The Leader
The Leader (Samuel Sterns).jpg
Variant cover art of Skaar: Son of Hulk #6 (Dec. 2008, Marvel Comics), art by Francis Tsai
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceTales to Astonish #62 (December 1964)
Created byStan Lee (writer)
Steve Ditko (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoSamuel Sterns
SpeciesDepowered human mutate
Team affiliationsIntelligencia
Freehold/New Freehold
Riot Squad
Lethal Legion
Notable aliasesThe Red Leader[1]
AbilitiesNone; formerly
  • Superhuman intelligence
  • Telekinesis
  • Telepathy
  • Gamma ray manipulation
  • Self-resurrection

The Leader (Samuel Sterns) is a fictional supervillain character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The Leader first appeared in Tales to Astonish #62, created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko as the archenemy of the Hulk.[2][3] He has mainly appeared in Hulk-related comic books over the years and was one of the featured characters in the Marvel NOW! Thunderbolts relaunch.

Sterns worked as a janitor in Boise, Idaho when he was exposed to gamma radiation. The radiation mutated him into a green-skinned, super-intelligent entity who named himself the Leader, embarking on a career of crime. He is repeatedly foiled by the Hulk, who overcomes all of the Leader's schemes as well as his artificial henchmen known as the Humanoids. Sterns would later be further transformed, causing his cranium to change into the shape of an oversized brain. As part of the Intelligencia, he is an integral part of the Hulked Out Heroes storyline.

The character has been adapted from the comics into various forms of media, including television series and video games. Samuel Sterns made his cinematic debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film The Incredible Hulk (2008), portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson, and will return in Captain America: New World Order (2024). In 2009, the Leader was ranked as IGN's 63rd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[4]

Publication history

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2015)

The character first appeared in Tales to Astonish #62[5] (December 1964), and was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Fictional character biography

This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles, condensing it, or adding subheadings. Please discuss this issue on the article's talk page. (October 2020)

Born Samuel Sterns in Boise, Idaho, he worked for a chemical plant in a menial capacity. While moving radioactive materials into an underground storage area, some of the radioactive materials explode, bombarding Sterns with gamma radiation. He recovers, and finds that the radiation has changed him from an ordinary human into a green-skinned, super-intelligent entity with an oversized brain housed in a towering cranium.[6][7] As is 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 embarks 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-skinned Humanoids.[8]

The Leader creates a spy ring to overthrow the United States federal government. He sends a spy to steal a robot Dr. Bruce Banner was developing. The spy is knocked into a deep pit by the Hulk, and is trapped there. The Leader dispatches the Chameleon to find out why the spy has failed to report back.[9] Although the Chameleon fails at this, he informs the Leader of the secret shipment of a newly developed nuclear device, the Absorbatron. The Leader sends a Humanoid to steal the device. The Humanoid is stopped by the Hulk, who the Leader sees for the first time through his Humanoid's eyes. He deduces that the Hulk is a creation of gamma radiation like himself, and becomes immediately obsessed with learning more about him.[6] Thus, though he sends out a horde of Humanoids to seize the Absorbatron while it is being tested on a deserted island, when the Hulk is sighted there he focuses on capturing him instead, now convinced that the two of them are "fated to become allies". However, the Hulk is unwittingly saved from capture by U.S. Army troops.[10] A third attempt at stealing the Absorbatron is successful, and the Hulk is delivered into the Leader's hands at the same time. However, while the Leader is still scientifically studying him, the Hulk breaks free and proves impossible to reason with. He destroys the Absorbatron, and the Leader narrowly escapes with his life.[11] In order to sell his 500-foot (150 m)-tall Humanoid to a hostile nation, the Leader arranges a demonstration of its power by ordering it to attack a nearby missile base. However, the army hits the Humanoid with a "Sunday Punch" missile, rendering it inoperative.[12] When the army subsequently corners the Hulk in a cave, the Leader rescues him, and the two become uneasy allies.[13] The Leader operates on the Hulk to remove what would have been a fatal bullet in his skull, and further enhances his strength with a shower of gamma rays. The two of them team up to steal the Watcher's "Ultimate Machine", a device containing all the knowledge in the universe.[14] Rather than stop them directly, the Watcher implants within the device an image so horrifying that using it causes the Leader to collapse dead from sheer terror.[15] However, the Leader had made preparations even for his death; a special Humanoid was programmed to activate when his heart stops beating, and carried the Leader to a "Revivo-Beam" which restored him to life, since his gamma-infused body takes longer to reach brain death than that of a normal person. In addition, his usage of the Ultimate Machine apparently unlocked several previously latent mental powers.[16]

