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Hulk Month

Psych Ward: The Leader

Can even a "head shrinker" get the Leader's massive skull under control?

By Tim Stevens Samuel Sterns is an adult male of difficult to discern age given his pallor (he has green skin) and his oversized cranium. He refuses to respond to his name, answering only to "The Leader" the name he adopted following an accident with gamma radiation that led to his unique appearance. Thus, for the sake of this report, this writer will respect the client's request and refer to him by his preferred name. The Leader presents as haughty and arrogant, frequently taking time to mention how superior his intellect is in comparison to anyone on Earth and performing small feats of telekinesis. The client is quite braggadocio with both the writer and staff, describing such feats as the development of teleportation and time travel devices and the ability to "transcend death." Given our line of work, any and all of his accomplishments very well may have occurred, but the client speaks of them in the same manner a grade school child might tell

people he scored the winning goal during gym class; it is a mix of arrogance and an almost desperate need to be told, "nice job." Because he does not receive this kind of affirmation from us, he is often frustrated by what he refers to as staff's "inability to appreciate true genius." It is an "affliction" he claims that the majority of humanity shares and, therefore, is the primary motivating factor for his previous attempts to mutate the population to be more like him, of which there have been at least three. Given his intelligence and arrogance, the Leader often attempts to be very manipulative during session. However, he is largely ineffective because he has difficulty reading social cues and his interpersonal skills are, again, more consistent with those of a child. It is, in the opinion of the writer, something that the client is aware of and, in part, fuels his inferiority complex. This inferiority complex is what fuels the majority of the Leader's criminal activities, not, as he claims, his frustration with others. Prior to the accident, Samuel Sterns was a high school-educated janitor who interacted on a day-to-day basis with scientists who possessed an intellect higher than his own. This, most likely, diminished Sterns' self-esteem, perhaps to the point that he fantasized being superior to them one day. The accident gave him this opportunity, with a horrible twist. He was now their better, but deformed in such a way that he still did not belong. This is why the Leader oft attempts activities that will remove his one claim to supremacy, his intellect, by mutating others to look like him. Despite his overwhelming pride, he

mostly just longs to fit in. It is the hypothesis of the writer that this inferiority complex also provides the impetus for several of the Leader's self-defeating behaviors. Simply put, he believes himself unworthy of success. Due to this belief, he has often targeted Bruce Banner, the Hulk, in the course of his machinations, almost guaranteeing their lack of success. Additionally, it is the opinion of this writer that feelings of unworthiness are why the Leader has attempted world dominance far less than his contemporaries. When discussing the Leader, it is also important to note that he is capable of acts of compassion, although he will deny that they are such in nature. For instance, he recently helped his age-old rival the Hulk cure himself of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the degenerative disorder best known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Prior to this, he turned his brother Philip, aka Madman, over to the Hulk rather than see Philip continue to painfully lose his mind. While the Leader is very evasive when asked for his reasoning behind such acts, it is the opinion of the writer that it proves he is capable of empathy and is therefore not suffering from anti-social personality disorder. The client has done very well with goal #1 (do not attempt to mutate anyone) and goal #2 (do not attempt to crush one's enemies) but continues to struggle with goal #3 (interact with those not afflicted by gamma irradiation or any creature that does not have a personality). Despite protests to the contrary, it is unclear at this time how strong the Leader's commitment is to goal #3. At the client's insistence, a new goal has been added: "do not attempt to raise one's consciousness through

death." While, admittedly, oddly worded, staff accepted it on the basis that it seems to refer to a commitment not to engage in suicidal or parasuicidal behaviors. Staff has recommended to the Leader that he follow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Mental Health Services guidelines for improving self-esteem. It is also recommended that the client attend "Achieving Self" a group for "overachievers" suffering from low self-esteem and/or difficulties with social situations. In reference to both, the client said he would, "think about it." It is the determination of staff not to involve Doctor Leonard Sampson at this time, despite his generous offer of his expertise. Given Sampson's involvement with the Hulk and his relatively easy gamma-related transformation, there are concerns that the Leader may not be able to manage his emotions around Doctor Sampson. We will revisit this issue in three months. Need to catch up on your Hulk reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring the Jade Giant? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Hulk fan! Read classic Hulk stories in Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited! Take pictures with a life-size Hulk statue at select theaters nationwide! Visit the official "The Incredible Hulk" movie site! Remember, "The Incredible Hulk" comes to a theater near you on June 13!
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