, had teleported himself, Rock and Redeemer away before manually exploding the bomb. The Leader had shield generators installed around the town, keeping the blast contained, and decimating what would become known as Gammatown. There were only five survivors, who were rounded up by the military. Leader hijacked the vehicle containing them and took them to his under-ice town of Freehold.
Sterns had been populating Freehold with radiation victims, both great and simple-minded alike, knowing that some form of total-annihilation was due to happen on Earth, by the various world governments sometime in the future. Freehold would survive and they would repopulate. Because of his generosity and kindness, the people loved him.
When Leader next surfaced, he had sent the U-Foes to break into the Pantheon headquarters at The Mount, seeking an audience with Agamemnon. They arranged an agreement that Pantheon would render aid to Freehold if and when it came under attack. He then approached Rick Jones with an offer to revive his dead girlfriend. The transfer of gamma radiation seemed to have bestowed an empathic link between the two, meaning Sterns also felt Rick's loss. He already had the body, all that was left was his consent. It was eventually given and Jones joined Leader, albeit reluctantly. When at Freehold, Jones found that Leader had restored General Ross to life and installed him as the new Redeemer. He began to doubt his decision to bring Marlo back to life if she would only be a vegetable like Ross was, but was placated by Leader who ensured him that he had perfected the process. One of those who did not die in the Gammatown incident, Jason McCall a priest, had the ability to bind the soul back with the resurrected body.
The Freehold came under attack when Hydra raided the facility seeking to take control of it. Hulk was sent by Agamemnon, both keeping his promise of aid and allowing Hulk to think he was breaking it by simply handing over the position of Freehold for Hulk to take revenge on Leader for the 5,000 killed in Gammatown. The experiment to bring Marlo back to life had been begun and Leader dispatched Jones to stop Hulk from destroying the process before it was completed. Leader had instruments logging everything Soul Man (Father McCall) did, believing that the man's powers could be duplicated to give himself immortality. However, Hulk burst in and destroyed the machine by throwing Leader into Soul Man and it. The Leader did not come out of the resultant explosion.
Following his demise in Freehold, the Leader's disembodied spirit possessed his follower Omnibus. The Leader, through Omnibus, launched a series of terrorist attacks in an effort to plunge the world into chaos. The citizens of Freehold put Omnibus on trial and found him guilty of the Leader's crimes, and exiled him to the Arctic Circle. After wandering the tundra for some time, Omnibus was eaten by a polar bear.
During his many deaths and resurrections, the Leader temporarily entered the Below-Place each time through the Green Door, but he never remembered what he saw there or how he returned to life. The Leader eventually reformed his body using the cells of plants and dead animals, and hid in an abandoned mine in the American Southwest. The Leader mentally summoned Bruce Banner, who at the time was suffering from advanced ALS, to his location and told him he was on the verge of achieving enlightenment and would transcend the physical plane. The Leader offered Banner a cure for his disease on the condition that Banner witness his ascension. Banner agreed and watched as the Leader's consciousness expanded, only for the Leader's body to explode at the final, crucial moment. Sterns returned to the Below-Place and became desperate, trying to run from the presence of the One Below All. Banner later heard the Leader's voice in his head begging for help, claiming that he had made a terrible mistake. Unable to help Sterns at the moment, Banner turned his back on him. Abandoned by the only one who could understand him, Sterns "looked Hell in the face" and embraced his own faith and hate. Since then, the Leader began researching the Green Door, trying to discover how to open and control it.
During a time of great personal duress for the Hulk and Bruce Banner, who had begun to merge their personas, it became clear that Home Base, a secret organization who had relentlessly pursued the Hulk in order to obtain his genetic material, was secretly led by the Leader. In the end, after all his other agendas had failed, the Leader finally managed to mind-control the Hulk and guided him towards his secret base, with the intention of taking his indestructible body for himself. Due to the intervention of Nadia Blonsky, Betty Ross, Doc Samson, and Iron Man, the plan failed and the Leader died again. These events, bizarre and nebulous as they seemed, may or may not have taken place, they may be partly true, or entirely a construct by the extra-dimensional demon Nightmare in a bid to avenge himself on the Hulk.