After months in hiding, the Leader offers General Ross aid in neutralizing the Hulk, containing him within a cage of plastithene.[16] However, Betty Ross overhears the Leader gloating to himself about his real plan: to take over the base and use its nuclear missiles to set off a nuclear war, thus annihilating most of humanity and making it easy for him to take over. She frees the Hulk, who stops the Leader's plan. However, the Leader escapes and uses his powers to erase all memory of his scheme from the base's inhabitants except Ross.[17] The Leader hijacks the U.S. Army's Murder Module vehicle, but it is then destroyed by the Hulk.[18] As revenge, he interrupts the wedding of Banner (the Hulk's alter ego) and Ross by shooting Banner with a ray which turns him into an unusually savage form of the Hulk.[19] After briefly turning back into Samuel Sterns to question Banner about the Hulk's possible weaknesses, he resurrects the Glob and brainwashes him into attacking the Hulk.[20] The Leader next tries petitioning General Ross and Major Glenn Talbot to let him use the U.S. Army's Brain-Wave Booster, a mental amplifier so powerful that no normal human can use it. In a retcon of his earlier mindwipe, Ross and Talbot remember the Leader's attempt to set off nuclear Armageddon, but they trust him to use the device responsibly anyway. He briefly uses the device to beset the Hulk with three-dimensional projections of his enemies, but the Brain-Wave Booster proves too advanced for even the Leader's brain, and it causes him to suffer a mental breakdown.[21] The Leader then creates android duplicates of the President, the Vice President, and military personnel in an attempt to kidnap the real President and Vice President.[22] He then superimposed his consciousness upon the Rhino in order to battle the Hulk.[23] Leader later used the Hulk and the Thing as pawns in a contest with Kurrgo and his robot to see who would get to use Hulk in their respective plans. Both of them are defeated. While Kurrgo's starship exploded, the Leader survived, while the fate of Kurrgo and his robot are unknown.[24]

Some time later, the Leader briefly took over Gamma Base.[25] Some time after that, he gamma-irradiated Manhattan's water supply in an attempt to mutate humanity into green-skinned beings like himself.[26] He later activated Arsenal, and then dispatched the Avengers through time.[27]

After a period of time, the gamma radiation in his body began to wear off. At first, the Leader attributed his lapses in concentration to overworking his mind finding ways to defeat his greatest enemy (the Hulk). By the time the Leader realized what was happening, much of the intelligence that could have solved his plight was gone and texts that were once child's play to him were now hopelessly beyond him (he even forgot the access code to his secret base). In this period, he made cash however he could by fair means or foul, until he managed to convince the Gray Hulk to help him regain his intelligence by promising that he would help the latter to remain the Hulk full-time (instead of only at night).[28]

Rick Jones had been afflicted with a Hulk-like condition and the Hulk (using Bruce Banner's memories of gamma transfer) devised a machine to transfer all of the gamma radiation from Rick Jones to the Leader. However, this time the mutagenic process was slightly different, resulting in a cranium that resembled an oversized brain, rather than a towering forehead. He was also a lighter shade of green. As a side note, this transfer also created a psychic link between the two.[29]

