Giant Days is a brilliant, weird, funny comic about three girls living together at Sheffield University in the UK. Created by John Allison and drawn by talents including Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin and Whitney Cogar, the series has been going strong for several years now, and has amassed a rightfully devoted fanbase.
As it’s set in England, though, and because Allison has such strong instincts as a writer, there are a lot of jokes and references which might fly over the head of the international audience. Howay for Shelfdust, then, as we pledge to annotate every issue of the series in turn! Get ready for a world of adventure and learning!
By Steve Morris with Clark Burscough
Esther kicks things off with a rousing refrain of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill, as made famous from the soundtrack of Quentin Tarentino’s university-favourite film Pulp Fiction. If you thought the Scarface poster was popular, that’s nothing compared to how many posters of Uma Thurman you’ll see on any given day on campus.
“Street Legal” doesn’t mean what Esther thinks it means.
The legal drinking and voting age is 18 in the UK, although you can drink in a pub if you’re 16 – so long as someone else buys you the drink, and you have it along with a meal. For reference, if there are any 16-17 year olds reading this, there’s no real consensus on what constitutes a meal – you could probably get a plate of chips and that’d count.
Nadia is drinking a whiskey on the rocks, it looks like. A troublemaker’s drink.
Having a moth fly out an empty wallet is a classic way to show that somebody has run out of money. It happens all the time in The Beano, for example, which I still think might be in-continuity with this series.
“Boaking” is the way they say “vomiting” in Scotland. Oh, those crazy Scots, always coming up with superior onomatopoeia than anyone else. Public boaking isn’t illegal in the UK, as far as I know – it’d be pretty harsh to arrest people who were genuinely ill in the middle of the street – but a lot of councils now do force people to clean up their, uh, work, the next day.
Information science in about studying the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information. I stole that wholesale off Wikipedia, in case you were wondering how I came across that information. Oh, the irony!
“Ring My Bell” was released by Anita Ward in 1979, and reached no #1 on the chart. It’s probably got a pretty dirty double-meaning, but Shelfdust is a good and wholesome place which shan’t delve into such particulars.
Jazz cigarettes – marijuana. Esther also refers to Reefer Madness, which was the name of a propaganda movie (and subsequent satire) aimed at parents. It warned of the danger of marijuana, which would inevitably lead your children to ruin, medical horrors, and almost certain death. The 1930s were a pretty paranoid time, by all accounts. It was adapted as a musical and then the musical was adapted into a movie, both of which made fun of the original film for it’s melodrama. Much like Susan does here with Esther.
Misandry is the reverse of misogyny – a prejudice against men. It mostly gets used incorrectly to try and stifle criticism of misogynistic traits in society. But you’re on the internet, you’re probably well aware of that already.
Thirteen year olds are very scary. John Mulaney has a bit about it.
Speaking of going viral in the 1990s, in 1992 there was an outbreak of equine viral arteritis in Spain.
Esther’s French is actually incorrect at the top of the page, a classic case of Franglais – she means to say “un nouveau bas” according to Clark. I only got a C in my GCSE French, so i couldn’t really tell you.
A bootleg is a copy of something, usually a recording of something. In years gone by people used to tape the radio so they wouldn’t have to pay for the music themselves, or record gigs so they could play them back. Bootleg recordings of particularly famous gigs are everywhere on the internet, and have become pretty collectable in general.
Pubs close in the UK around 10-11, so wherever Daisy goes next is probably going to be loud and popular. Ugh, I shudder just thinking about it.
Hey look, another wallet moth!
Is Daisy vegetarian? Because those gel caps likely aren’t. Always check to make sure they’re vegetable capsules when picking up your medication, friends.
Nobody in the UK has ever whistled and had a cab magically appear. I’m worried Nadia may have magical southern powers. Black cabs like these are known as Hackney carriages, although the origin of the name is a little bit unclear. Cabs like these don’t tend to exist up in the North – people just show up in whatever random car they want and we blindly accept it.
Nadia is a bad influence!!!
She has a shirt which says “pipe smoker of the year”. Pipe Smoker of the Year was an award given out annually by the British Pipesmokers’ Council, to honour a famous pipe-smoking individual. Presented at a lunch in London’s Savoy Hotel each January, the last recipient of the award was Stephen Fry. No woman ever won the award, so Nadia wears a shirt of lies.
“The Magic Number” was a hit for De La Soul in 1990. Much like Daisy in this scene, the band were well known for their samples.
