By Claire Napier
Before Giant Days joined the BOOM! Studios Soc, it existed as a series of three self-published comics by John Allison. The three stories tell essentially the origin of the bond between central characters Daisy, Susan and Esther, following their very first few days at Sheffield University as they seek to attain scholarship supreme – or at least, to get through some box sets and have a bit of fun on their own terms.
You can pick up the books either in print or digitally through ComiXology.
Once done, you’ll probably be wondering what exactly was going on – well wonder no longer, and instead join Claire Napier as she delves back through the sands of time and offers her annotations for the original series of Giant Days!
Daisy and Susan watch Esther float away, because Esther is flighty and they are so grounded.
This is the first of two pages drawn much earlier than the rest of this book— in the very early days (as explained in afterword) of Bad Machinery. A beautiful purple evening. That’s the time of day we call “twilight,” in fact. Do you say “freshers” in other countries? Here we say “freshers,” and it means “basically in the first month of uni, maybe the first week.”
We should also note for our international friends that “mummy” is the British spelling of “mommy”, and that we don’t hire embalmed people to do our chores.
Daisy reads Lady Stories, featuring cover stories such as He Stole My Ears and Wolf Baby. “Lady Stories” is not a real mag, but it’s certainly a distillation of the target market for our tabloid magazines (not newspapers).
Ed Gemmell’s bag is low-slung to “conceal ardour,” which means “the action of his penis.” Because Ed is horny for Esther. John Allison is always agreeably honest about the practical horniness of man, boy, woman, etc. “Mooning” in this sense is not re: the ass, but re: “moonstruck,” i.e. not the Cher/Cage movie but the status “a bit crazed,” i.e. daft because of being in love. Bella Union is a record label. Look them up— very Ed.
Daisy is not very keen on the idea of Ed having ardour. I wonder if that might come up again in this series.
Daisy suggests ghosts because Dickens is in the blood.
I hate this boy because I remember him so well. Look at his stupid fringe. Look at his hat. Look at his shirt, or is it a jacket, buttoned all the way up as if inside he keeps secrets. Look at how he speaks to Ed as if being trapped with a wolf is a good thing. Suspect this boy. He’s rotten.
Esther is confusing, because Esther is never faking it. This bad boy thinks all girls fake everything, probably. (Hate him!!)
Cloud Control, on Susan’s poster, are an Australian band. Susan’s posters are mostly undefined (rare!), as is Susan thus far. Except for her mighty powers of perception.
Daisy has been spending a lot of time looking out the window – not because it’s something she does normally, but because that’s the only place where Susan can smoke. She’s communal, is Daisy
“Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?” is a quote from writer Alexander Pope, an early love for many a university student.
Communal living sucks when people break the rules. Also: observe the man’s tiny hat. He’s in a band.
Susan says “Blah!” like Bela Lugosi Dracula, because she has not slept (like Dracula, who’s been out all night). Her shirt says SWEAR, which I think is just supposed to represent the notion “swearing,” not a band (in this case).
Are “Betes” a band? Maybe! I’m not expert enough to know. The French definitely are, although only in 2003. Either way these posters are telling us: this boy considers himself elite and also interesting. A Kawai Flying Wedge is actually a real guitar. They’re cute as hell but do not sleep with anyone who has one on display!!
Look at that evil eye in the last panel. A Bastard, and no mistake. Not sure what Ed’s shirt says here… best guess is “Global Concrete” which is… a concrete manufacturer. Seems unlikely.
Esther is still young enough to smile and say “nice” at a boy doodling tits in class. Well, we go to university to learn, don’t we. The Meffin building is not real, but it’s real”istic” as the name of a university building.
Ron Lewis: The Jallisonverse version of John Lewis, one suspects. Not your civil rights hero & comic book star, John Lewis, but the department store “John Lewis” where British people go to spend a little more money than they really meant to.
This is a game reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s mask shoplifting scene, which foreshadows the Bad Thing Esther’s going to do later. It also harkens to BaT by featuring white people doing “funny accents” for kicks. In this case, accents from white-majority countries, which might be better overall? Still not so good; still the sort of thing that British kids from white-majority areas do carefree… hopefully til they learn better. Steve is doing the villainous thing and trying to create a connection with Esther, “a female,” by making her sympathise with him. Dishonest beast.
Look at their different coffee choices (both labelled incorrectly, but close enough). Steve has basically ordered an ice cream with coffee in it somewhere, whilst Esther has a regular order. Steve goes for artifice whilst Esther is simple and honest, is what I’m saying here.
“The eyes of a novice vicar” are scared and gentle. Susan is still self-narrating; she’s already as straightforward and firm as she remains at BOOM!.
She knows what Ed is after (seeing Esther) and she’s willing to befriend him for how she perceives his positive interest… but not while pretending not to know that he holds that interest, or that she thinks he’s onto a winner. Susan is honest.
Susan is a medical student! We learn a little more about her.
Eustace, the boyfriend, has done his part re: destabilising the Romance. It’s a rare relationship which survives people going to separate universities. I can only think of one, and my friends are getting into relationships all the flipping time.