The Leader was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Hulkbusters, and brought to trial for his crimes. He was represented by Attorney Mallory Book from She-Hulk's firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway. During the trial, Ms. Book argued that the Leader was not responsible for his actions since the Gamma exposure forcibly changed his personality. To prove her point, Book compared She-Hulk to Jennifer Walters, revealing that Jennifer was much more promiscuous in her She-Hulk form. In the second day of the trial, Leader's humanoid droids arrived to rescue him. Instead of escaping, the Leader called off the attack, opting to see the trial to its conclusion, as he correctly predicted that his defense was going to win. He was found not guilty.
Sterns resurfaced months later when the Hulk's Warbound escaped from S.H.I.E.L.D. in New York after World War Hulk. He erected a shield around Stoneridge and flooded it with gamma radiation. His head was larger and more misshapen, and he needed a device on his shoulders simply to stop his neck from being broken by its weight. The device emitting the shield was powered by Hiroim's Oldpower so it could only be destroyed by his death. The SHIELD agent with the Warbound discovered that the humans inside the dome would die if it was opened as the gamma radiation was the only thing keeping them alive. The Leader had set it all in motion to bring his body back to full strength after the stress of all of the transformations he had been through since his irradiation. In battle with the Warbound, the Leader was stabbed through the chest with an iron pipe. The Leader then absorbed the power of the dome, turning himself into a gray-skinned giant. Hiroim also absorbed the power, and battled the Leader, draining both of their powers. In death, Hiroim channeled his old power into Kate Waynesboro, who attacked the Leader, and forced him to teleport away.
It was finally revealed that the Leader, along with a select group of super-intelligent villains, was part of a long-standing organization that he calls Intelligencia. Initially formed to exchange information between criminal geniuses, the Intel was betrayed by Doctor Doom and disbanded. But later, when the Hulk returned to Earth and decided to wage war on the planet, MODOK and the Leader reformulated the team, hacking into defense satellites and channeling cosmic energy through them which ultimately led to the Hulk's defeat. Through this information they gathered, the Intelligencia discovered how to combine gamma and cosmic radiation to create a powerful being. They approached General Ross and convinced him to become their ultimate weapon, the Red Hulk, as part of a scheme to defeat the Hulk and conquer the world. Many of the Hulk's allies were captured, brainwashed, and transformed into Cosmic-Gamma Mutates, like Red She-Hulk, A-Bomb, and Amadeus Cho. The plan ultimately failed and the Red Hulk drained the Leader's body of all radiation and he was no longer the Leader.
The Red Hulk gave Sterns a red gamma treatment to give him his powers back in order to use him as his intelligence agent. He was later killed by the Punisher as soon as he discovered Ross tried to use him. After he was shot, the Red Hulk took him to a pipe line that feed Gamma energy to the Madman's lab. He fed it to the Leader, bringing him back to life. The Red Leader became a full-time member of Ross' Thunderbolts after these events. After the Punisher quit the team, the Leader, long looking for ways to kill the Thunderbolts and knowing Castle had counter measures to take each of them down, put a bomb in his safe house with a note "You don't quit us. You're fired," knowing he would survive, and he would think it was Ross who attempted to kill him, and would take the Thunderbolts down. When the Punisher attacked the Thunderbolts, he shot Sterns from the distance, but he was eventually revealed to be an LMD.
Six months after the Thunderbolts disbanded, the Red Leader was living a life of luxury in Kata Jaya when his former partners and the Avengers arrived to destroy the criminal empire he had built there. Betrayed by Caitlin, a girl whose heart he was trying to conquer, Sterns was captured and put in jail. The Punisher used the Ghost Rider's skull to put Sterns under permanent Penance Stare, but he was eventually freed from it by Mephisto, with whom he had made a deal when he went to Hell along with the Thunderbolts. Enraged by the fact that Sterns had reneged on their deal, Mephisto made him sign a new contract and led him to Hell.
The Ωmega Hulk
As part of his measure to neutralize Gamma mutates across the world, the Hulk's new personality "Doc Green" pinned down the Red Leader, who through unknown means had escaped from Hell and started to dabble in the occult, and neutralized his Gamma-powered abilities. However, the Leader had been reached out previously by Gammon, an artificial intelligence duplicate of Doc Green, who had implemented a countermeasure against Doc Green's actions. As soon as he was depowered, Sterns slowly transformed back, but not to his newer identity as the Red Leader, but to that of the Leader. He and Gammon agreed to work together. He later merged with Gammon.
