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 finishes her annotations for the original series of Giant Days!

Page 1:
Daisy’s red headband is reminiscent of meme-level advert for the 118 telephone/website information service. This ad features two “wacky 70s”-style relay joggers— the point is that they’re outmoded and unselfconscious about it. Just like sweet sweet Daisy.

Daisy is also wearing a Brownies hoodie—which according to my research never truly existed. A brown hoodie for Brownies? Yes! But it had a yellow zip. What’s up with THAT, Allison??

Susan mentions Kraft cheese being pushed under the door. Daisy probably wouldn’t eat Kraft cheese, so she must have bought it specially. There shouldn’t really be enough room under a door to push a cheese, either way… that’s a soundproofing problem, bring it up with the board!

Page 2:
Daisy is vigilant against Satan, which is smart, because that guy loves to sneak in.

Converted English buddhists are fairly rare but certainly exist! I had an argument with one once. He was a monk.

Page 3:
Enya did music for Lord of the Rings, but that’s probably not where Daisy knows her from. (Lord of the Rings has a Satan in it). Daisy is just a gentle soul that needs further soothing.

Susan “”s “lads” because she doesn’t just mean “males.” She means banter boys. People who don’t take people seriously. Those who will say “we’re just having fun.” But they aren’t.

Susan introduces Daisy to the nigh-impenetrable social shield “lying.” Susan also recalls her earlier comment to Ed about soldier masculinity: “Thank eff there’s not a war on,” because these are not admirable heroes.

As soon as they walk in we see a guy in a fedora talking to a visibly-annoyed woman. Some things never change.

Page 4:
The Radiohead vs Postal Service toss-up is a deep-dive music-liker joke that I am not fully qualified to explain, having decided early in life that Radiohead were nothing I would ever care to learn about. Why? A BOY. A LAD. A “friend.” Suffice to say, Susan is right.

I feel like the girl in panel four is a reference to someone real? But I don’t know who. I’m out of my waters here!

Vibes guy is just… you know. That type of guy. Feeling vibes.

In order to explain everything on this page I asked an expert about “real ale.” Then I regretted it. Just let it lie, friends. Just don’t investigate.

“I love your glasses” is threatening because this girl has mistaken Daisy for someone with “an aesthetic,” instead of someone who “does her best.”

And then… there is Erin. Erin is a Scary Go Round character of a long and storied career. She was almost Eustace’s first girlfriend— that’s Esther’s Eustace. Whom Esther just heartbroke. Erin showing up here to befriend Susan and Daisy is a move that seems sinister! Is it revenge?? (no, it’s ok. But the tension is fun!)

Page 5:
THOM with a H. Like from Radiohead. Get in the bin, Thom, sorry.

Please pay attention to all of the indie fashion on display here. It’s a time capsule.

“SCAN-DULE” is an Allison classic; phonetics indicating tone. On twitter we might say “it was a ~scandal,” which would have a similar effect. But it would not be so obviously English.

Check that lettering trick that means some people don’t have to ** their swears. Jealous? Me? Ya [Swearing is neither big nor clever, please accept and embrace my censorship – Steve]

Page 6:
These bad girls are making up total lies because they do not respect their immediate peers. The joke is that indie bands—and “indie band” doesn’t just mean “unsigned band,” it means something you have to sort of intuit with experience—have stupid b*ll*cks names. It’s a pretty funny joke.

John Allison, by the way, knows a lot about music. And as he credits in the back, he is lucky enough to receive the live-in mentorship of Laura Snapes, music journo supreme. These are the jokes of an expert, and should be respected as such. Even if you don’t get them… you have to observe their Truth.

Steve thinks Oliver Walton grew up to be the bassist for Clean Bandit.

Princess Eugenie is the daughter of the Prince of Wales’ dodgy brother and his (the brother’s) ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, who was sort of famous for being sort of “trashy,” in a judgy 80s English Aristocrat way, I guess. She doesn’t really have a great position in the public consciousness. It’s a shame, but at least she’s rich.

Page 7:
How did these metal boys get into a dorm block? Security!!

They even have a Germanic knock, with an umlaut and everything!

Esther is on tumblr, I think. It’s the “listless scroll” annotation that gives it away. Poor sad bb.

Page 8:
Nobody ever wants to smell a shared kitchen. And that’s because they smell very bad.

Erin’s “sister” is Shelley! Shelley, the heroine of Tackleford. The “main character” (it’s arguable, but you’d lose) of Bobbins and Scary Go Round, several bonus comics, and a frequent revisitor to Bad Machinery. She’s an author, a spy, a romance machine, a time-traveller. She’s fought a million monsters. She’s perfect, and that’s why life is hard for Erin. Pick up Expecting to Fly and Mordawwa for more details!

Don’t mix drinks with medicine. That’s the lesson Daisy is reciting here.

Page 9:
Daisy’s sexuality comes up for the first time. What a large arc it has yet to climb!

Caligula was a Roman emperor who did a lot of freaky shit. There’s a movie… if you want. If you’re a Daisy, you don’t want.

Page 10:
Esther speaks to the Eustace in her heart. And then… she puts him in a drawer. Such a big girl now! Strong, sad moves.

If there’s no-one sicking up in front of your metal club, is it really a metal club? Yes, allegedly, but how will anyone know. That is the question.

