It's been interesting to see the explosion of blog entries about Joel Johnson's buying of Wally Wood's 22 Panels that always work. One part of me is a bit dismayed at the news, since a few months ago I actually contacted the seller contemplating buying it myself. I'm extremely greatful that with his new buy Mr. Johnson has made high resolution files available to the rest of us to share in this piece of history.
Theoretically 22 Panels... is an intriguing aspect of comics in America, because it gives a consistent panel sized unit that is (possibly) repeated in multiple books. Repetition (i.e. conventionality) of this sort is of course a hallmark of language. Like Mark Evanier I'd love to see a study probing just how widespread the use of these panels has become.
My own guess is that these compositions have become extremely widespread across authors, largely without them even referring to the 22 Panels... worksheet. That is, I think that some of these panels have become so common in usage that people imitate them without thinking about it, as they have just become a consistent part of the mental visual vocabulary. (As with all issues like this, if any enterprising students out there want to do a study on this, I'd be happy to advise and publish their piece!)
What's also been interesting about reading the various blog posts on this topic is seeing the teetering balance of the Art vs. Language viewpoints. You can really tell the tension between those who have no problem with using the repetition of these panels (Language) and those who scoff at how unoriginal and un-innovative using them would be (Art).