"I have moved beyond humanity. Beyond heroes. Beyond villains. My intellect shall provide the Leadership that the rest of you mortals are in desperate need of."Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Dr. Samuel Sterns claimed to always have been a reckless person since birth. Little is known about his childhood, though he once did claim to become enthralled with biology when trying to crack open the shell of his sister's pet turtle, irrespective of the pain he was causing the creature. After graduating from Empire State University with both a bachelor's and eventually a doctorate in Molecular Biology, Sterns became a professor at his alma mater, where he eventually met younger doctors Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. Like them, he was drafted by Army General Thaddeus Ross to work on a secret project. Unlike them, he was at least marginally aware that the status of said project was to try and create a Super Soldier Serum.
After Bruce Banner tested the procedure on himself, Sterns found himself being named the lead scientist on the project for a brief while before it was suddenly shut down without warning. Going back to his teaching, Sterns was surreptitiously contacted by a man calling himself Mr. Blue, with whom he began a correspondence. It is unclear if Sterns realized at the time that he was speaking with his former colleague. However, he quickly realized the potential of the topics they were discussing, as he convinced Mr. Blue to send blood samples so he could "research a cure." Unbeknownst to Banner, Sterns was taking the blood and diluting it into more samples, attempting to recreate the symptoms described to him in other animals. Through this trial and error, Sterns was able to devise a method to reverse gamma expression temporarily, and eventually tested it on Banner himself. The serum appeared to work, but when Banner discovered how Sterns had done his research, he tried to shut it down entirely, before being tranquilized and captured.
Sterns was then approached by Emil Blonsky, one of the soldiers in charge of capturing Banner. Blonsky demanded the same treatment that Banner had initially gotten, threatening Sterns' life. Genuinely curious, Sterns acquiesced and gave a serum and gamma exposure to Blonsky, transforming him into the Abomination. In the scuffle that followed, Sterns was knocked down and a gash opened on his forehead. Some of Banner's irradiated blood dripped into that open wound, causing Sterns' own mutations to begin. He began declaring himself the smartest man in the world, before being taken into custody over his part in the affair.
Sterns mutations had given him a superior intellect and (as he later discovered), subtle powers of manipulation. Still he felt that he should also have the strength of the Hulk to go with his intellect. With nothing else better to do, Sterns played himself off as a model prisoner, and began researching a way to strip the Hulk of his strength, eventually developing plans for the Gamma Suppressor weapon based off his previous research. After several years of theorizing, Sterns was given a chance to put his theories into practice by SHIELD agent Glenn Talbot, who offered him release from jail in exchange for his help. Sterns built the first ever gamma suppressor, as well as a few other gadgets in the time afforded him, which were instrumental in eventually tracking down and capturing Bruce Banner in the Nevada desert. With Banner captured, Sterns set his plan into motion (also drawing blood from Banner, inadvertantly causing the transformation of Calvin Zabo into Mr. Hyde), using the gamma suppressor to try and excise the gamma radiation from the Hulk, perhaps even planning to give it to himself to cause a further transformation in his own strength. However, this process was halted by the intervention of She-Hulk, who promptly set her cousin free and temporarily knocked Sterns out. The Leader, as Sterns was now calling himself, stole a Quinjet and then attacked the group in Las Vegas, causing the death of Betty Ross, before flying away to Parts Unknown. He remains at large today, despite SHIELD's efforts to locate him.
Powers & Abilities
- Super-Intelligence: Due to exposure to both gamma radiation and the Hulk's irradiated blood, Sterns' intellect and cognitive abilites are approximately tenfold of what a normal human being's would be. He was already a gifted scientist before his transformation, but since he has displayed a staggering intellect in terms of scientific and mechanical knowledge, such as his invention of the Gamma Suppressor, which is capable of defeating and damaging the Hulk better than any weapon known to exist.
- Persuasive Abilities: As a side effect of his accident, Sterns also gained subtle powers of manipulation that he can use to compel individuals to act in a manner they might not otherwise do. The extent of this power is unknown, but it is something that he must consciously use, rather than a subtle manipulation that is inherent in his speech.
For all of The Leader's mental acuity, his physical strength is severely lacking when compared to other gamma-infused individuals (likely due to the localized nature of the incident that granted him his powers.) While Sterns is somewhat capable in hand to hand combat, he is easily outmatched by anyone with top flight strength.
His arrogance in his own abilities, and his inability to see past flaws in any plan he might have are also flaws in his character.
Sterns has appeared in the following films within the Earth-11584 continuity. In all cases, he is portrayed by actor Tim Blake Nelson.
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk 2 (2015)