Soon after this, the Leader would steal the seemingly lifeless body of General Thunderbolt Ross from the back of an ambulance, simply because it was there, and later managed to revive it as a mindless vegetable, which he used as an armored enforcer.[30]

Before long, the Leader's new form was revealed, and he dispatched Half-Life to battle the Hulk.[29] The Leader dispatched an army of four-armed robots against the Hulk, and created Rock and Redeemer.[31]

The Leader dispatched Rock and Redeemer against the Hulk. Following this, the Leader engaged in a scheme to detonate a gamma bomb in a small-town city, Middletown, Arizona, killing over 5,000 people, and the few, now enhanced, survivors provided him with valuable research subjects and a group of superhuman enforcers called the Riot Squad.[32] With their help, he built a self-sufficient society called Freehold in the Arctic, populated with civilians dying from radiation poisoning. Some time afterward, he gave the Hulk information how to find his brother, Philip Sterns, a.k.a. the Madman, since he thought it would be best to put the latter out of his suffering, due to his original personality being slowly and painfully eaten away by the Madman persona.[33]

After Jones suffered a great mental trauma due to the death of his girlfriend Marlo Chandler, his pain was enough to cause the Leader considerable discomfort, motivating him to work towards the revival of Marlo. At this time, Freehold was targeted by a rogue branch of HYDRA terrorists, employing the U-Foes and his followers to invade the covert Pantheon organization, of which the Hulk was a member, to coerce them to help him in defending it. He employed something he ironically called the Deus Ex Machina in conjunction with his follower, the gamma-enhanced Reverend nicknamed Soul Man, who falsely believed himself to have been blessed by God with spiritual power, rather than given nearly godlike abilities by the Leader, in an effort to revive Marlo and siphon off Soul Man's power for himself. Rick Jones became convinced to accept the help after seeing the mindless, but mobile, body of Thunderbolt Ross.[34]

The Hulk, manipulated by the leader of the Pantheon, Agamemnon, attacked the facility. At the same time, HYDRA decided to storm the base, leading to a multi-sided battle. The Hulk eventually personally attacked the Leader, who, along with Soul Man, seemingly perished in the crossfire. The machine was likewise demolished, causing Marlo to enter a state similar to Ross, but both eventually fully recovered.[30]

The death of the Leader left his follower Omnibus in control of Freehold. Omnibus used mind-control to manipulate several U.S. Chiefs of Staff, and engineered many high-profile terrorist strikes to incite global warfare, as he reasoned that it was inevitable, and hurrying it along offered him opportunity to enable his personal society to survive and inherit the Earth. Omnibus was eventually exposed by his fellow Freehold citizens, judged to die in the cold, and was eaten by a polar bear.[35] Bruce Banner also saw the Leader in a supposed trip to Hell.[36]

A while later, the Hulk, who in his Bruce Banner persona was suffering from a degenerative nervous condition (which would ultimately kill him), was confronted by the Leader once again. Apparently he really had perished when the Deus Ex Machina was destroyed, but his disembodied consciousness had evolved beyond the need for a body. Although he was in the process of building a new body out of random organic materials in a secluded cave near Gamma Base, he was preparing to leave this level of reality behind altogether, transcending both beyond the physical and his old goals. Yet before he did so, he intended to cure Bruce Banner for reasons of his own. After he had done so, he abandoned his body. However, later still his consciousness once again contacted Banner, apparently shocked by what he had discovered "beyond the veil"; he was unable to return, however, and was not heard from again until much later.[37]

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. Because of intervention by Nadia Blonsky, Betty Ross, Doc Samson, and Iron Man, the plan failed and the Leader died again.[38]

These events, bizarre and nebulous as they seem, may or may not have taken place in this form...they may be partly true, or entirely a construct by the extra-dimensional demon Nightmare in a bid to avenge himself on the Hulk.[39] At present, the Leader has a body incorporating traits from both his previous incarnations; it is unknown exactly how he acquired it, but it may have been relatively easy, given his history.

