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. With this issue, Sarin takes the baton completely, as the primary artist on Giant Days moving forward.

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
In the UK we have a welcome tradition of having the heating break at the very moment you need it to start working. Despite the UK being an island nation, and a temperate climate, we have also decided that insulation in houses and municipal buildings would be showing weakness, and undermining our continued attempt to usurp the weather gods’ dominion.

As Daisy goes in for a hug her hair does a very chilly ‘sproing’ and escapes her hoodie. Bless.

Page 2
Everybody has heard the rumour that universities rent out their rooms during student holidays. Clark investigated it with his dad when they went to a gig in Lancaster – and they confirmed it is true! They rent out your rooms!

Belgians go to bed very early. I went to Belgium once and everybody seemed to have gone home by 8pm.

Page 3
Ossification, or the laying down of new bone material, is performed by osteoblasts, which is a good name for a band. The only time bones would form in your stomach is when something has gone wrong – for more on this, cautiously google “heterotopic ossification”.

Memory palaces were made famous by Sherlock, which used them as an opportunity to have Benedict Cumberbatch rub various parts of his forehead as words and phrases spilled across the screen. Daisy’s flashcard-based approach is similar.

Page 4
English is about interpretation, but you have to learn how to interpret things properly. And once you have developed a mastery of English, you can then go on to achieve Great Things like annotate comics for a niche audience. The best advice Clark ever got was to go straight to the library after a lecture and write up your notes to cement the knowledge in your brain. Did he take this advice? No, he went and played frisbee in the park. Also valid.

Nobody who asks questions at a lecture is funny. Nobody is smart. Nobody likes you if you ask questions or insert an opinion into a public space. Put your hand down and sulk like the rest of us if you know what’s good for you.

Page 5
The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company was well known for producing perfluorooctanoic acid by electrochemical fluorination. They later went on to invent post-it notes, I think, in the 1970s, and renamed themselves to the 3M Corporation. It is absolutely impressive that Daisy knows this by heart. On a comics-related 3M note – if you have a lot of framed artwork and rent a property so can’t hammer nails into walls with giddy abandon – their “command strips” are a great no-nails option for hanging things.

Page 6
We’re only 6 pages into Max Sarin’s tenure and already the depiction of skulls is exemplary.

Marat/Sade was a play written by Peter Weiss in 1963 which apparently “is a depiction of class struggle and human suffering that asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself”. And you wonder why nobody takes English students seriously.

“Necrotizing” basically means “flesh-eating”. A flesh-eating swamp strikes me as a singularly unpleasant place to spend an evening, even if said flesh-eating swamp is just ideological rather than practical.

Page 7
What an empty, depressing necrotizing swamp that is.

Page 8
Esther’s worries about failing the exams she hasn’t studied for has now become some kind of spiritual quest. Such is the folly of a first-year English student.

I feel like this may be a reference to DMX’s “Lord Give Me A Sign”, but all the signs point to this being a huge leap of faith on my part. To quote the great Harry Nilsson – “One is the loneliest moshpit that you’ll ever do”

If we’re taking leaps of faith – and of course we are – then we think the final panel is a direct diss on Gillen and McKelvie’s magnum music and gods opus The Wicked + The Divine. Conjecture? Probably!

Page 9
Def Leppard formed in Sheffield in 1977, and had several hair metal hits around the world, the sort that Bill and Ted would idolize. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was one of them, and perhaps their most famous song, which is why Esther busts it out as an attempt to form solidarity. Now, yes, they are a famous band, but they’re also not the strongest or most satanic and edgy rock band around, really. Maybe things are different in Sheffield.

Get Behind Me Satan was the fifth album from The White Stripes. It also led to a Sufjan Stevens song called “Get Behind Me Santa”, which is cute enough I suppose. Satanism has come a long way since the 1500s, and does have strong ties to the black metal music scene, which makes for some interesting reading. Especially with regards to musicians like King Diamond, who leans more towards the philosophical interpretation of occult satanism. If you’ve got time to kill, then do a wikipedia deep-dive and be prepared to see a lot of inverted-pentagrams.

Page 10
“Monstering” means ambushing people, leaping on them, taking them by surprise. Susan is a woman with needs and a diminishing sense of social decorum. Forbidden love! The most delicious of desserts.

The images on the walls seem fairly… suggestive.

Page 11
Esther has literally been carrying her burdens on her shoulders, tucked into a cute rucksack.

Some more good poster work here, as the frame cuts out the “do not” from the “do not despair” poster and leaves an image which looks less hopeful than it did when you could see the whole of the poster in-panel.

Page 12
There’s a lot of people smiling for 10am in the morning on the day of an exam. That was never my experience of university mornings, just personally.

Esther keeps touching Ed on the shoulder and she really needs to be more careful around him.

Page 13
Ah, it looks like Susan is starting to reach the age when you understand more about the consumer prices index. She’s becoming a woman! Basically your money may stay in a bank, but every year the cost to buy goods rises slightly – so your savings are worth less and less every year. It’s a financial thing, it’s all a mess.

Right, let’s talk about how good Max Sarin’s cartooning is, as exemplified in this final panel – I remember when I first read this issue the different line-weight really stood out, but really what my idiot brain should have been concentrating on is the excellent expression comedy being displayed.

Erm, listen, I don’t know who Steven is or why he’s approving those products.

Page 14
That girl is a bad influence, mark my words. University is full of people like her and I genuinely do not know what they do once they drop out and go live their dreams. How do you even accrue a sensible pension option if you spend all day enjoying nature??

We can understand that feeling though – one time in secondary school Clark’s friend spotted a squirrel outside and the entire Latin lesson ended up being abandoned as there’s no regaining attentions after that.

Page 15
DeGraw’s painting above the bed may be the biggest and best gag in this entire series.

Britain doesn’t have a thriving monster truck industry, as far as I’m aware – however, there’s always one worn-down looking poster advertising monster trucks every time you pass the adverts section at Sainsburys. I’ve never been to one of those events, and I’m scared of what I might find if I did. The Fast and the Furious Live seems to have reignited this particular live-event sub-genre, although the reviews that came out of it were… less than stellar. Quite why Vin Diesel signed off on it, I’ll never know. (money)

Page 16
Yes, truly it is a miracle that this girl is praying about something which clearly means a lot to her and is causing great distress. Let’s not go over and ask if we can help – let’s instead celebrate this as a victory for ourselves and shed noble tears at our own valiance.

Page 17
I used to be an invigilator. It seems like easy money, but it’s the absolute worst. You’re not allowed to sit down, use your phone, write anything down, read anything – you have to walk around, feel your calves slowly burst from use, and have nothing to distract yourself with. It’s a horrible way to spend three hours. You have to pay attention to CHILDREN!

Page 18 and Page 19
Nothing stays secret at University too long. There’s too much close proximity.

Secret Squirrel was a kids show from the 1960s produced by Hanna-Barbera. It has a notably awful theme-tune. How many theme tunes shush you for saying the main character’s name though? This and Shaft.

Page 20
Did we already annotate what a “walk of shame” is? I think we did, but every issue is someone’s first issue – so! A Walk of Shame is when someone has to make the walk home in last night’s clothes…. because they didn’t spend the night in their own bedroom….

I don’t think we said this when we last explained it, but the implication that your walking home after a night of passion is shameful is a silly one, and its presence in the common parlance is an indictment against the culture, and attitudes towards sex, in the UK.

[ snorting angrily emoji ]

Page 21
Your first year at university is only there to prove you can handle university. It doesn’t affect your life in any real academic way. And now Esther has learned her lesson. Um, sort of.

Page 22
Oh dear.

Giant Days #7

Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
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!