"Son, you have more to offer than just being cooped up as a lab rat. I see you as the shining symbol of hope for America's people. How would you like to serve on the greatest battlefield of the war, Captain?"Robert Harrison Stern was born around the turn of the century in Delaware to a wealthy family of longtime politicians (he had once boasted that his grandfathers had signed the Declaration of Independence, though this is likely just an exaggeration). From this lap of luxury, Stern would receive the finest education and opportunities afforded to him, eventually graduating from Princeton University (and avoiding the draft during World War I as a result). He quickly became a lawyer in his native state, though didn't stay at the bar for long, first being elected to Congress in 1924 as a Democrat. By 1932, Stern was elected to the United States Senate, where he would become one of the leading proponents of both the New Deal and the United States entry into World War II.
Despite his gung-ho nature for the military, Stern was averse to misappropriated funds, and thus didn't take seriously the nature of the threat that HYDRA posed to the Allied cause. Acquiescing to pressure from General Chester Phillips, Stern did authorize the budget for Project Rebirth, though he consistently failed to deliver on promises for much needed materials and appropriations, causing the SSR to improvise in some cases. At the demonstration of Dr. Abraham Erskine's formula, Stern was present to witness the transformation of Steve Rogers into the future Captain America. Upon Erskine's death, however, as well as Phillips' rejection of Rogers as a viable weapon, Stern interceded on Phillips' orders to ship Rogers to Almogordo New Mexico. Instead, he arranged for a "promotion" to the rank of Captain, and created the patriotic concept of Captain America, using Rogers' image to sell war bonds to the American public.
The campaign was a rousing success, but Rogers himself longed for more. Trying to placate his star, Stern arranged for Captain America to go overseas on a USO tour, also arranging to give him a medal for service when he returned to Washington. This trip proved to be the end of Captain America's performing career however, as Stern was informed that Rogers' actions in the line of duty qualified him to stay overseas fighting the war at the frontline...on the orders of General Phillips. Following the war, however, Stern led the push to classify all of the material concerning Project Rebirth, partially to prevent the Russians from uncovering information concerning the Super Soldier Serum, but also to preserve the idea of Captain America as a patriotic rallying symbol for the upcoming Cold War.
Stern would remain in the Senate for an additional 30 years at that point, finally retiring in the early 1970s. On three separate occasions (1952, 56 and 60) Stern would run for President, but he would never gain much more traction than some consideration in the early primaries. He was considered as a possible Vice Presidential Candidate for President Johnson in 1964, however he was eventually passed over. Stern died of stomach cancer in 1983, not living long enough to see the rise to power of his favored grandson, Phillip J. Stern, to the same position in the Senate that he himself once occupied.
Powers & Abilities
- Political Accumen: Stern was a consummate politician and lobbyist, able to convince people from both sides of the aisle to commit to whatever cause he was championing. Stern was also a master at propaganda, as much of the material for Captain America, the patriotic idol, came from his own office.
Oddly for a politician, Stern was not skilled at playing the "long game" as it were, preferring to take early advantages such as the publicity boost for the war effort that Captain Rogers provided rather than the combat advantage he could provide. He also tended to be self-absorbed, a trait which he would unfortunately pass on to his less than savory grandson.
Senator Stern appears within the following films in the Earth-11584 continuity. In all cases he is portrayed by actor Gary Shandling.
- Iron Man 2 (2010) [mentioned only]
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)