Of De La Soul’s 8 albums, only one went platinum (1989’s 3 Feet High and Rising), while 8 of Enya’s 9 studio albums have gone multi-platinum. Art is subjective… but don’t discount Enya and her castle in Ireland.
Not to be confused with the magic wizard who gave Captain Marvel his powers, Shazam is an app which claims to be able to identify any song. It’ll then try to force you to buy the song, at which point you must physically restrain the app and prevent it from sinking monetary claws into your soft skin. It does not recognise the sound of hand dryers as being musical.
It feels like Ed is referring to something specific when he says “it’d be like being in the witness protection program, but you wouldn’t have to run a small town launderette” – I have no idea what, though.
The flashback panel here continues the same style seen in the interrupted flashback Susan started back in issue one.
We didn’t have metalwork at school. Instead we had “D.T.” – design technology. It was mostly about running the different cost measures on variously sized pieces of plastic, before everybody spent half a year making fuse testers. Some of the kids were good at it, but mostly those were hours spent burning each other with soldering irons, or burning each other with hot melt glue guns.
Susan’s paraphrasing “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”.
Founded in Oxford, MENSA defines itself as a high-IQ society. To gain entry, you have to have a 98th-percentile score on their standardised test. As somebody who doesn’t even fully understand the qualification requirements, I am not in this society.
Swooping down the corridor, Daisy is definitely high as a kite. The phrase comes from the idea that she’s floating off the ground (in her mind) because of the drugs she’s on. It also makes me think of Mary Poppins, but that’s just an aside between two good friends.
“Pump and dump” also doesn’t mean what Esther thinks it means. And I don’t think she means the practice of illegally and artificially boosting the price of stocks through recommendations based on false, misleading or greatly exaggerated statements!
Stairwells should be numbered. If you’re interested in reading more about considerate stairwell construction, read this. Um, if you have some spare time.
The most famous scene of somebody using a cold shower to get off drugs or other intoxication is probably the bit in Casino Royale where Daniel Craig and Eva Green have to run under a cold tap for a bit. There are many other examples, but that’s the one I always remember.
Primal Scream therapy suggests that the patient can get in touch with – and over – their various traumas through outbursts of prolonged screaming.
Daisy’s three mums all in one place. Aww.
OMG – “oh my god”
OMMFG – “oh my *******g GOD”
It’s important to capitalise GOD if somebody sees something so tubular that they have to drop an “OMMFG” into the conversation.
Pages 17 and 18
The pigeon baby is chirping in a nest on Daisy’s bedside cabinet in panel 1, and then somehow gets into the mug while she’s been asleep.
Let’s just assume Daisy is not referring to Metallica, but that she’s instead thinking of the mythical character the song was written about. The Sandman is a creature who spreads good dreams to people by sprinkling sand in their eyes, and is a part of European folklore. He’s also the lead of a Neil Gaiman-written comic series over at Vertigo, but again I’m not sure that’s Daisy’s sort of thing…. yet.
There are loads of notes in the kitchen, which is the sign that they must be sharing with about ten people. These notes vaporate out of nowhere across the course of your first university term, often explaining things you already know – but at the same time each one reveals the untold story of how one of your corridor-buddies injured themselves in some personal way.
Daisy is basically coming out to Esther here, who is already aware – and I’d argue, does a really good job of helping Daisy realise it’s nothing unusual or different. There’s also no indication of whether Daisy is gay or bisexual. University is when you can figure these things out, and she’s only been there for a few weeks. She has as long as she wants to understand who she is and what she wants.
Mansplaining is… noope, I’m not falling into that trap.
Suzie Pee is probably a reference to Susie Q, a rockabilly song by Dale Hawkins which was made famous by Creedance Clearwater Revival in 1968. Yes, Susi Quatro also released a version later on.
Catterick is a village in North Yorkshire – but, more importantly, is also the title of a very surreal (and underrated) sitcom written by and starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
Black tie events are kinda rare at University, unless you go to Oxbridge where there’s usually a “formal hall” which routinely hosts tuxedo-black-dress-only events. You’re more likely to be invited to a beach party or something, which is populated mainly by hetero dudes hoping that women will show up in their bikini. Um, no.
Going stag to an event means you’re going by yourself. It used to be that this referred only to men – hence how the night out before a wedding is called a “stag night” on the Groom’s side – but women have used it for themselves too. Stags are pretty cool, after all.
Giant Days #4
Written by John Allison
Drawn by Lissa Treiman
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
Many thanks to Clark Burscough for his help with our annotations!