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. Luckily Claire Napier has agreed to step in and annotate each issue, to give us a little more guidance and understanding! Steve is also chiming in a little, in italics.

By Claire Napier

Page 1:
Now, we begin, in a tricky place. What is this bird. Personally I suspect a line-referenced goldfinch coloured all-gold; a similar diagnosis could be the more wholly-yellow but less black-specific greenfinch. Maybe wiser birders than I can inform? Maybe not — I’m a very insightful genius.

Dandelions have very long roots that dig well into the soil and are prone to snap if you try to haul’em out. Very beastly plants, if you’ve made them your enemy.

Page 2:
A chough looks like a blackbird, if a blackbird was a bastard.

The choice to use bleeding hearts — that’s the common name of those flowers surrounding McGraw & his new squeeze, in binoc-vision — in this panel is SUPERB. When I first saw it, I was filled with admiration and delight. Realism for a purpose!! Environmental storytelling! What bliss. (Dicentra spectabilis, if you want to get Latin to match Daisy’s Romans. They’re not too hard to grow in gardens or pots! They’re super cute and look exactly like the picture.) They both heighten the romance of the picnic date being illustrated, and remind us that Susan’s own heart’s a-bleedin’. Fab, fab, fab.

Page 3:
Crested Grebes sound a little more like this: clkclkclkclk

Who the hell is “Graham”?

Page 4:
Ed Gemmell’s calendar is very compelling. Looks like… Karoline from Runaways, with two dragonfly wing cutlasses? Classy stuff.

“Very British about his money”—honestly I’m not sure if this is a real one or not, I’ve been culturally ruined by years of hearing salary-reveal discourse. Let’s assume it is, as indeed the British as supposed to be “stiff” about things, i.e. noncommunicative.

Daisy has more fun than it’s easy to credit her with, I think. I would LOVE giving someone a note about how they’re a true dope, for them to read later in emergencies. It doesn’t matter that Esther ignores it — the point is, Daisy acted to her truest and fullest extent. Therefore: she is blameless in all things.

Page 5:
It must be high summer, because both people here are wearing shorts. Then again, they are students. Then again, Esther looks quite sweaty. Then again, they are students. If you only had this page to go on, you’d be stumped.

The Bangkok Hilton isn’t a hotel: it’s the name of a prison. I am suspicious that Ed knows this.

Here’s a list of things that wikipedia says are known as “Brown Betty”: a pudding, a horse, a flower, a teapot, and an episode of Fringe. Obviously Esther just means some drugs but it’s more fun to explore, isn’t it?

Do we all know who Mata Hari is? Probably. “A sexy spy,” anyway.

I don’t think it is gibberish, what Dean’s saying, but unfortunately I do find it quite boring as a sentence, if not a concept, so it’s hard to be sure.

Twenny-five p for three words sounds like one hell of a rate. Steve, can I get 25p/three words?

Of course you can! This is the comics industry, where money is rampant and plenty for all!

Page 6:
KitKat Chunkies are really big, Susan is noshing like a champ. They’re like… giant KitKat, only you only get one finger? An experiment that went too far. Susan, desist!!

If I pretend that “big romance on campus” is, as a phrase, designed here as a reference to the TV show Big Wolf on Campus, can we just think about Big Wolf on Campus for a minute? That’d be nice. I mean, there was a yelling rumpled one (the werewolf), a cute kicky goth, and another one — that’s practically the Giant Days core cast. Right? Right? Definitely on purpose.

More than Words by Extreme is a sad song about not being able to fix a neglected relationship by just saying “I love you.” Susan.

Page 7:
I love archaeologists! Conceptually! I also like how both of these professors are chesty-hairy. Sarin always gives us body hair detail — I really appreciate that about her work. It’s good because it’s true! People have that, and we get to see it. There’s never a boring crowd scene in Giant Days.

“Fun” t-shirts: Ponytail friend’s says “[not legible] [picture of shovel] DIG IT?” Because they’re on a dig! Jolly good. Daisy’s says “IT’S TEAM TIME”, which may (or may not… but MAY and I say thee now IS) be a “reference” to the show Time Team, in which archaeologists dig a hole, often in the rain. Here it’s rearranged, because Daisy is a nice girl who loves teamwork. Bless.

Page 8:
A mattock is a pretty murderous tool, and green shirt is not seen holding one. Shall we forgive this?? Adjourn later for the vote.

Page 9:
Look at this comic, teaching you words. That’s actually how most of us DO learn words, so I’m not being facetious at all (I know it’s hard to tell) when I say “what a nice thing to do.”

Esther worries she will not receive her pound because a lot of “make money doing this one easy clicking screen thing!” notions are scams. When I was at uni it was mostly “get money by filling in these surveys!” and: did I get money? Did I heck.

Still very distracted by the calendar illustration. It’s so dynamic!

Page 10:
CAN U DIG IT? Pop Will Eat Itself asked us this in 1989. Do we know the answer? No. It’s a question we continue to ask.

Multitools are inherently funny, aren’t they? Even just the word. It sounds foolish. In some ways it is a foolish idea. But Daisy deserves to keep her own property, whether it’s foolish, or Swiss, or anything. What a wicked man.

Page 11:
People imagining what other people are probably saying, like the multitool, contains an inherent comedy. It’s what Drunk History was all about, and it’s what panel two is all about as well. Over-masculine men: what do they discuss? It must be fish, and things like that. Things people perform knowledgeability about. Oh, ar.

You could sew with a sausage, if you had a largely holey enough fabric. I’d imagine this is the case.

A good teacher never removes the student from the work!

