It has been said a hero is defined by their villains. I think this is a pretty truthful statement. I like to think of it this way: Spider-Man had a live action TV show in the 70's, the Flash did in the 90's. Spidey tanked pretty quick, partly due to the fact that there weren't any super villains on the show, and had the webhead taking on petty crooks and the like. While the Flash only lasted one season, it is better remembered, especially the episodes with the Trickster. Villains make the hero more entertaining just by being there! An easy way to create a villain is to use the "dark mirror" method of just making the villain the goateed evil opposite of the hero. This works well more often than not, but my favorite example of this is a dark mirror villain who takes that trope and spins it on its ear. This baddie has a similar origin to the hero, but the effects cause a decidedly opposite reaction, as we'll see in: The Secret Origin of... The Leader!

As our story begins, the Leader is sitting, deep in thought with his newest creation, the Humanoid! That's something you should know about a genius intellect; You can make amazingly sophisticated electronic apparatus, but you're gonna suck at naming stuff. Anyway, the leader starts to remove his radiation/beekeeper's suit and starts to think back to how he got his start...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="645" caption="In the 60's Marvel Universe, one-in-a-million means "Every Tuesday""][/caption]

And as always in the Marvel Universe, the laborer didn't develop cancer or instantly die of radiation poisoning. Instead, he wakes up in the hospital pretty much none the worse for the wear. There is one thing though. The laborer (who is not named in this story, but is named Samuel Sterns) has gotten a voracious appetite for reading!  Even after he is released from the best care an unskilled laborer's pay will get you, Sterns finds himself soaking up knowledge and information better than even the leading paper towel brand!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="672" caption=""Must... wave hands in air... then pretend... like I JUST DON'T CARE!""][/caption]

Seriously though, what really happens is that it's just taken this long for the Gamma Rays to kick in with full effect. Sterns collapses to the ground and falls into unconsciousness. When he comes to, his first instinct is to look into a mirror, where he find something startling... DC Comics/Hector Hammond are going to sue him for copyright infringement!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="557" caption="Are you sure about that, buddy?"][/caption]

In addition to a visage that puts Master Billy Quizboy to shame, apparently Gamma rays give you a kicky mustache as well. With that, Flashback time is over, and we see The Leader remove his suit's mask to reveal... well, himself really. He thinks to himself (because when you have a brain the size of Rhode Island of course you're going to think to yourself), that the Gamma rays have made him the most formidable brains on Earth. He also muses on the vast network of spies he has amassed to take over the government (it was the 60's after all). Finally, he boasts to himself that his humanoid is all-powerful, bringing us full circle.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="638" caption=""But first, my origin! Wait! Damn, my mind got stuck in a recursive loop again!""][/caption]

We leave the Leader now, because while the origin is done, the story is not! It seem back at the army base, Dr. Bruce Banner has again invented such a mind-numbingly insane nuclear-powered device that Uncle Sam needs to see it personally. It's being transported by train, and Banner has to be on board to show them how it works. "Thunderbolt" Ross and Major Glenn Talbot don't trust Banner, thinking he's somehow involved with this ongoing Hulk business (very astute, what with him always appearing in rags after a Hulk sighting). They tell him to his face, while one of the Leader's supposedly ineffective spies overhears and goes to inform his master. Back at the Leader's hideout, he already knows the situation and tries out his precious Humanoid...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="703" caption=""That's it! Use the power of mental thinking!""][/caption]

After the Leader is done showing off, he thinks at the Humanoid to fly his helicopter and rendezvous with the government train Banner's McGuffin, I mean, device. The Humanoid starts his attack, the soldier's bullets go right through him. They say it's like a sponge, but if that were the case, wouldn't the Humanoid absorb the bullets? Anyway, comic book-based semantics aren't going to get us anywhere. Ross & Talbot are informed of the attack, while Banner is understandably worried about his nuclear device. Instead of being rational, Ross locks Banner in the train car, thinking it is some elaborate scheme of his. Well, if you've ever read a comic, I don't have to tell you what happens when Bruce Banner is locked up and agitated...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="671" caption="General Ross forgot that Kryptonite® locks only work on that other guy."][/caption]

So of course the Hulk breaks out of the train car. Just as he emerges, the Humanoid is decoupling the rear cars, because that's what you do during a train heist. The Hulk uses his mighty leg muscles to bride the gap. He one-man dogpiles the Humanoid just as the Leader, looking through its eyes, is about to get a good look at the device in question. The rubber/sponginess of the Humanoid causes the Hulk to bounce off, and the Leader can hardly believe what he sees...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="632" caption="Mmm, It's a possibility, Doc."][/caption]

The Hulk and the Humanoid tussle for a while, neither getting the upper hand, thanks to the Humanoid's highly pliable body. As they reach an overpass, the Leader plays his ace in the hole. He commands the Humanoid to electrocute the Hulk, thereby knocking him off the train, and hopefully to his death below. If you think that's what would happen, then you may be ready for an advanced physics class, but not Comics 101! Seriously though, of all the downright silly things I have seen in a comic (trust me, there are a lot), this has to take the cake as the most inexplicable, and that is due mostly to the explanation...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="642" caption="Only a 6-year-old would believe it!"][/caption]

So after that defiance of natural laws, the two titans grapple again! The Leader tries for the electro-whammy again, but this time, the Hulk is ready for it, and just shakes it off. The struggle continues, stalemated, when the Hulk notices that their tussle is loosening the bolts holding Banner's device securely to the train car! You might think the Hulk is too brutish for that to be the case, but we're talking about the pre-Hulk Smash! day, where the green-skinned Goliath could speak and think semi-coherently. Anyway, the Leader switches tactics, ordering the Humanoid to smother the Hulk, guessing he'd be easier to subdue if he's unable to breathe. The Hulk can of course, hold his breath a long, long time.  Finally, in an act of either desperation, or sheer dumb luck, the Hulk flips both he and the Humanoid and manages to take out his adversary.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="707" caption=""Much like a couch potato, or your average comic reader!""][/caption]

With the Humanoid taken out, the Hulk can focus on the task at hand. Just as the nuclear-powered device is about to hit the train's tanker car, the Hulk leaps into action, tackling the device off the train. Astoundingly the Hulk's actions didn't cause a nuclear disaster, what with radioactive materials being volatile and all. The device itself is completely intact as well! With the adrenaline rush over, the Hulk reverts back into Banner, just as Talbot and Ross arrive on the scene. Since he was supposed to be locked in a train car, Banner is immediately arrested, giving the Leader a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, one which he'll never know about.  As we leave the players in this little vignette, one man discovers a life-long enemy and another is about to make the most fateful decision of his life:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="716" caption="Banner: "Yes, I'll tell them I'm the Hulk! They'd never arrest me then! It's flawless!""][/caption]

The Leader/Hulk feud would continue in subsequent months, and both characters would go through a series of metamorphoses throughout the years. The underlying message is always the same though, sheer brute strength will defeat pure intellect always. Wait a minute, that can't be right! Anyway, see you all next week!

This story originally appeared in Tales to Astonish #63 January, 1964. It has been reprinted many times, notably in Marvel Masterworks: Hulk Volume 2 and Essential Hulk Volume 1.






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Tags: Marvel , Humor , Top , Comics , Secret Origins