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 Clark Burscough
Clothes shopping is objectively the worst, especially on a weekend, double especially on a bank holiday weekend. The horror.
“People they come together, people they fall apart, shopping at the holidays, when Daisy is seeing stars” – We Are All Made of Stars, Moby, 2002
Primark is an Irish clothing company, whose stores require the skills of Theseus to not get lost in. Every few years, as Esther suggests, the company are linked to sweatshops.
Vintage stores are a stable of the student lifestyle – where else will you find pre-faded retro t-shirts, dress shirts from the seventies, corduroys with inseams of different lengths on each leg and old wedding dresses. Good for cobbling together a cheap fancy dress outfit for a pub crawl though.
Esther’s immediate recognition of a double hem foreshadows her skills as a maker of bespoke clothing alterations – much like McGraw’s ability to identify wood by sight, and Daisy’s skills as an ornithologist.
I’m told by my costumier friend that the “Brother” gag is a classic one, and a “Singer” variant can be used if you have that model of sewing machine/work in the musical arts.
The ubiquity of key cutting as a secondary industry for high street shops in the UK is central to one of my favourite observational one-liners by comedian Harry Hill – “What is it about people who repair shoes, that makes them so good at cutting keys?”
McGraw here offers some very sage advice, on both overcoming, but remaining realistic to, your expectations.
I’ve never seen somebody running a suit shop who actually wears a suit while they work. I think that’d be a sign that they’re not keen to get down and dirty with an inseam at a moment’s notice.
Oh, Ed, just listen to McGraw – he knows how to put on a cummerbund without getting an arm trapped against his tummy, and he looks like the tuxedo was made for him. He reminds me of a young Timothy Dalton.
Based on some quick research, if made with glass panels, a glitter ball of that size would likely weigh around 40kg (~88lbs) – always exercise proper ladder caution, friends. There’s an Alison Brie-led webseries where the dangers of glitter balls come to devastating light which you might enjoy… just don’t do it at work.
Everybody in the background is freaking out about the one dude who came in a white suit, which seems pretty true to real life parties.
Spoiler: there’s some great glitterball visuals coming up in the remainder of the issue once the party kicks off, which I assume is thanks to Whitney Cogar’s exemplary coloring skills.
As someone with a minimalist beauty regime, I can empathise with Susan’s disgruntlement here.
On the subject of looking at black holes – based on the concept that our vision operates by picking up light beams reflected off object, and a black hole has such a powerful gravitational pull that even light cannot escape it, can one ever truly be said to have “looked” at a black hole? Makes you think, eh.
America’s Next Top Model is now on its twenty-fourth season. Britain’s Next Top Model is on series twelve. They’re surely running out of models in the US by now, so Esther is playing the odds wisely.
Daisy’s heartbreak over Nadia continues, as does Esther’s track record of saying the wrong thing when it comes to Nadia.
Susan and Esther’s attempt to help Daisy parse out her sexuality is very sweetly conveyed here.
Dreaming about boats is sometimes related to the way you’re trying to make your way through life. The water can denote your emotional state, which you attempt to sail through as finely as possible, without creating waves. It seems that Daisy is worried she’s moving way too fast without understanding what the water means to her?
Terrifying fact: we are almost at the end of the 2010s.
A meniscus can be either concave or convex, and depends on the attraction of the liquid’s molecules to each other, as well as to the container they are currently residing within. A meniscus can also be very helpful in preventing spillages when pouring too exuberantly.
McGraw continues to reveal hidden layers, like a mustachioed onion.
“Fit” means “attractive” in the UK. It was either and/or Kate Nash/Mike Skinner who popularised it.
The return of Esther’s trademark skulls, signifying her place at the top of the Goth tree, before rapidly disappearing as her bag commits the ultimate faux pas.
Lord Byron, source of the term “Byronic”, was perhaps best known as one of the leading figures in the Romantic poetry movement, as well as for his flamboyant excess and scandalous lifestyle. His magnum opus was Don Juan, but in his dramatic poem Manfred he wrote “Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth, The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.” which seems appropriate here.
