Tim Blake Nelson looking worse for wear as Samuel Sterns in 'The Incredible Hulk'
(Universal Pictures)

Who Is The Leader in ‘Captain America: New World Order’? Tim Blake Nelson’s The Leader, Explained

Captain America: New World Order seems to be taking a page from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law‘s book by carrying on the legacy of The Incredible Hulk. Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in The Incredible Hulk in 2008 as Samuel Sterns (a.k.a. The Leader), surprised fans at Marvel’s D23 Expo last fall when he revealed he had joined the cast of Captain America: New World Order. He will be reprising his role as Sterns in the film for the first time in over 15 years.

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While The Incredible Hulk has largely been overshadowed by the rest of the MCU, traces of its legacy can still be seen throughout. Even though Mark Ruffalo later replaced Edward Norton as the Hulk, several other original stars from the film have since returned to the MCU. William Hurt first appeared as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in the film and went on to reprise the role in 3 more MCU films until his passing in 2022. His character will be taken over by Harrison Ford for Captain America: New World Order. Meanwhile, Tim Roth’s Abomination also first appeared in The Incredible Hulk and later snuck into the MCU in a cameo before being officially re-introduced in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law renewed interest in the Hulk’s comic book storyline by introducing a few more Hulk villains and even Hulk’s son. Now, the Hulks have made their way into Captain America: New World Order with The Leader set to appear as well as, potentially, Ross’s Red Hulk. Here’s everything to know about Nelson’s The Leader and what to expect from him in Captain America: New World Order.

Who is Nelson’s Samuel Sterns/The Leader?

The Leader (a.k.a. Samuel Sterns) in Marvel Comics
(Marvel Comics)

Nelson’s The Leader in Captain America: New World Order will likely be quite different from what viewers saw in The Incredible Hulk. Throughout the majority of The Incredible Hulk, we see Nelson as Sterns rather than as his alter ego, The Leader. In fact, he’s not even an antagonist in the film despite The Leader’s villainous nature in the comics. Instead, Sterns is a cellular biologist who is interested in the medical potential of Banner’s unique blood. He also creates a potential antidote to reverse the Hulk’s transformation.

However, Sterns and Banner are interrupted by Ross and Emil Blonsky (Roth), who seek to take Hulk into custody. When Blonsky learns that Sterns has blood samples from Banner, he requests to be injected with the blood to gain Hulk powers of his own. This transforms him into Abomination, who proves to be even larger and more powerful than Hulk. Abomination turns on Sterns, and the last we see of the character is him on the ground after Banner’s blood gets into a wound on his forehead during the attack. As a result, he too begins to mutate. However, the final result of his mutation is not shown.

From the comic books, though, we know that Sterns becomes the supervillain known as The Leader. Sterns’ exposure to gamma radiation results in a mutation that makes him turn green with an enlarged head. His enlarged head and brain gave him a superhuman intellect. His intelligence is believed to be limitless and includes the ability to master every known subject on Earth. However, he uses his powers for evil and seeks world domination, which puts him in conflict with the Hulk. While Nelson impressive as Sterns in The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: New World Order will see him officially in the role of dangerous and wildly intelligent supervillain The Leader.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.