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 Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman 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
That’s a referenced picture of Sheffield University’s student union – Max Sarin knows her UK Universities, and that’s what the building actually looks like from the outside. It’s a bit like a razor blade, isn’t it?

Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein was known to use body doubles to an incredible degree, with a whole posse of doubles at his disposal. His use of doubles was famous, to the extent that when he was finally captured, the USA had to issue a formal statement confirming that they’d caught the real guy, and not one of his dopplegangers. They had plastic surgery and replicated wounds that Hussein had taken during his lifetime just to make sure they were as identical as possible.

Body Double was also a sexy thriller from Brian de Palma, released in 1984, which flopped at the box office.

Page 2
In the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular Bueller skips school for the day, leaving a dummy in his bed so nobody suspects that he’s sneaked out the house whilst pretending to be ill. This is a more elaborate version of the same thing, because I’ve never seen a shop dummy which actually had hands before. Do those exist just to model fancy gloves?

Amanda seems to have watched a lot of movies about conspiracies being unravelled by plucky reporters. Meanwhile, Ed’s fickle fancies are quickly transferred to his editor-in-chief. What could possibly go wrong!?

Page 3
Even in the newsroom, you can’t escape the constant terror of the “friendly note”. Wash your cups, or suffer the pain of near-infinite passive-aggression.

Oh Ed, so naive. No amount of corruption at University will stop you from a happy post-graduate career being corrupt in politics.

Page 4
It turns out that Ed is trying to turn a corner, deleting his “mash notes” – love letters he’s written to Esther, using his internal voice rather than the nervous one that comes out whenever they’re face to face. Bold move, Ed. This is good not just for your development as a person, but because having 50GB of formless instrumental audio must be slowing down your computer royal.

The fetal position is instinctive for humans, y’know. It’s not only a way of imitating when you felt safest, but it also serves as the best form to assume if you want to protect your organs from harm. It’s also a useful way of avoiding bear attack. Clark wanted me to make sure you’re all aware that most bears can outrun a human on pretty much all terrain and many are adept tree climbers. Don’t run from a bear, is the lesson to be learned here.

Page 5
I think the last instruction on the wall says “do not sit on the machines”. McGraw is breaking the rules!!

The Eagle was the name for the landing pod of the shuttle which brought mankind to the Moon for the first time. When the Eagle landed on the surface of the Moon, so the mission objective had been completed. I think that’s how McGraw means it, because I can’t fathom how it’d be used as a sex joke. Despite his rule-breaking vis-a-vis the laundry room , I still believe in his best intentions.

Page 6
The mystery informant returns, once again looking like an extra from a Jamie Hewlett comic.

The whole time I was at University I had no idea there was such a thing as a student council, let alone that they were people I should be voting for or against.

A USB is a universal serial bus, and was apparently developed to simplify the interfaces between computers and peripheral devices, but in fact ended up being designed in such a way that you will try to plug it in the wrong way up every single time. It usually takes three times before you get it right.

Hi, America! Your backside is your bum.

Page 7
I’m a proud drone, just personally speaking.

A “smoking gun” is direct evidence a crime was committed – i.e. smoke is coming from the barrel of a gun, therefore someone must have fired it. Who coined the phrase? Why, master detective Sherlock Holmes, of course, in a story from 1893.

Hearts in his eyes and floating over his head. The boy’s got it bad. Eyes up front, Ed.

Page 8
Ed and Amanda’s glasses both smog up as soon as they walk inside the house, which is a really nice touch to the scene.

Page 9
I believe the first panel here may be the first canonical appearance of Wotsits in this series.

Oh no, Ed’s assuming the aforementioned fetal position. Either a bear attack is imminent or something traumatic just happened to him. If you’ve walked home in the rain then it’s really ill-advised to get into bed dressed in your wet outdoor clothes.

Page 10
Erm. So, this panel is all suggesting that things didn’t go quite to plan for Ed, who joins 99% of the world by having a slightly awkward or embarrassing first time. McGraw and Ed here quickly segue into tortured sporting metaphors, which everyone knows are the healthiest way to express emotions.

I think that’s Amanda’s housemate lying unconscious on the bench behind them, judging from the beanie hat and jacket.

There are in fact several websites which tell you how to go into hiding. I found a few reddit forums about it, and lots of people asking on Quora. As always, WikiHow is the wild west when it comes to this kind of thing, so if you’re looking for bona fide advice from a panel of people with a slightly tenuous grasp on reality, then it’s highly recommended to check there.

Please don’t go into hiding though, readers. We need your continued traffic, for one thing, and you really are clearly quite lovely people we need to hear more from.

Page 11
“Can’t fight city hall” – basically, that you can’t bite the hand that’s feeding you without going hungry. By attacking the student council, The Pig are now having their funding cut as punishment.