Esther is flighty, remember? She flies away from her hurt feelings.
Esther has changed outfit for the night out, including some particularly brutal boots. Susan and Daisy are still wearing their day clothes.
Esther’s calling Susan “mum” is brutal. You don’t call your friend “mum” in the negative!! A teen saying “mum” in the negative is saying a LOT about someone’s controlling, staid, ancient, uncool nature. No offence to any real mums.
Chips and gravy is the kind of chips that are “fries,” except that chip shop chips (which are the kind that can come with gravy) will be fatter than what we in the UK know as fries, which are McDonalds ones. Oh, and remember about how English Gravy is a delicious meat-juice liquid? Still applies.
“Mate” here used in the friendly sense, not the romantical/sexual. Putting the LIE to this young man’s behaviour— recall when he said that Ed had done it wrong because he “went straight to friend”? This bad boy is using “friend” to get the wolf in the door.
Some handsome brutalism, here. Of course, brutalism is the architectural aesthetic favoured by Shauna Grote, co-heroine of Bad Machinery and some more recent Scary Go Round stories. Does Allison have a particular connection to it, or is there just a lot in our cities? Could be either— could be both.
And we learn, just before we REALLY learn, that Steve is a wanker. He’s in the band that is keeping Susan awake! HE HAS NO APPROPRIATE SENSE OF BOUNDARIES. Loud music at night; sleeping with a drunk sad girl; telling the friend who has a crush on her about it… what a waster. Hope u die Steve!
Susan heckles Ed with the model of english masculinity: an officer in the army. She’s doing it because she doesn’t believe in it, which seems confusing perhaps but is a particular kind of honesty.
Daisy knows about Steve’s hat being the devil’s hat, even though she’s been sheltered. Some things are just obvious to everyone (except the flighty). Is Steve evil because he’s short, and therefore unmanly according to the officers in the British army? Maybe, but who cares, he could just be sad about it instead.
An effing jeffer means Esther is a swear beginning with F and a swearish beginning with J. F**king Jerk? Probably, I dunno, the point is that she’s modifying her language to be apologetic, like a puppy putting its nose on the ground.
Susan doesn’t want to sit on the sex bed. Fair enough, Susan.
“Steve reminds me of him… in a way.” In what way, Esther? Let’s be generous and go for “he wants to sex me and goes along with my zany schemes.” Esther reassures her friends and us that she wasn’t drunk enough to feel that she didn’t consent, but shall we forgive Steve? No.
Esther is a joyful and adventurous sex-haver and can’t help but appreciate that about herself even as she’s guilty and regretful— the sex-positivity of the JA comic is nothing to be sniffed at (Haha ew). And Esther broke the gimmick guitar, so she’s definitely had at least a small amount of deserved revenge already.
“WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE BRITISH ABOUT IT” is the classic self-deprecating yet still self-aggrandizing “British spirit.” Everyone thinks we’re so polite! Even us, because while we’re not we’re thinking “how unBritish of me,” you see?
Susan offers her first medical advice to Daisy – ride that adrenaline rush all the way upstairs and destroy those scenesters.
Murder him Esther
(No Age is a band. Noise rock. Very apropos.)
If Beast Castle is a band, it’s roadkill in these days of SEO. Spinal Eye doesn’t seem to be— foreshadowing much of the joy of Giant Days Year One #3. Look forward! WIth your spinal eye!
A night egg is an egg you eat in the night; very “student food.”
Daisy is wearing a Brownies t-shirt, which could have been a hipster move on another character, Brownies being a rather square (I can say that, I was one) children’s group for girls to join. But on Daisy it’s just telling us she was a Brownie and doesn’t throw away clothing until it wears out or doesn’t fit.
Ed Gemmell gets so angry he goes Full George McFly. Pacman in the eye; fists may well fly!
The placement and nature of Steve’s tattoo tells us plenty about how pretentious he is (not necessarily a bad thing, darlings)… that it’s an Eric Cantona quote tells us even more. Cantona said this after receiving community service for kicking an abusive spectator. “The press” made a big fuss about how “cryptic” it was, but “When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” is really not all that perplexing. “People want stuff from me so they bother me,” is what he meant. Or is it?? Yeah probably. Nobody wants anything from Steve, though, which is why he has to proactively bother them instead.
Esther has broken the guitar… even more. When you do something by accident, doing it on purpose can say a lot.
Daisy’s first use of admin as a superpower! Just think: she had to trick the block rep into helping them in her first year, and now she IS the block rep. That’s beautiful. Go Daisy!
Susan turns subtext into text: throughout their Scary Go Round romance, Esther ran rings around Eustace. For her it was fun to appease boredom, for him it was exhilarating but stressful. You can’t live “giant days” if you’re not willing to grow — Esther/Eustace had to go.
Perfect last page: Susan’s honesty and accuracy of analysis is about herself at last, and Daisy is relaxed enough to be unearnest.
Claire Napier is a writer and editor, and has been published by The Guardian, ComicsAlliance, and of course at WomenWriteAboutComics, for which she served as Editor in Chief for several years. You can find her on Twitter here, you can find her website here, and you can buy her comic Dash Dearborne here!
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