Page 12:
Is there a real book called DIANA? Well yeah, there are probably like fifty. Do any of them have this cover? Don’t work me to death! I guess we could make up a story like, Susan is reading a Princess Di book because she is identifying with the publicly jilted princess, in this scene where she meets her ex accidentally. I like it. That’s canon, now.

McGraw is some sort of emotional butcher maniac. “You should come.” You should go to hell, maybe??

Page 13:
Do NOT look up breakfast in a can, if you aren’t already somebody who partakes in such a ritual. It is, as it says, exactly what it is.

It’s nice that Daisy’s coursemates are friendly and caring! Your immediate friends aren’t the only nice people in the world. Good, true fact.

Daisy is reaching the end of her rope, which is something that feels rare. Good to have it established here, before later events unfold!

Page 14:
Sun Tzu’s Art of War. You’ve already heard of it from other fiction!

Fresh air is good for you, and it makes you fall asleep. That’s really true as well! Don’t believe me? Go camping.

Editor’s note: camping is not advised by, nor is it the recommendation of, Shelfdust, and Claire’s views are her own and not those of this website.

Page 15:
It’s awful to have a principle. It just creates so much TROUBLE. For yourself!

Angel investors are people who just give you money when no-one else will. It sounds bonkers, because it is. It’s probably all a way to get away with all sorts of crimes. But if we go around believing that out loud, we’ll never be able to get any money to do anything. This is the struggle of capitalism: you gotta believe people will be nice to you and not mean, but they turn out to be mean.

Not to be confused with an Angel Investigator, which is just David Boreanaz in a jacket.

Page 16:
Scoop-san has “the scoop,” ha ha!

Sometimes, when a woman gets pushed too far, she will go on fire and fly. This happens fairly often in both comics and in life. You may wish to See Also: Dark Phoenix, if you like good stories in comic form.

Page 17:
Daisy lays it out, and does not succumb to the pleasures of evil. She’s a pure-hearted girl.

Page 18:
Male archaeologists in the field wear that hat. Female ones wear a blue top. There are just rules, in nature, that we obey.

Page 19:
The Cobden View is a real pub in Sheffield. They have acoustic sets on Thursdays, so now you know what day this comic is set during!

“Hey nonny-nonny” is the “babe/baby” of currently-imagined pre-modern english songs. Just wang one in there! Am I using “pre-modern” wrong? If yes, try and relax your brain enough that you can see what I mean. Anyway, Shakespeare used it at least once, and it’s in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and it’s also here. What it means is “look at how old-fashioned I am, I am signifying my rural ancientness.” I don’t entirely recognise why he’s dressed like ZZ Top but there is indeed something of the farmerishness about him, if sort of American, which is also congruent with the feelings ”old” and “country.”

Look how real all the people in the crowd are. Glamorous young professionals. Regular Guy on the very far right. Student crowd of sort of shy but mutually compassionate people behind McGraw. So good!

Andalusia is an autonomous community in southern Spain! Emilia is from Bilbao, which is in the north! Susan is WRONG. Could this be because she is also “being a wrong’un,” by stalking her ex’s new happiness? Or is that just a bonus? Either way: bad night for Suze.

Page 20:
She does, I must say, describe her passion for McGraw very compellingly. A beautiful boy I cannot have! That’s a shame and a tragedy, which are both pleasant to imagine.

Should I say something like “would Emilia withstand the pressure of burning down in Paris” here? Probably not. The Notre Dame fire was a loss. But it was gothic architecture, see, so, see? Yeah. It’s nice when Allison’s characters mention architecture (Shauna of Bad Machinery being enamoured with Brutalism)—it’s always directly related to persona or character details, which allows the reader to understand BOTH elements in play. That’s generous!

Susan mentions beads, which we do not see Emilia wear. Maybe she’s hallucinating, or maybe they’re on the bottom of her skirt (plausible), or maybe they’re just metaphorical. The important thing is that Susan is having a nice time being bitter. We all need that, time to time.

Page 21:
Esther has very bare bed walls, this issue. This seems out of character! I assume it’s a matter of being low on time rather than a delivery of character information.

The Mechanical Turk was a showpiece much like the fortune teller in Big, except that instead of doing weird magic on you it played chess against you. It was also neither magic nor computationally mechanical; there was a person hiding in it, doing the thinking. It was made by a Hungarian to impress an Austrian, and calling it a Turk was an orientalist choice (which Big of course shares) based on visual associations. So, Esther is describing how Dean is presenting others with the face of a machine that can rewrite papers, but which contains no computational function of its own because Esther and Ed are the ones “moving the chess pieces” (accurately changing the words).

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Esther is just referring to the company Amazon Mechanical Turk. Which, like Soylent, is an example of someone saying “I think I’ll name my exploitative business idea after a popularly known scam. People will like that.”

>Ed Gemmell chest rug ~~~ Lovely gown, too, Ed. Very plush!

Page 23:
Ed turns away from justice to protect his own interests. Ed, Ed. For shame.

Japanese Knot-Weed (actually just knotweed!) is a plant that arrived on Britain and was like “I can grow the FUCK outta here!!” And then it did. It’s quite bad for bio-diversity, as it grows densely and spreads unexpectedly — it’s actually a legal offence to allow it to get a footing in the wild, now, and if you’re selling a house you have to notify your buyer that you have it. It’s harder to dig out than dandelions! It also feels pretty bad to talk about because, with the name “Japanese,” it feels like it’s talking about people, and that just slides a mind right into thinking about colonialism and legacy sin. Or maybe that’s just me?

Anyway, leg hair too from Ed. Very nice.


Giant Days #17

Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
Inked by Liz Fleming
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell

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