The Leader is 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 the 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 the She-Hulk to Jennifer Walters, revealing that Jennifer was much more promiscuous in her She-Hulk form. In the second day of the trial, the Leader's Humanoids arrived to rescue him. Instead of escaping, however, 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.[40] It is as yet unclear whether this person is indeed the original Leader, or the Samuel Sterns of "Earth-Alpha", the inhabitants of which had been swapping places with their 616 counterparts for a while prior to this trial.

Now a free man (whichever one he may be), the Leader teleported the Hulk's allies, the Warbound, to Nevada. There, he used Hiroim of the Warbound, harnessing his tectonic power to activate a gamma powered shield over a portion of the desert. It is revealed that the Leader is dying, and that he constructed the dome to cure him. Due to a miscalculation, the energy of the dome actually kills him faster.[41] In battle with the Warbound, the Leader is 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 channels his old power into Kate Waynseboro, who attacks the Leader, and forces him to teleport away.[42]

The Leader, apparently healthy and in the form he originally had, appears once again, this time with designs on the Hulk's son Skaar. It is eventually revealed that he, along with a select group of genius supervillains, is part of a longtime collaboration he calls the Intelligencia.[43] The Leader was also responsible for mutating Marlo Chandler into the second Harpy. During that time, he planned revenge on Kate Waynesboro.[44]

At the conclusion of the Red Hulk storyline, a newly rejuvenated Red Hulk approaches the Leader and gets close enough to him to completely drain the body-altering gamma radiation from the Leader's physiology. The Red Hulk does this as a punishment for the Leader's altering of Ross's/the Red Hulk's daughter into the Red She-Hulk. The Red Hulk leaves Sterns alive to suffer, reminding him that as the person he has been reverted to with his original, well below-average intelligence, Sterns will never be able to duplicate a gamma-infusion and restore his powers as the least not on his own.[45]

A powerless Leader is later seen in custody demanding "gamma" (the one thing no one is willing to give him) if he was to divulge any information on stopping the Intelligencia's fail-safe doomsday plans.[46]

At the end of the second issue of the new Thunderbolts series as part of the Marvel NOW! event, a powerless Samuel Sterns is seen apparently housed within a shipping container. His head is connected to a machine apparently emitting red gamma radiation (in the fashion of the Red Hulk) with the harness in the shape of the Leader's formerly tall head. Samuel Sterns is apparently in the custody of the Red Hulk.[47] During the third issue, Samuel Sterns has reddish-hued skin, but with no apparent powers. Once Deadpool sees that the Red Hulk is employing Samuel Sterns, he expresses his view that the Punisher will not be pleased. As soon as the Punisher sees Samuel Sterns, he shoots him right between the eyes, killing him and foiling the Red Hulk's plan.[48] During the fight against the Madman, the Red Hulk took him to a pipeline that feeds gamma energy to the Madman's lab.[49] The Red Hulk then absorbed the energy himself and then force-fed it to the Leader, bringing him back to life.[50] The Leader then joins the Thunderbolts under the new alias the Red Leader. The Red Leader then realized that his brother, the Madman, had tricked him into divulging where he hid his second brain and the algorithm hiding it—it was on the Internet. After gaining back his memory and intellect, he then whispers something into his brother's ears that causes him to die.[1]

The Red Leader then tricks the Thunderbolts into taking names out of a hat to decide whose mission will be next. He picks the name, since he has "no skin in the game", and chooses the Punisher, since he knows he will want to go to New York City. He hopes to escape Ross, but the Infinity crossover occurs and he is forced to release Mercy when Supergiant of Thanos' Black Order sucks out part of his intellect. He then helps the Red Hulk destroy the Black Order's flagship, but only for self-preservation. He constantly broods over how he should kill the rest of the Thunderbolts.[51]