Before she’s outed as a bit of a meanie, let’s quickly look at Amanda’s excellent line in dress patterns that have been on display this issue. And then turn the page and see what a meanie she is.

Page 12
Poor Ed. It’s one thing to have a first time you’re not happy with, but it’s another thing for that first time to be with an older student who has way less tact around sex than you do.

The facial expression on the young lady wearing the scales of justice jumper in panel five makes Clark laugh every time he looks at it and it’s making it very hard for him to type this sentence. Wait, did he write it? Or did I? Who is ‘I’? Argh!

Page 13
I have the worrying feeling that Ed might be writing mash notes again. This time in pencil! Ed, no, what if you lose track of some of them and they fall down the back of your bed and then next time you have a friend round they find it?!

Daisy and Ed live in separate halls, so somehow she’s managed to bake that seven-tier cake AND carry it across campus just for Ed.

Page 14
McGraw is making… a chess piece? I think. A pawn! Just as he’s become a pawn to be used by Susan? Maybe I’m reaching with this.

Clark’s insane theory is that McGraw is making a totem like in the Christopher Nolan film Inception, and whenever he’s not present in a panel he’s having adventures invading other people’s dreams. This is now canon.

Have you noticed that McGraw’s moustache gets longer whenever he’s sad?

The Geneva Convention states that in times of war, those who are not part of hostilities – the wounded, the captured – are to no longer be considered the enemy and cannot be attacked in the name of war. It also says you can’t use chemical weapons, but I’m not sure Susan has any.

Page 15
Ed’s angry cat eyes are very effective here. Oh no

Page 16
From lone protestor to firey revolutionary in just under two hours. That’s impressive, even by Sheffield’s standards. I wonder where all the students got that spare furniture from?

Are they burning in effigy the dummy that Parent uses to fake his presence in the office? That would seem to be fairly damning evidence in and of itself, but, uh, only if they hadn’t set it ablaze. Oh well.

Ed’s fellow journalists arrive to document the scene, although they seem far more excited by rumours than in the truth. Could it be that the media prefer drama to reporting the honest truth?! Surely not.

Page 17
Parent still has tan marks from wearing his ski goggles. Maybe he should’ve been caught a long time ago. The single tear is a hard skill to master, so you kind of have to give him props for that.

Page 18
Like I said – corrupt people rarely ever get stopped. That’s the whole point of being corrupt: people will protect you when you get found out.

Page 19
This isn’t what’s happening here, thankfully, but this sort of discussion is the sort of thing which in reality seems to be why so many men develop internalised misogyny and become toxic. You can see Ed getting stuck on the idea that he’s “a nice boy” and that this is what has caused him to strike out with Amanda. She can see him heading that direction, and tries to cut him off, and then she kinda just walks off when she realises everything she says it making him feel more toxic about himself – and therefore about women. More on this in a sec.

“Goodnight and good luck” was a phrase said by news reporter Edward R. Murrow, who used it to sign off all his broadcasts. Murrow was best known for his investigation into US Senator Joe McCarthy, who led a hunt for “communists” in power in America – in reality accusing anybody who threatened to take his power of being a communist, so he could continue the fruits of his private corrupt work as a politician.

The film of the same name co-written and directed by George Clooney is a good watch, especially in the current climate.

Page 20
Ed is still calling himself a “nice boy”, which still suggests the way of thinking that women are a problem in his life because they don’t appreciate him for how nice he is. The idea of “earning” women simply through being a “nice boy” is somewhat pervasive online, but women don’t owe men anything, and have as much autonomy over their dating choices as anybody else should. Esther manages to immediately defuse this due to her genuine friendly affection for Ed, which thankfully prevents the comic from going in an unpleasant direction.

It also sounds like Esther, Daisy and Susan have been off on an adventure that shares several elements with the TV series LOST. We’ll have to wait and see just how many.

Page 21
As predicted, the University covers up the scandal, and Parent gets his job and privileges back in all but official name. The system is corrupt, maaaaaan.

If you’d like to enjoy cold comfort like Ed, here are definitions for nepotism and byzantine, just for you!

Nepotism: the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.
Byzantine: something that is excessively complicated, and typically involving a great deal of administrative detail.

Ed’s ability to make his glasses’ lenses go reflective when he’s being devious is pretty cool.

Page 22
Horse whispering is like ghost whispering, but with horses. Apparently it’s all about understanding the body language of a horse while you train it, so that – rather than training through punishment, as some do – you train a horse by saying nice things and complimenting it, so it understands you’re a friend and should try to understand and follow your commands. Something like that?

For more on horse whispering, may Clark recommend the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer starring Robert Redford and Scarlet Johansson, which he had to watch many times as a youth thanks to a sister who was an avid equestrian.

The informant shows up again, still on the same park bench. Y’know, I think he might have stayed there all night. That’s got to be stuffy with five jumpers on.


Giant Days #9

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!