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The Leader(pop culture)
The Leader followed the Incredible Hulk down a gamma-irradiated path to become one of the Green-Skinned Goliath's arch-foes. Created by the writer/artist duo of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Tales to Astonish #63 (1964, although the Leader was first depicted wearing a helmet, shielding his appearance as a teaser for readers, in issue #62), laborer Samuel Sterns toils in a chemical-research facility when “a one-in-a-million freak accident” triggers the explosion of a gamma-ray cylinder—the type of mishap that, in the real world, would incinerate an individual, but in comics' Marvel Universe instead provides an origin. Sterns emerges with a voracious appetite for reading, but days later, a mutagenesis transpires: his pigmentation turns green and his cranium swells to accommodate his rapidly advancing intellect—but he maintains Sterns' well-groomed mustache—and the Leader, the super-brain with an unquenchable craving to amass knowledge, is born. The emerald-hued mastermind became preoccupied with studying his superstrong counterpart, the Hulk, dispatching his horde of faceless sythentic beings called Humanoids in an unsuccessful attempt to capture him. Serialized in a storyline that ran for over a year (through Tales to Astonish #75, 1966), the Leader's intellectual curiosity quickly flourished into megalomania. From his desert laboratory he employed a network of lackeys (which he later jettisoned for artifically constructed agents) to steal military secrets, allied with the Chameleon and Soviet operatives, developed complex weapons, and pilfered technology from scientist Dr. Bruce Banner (the Hulk's alter ego). While his plans failed, he succeeded at developing enmity with the Incredible Hulk, their war spanning decades of Marvel Comics stories. In the Leader's advanced mind, he and only he is worthy of controlling the world. No field of science is beyond his mastery, and his strategic and intuitive reasonings are staggering. He possesses total recall and the psionic ability of mind control. Among his android creations are sythentic substitutes for the U.S. president and vice-president, a 500-foot Humanoid, and a Super Humanoid that fired concussive blasts from its fingertips. During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, many of the Leader's malevolent milestones flowed from the mind of writer Peter David, long-time Incredible Hulk scribe. In 1987 the Leader temporarily lost his powers, then regained them by siphoning gamma radiation from the Hulk's friend Rick Jones, who had become Hulk-like himself; in the process the Leader's mutation was worsened, his cranium expanding to monstrous proportions and boils festering across his body. In the 1988 “Ground Zero” storyline the Leader detonated a gamma-bomb that leveled an Arizona town and massacred its 5,000 denizens. Under David's creative control the Leader also reanimated the dead; created an Arctic “utopia” called Freehold, over which he reigned; nearly initiated World War III, blaming a faux terrorists' network; and appeared to die while in a grostequely mutated state. Yet as with many supervillains who perish in a blaze of infamy, criminal flames are difficult to extinguish. The Leader appeared on television in “Hulk” installments of the animated omnibus The Marvel Super-Heroes (1966), voiced by Gillie Fenwick, and in the cartoon The Incredible Hulk (1996–1997), with Matt Frewer playing the villain. Toy Biz produced a Leader action figure in 1996 as a TV show tie-in; other merchandising with the character includes the Leader and Gamma Hulk Marvel Mini- Mates action-figure two-pack.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.