When an ordinary laborer was moving a load of waste material in the sub-cellar of a chemical research plant, a one-in-a-million freak accident occurred as an experimental gamma ray cylinder exploded.The trapped laborer was helplessly caught in the blast. For about a minute his entire body was bombarded by the mysterious gamma rays, one of the strongest forces known to man. Although a fraction of the dosage he received would have been enough to kill a dozen men, for some inexplicable reason the laborer survived. He seem completely unharmed.
Yet, he was different. After leaving the observation ward, he read every book he could find. He studied like a man possessed and remembered everything he read. His mind absorbed knowledge like a sponge. A few days later, the long-term effects of the gamma rays finally took place and he went unconscious. When he awoke, he did not suspect what happened to him, but when he looked into the mirror, he knew that he had become something more than human. The once unskilled laborer had been transformed by the gamma rays into one of the greatest brains that ever lived. "My former name is meaningless now! I choose to be known simply as... The Leader!"
Mayor Story Arcs
As the Leader, he became one of the Hulk's deadliest villains, choosing to manipulate others into fighting for him rather than confronting the Hulk himself. When Leader began losing his enhanced intelligence he promised the Hulk that he would help him find a way to be the Hulk full time if he helped him regain his lost intellect. Leader used a device created by Banner that siphoned all of the excess radiation out of the body of the Hulk's sidekick Rick Jones' body into his own.
The device worked but it left Leader even more mutated than before and he now had a mental link with Rick Jones. In an attempt to gain more test subjects for his experiments, Leader detonates a controlled gamma bomb in a small town in Arizona which killed over 5000 people. The blast seemingly killed the Hulk and created five new superhuman enforcers whom he used to build the hidden society called Freehold in the Arctic.
When the Hulk is poisoned Leader supplies him with information about his brother, the Madman. He wants the Hulk to put Madman out of his misery because he felt that after his brother's breakdown he was only suffering. When Marlo dies, Leader sets about reviving her because of the pain he starts feeling do to the mental link with her boyfriend Rick Jones. Leader is killed in a battle with the Hulk shortly after he revives Marlo, but it is revealed that his mind had evolved beyond the need for a body and his mind survived. After his apparent death, the Leader's right hand man Omnibus is placed in charge of Freehold where he tries to incite a nuclear war and the Leader begins to haunt him by temporarily possessing his body causing him to become increasingly paranoid. Omnibus is sentenced to death and is eaten by a polar bear after his schemes are exposed.
At some point, the Leader begins to recruit other villains of intellect in order to combat their foes. Along with the Wizard, the Mad Thinker, Red Ghost and Egghead he forms the super group the Intelligencia. They also gain the cooperation of Doctor Doom. Together they plan to restore the information of the Library of Alexandria by stealing the info from various sources across the world.
After finally obtaining all the necessary information, the Leader and the others are betrayed by Doctor Doom. The Leader knows that they cannot hope to defeat Doom on his own land and retreats from the battle. He disappears for some time, putting himself deep in thought. He is then found by MODOK to reform the team.
MODOK had developed a way to finally defeat the Hulk: create their own Hulk. Although this Red Hulk is eventually cast from their plans, the Leader creates a Red She-Hulk to help assist them. They begin to formulate a plan to remove any other threats from their way. They determine which eight of Earth's greatest intellects would stand against them and attack the smartest first. They soon use the cathexis ray (with red hulk attached) to "hulkify" most of the super heroes and their personal army, the AIMarines into "hulked-out" versions of their selves. Soon Bruce finds Leader and starts beating him down. He prepares to kill him but Leader escapes. After Bruce Banner saves the eight smartest men, they build a machine that absorb the gamma radiation from the hero and the AIMarines and transfers it into Banner, changing them back to normal. The Leader is soon caught up with the Red Hulk who drains the gamma radiation out of him, removing his powers. The Leader begs for Red Hulk to kill him but Red Hulk replies "Not a chance".
