May 2, 2014

Despite garnering the worst reviews of any Spider-Man movie in history, box-office analysts expect The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to do big business over the weekend. The Spider-Man franchise has evolved into a billion-dollar business, which is all the more impressive when you consider the character's humble origins in the pages of Marvel's Amazing Fantasy #15 just a little over 50 years ago.

Where did the idea for Spider-Man come from? In a 2009 interview with Kevin Smith, creator Stan Lee described the character's origins:

"In superheroes, the most important thing is to get a new power. And you run out of powers. A guy can fly, a guy is strong — what's left? I figured, if a guy can stick to walls like an insect. So I run down a list of names: Insect Man didn't have it, Mosquito Man wasn't dramatic... finally, I hit on Spider-Man. Spider-Man. Man, that sounded dramatic to me. […] When I proposed the name to Martin, my publisher... Now, he had been on board with everything, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk. He thought I could do no wrong. So I told him about Spider-Man, and he said, 'You're crazy, Stan. People hate spiders. You can't do a book called Spider Man. And you want him to be a teenager? Teenagers can only be sidekicks."

Learn more about the origins of Spider-Man in the video below. --Scott Meslow

3:46 a.m. ET

President Obama answered questions from a military audience Wednesday night in a town hall in Fort Lee, Virginia, hosted by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper. The audience — military veterans, families, and service members — asked searing, often personal questions, and Obama did his best to answer them. The questions ranged from delays at Veterans Administration hospitals to PTSD stigmatization to why Obama doesn't use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" to what he thinks about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem before games, plus broader questions about U.S. military involvement in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Obama said the critique of him not using "radical Islamic terrorist" is a "sort of manufactured" issue, and not helpful. "These are people who've killed children, killed Muslims, take sex slaves, there's no religious rational that would justify in any way any of the things that they do," he said. "When you start calling these organizations Islamic terrorists, the way it is heard, the way it is received by our friends and allies around the world, is that somehow Islam is terroristic.... If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, 'We're on the vanguard of Christianity.' As a Christian, I'm not going to let them claim my religion and say, 'you're killing for Christ.' I would say, that's ridiculous.... Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists."

At another point, Obama told Tapper, "There hasn't been probably a week that has gone by in which I haven't examined some of the underlying premises around how we are dealing with this situation in Syria." As "heartbreaking" as it is to watch the carnage, he added, "there is not a scenario in which, absent us deploying large numbers of troops, we can stop a civil war in which both sides are deeply dug in." When an audience member asked Obama what he would do if daughters Sasha and Malia wanted to enlist in the armed forces, Obama replied, "I'd say, go for it," though he would "be lying if I said I wouldn't sometimes get nervous about possible deployments. Your kids are your kids and you want to keep them tucked in in their pajamas for the rest of your lives if you had the chance." You can watch a 2-minute recap of the town hall below. Peter Weber

2:23 a.m. ET

On Wednesday's Kelly File, Megyn Kelly aired an unbroadcast clip of her Tuesday interview with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Hillary Clinton name-checked during Monday's debate and Donald Trump keeps calling fat. "You tell me whether this is good or bad that here we are on Wednesday and the country's still talking about it," Kelly asked Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under George. W Bush. "I would say that it is not good," Perino said. "It's not good for the country, and I don't think it's good for either campaign."

Hillary Clinton had obviously set a trap for Trump, Perino said, "and he had warning this was going to come. You can't plan for everything in your life," especially past things you've said, she added, but "dealing with how he's treated women in the past should not come as a surprise in the campaign against Hillary Clinton." "No, no, it should not have," Kelly said, "and I'll give you Exhibit A... in our case for the reason why Donald Trump should not have been surprised that the women issue was going to come at him." Exhibit A was Kelly's eerily similar question to Trump in a famous August 2015 GOP primary debate. "I tried to warn you," Kelly said after the clip. (To be fair to Trump, though, watch the 2015 audience's reaction to his disparagement of Rosie O'Donnell.)

Perino compared Clinton's surfacing of Machado to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004, then said that Clinton "is narrow-casting as well. It's not just women writ large that she's talking to but also Latina women in particular." "That's right, and even tonight, as the Trump campaign clearly wants to move beyond this, Newt Gingrich is out there, bringing it up again," Kelly sighed, "saying you can't gain a bunch of weight when you become Miss Universe." "Stop talking about women's weight all together," Perino said. "Stop." "You know what, if you want to increase your numbers with women, yeah, just stop telling us how fat we are?" Kelly said. "Because that, it turns out, doesn't make us feel very good. Especially when you have been classified as overweight, and we just don't want to hear it." Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET
Scott Nelson/Getty Images

A new report from Amnesty International claims that since January, more than 200 people in Darfur, including children, have been killed by chemical weapons dropped by the Sudanese government.

For 13 years, Sudanese forces and rebels have been fighting in the region, and in mid-January, the government launched an offensive against the Sudan Liberation Army. Amnesty International's Tirana Hassan, director of crisis research, told the BBC that over the course of an eight month investigation in Jebel Marra, a remote part of Darfur, they found dozens of witnesses to at least 30 attacks using chemical weapons.

