Samuel Sterns (The Leader)

theleaderfilmAnother menacing villain is featured in casualgamer‘s list, this time one that will hopefully come back sooner or later (if Marvel remembers they left his storyline suspended): The LeaderHulk‘s nemesis. His only live action appearance so far has been in The Incredible Hulk: in the movie Samuel Sterns, portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson, is a brilliant scientist who helps Bruce Banner with his “anger management problems” using the alias Mr. Blue (which in the comics was used by Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross). When the two finally meet, it’s clear Sterns is fascinated by Banner’s transformation and powers, and his ambition brings him to help Emil Blonsky to become an evil version of Hulk; last we see him, he had some of Banner’s blood dripping in a cut on his head, and his head started to swell as he smiled, hinting at his future transformation into The Leader. We know from the comicbook tie-in that he’s been captured by Black Widow and taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D., but he still has to come back in his enhanced form. Looking forward to that, let’s take a look at the original villain.

Pretty ironically, Samuel Sterns had always been a nearly dim-witted man: born in BoiseIdaho, he had always been neglected by his parents, who invested all their affection and attention in his older brother Philip. Slow and Dull, Sam dropped out high school, and survived with petty jobs in his hometown. Eventually, he was hired as a night guardian in a chemical plant. Besides working as a guardian, he also did the job of janitor, moving canisters and cylinders from time to time; one night, while he was moving a canister containing experimental chemicals bathed in gamma rays, an accident occured, and the unstable substance exploded, investing him. What would have normally been a lethal dose of radiation didn’t kill Sam, but it transformed him in something else: at first, it looked like the effects were just beneficial, and Sterns found out he had become much more intelligent than before…even much more intelligent than anyone else around him. He was now able to register any information as if he was a living computer, and he started reading everything he found around, learning at an incredible speed; the more his theleadercomics1brain accumulated knowledge, however, the more some unpleasant side effects of the mutation emerged: his cranium, unable to contain the expanding brain, increased in size, until his head became abnormally swollen. Also, because of the gamma radiations his skin became green. Now something different than a human being, something better according to himself, Samuel Sterns abandoned his previous name, and acknowledged himself as the greatest mind ever lived: from now on, the world would have known him as The Leader. Obviously, such a superb intellect was meant to rule over the billions of inferior people living in the world, and the Leader dedicated himself into developing an extensive spy ring, whose aim was to take control of the United States of America in his stead. His now unmatched intellect allowed him to be always three steps ahead of the counter-intelligence, and his rise to power appeared to be inevitable.

In order to prepare himself for the invasion, the Leader genetically engineered an army of super-strong plastic monsters, the Humanoids, which served as his indestructible manpower. During the realization of his plan, however, one of the spies failed to report, disappearing from radars after he had been ordered to steal a robot from Desert Base, in New Mexico. Curious to know what had happened, the Leader hired the super-spy Chameleon and sent him to investigate: the Chameleon didn’t find his colleague, but discovered an experimental nuclear device, the Absorbatron, which would have served Leader’s goals quite well. The mastermind sent one of his Humanoids to recover the device, but in that occasion he found out what had caused the spy’s disappearance: the Hulk, a massive green giant with immense strength, who disposed of the Humanoid as well. The Leader saw Hulk through his creature’s eyes, and instantly realised that he had been created by gamma radiations as well; believing that the two of them were allies destined by fate, an incredible intellect and a just as incredible strength, the Leader sent an army of Humanoids to capture him, succeeding in the task. Once the Hulk was in his theleadercomics2base, however, Sterns found out he was just a mindless brute, and that it was impossible to reason with him, least of all to form an alliance. The Jade Giant lost control, and while the Leader was still studying him, trying to understand if he would have been able to replicate his strength adding a perfect body to his perfect mind, the brute destroyed much of his lab, vanquishing also the Humanoids sent after him and ending up demolishing the Absorbatron (succesfully stolen from the Humanoids while the Hulk was prisoner) as well. The Leader barely escaped with his life, and immediately began dedicating himself to his new obsession: to seize and control the Hulk and, if that wasn’t possible, to utterly destroy him. The new world would have needed just one master, and two super-charged gamma mutants were one too many.

Samuel Sterns is a dull and obtuse man, capable only of simple and repetitive jobs, deeply jealous of his talented brother. As The Leader, however, his nature and personality drastically change, and he’s one of the most intelligent beings ever appeared on the planet, gifted with an eidetic memory that allows him to memorize and process a nearly unlimited amount of informations; his tactical abilities are so developed that his predictions borders on clairvoyance, and there is nothing in nature and beyond that he can’t understand, replicate and exploit; the exposure to one of his futuristic machines, the Revivor Beam, also unlocked some latent mental powers, giving him telekinesis, telepathy, and the ability to mind-control weak intellects. Now a megalomaniac genius bent on world domination based on the simple principle that the intelligent should rule over everyone else, The Leader devises extremely intricate and complex plans to manipulate other powers around him to do his job, an omniscient puppet master who maneuvres even entire nations for his own personal goals.

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