After his radioactive accident, Sterns underwent a transformation that severely increased his intelligence. The potential of his intelligence is nearly unlimited. It is assumed that he can think above and beyond the normal human spectrum of thought (example. Possibly comprehending 4 dimensions etc.). This great intelligence allows him to predict possibilities and outcomes with extreme accuracy. It flirts with the abilities of precognition or extra-sensory perception. In other words, his assumptions are almost always correct. It is also said that the Leader has a perfect memory with the ability to recall any event after his radioactive accident.
Sterns has also demonstrated the ability to control minds with his psionic powers. This power works in the same fashion as dominate mind/person, allowing Sterns to turn humans into puppets of his will.
With his increased intelligence and comprehension, Sterns has created a number of weapons that are far beyond those on earth. These advanced weapons have aided him in his nefarious plans of corporate domination.
After he absorbed all of the radiation from the body of Rick Jones they developed a mental link which the Leader used to his advantage.
Like most evil geniuses Sterns is somewhat obsessed with defeating his nemesis the Incredible Hulk. So much that many of his plans are foiled simply because he had some how angered or enticed the Hulk to enter the fray. It is a continual goal for Sterns to best or exploit the Hulk and, despite his infinite intelligence and supreme knowledge, his arrogance and hatred of the Hulk is usually his undoing.
Samuel Sterns appears in Ultimate Enemy as a member of Roxxon Corp's brain trust. He brings up the idea that all the attacks are just a distraction to steal the items stored at Project PEGASUS. After the rest of the brain trust are webbed up by Spider-Woman when they questioned who she really was, Sterns transforms into a hulk like creature and takes Spider-Woman down.
In Other Media
Samuel Sterns appears in the film, portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson. In a departure from the comics, this version of Sterns is a good-natured scientist and university professor who seeks to help cure Bruce Banner.
Dr. Sterns acts as a contact over the computer for Bruce Banner while he is on the lam, making attempts to find a cure for Bruce's "condition". When no cure can be found, Sterns asks him to meet with him in hopes of change. When Bruce and Betty meet with him, he runs the procedure with a special serum where the results could vary due to its toxicity. The test seems to be a success, but Sterns tells Bruce and Betty that he has mass produced Bruce's gamma-irradiated blood. Bruce demands that Sterns destroy it all in fear that the military will use it as a weapon, but are ambushed by General Ross's men and Emil Blonsky. Blonsky, desperate for the Hulk's power, forces Sterns to recreate the experiment that created the Hulk, but when Sterns notices that he has been injected with some enhancements already (a super soldier serum), he warns Blonsky that the mixture could result in "an abomination", but Blonsky still plans to go through with it. Sterns watches in fear as Blonsky transforms into the Hulk-like creature, who strikes Sterns, knocking him out. While unconscious, a sample of Bruce's blood falls into an open wound in his temple, causing his cranium to begin expanding, and recovers with a mischievous grin. This was meant to tease a sequel that would feature Sterns becoming the Leader, but the follow-up was never made.
- The Leader appears in the 1994 Incredible Hulk game.
- The Leader appears as an enemy in the Hulk video game, which is set after the events of the 2003 film. Michael Dobson provided the Leader's voice.
- Dr. Samuel Sterns appears in the 2008 video game adaptation of the Incredible Hulk movie, with Tim Blake Nelson reprising his role.
- The Leader appears in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Jeffrey Combs.
- The Leader appears as a villain in Marvel Avengers Alliance.
- The Leader appears in Lego Marvel's Avengers.
- The Leader appears in Avengers Academy.
- The Leader appeared in ToyBiz's toyline for the 90s Incredible Hulk animated series.
- The Leader was featured in a two-pack with Hulk for the Marvel Legends Face-Off line from ToyBiz.
- The Leader appeared in Hasbro's Super Hero Squad line.
- The Leader was featured in the HeroClix figure game.
- Bowen Designs produced a Leader bust.
- The Leader was featured in Eaglemoss Publications' lead figurine line.
- The Leader was featured in Diamond Select's Minimates line.
- The Leader appeared in Hasbro's toyline for the Avengers Assemble animated series.