The Christmas carol “Little Donkey” was written by Eric Boswell, and first released as a recording by Gracie Fields in 1959. Classic FM, one of the UK’s three independent National Radio stations, cites it as a “guilty pleasure”, so make of that what you will.
Esther races through about ten UK colloquialisms in the space of one word balloon. Emo – emotional, a modern variant on the ‘goth’ scene. Knapsack – satchel. Fitty – attractive guy, as explained previously. Glad eye – looking at someone to try and provoke their interest in you. Phew!
We are at 10pm (or 4.30am, if the watch is upside down), and Esther appears to have bounced back after a literal disco nap, while Daisy is mixing her drinks, which is never a great idea.
Wine before rum, feeling glum. Rum before wine, feeling glum. Something like that.
The running (and disappointingly accurate) theme of boys being gross indictments of human society continues apace.
Many universities have some kind of variant on the ‘novelty pint glass’ idea going on. If you get give a leg of beer, and are asked to drink it without spilling a drop… well firstly you’ve probably walked into the wrong pub. But here’s the trick – twist the glass while you drink it, because otherwise the shape of the foot creates an air bubble which’ll spit the last portion of beer right back in your face.
Daisy asserts herself in the face of Nadia’s new beau, while Susan shares a drink with an old one here. Sunrise, sunset.
The acquisition of a stetson as a party enters its more debauched latter stages is a tradition as old as time.
For one page only, Esther is not the centre of the group’s drama, although an attempt to reinitiate contact with Eustace Boyce potentially puts paid to that.
Luckily, the call to Eustace doesn’t connect, which is probably for the best. This is our first time seeing him in this series, although he does pop up frequently previously in several of John Allison’s other comics.
Ed’s in a drunken state here, as signified by the classic “bubbles over head” motif, which can be accompanied by “hic” to both show that someone has the hiccups and is really inebriated.
When it comes down to it, Ed is able to give some genuinely decent advice, and the friendship status quo is reestablished for the better.
This page, and the couple before it, have some lovely cartooning on the characters’ eyes as they bounce between various emotions, possibly exacerbated by the alcohol that’s been consumed.
The only things I really learned in the cub scouts were how to nearly slice my finger off with a pen-knife and creative ways to almost swear without being told off by Akela for actually swearing. And how to properly wear a woggle, of course. For the small number of readers out there who may not know what a woggle is, well, prepare to be amazed.
The return of “pash” in portmanteau form – a pashback being a flashback to… passionate moments.
Catching up on momentous goings on that occured during a night out in the kitchen is a time-honored shared-living-space tradition. Long may it continue.
Beeswax here referring to the colloquial softening of the phrase “mind your own business” to “mind your own beeswax”, as Susan is caught in flagrante. The Walk of Shame!!
Apparently, Esther has not inherited her drama-field from her parents. Or maybe it’s a Highlander-type deal, and there can be only one. More research is needed.
It’s pretty exciting to see the comic shift Esther out the story, then Daisy, meaning we’re going to get to focus on Susan for a bit – it’s an ensemble, but there’s so much more we don’t know about Susan than the others at this point, I think.
As Daisy and Susan part ways, a reminder of Susan’s less than cordial relationship with her hometown.
It is a well known fact that Birmingham New Street defies the laws of both time and space, and so ample extra time should be given when attempting to make a rail connection there.
Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated just before Christmas, on the 23rd December. Entering popular consciousness on an episode of Seinfeld titled The Strike, it involves an aluminium pole in place of a tree, and gatherers practicing Feats of Strength and Airing of Grievances, amongst other things.
A slightly awkward reunion between Susan and McGraw makes way for an anonymous threat to the both of them. However, more intriguing is what the french curve tips are contained within Fretwork magazine, which McGraw is reading. Mysteries within mysteries.
Giant Days #5
Written by John Allison
Drawn by Lissa Treiman
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell