blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, Spencer Gordon Bennet), Chapter 8: Into the Empty Doom!

Maybe I was wrong about the desk swapping in the earlier chapters. Into the Empty Doom! is mostly a Daily Planet chapter–mostly Noel Neill’s chapter too–and she looks very comfortable at the desk I was sure used to be Kirk Alyn’s.

Both Clark Kent and Superman have disappeared–though Superman pops up occasionally as an immaterial ghost who can’t figure out why he’s unable to fight crime. Again, Superman being a doofus is really a hindrance to the serial. He doesn’t have some plan to stop Lyle Talbot’s scheme–the cliffhanger resolution leads directly into Talbot sending the Kryptonite groggy Alyn Into the Empty Doom. I thought Talbot’s plan was to teleport Alyn into outer space and atomize him, but apparently turning him into a ghost was intentional. At least based on Talbot’s later super-villain bragging (while in his Atom Man outfit).

Much of Neill’s time at the Planet is spent arguing with boss Pierre Watkin about writing a “Clark Kent is Superman”–the staff has figured, since Kent has disappeared too, he must be Superman. She eventually acquiesces, hoping Tommy Bond can convince Watkin otherwise.

Bond’s real annoying this chapter. He’s just hanging around and whining a bit, plus there’s a throwaway condescending moment about Neill’s electric typewriter being unplugged. It seems like it’s going to go somewhere, but no, it’s just Bond showing Neill she’s not so smart.

Also: the story confirms Talbot is in the same hidden cave base as before. He didn’t move anything. The filmmakers forgot the cops supposedly raided the place.

Still, it’s a decent chapter for Neill and she hasn’t had many. Besides the Planet stuff, facing off with Watkin, she also gets a great moment at the cliffhanger. It’s not a good cliffhanger–though there are at least explosions. Alyn’s occasional ghost appearances aren’t dramatic so much as frustrating. He’s such a doofus.

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