Page 11:
Let’s think about Esther. Esther is a goth— yes. She’s a metal-enjoyer. She’s a dramatic girl with a love of life and adventure. But where does she come from? Basically nowhere. What has she seen? Not a whole much of a lot. She has the image; she has the intention. But a real life crazy club of people acting just like she says she might? That’s a bit much. These are Giant Days: days the girls gotta grow to fill.

Page 12:
Ed is suspicious of “cyber-punks,” which is very reasonable. They wear gas masks (which makes one think of gas!) and they’re scary. But, they are not the military wing of Rock Soc.

Esther wants to get Ed laid because getting someone laid is very diverting and Esther is so sad.

Ed told Esther he likes metal because Ed wants to lie down with Esther. A lie for a lay! It won’t work.

Page 13:
Daisy wants to watch You’ve Got Mail, and I have to assume that it’s for the first time. What a horrible film. I don’t think Daisy would approve.

Erin is a manic pixie dream girl. But not for boys.

Page 14:
Rugby is a very contentious sport in this, our England. Public school rugby players are another group that may be referred to as “lads,” although they are different to Indie Soc types. You might expect them to be loud and boisterous and enjoy ostentatious plausible deniability about class issues. You may be wrong to… but you may not.

Page 15:
Vetiver is a man’s scent with a certain “classic” panache to it. Sort of retro, but not kitsch. GQ likes it.

Erin really says it all here.

Page 16:
Blue Peter is our finest children’s programming institution: a four-presenter after school effort that teaches the young to be engaged with the world. Pureboy aesthetic. Look up Matt Baker and maybe fall in love a lil bit. Anyway…

MAKEOVER! MAKEOVER! MAKEOVER! The greatest staple of ongoing storytelling. Change! That! Character! Delicious.

Page 17:
Ed doesn’t cut it. They just know.

Page 18:
I don’t know a great deal about Black Metal but I gotta assume that the floppy touch used instead of a handshake here is born of the bodily weakness of the classic goth.

Page 19:
I dunno why Esther is so shocked to wake up at 3pm. Like I’m not joking, I did that all the time.

Never got an accident tattoo though. What a loser, I’ve barely lived.

The design has a bit of the Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons about it. It’s not an ambigram, but it’s… sort of symmetrical? I dunno, honestly I feel like this design is the weakest element of the issue. Let’s not dwell.

Page 20:
Swim Deep are, indeed, an indie band.

Study Susan’s cape close for clues re: How to be Cool.

Little baby Daisy’s put off by the thought of an orgasm, which, as we know, will greatly change.

Page 21:
“oh PLOPS,” because she’s twee, see.

Don’t ask about real ale.

“Woff” is a noise with a lot of history behind it. Imagine a big red jolly rich person in a Charles Dickens adaptation. Is he saying “Woff!”? Well, he should be.

Erin: she’s awful. The most challenging woman. We love her.

“Citrusy high notes.” Don’t ASK!

Page 22:
Esther likes to say “Ed Gemmell” instead of Ed partly because she’s into the olde worlde schooldays naming schemes, as previously discussed, and partly because it’s a way of being affectionate without “getting too close.” It shows a focussed attention, to say the whole name.

Poor Esther! So loooooonely. And so keen for events to happen.

Page 23:
A strip of Wrigleys: a strip of gum. A dog’s bone: a raggedy bone. She calls him weak.

Brundlefly: Jeff Goldblum in the Fly. You can watch it after you stream Caligula!

Page 24:
This page is just magnificent destruction. Girls bullying boys. Except “bullying” is a bad thing, and this isn’t.

Page 25:
Esther isn’t the baddest on the block now, and that’s what’s making her accessible now she’s a) away at University and b) a mainer character of her story!

Look at how cute Kelvin is. Have you had this friend? If you haven’t, you have a friend who has.

Kelvin’s tattoo makes it clear what Esther’s is supposed to look like: The Black Metal Band Logo. Of course! So foolish! Google it.

Page 26:
Esther speaks her choice! She’s not a lifestyler, she’s what Daisy isn’t: a person with an aesthetic. That’s an admirable level of self-awareness, and it’ll steer her right in future. You don’t have to buy the farm to wear the straw hat, my darlings!

Page 27:
When Susan says “fanny” she means “vagina.” That’s how we do that here.

Erin and Esther do not embrace the “I already know you” thing. Easy to say that’s weird writing, but what if it isn’t? What if it’s pride, huh? What about THAT.

“Here lies Hope Eternal” is a joke. Because you have to abandon it. When you step forward into Hell. AKA Black Metal Soc.

Page 28:
WKD is a drink chosen by those who have not yet understand how or why you might ever want to drink socially. It’s favoured by fifteen year olds and it comes in a cool neon blue colour so you know it’s got sugar in it.

Kelvin makes the sign of the beast as they leave. I fear we will never see Kelvin again.

Page 29:
PHIILY5 turns up in Tackleford when Erin’s around. If you read some archive content, you can go “oh, I know where that came from!” when the car rolls up to be insulted.

Barry Manilow does, indeed, sing.

Page 30:
Kind of a Dune/Flash Gordon vibe with this death box. Nice and literate!

Esther is the cream— a girl in demand. But Esther has made her decision, and it’s to make friends based on mutual social ease instead of mutual appreciation of art. She’s a clever girl, our Esther.

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!

This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!