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

Page 1
Sending forty texts but not trying once to call Susan? I’ve never emotionally connected more to a panel. I’d rather walk over hot coals than ever have to actually call somebody in real life. Can you think of anything worse?

There are a number of movies which start with people being lured to a remote location, before then being picked off one-by-one. I can’t recall any that were set in Northampton, however, which continues to be depicted as a terrifying place. Nobody has any eyeballs! Perhaps there is a more sinister side to Northampton, though.

Page 2
Hiking is a bigtime occupation for people in the UK. Despite being generally cold, normally muddy, with harsh conditions and a near 90% of rain at any given moment, for some reason we’re obsessed with putting on our walking boots and heading out into the countryside. And if you’re heading out, you’d best make sure you have your ordnance survey map with you – they’re maps which show rural footpaths and right of way for walkers.

Esther is misquoting Bing Crosby’s 1959 release (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, a lovely festive number which in no way advocates for locking yourself in a cupboard and hoping it all goes away.

“Christians Awake Salute the Happy Morn” is a carol written by John Byron. It’d also be a pretty good rallying call if Captain America ever gave up the Avengers and became a fightin’ Priest.

Page 3
Although you might think you’re best friends with people after a term at University, it’s probably smart to follow Susan’s lead and make sure these people don’t have full access to your Facebook profile quite yet. You can’t trust them yet! Maybe that just makes me cynical, but everybody is definitely always out to get you.

It’s pretty easy to take a long hard look at yourself when you have an active Instagram collection.

Page 4
Strand cigarettes don’t exist anymore in the UK, which means they’re either lying about her preferences or – more worryingly – Susan has a stockpile of old cigarettes she’s working through. Given that Strand were discontinued in 1960, that’s hugely worrying isn’t it?

Northampton only has one comic shop, as far as I can tell, which is called Close Encounters. There does seem to be a tendency to have comics shops and vinyl shops in close proximity to one another – that’s what we have here in Leeds, anyway. Collector’s mindset, I guess.

Page 5
Released in 1985, Desperately Seeking Susan stars Rosanna Arquette and Madonna. I’m not particularly sure that Susan especially fits the Madonna mould, but okay, sure, shopkeeper.

The vinyl shopkeeper is wearing a Status Quo shirt. Status Quo are a hugely popular, although considered slightly cheesy, rock band who have mastered two or three chords and reused them in only slightly different formats for the majority of their singles. Here’s a live performance from Knebworth.

You might consider faith healing to be an American concept, but there’s a strange undercurrent of misplaced spiritualism in this country. Psychics are still really popular – we have a fair number of “mediums” who regularly perform across the nation, and seem to make a good living from it. It also gave us a great pranking from good ol’ Parkie.

Page 6
A nine panel page! Oh my.

Magic the Gathering (MTG) is an incredibly popular trading card game, created in 1993 by Richard Garfield, and which a surprising number of comic artists have provided comic art for during their careers.

Harry Nilsson, by contrast, was an American singer-songwriter who never provided any artwork for a MTG, but did win a grammy for his excellent performance of Everybody’s Talkin’ in the film Midnight Cowboy.

Do you think the vinyl shop and the comic shop owners are brothers?

Page 7
Is “holiday of the mind” a phrase used in the UK? I’ve never heard of it before. This sounds like it may be a Daisy original, right here.

Work experience at a doctor’s surgery generally means doing a lot of filing of notes, making of tea and coffees, and trying to make sense of the completely impenetrable EMIS data management software. Compared to the latter of those options, washing rectal thermometers would probably be somewhat preferable.

Page 8
Key R-Go is a strange choice for a shop which cuts keys. Just personally, I think I’d call it something like Peachy Keys.

Lathes are a piece of DIY equipment usually used for holding materials in place so they can be cut, sanded, welded or similar. You’d have to assume that McGraw would be smart enough to use goggles if he were working on that sort of project, surely. Always wear eye protection!

Page 9
A bag of frozen peas are the classic way to reduce the swelling around a black eye. It’s important to ensure that you take turns applying and then removing the bag, rather than leaving it on there for an extended period of time. Another rule, I’m told, is that you shouldn’t put anything near the eye directly – cool the areas around the eye if you want to look after yourself.

We get another return to the flashback colouring last seen in issue #4.

A lot of people juggle multiple social media accounts – having a personal one and a business one, for example, or having a “dark” account used mainly for saying nasty things about people in private, for a group of mutual friends to enjoy alone. An enemies-only instagram account is the sort of thing used by journalists – publicly you ensure that you’ve distanced yourself from bad people in society, but secretly you set up a fake account and use it to keep tabs on those who need to be checked on-and-off. It’s similar to a sting opp, I suppose, where you let your enemies tie themselves up.

It’s much nicer having social media accounts that are specifically tailored to show you pictures of good dogs and/or cats, depending on preference.

Page 10
“In the Belly of the Beast” was a book written by Jack Henry Abbott in 1981. It’s actually a series of letters, though, written by Abbott whilst he was in prison – the belly of the beast being the living situation that he experienced whilst jailed.