Later the team is teleported to Hell and the Red Leader then negotiates a contract with Mephisto that if the Ghost Rider and the Red Hulk defeat the current leader of Hell, Strong Guy, they will be teleported out and Mephisto will take control of Mercy, as well as other secret stipulations.[52]

The Red Leader then helps the team navigate the haunted swamps of Honduras, since he can translate an ancient map. During the boat ride, he whispers something in an ancient language that causes the Ghost Rider to lose his powers and get devoured by a tentacled monster. Their river guide then makes a deal with the Red Leader to betray his team, but the Red Leader double-crosses him and the team kills the guide's ambush. The Red Leader then tells the team to enter the temple, but via a booby-trapped path that gets them all killed, except for Ross, who finds the source of the temple's power—an infant Celestial's head. The Red Leader is killed when his head explodes after drinking the Celestial's blood. He and the team are revived when Ross makes a deal with a Celestial-powered being and teleports them back to before the mission started.[53]

After the Punisher quits the team, the Red Leader, long looking for ways to kill the Thunderbolts and knowing Castle had countermeasures to take each of them down, puts a bomb in his safe house with a note saying "You don't quit us. You're fired", knowing that he would survive and that he would think it was Ross who attempted to kill him and thus would take the Thunderbolts down.[54]

Six months after the Thunderbolts disbanded, the Red Leader had built his own criminal empire in Kata Jaya. Living a life of luxury and trying to conquer the heart of the girl he was in love with, the Red Leader saw everything he had built be destroyed by his former partners and the Avengers. Betrayed by Caitlin (the girl he loved), the Red Leader was captured by them and put in jail. The Punisher used the Ghost Rider's skull to put the Red Leader under a 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).[52] Enraged by the fact that the Red Leader had reneged on their deal, Mephisto made him sign a new contract and led him to Hell.[55]

As part of his measure to neutralize gamma mutates across the world, the Hulk's Doc Green form pinned down the Red Leader, who, through unknown means, had escaped from Hell, started to play with occultism and neutralized his gamma-powered abilities. However, the Red Leader had reached out previously to Gammon (an artificial intelligence duplicate of Doc Green) who had implemented a countermeasure against Doc Green's actions. As soon as he was de-powered, the Red Leader slowly transformed again. However, instead of transforming back into Samuel Sterns, the Red Leader transformed back into the Leader. He and Gammon agreed to work together.[56]

In the "Hulkverines" miniseries, the Leader is shown to be detained at Shadow Base Remote Facility 43B using Big Bob's Lumber Lounge in Akron, Ohio as a front. He is approached by Agent Castillo, who informs him that the Hulk has returned from the dead and they need his help to kill him. The Leader accepts, but stabs Agent Castillo, stating that he would rather do it himself. The Leader arrives at the area where the Hulk and Weapon H are fighting each other, until Shadow Base agents led by Agent NG catch up to him. As the Hulk starts sneezing, the Leader states to Agent NG that he infected Clayton Cortez with a gamma-altering virus. Arriving where Weapon H had knocked the Hulk unconscious, the Leader begs for Weapon H to finish him off. When the Leader threatens his family as part of Plan C, he detonates some bombs near Weapon H in order to get away. Clayton chases after the Leader until Wolverine arrives.[57] The Leader brings out the Humanoids, only to be regressed back to their pods by reverse-engineered Humanoids when former Weapon X Project scientist Dr. Aliana Alba shows up. She advises the Leader to leave the disposal of Wolverine to her. After a brief fight, the Leader explains that he was pursuing the Hulk, while Dr. Alba states that she was pursuing Wolverine. They come to a conclusion that they were manipulated by someone who wants Weapon H dead. This leads to them making plans to capture the Hulk in order to collaborate on a project. The Leader and Dr. Alba later attack Shadow Base's Remote Facility FN34.[58] After the larger Humanoid abducts Wolverine and Bruce Banner, it brings them to Shadow Base's Remote Facility FN34 as they begin the experiment that gives the Hulk the claws of Wolverine and Wolverine the strength of the Hulk. The Leader and Dr. Alba unleash the mutated Hulk and Wolverine on Shadow Base Auto-Op WMD Facility BX91 in Central, Ohio using Green Energy Corp as a front. Weapon H arrives and lures them towards the Leader and Dr. Alba. When Weapon H destroys the remote-control in the Leader's hand, Dr. Alba withdraws the nanobots that were placed in Wolverine and Bruce Banner and places them in Weapon H. It does not work on Weapon H, as the Leader repairs his teleporter enough to get himself and Dr. Alba away from Weapon H. After watching the aftermath from afar, the Leader and Dr. Alba share a romantic kiss as they embrace each other.[59]

After the Hulk left after finding that Xemnu the Living Titan devoured the Minotaur and transformed him into a Xemnu/Minotaur hybrid, the Leader visits him. While controlling Rick Jones when spying on the Hulk, the Leader advises the Minotaur to leave the Hulk to him.[60]

While revealed to have merged with Gammon, the Leader then began working on studying the Below-Place where gamma mutates travel to after dying and before resurrecting. He began to learn how to control the Green Door while in the Below-Place. He encountered Brian Banner, who wanted the Leader to help him escape the Below-Place. Instead, the Leader removed his skeleton for research. Following the Hulk's victory over Xemnu, the Leader had Rick Jones send a surge of gamma energy into the Hulk during a photo shoot, which caused him to release a blast of gamma energy where the survivors were saved by Rick Jones, who was mutated to an elongated and multi-limbed form. Gamma Flight came to confront the Hulk, which the Leader commented on. Then, the Leader controlled Del Frye so that he could send Doc Samson to the Below-Place and watch his plans unfold. During the Hulk's fight with the Absorbing Man, Puck fired an energy beam on the Hulk, as the Leader planned. The Leader used the Green Door to take over the Hulk and his Green Scar persona.[61]

During the "Empyre" story line, it was revealed that the Leader also used the Green Door to return the She-Hulk to life after she was possessed by a Cotati.[62]

Powers and abilities

Originally, the Leader has superhuman mental acumen as a result of his exposure to an explosion of gamma-irradiated waste. He is capable of knowledge and comprehension that is beyond the human ability to understand. The potential of his intelligence is nearly unlimited, being capable of mastering every worldly subject and adopting concepts completely foreign to his environment. His higher brain functions, including pattern recognition, information storage/retrieval and logical/philosophical structuring have been enhanced to inhuman levels. He also has total recall of every event he has witnessed since the accident that transformed him and can calculate possibilities and outcomes so accurately that it borders on predicting the future. Despite his limitless intelligence and supreme knowledge, his effectiveness is greatly hampered by his own arrogance, impatience and obsession with defeating the Hulk, which constantly causes him to lose sight of necessary details and act prematurely, causing the ruin of his schemes. His egotism also led him to embark on two impractical schemes to turn the rest of humanity into green-skinned beings like himself.[26][27]

He has also unlocked latent telekinetic and telepathic powers within him. He is able to control the minds of ordinary humans by merely touching them (aside from gamma-mutated individuals like the Hulk or the Abomination), wipe the memories of several humans at once, create illusions to trick others or disguise himself, and project telekinetic blasts potent enough to topple a very weakened Hulk.