Leader helped reform Intelligencia with a goal of gaining control of Kei Kawade and his powers. However, they were defeated by Elsa Bloodstone, Kid Kaiju, and his monsters. The members were then arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. and imprisoned in Ryker's Island Maximum Security Penitentiary.
After Leader escaped the prison, he set his sights on She-Hulk. Based on the changes to her Hulk form, and his experiences with the Green Doors, he deduced that Jennifer really had died as a result of the fight against Thanos and had since suppressed her memories of the Below-Place. Sterns decided to test if there would be any further changes triggered if She-Hulk either died and resurrected again, or killed someone else.
To this end, he used Professor Robyn Meiser Malt. Robyn was an obsessive She-Hulk fan whom Leader recruited a year earlier. Sterns manipulated Robyn into capturing Jennifer and using her blood to gain gamma powers. Making Robyn believe that the human part of She-Hulk stops her from achieving her full potential, he set her and Jen to fight against each other. However, during the fight, Robyn achieved a telepathic connection with Jen. This led to Jennifer assessing a fuller control of her Hulk form and brute-forcing through Leader's barriers to defeat him. In the end, he was once again arrested.
Leader ended up in the custody of U.S Hulk Operations. After their agents learned about Hulk's return, they attempted to convince Sterns to help them analyze Hulk's current behaviour. However, Leader used their moment of carelessness and escaped the Shadow Base Remote Facility 43B where he was imprisoned.
After analyzing Hulk's recent actions, Leader finally concocted a plan to take him down. Instead of directly going after Banner, he infected Weapon H with a gamma-altering virus. Banner was already trying to catch Cortez, due to the accusations that were spread about him. Leader helped to arrange a confrontation between the two. The confrontation ended in a fight, during which Hulk used his gamma draining ability, and in effect got infected by the virus. He further manipulated the two to take care of Shadow Base agents following him. However, his plan was interrupted by the involvement of Wolverine who was also following the rumours about Weapon H. Immediately after he was confronted by Dr. Alba who was following Wolverine. After a short fight, they decided to team-up after they realised that there was someone manipulating the hunt for Weapon H.
In the end, they captured both Hulk and Wolverine and transformed them into hybrids similar to Cortez, but unable to control their actions. While executing their plan, Leader and Dr. Alba got closer to each other. Finally, they sent their transformed victims to test their strength against an automated defence installation. However, Weapon H tracked them down and led Hulk and Wolverine to Sterns and Alba. To save themselves, they deactivated nanomachines responsible for Hulk's and Wolverine's transformations and after a failed attempt to defeat Cortez, teleported away. Afterwards, they shared a kiss.
Their relationship didn't last long, as the Leader left Alba when he got ahold of a tiding-fly transporting knowledge gained from the mind of the Breaker-Apart, a future version of Hulk whose soul was completely replaced by the One Below All - who then became a cosmic entity upon the death and rebirth of the multiverse. The tiding-fly was sent from a universe in the Ninth Cosmos that fell prey to him in a hope of averting that turn of the events. However, instead of preventing it, Leader wanted to implement the One Below All's plan to become the sole remaining presence the Multiverse.
Sterns put his accumulated knowledge into practice and traveled to the Below-Place. Here he accosted Brian Banner, who was wandering the hellscape after his escape plan failed. Leader promised him that he would help him escape the Below-Place. However, the Leader turned on Brian and absorbed his mind to assimilate his knowledge of the Green Door and his connection the One Below All, and to take the control of his body. To carry out his plan, Leader needed Bruce - as his connection the gamma energy was the strongest - and planned to do this by going after Banner's loved ones and many personas. Disguising himself as Brian, the Leader confronted Bruce in his disguise to strengthen his control over the Green Doors, which he used to take control over Rick Jones's hollow body. He also took control of Banner's Green Scar persona and used the chaos created in Banner's mindscape by the alien Xemnu to seal away the Devil Hulk persona.