The "scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words," Hassan said. Investigators saw images and videos of children covered with lesions and blisters, some vomiting, others unable to breathe. The witnesses told Amnesty International that after bombs were dropped, the smoke that filled the air smelled "unusual," and within minutes, people would begin to vomit, and later, their eyes and skin changed color. Some children died, while others remained in pain months after attacks. Two independent chemical weapons experts said the injuries were consistent with a chemical attack, the BBC reports, and Amnesty International is calling for an investigation. "The fact that Sudan's government is now repeatedly using those weapons against their own people simply cannot be ignored and demands action," Hassan said. Catherine Garcia

1:33 a.m. ET

We no longer have to imagine what the first presidential debate would have been like had Seth Meyers been the moderator.

On Wednesday's Late Night, the host asked several oddball questions, splicing in answers given by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during Monday's debate — for instance, when "asking" Clinton how she feels about "the fact that Trump exclusively dates younger woman," she "responded," "Today's my granddaughter's second birthday, so I think about this a lot." This faux debate is only slightly wackier than the one that actually took place — if there's a reality TV star participating, why can't a late night talk show host be the moderator? Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:09 a.m. ET

More than 80 million Americans skipped Monday Night Football to watch the first Donald Trump–Hillary Clinton presidential debate, "which I think is a sign of the Apocalypse," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday night's Full Frontal. "For once, concussion-ball was not as compelling as watching American democracy play Russian roulette." She touched on Trump's frequent interruptions, the one "portion of the debate set aside for white people to awkwardly tackle the topic of race," and the dearth of real-time fact-checking — sometimes combining all three topics in creative ways.

"Speaking of black people in uncomfortable situations, you may have noticed the very occasional presence of moderator and interruptee Lester Holt," Bee said. Holt made at least one "solid fact check," but "unfortunately, Lester seemed to be out of the room when Trump delivered most of his other whoppers. Maybe he went out to jam with his band. Ah, he plays bass, of course — the instrument that you're pretty sure is in the mix somewhere, even though you usually can't hear it." Mean.

Then she got to the part where Donald really blew it. "Trump warned us that Hermione Clinton would be cheating by doing something called 'preparing,' like some kind of busybody PTA mom kind of overplanner," Bee said. "But Trump never considered the possibility that she might be a Count of Monte Cristo overplanner. She spent months building an elaborate trap for Trump, and he lumbered right into it." That would be the part where America met former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. "Those wily Clinton bastards knew there are three things Trump can't resist: Calling women names, doubling down, and making dumb mistakes on Fox & Friends," Bee said, then she addressed Trump: "You had a stunningly beautiful Miss Universe winner, but you treated her like garbage — now you have a real problem. Not only with her, but with any woman who's ever been called fat — which is all of us. We've been dealing with you our whole life." She ended with a MASH note to Megyn Kelly — watch below. Peter Weber

12:26 a.m. ET

He probably spent the past week memorizing the name of every city in Syria, and now, Gary Johnson has a new subject to brush up on: World leaders.

During a town hall Wednesday hosted by Hardball's Chris Matthews, the Libertarian presidential candidate was asked to name his favorite foreign leader. Johnson responded by making a strange noise. His running mate, Bill Weld, came in for the save, saying, "Mine was Shimon Peres," the former Israeli president who died on Tuesday. "I'm talking about living," Matthews snapped. "Any continent. Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect."

Referring to his gaffe earlier in the month, when he said he wasn't familiar with Aleppo (the city in Syria that before the civil war was the country's largest, and is currently under siege), Johnson said, "I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment in the former president of Mexico." Matthews kept pestering the struggling candidate to utter the name of any foreign leader, when Weld again came to the rescue, listing off the names of former Mexican presidents. Johnson looked like he wanted to jump for joy when Weld said "Fox," as in Vicente Fox, the ex-president who has called Donald Trump "a crazy guy." Weld, for his part, said his favorite world leader is Germany's Angela Merkel. Maybe this should be realigned as the Weld/Johnson ticket? Catherine Garcia

12:16 a.m. ET

Jon Batiste leads the Late Show band, Stay Human, but on Wednesday's show, host Stephen Colbert said that Batiste also works hard to "heal the racial divide" in America. He said he just learned that Batiste has "created a public service announcement that addresses important misunderstandings between black people and white people," and Batiste confirmed it: "Yeah, it's almost voting season, and I wanted to say something, because the tensions are high right now." So Colbert showed the PSA, titled "Hey White People!"

"Here in America it can be difficult to talk about race," Batiste said in the PSA. "There are a number of reasons why, but mostly, it's slavery." He gave other black actors and TV personalities a chance to weigh in, too — Tituss Burgess, Kevin Hart, Gayle King, Michael K. Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Anderson — and it's kind of a mishmash of good-natured rants and other race-related banter. But lest White People think their voices aren't important in this PSA, don't worry: Batiste leaves room for one voice from the white community (even if he's British) and has a night shout-out to Chet Baker. (Also, Frasier produced the PSA?) Watch below. Peter Weber

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