The Leader is also a technological genius that specializes in gamma radiation. He has created technology that is beyond human ability, including vehicles, weaponry, computers, laser pistols, pulse weapons and kinetic gauntlets, and is particularly adept at genetic engineering and manipulating radiation for many nefarious purposes. The Leader has created an army of synthetic henchmen at his disposal called "Humanoids" that have served him throughout his career of world domination, mainly as bodyguards, soldiers and laboratory servants. They have versatile programming capacities to allow them to perform any task, do not tire, talk or need sustenance and have elastic-like bodies that make them immune to blunt impacts. They range in size from microscopic to hundreds of feet tall. The Humanoids are usually controlled directly through the Leader's own mental commands, but can also be pre-programmed to carry out a certain directive. The Leader has also developed gamma bombs, shield generators to cover large areas, cages for holding the Hulk, powered armor, teleportation devices, android duplicates, a means of controlling the minds of the Hulk or the Rhino through technological devices,[23][38] a Revivo-Beam which was designed to restore him to life in the event of his death[16] and Omnivac,[23] a sentient computer that maintains the enormous space station he has used as a base of operations.

On occasion, the Leader has been shown to have the ability to change himself back into Samuel Sterns, but this ability resulted in him losing all memory of his identity as the Leader, as Sterns' mind was ill-equipped to cope with the Leader's intellect (although he always remembered everything when he changed back into the Leader again).

Although the Leader can be killed, being a gamma mutate, he is able to resurrect himself each time he is by passing through the Green Door, which makes him virtually immortal.[63]

Other versions

Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in issues

Prior to the release of The Avengers in 2012, Marvel ran a series of canon tie-in comics entitled Avengers Prelude: Fury's Big Week, which take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In issues #6-7, Sterns is seen undergoing a rapid head mutation just as he is discovered by Natasha Romanoff who stumbles upon him immediately after the Hulk has escaped (which happens during the climax of The Incredible Hulk, while the Hulk is fighting the Abomination). Although his brainpower has already drastically increased to the point where he can pinpoint the exact location of the Black Widow's birth just by a brief hint of Stalingrad in her accent, Natasha shoots him in the leg when he attempts to bribe her by offering to help her return to her home and he is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.[64]

Marvel Zombies

The Leader makes an appearance as a zombie in Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness in the horde that overwhelms and infects the Punisher. He has a giant hole blown through his cranium, which does not stop him.[65] He is also in Marvel Zombies 3 where he is looking over food and medical supplies that other zombies have found as an offering to the Zombie Kingpin. The Zombie Leader determines how long the others can feed on the human clones. The Zombie Leader is sent with other zombified superbeings to find and destroy Machine Man. The android gains the upper hand in the battle and destroys all his pursuers. The Zombie Leader then kills himself by ripping out his arm, using it to take out all of his brain, and ripping out his own body.[66]

Ultimate Marvel

The Ultimate Marvel equivalent of the Leader is an enemy of Iron Man and the Hulk.[67] In Ultimate Human, Pete Wisdom is an ex-British Intelligence agent thrown out of MI6 after testing his "British Enhancile Program" on himself, transforming him into the Leader.[68] Wisdom has psychic and mental abilities similar to the original Leader, but requires a wheelchair and a halo brace to support the weight of his enlarged cranium's weight. The Leader attempts to steal Tony Stark's nanotechnology, as Bruce Banner and Stark work together to try to incorporate into Banner's physiology in the hopes that it will grant control over the Hulk. When Stark commands a decoy Iron-Tech robot into the Leader's base, Banner transforms into the Hulk. The Hulk resists the Leader's influence, and pounds him into the ground. The Leader, almost dead, commands a C-17 down onto the Hulk, ultimately killing Wisdom.[69]

The Ultimate version of Samuel Sterns is an elderly doctor who is seen in a wheelchair. In Ultimate Mystery, he is amongst a brain trust group for Roxxon Industries, including Doctor Octopus, Arnim Zola, Misty Knight, Nathaniel Essex, and Dr. Layla Miller.[70] He has the ability to transform into a hybrid of the Hulk and the Leader, but is defeated by the original Spider-Man,[71] and later the new Spider-Man[72] on two different occasions involving Spider-Woman.


In 2009, the Leader was ranked as IGN's 63rd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[73]

In other media



Video games


The Leader appears in the X-Men/Avengers crossover trilogy Gamma Quest by Greg Cox.[citation needed]


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