This seems accurate in terms of depicting a small UK town/city’s local nightclub scene – often found as an unwitting co-star in television shows like Bravo’s finger-wagging Booze Britain., and its imaginatively titled sequel Booze Britain 2: Binge Nation

For those who are curious about dressage, here’s a listing of the rules of competition.

Page 11
The power of the nightclub bouncer is infallible and terrible in its scope. The grammar featured on this page is genuinely upsetting here.

Page 12
All credit here – this is genuinely one of the best depictions of an English bar scene that I’ve seen in comics, or maybe any media.

The most powerful word in existence is “ombudsman”. I’ve been able to get so much justice done by casually throwing it into an email – from reclaiming the deposit on my flat which was being held from me, to sorting out issues with a particularly futile and broken washing machine. An ombudsman is someone who is appointed to deal with professional and business disagreements, and rule in favour of the wronged party. Landlords are terrified of them, because the ombudsman has final ruling.

Ugh. “me ducks” is SO common as a greeting in Northampton. It’s rubbish, isn’t it? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with ducks, but I don’t think I’d like to be called one every time somebody sees me in a club.

Page 13
“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? I’ve been locked in an accounting office”. To steal liberally from the Bard, again, McGraw here “doth protest too much, methinks”. Was there more to the post-yule ball passion than an ill-judged reconnecting with an ex?

Page 14
EDM is “European Dance Music” – hugely popular in nightclubs, the style allows the DJ to play songs back-to-back without much contrast, because the emphasis is more on the percussive beat of the songs rather than melody, lyrics, singing etc. It’s all about bass and drums, typically.

Pashing? What’s pashing? Best read our annotation for issue #2 to find out!

Never travel anywhere without your 12-in-1 pen, folks! I have no understanding of what exactly McGraw did to make his way into the club, but it sounds like it was intensely practical and my dad would’ve loved it. The panel where he holds it up to the light looks like something from a film poster.

Page 15
It possibly isn’t what’s being referenced here, but there’s a wrestler in NXT called Aleister Black who also sits straight down into a cross-legged pose like Daisy. I think that may be where the comparisons between the two end, however.

Either Daisy has had a revelation or she’s accidentally set off a Motherbox.

The idea that Esther has a ‘drama field’ around her was explored in the first issue of the series. Everywhere she goes she accidentally causes drama amongst all the men in her orbit – which might actually be of use here, for once.

Daisy throws out another religious reference here, telling Esther to “reap the whirlwind”. That comes from the phrase “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind” which comes from the Book of Hosea in the Hebrew Bible. It means – if you set things up to be chaotic, don’t be surprised when other people take advantage and turn that chaos against you. The lads in that bar don’t know what’s coming.

Pages 16 and 17
You might’ve been concerned that Esther didn’t have any skeleton motifs on her clothes this issue – rest easy, friends. She goes for the fishing rod manoeuvre to reel in those unprepared southern boys, and already you can see how uneasy and jealous they all are of each other.

In UK-English parlance a “bundle” refers to a fight – either identifying one, or, in some cases, initiating one. See also: “barney”.

If you’re going to pick a lock, you’d ideally need both a tension wrench to turn the lock mechanism, as well as a pick to manipulate the pins, so Clark assures me.

Page 18
Karen really doesn’t want anyone to get up on that roof. It’s a surprisingly tame office, actually. Aside from the calendar which has a baby wearing a crown for some reason, and a few messily-used coffee cups, there’s nothing tacky about Karen’s work environment. Not even a hint of leopard-skin!

Page 19
Britain is a country with a proud tradition of beautiful canals, and a prouder tradition of throwing arbitrary junk into the canals at any opportunity. You won’t find a single canal in the nation which doesn’t have at least one fridge, sofa or shopping trolley lobbed into it at some point.

“Nana” is a way of saying “granny” in the UK. I think usually it tends to be your mum’s mum is your granny/nana, whilst your dad’s mum is your grandman.

It’s all going a bit Scott Pilgrim at the end here, isn’t it? Or a bit Breakfast Club.

Page 20
This fight looks to me like a bit of a mix of The Fugitive and/or Blade Runner, but I think the rooftop fight where one party holds the other party in a precarious position only to pull them back to safety is fairly standard at this point.

Page 21
When a UK citizen retires, they receive an annual pension from the Government – so we refer to them as “pensioners”. Anybody over about 6 is a pensioner, although the pension age keeps getting synched up higher and higher because pension costs are the single largest burden on the UK budget. By the time I reach “pension age”, there’ll probably be no such thing as a state pension anymore. Sigh.

Kebabs are the traditional refuge-food of anybody dealing with the aftermath of a night out. Or semi-night out. Listen: they went out, but they didn’t go out-out. Nobody is fully aware of what meat they use in kebabs, although it’s usually some kind of mix of lamb, chicken and beef. Not elephant, as far as I’m aware.

Although… the topic of criminal elephants is more complex than one might initially think.

Page 22
The first year of University is all about making it to the second year of University. The January exams exist only to make sure people have done enough work to continue onwards with their degree. If you mess up your subsequent years, it affects whatever degree grade you get – if you mess up your first year, it just means you have to retake your first year. “Just”.

You should still go to your lectures, though. You reeeeeeally don’t want to have to pay for an extra year of tuition.


Giant Days #6

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!