Batman: Kings of Fear — That 25 Panel Page

When Kelley Jones and I first starting talking about Batman: Kings of Fear, one of the many things we discussed was our mutual love for pages with a lot of panels on them. The earliest comics had 8 panels on the average page. By the 1970s, the average seems to have been more like 7 panels per page. By the 1990s, for a variety of reasons, the average comic page probably had 5 panels. (Except for the Kelley Puckett/Mike Parobeck/Rick Burchett/Rick Taylor run on The Batman Adventures, which I insisted never have more than four panels per page at the very most...but that's another story.)

But, of course, in the 1980s, the 9-panel-grid became quite popular, thanks to its prominent use in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, one of the two most influential comics of that (and maybe any) decade.

(For example.)

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (the other most influential comic of the 1980s) used the 16-panel-grid to devastating effect.

Not to be outdone, Matt Wagner decided to up the ante in Grendel, going for a 25-panel-grid.

Kelley and I talked about all this. Feeling perhaps just the tiniest bit vexatious, I wrote this into the script:
Page Six 
Panels One to Whatever 
Kelley! This is one of those pages we talked about, going for something crazy, like a 12- or 16-panel grid or something insane like that, the kind of thing that, let’s be honest, no one would willingly attempt these days. No one sane that is. In other words, go nuts! Have fun! Remember to keep well hydrated!
So. I think what we’ve got on this page are ECUs on the Batman taking out every badguy in the place. His elbow connecting with a nose, his boot with a knee, his hand grabbing a weapon, a palm strike to a chin, teeth flying, blood spatter, cape whirling, a terrified eye peering around a razor-sharp bat-ear, that kind of thing. As many as you want. They could be all the same size or they could get smaller as the page goes along and he goes faster and faster? They could start out tight and keep getting tighter until the final ones are almost just shadows? Your call—you’re the master.
Kelley read that panel description, said "hold my beer," and delivered...this.

My jaw hit the ground when I saw it and neither my jaw nor the ground have fully recovered yet.

(And Kelley sent me the pencils to that page over three years ago and I couldn't tell anyone. Job looks at me and is, like, "damn, sam, you're patient.")

Impossibly, brilliant colorist Michelle Madsen did the impossible and actually made the black and white art look even better, which is just...impossible.

I think Kelley thought the way he took my idea and ran with it to Proxima Centauri and back would shut me up. Little did he know it simply encouraged me to throw more and more unreasonable demands his way...which brings us to the fifth issue, which he happens to be drawing today...

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