When the Hulk became popular after defeating Xemnu, the Leader decided to put his plan into action. Using Rick Jones, the Leader sent a surge of gamma energy into the Hulk during a photo-op, causing Hulk to explode in a burst of gamma energy. This incident wreaked havoc over the surrounding area and cost many lives, though some lives were saved when Rick acted as a shield against the blast. When Gamma Flight came to apprehend Hulk before he caused more destruction, Hulk battled them while Leader commented on the situation.
Leader also took control of test subject Del Frye and used him to kill Doc Samson, forcing Samson's soul to travel to the Below-Place so Leader could force him to watch as his plan unfold. Just as Leader wanted, Puck fired a beam of energy at Hulk as he was fighting Absorbing Man, severely injuring him. This allowed Leader to use the Green Door to take control of Hulk's Green Scar persona and take control of the Hulk.
In Bruce's mindscape, the Leader tied Banner and the manifestations of the Savage Hulk and Joe Fixit personas to the prison that held the Devil Hulk. Leader bragged to Banner how he was using the Green Door to take control of his mind. The Leader then began to hit snags when he tried to entice Dr. McGowan of the U.S. Hulk Operations to join him. While Leader was distracted, Samson struck him with a piece of debris, inflicting a severe head injury. McGowan then used a translocator to split Rick Jones in two, which Leader felt. Seeing his plans were on thin ice, Leader decided to drag Banner through the Green Door immediately instead of making him suffer. This unexpectedly caused the Devil Hulk to become riled up enough to finally break free from his prison and confront Leader, causing the Leader to become very fearful.
The Leader was able to distract the Devil Hulk briefly by turning into Brian Banner before transforming into a crab-like monstrosity and grabbing Banner. The Devil Hulk tried to fight Leader but was unexpectedly restrained by the Savage Hulk persona, who believed that the Leader was Brian Banner and decided to protect him so he could be loved by him. With the Devil Hulk restrained, Leader killed him and dragged the Devil Hulk's remains and Banner through the Green Door. Now in the Below-Place, Leader hooked Banner and the remains of the Devil Hulk to strange plant-like structures for the purpose of turning him into a device to channel gamma energy to the One Below All. However, Leader couldn't get the system to work, even though Brian Banner could. Then Leader learned the truth from Brian Banner's spirit: Brian could do it because he was possessed by the One Below All, something Leader didn't want. After that, the One Below All possessed the Leader, much to his horror.
The Leader eventually grew to a gargantuan size and built a fortress around himself. Joe Fixit, Savage Hulk, and Jackie McGee managed to travel to the Below-Place using the Fantastic Four's Forever Gate and confronted him. However, the Leader ensnared Savage Hulk with tendrils and controlled him like a puppet to fight Joe so he could absorb them both. When Jackie came to terms with her past, she unleashed a beam of energy that harmed Leader, allowing Joe and Savage Hulk to separate him from the One Above All and unexpectedly depowered him as well. After Savage Hulk and Joe talked with the One Above All, Savage Hulk forgave Leader for all he did. Leader then returned to Earth with Jackie, Bruce Banner, and Banner's personas where he was shackled and presumably taken into police custody.
An army of robotic Humanoids have been developed by the Leader, able to perform a variety of tasks. The Leader also utilizes a unique assortment of weaponry including laser pistols, pulse weapons, kinetic gauntlets, etc.
The Leader always has access to various highly advanced vehicles and death machines. One such conveyance, the Murder Module, was used to combat the Hulk during the Leader's brief command of Gamma Base. Recently, after years researching the Green Door, the Leader became able to open it, allowing him to teleport himself to the Below-Place at will but lost this means after being separated from the One Below All.
- Early appearances of the Leader portrayed him with black hair, but later versions of the character revealed that his hair (before going bald) was actually a very dark green.
- 195 appearance(s) of Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
- 35 minor appearance(s) of Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
- 39 mentions of Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
- 154 image(s) of Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
- 13 quotation(s) by or about Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
- 9 item(s) used/owned by Samuel Sterns (Earth-616)
Links and References
- Samuel Sterns (Earth-616) on Wikipedia.org
- Samuel Sterns (Earth-616) profile at the Marvel Directory
- Leader's Lair