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. Here, then, are our annotations to help guide you through life at Sheffield University.
By Steve Morris
Boggins! Boggins is a filthy, messy dog who tends to spend a lot of time hanging out with Adam & Joe on their radio show. Although he certainly sounds like Adam doing a silly voice, Boggins is absolutely a real dog, as proved by his appearance in this comic book right here.
Why is Susan surveying a man who is just trying to eat some fudge in peace?
The girls have possibly gone to see music festival at Avon Valley, which is near Bristol. It doesn’t seem like the sort of venue which would usually host a festival, to be honest, as the website seems more invested in the idea of its adventure playground and fox collection. Who knows? Maybe Amy Winehouse did a blistering set in 2004 next to the ball pit.
There are a number of Avon valleys in the UK, not just the one here in Bristol, as there are a number of rivers called Avon (which is literally the old Celtic word for river). The valley of the Avon in the midlands that runs through Stratford-on Avon was, for a few years in the 90s, the location of the Phoenix Festival – Shelfdust Patron Rob Brewer
Caligula is an infamous movie, perhaps mainly in the UK. Despite having a bunch of actual actors in it – proper ones, who perform at the theatre – it also contains full-on porn scenes. The censors didn’t care for it.
The girls have each gone for a signature outfit here. Susan is celebrating “Tenement”, a punk band from Wisconsin who have a song called “A Frightening Place For Normal People”. Seems appropriate. Esther has gone full flower-child, with open cowboy boots and no sign of a skull anywhere. A joy of festivals is that you can hide your personality for a weekend and become someone else with no consequences.
Daisy is wearing a shirt that says “music is nice”.
I’ve no idea what “sissaan vuan” means. Max Sarin explain yourself!
Susan quotes Babe‘s iconic line, delivered in the movie by James Cromwell, honourary Yorkshireman. She’s probably got the right idea about not putting a tent up – if you have a tent at a UK comics festival, you’re just asking for trouble. Somebody will bung a gas canister in there and shoot it with a flare gun or something. UK festivals are wild, lawless places.
That’s one of the characters from Steven Universe walking by in the first panel. Garnet? I think? Max Sarin strikes again.
“I’m well not bovved” is a reference to Catherine Tate’s character Lauren, who was inescapable for a while on British TV.
I like “Thunderbox” as the name of the tent in which Poison Nebula play. It was the name of a portable toilet in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy – Rob Brewer
Don’t call the lead singer of Poison Nebula a spunk, Esther.
That guy on the left is advertising a Kieron Gillen comic at a music festival! On brand.
One particularly nice touch here is that there’s not a person in the world who would be able to read the band’s logo as saying “Poison Nebula”. The more inexplicable your band logo, the more gothic metal you are. Them’s the rules.
Napster and Myspace are things from my era, kids. You don’t need to know about either.
Why is that man in catering smoking a cigar? Well clearly you’ve never seen the price of a kebab at a music festival before. Every van is run by a member of the aristocracy, reclaiming the pittance they paid us through the working year in exchange for one warm can of pop.
If you only read one comic which features a cameo appearance from Peter Gabriel, etc etc. Peter Gabriel is a prog-rock singer and worldly man who was most famous for being the original lead singer of Genesis, back when Genesis were at their most baffling. He then went on to sing a song about sledgehammers which gets played on BBC Radio 4 times and hour.
Femi Kuti is an afrobeat/jazz musician from Lagos by way of London, and a regular feature at the “world stage” enclosure of any British music fest.
This is a very sinister page, to be honest, and it’s worth raising that point. At first it seems like the cowboy is going to be a silly character, but drugging someone’s drink at a music festival is a shockingly evil thing to do. It’s the sort of thing that you wouldn’t initially have expected to see in a comic like Giant Days – but as we’ll continue to see Giant Days never actually shies away from anything. It’s part of what makes the comic so powerful.
It is implausible to have a scene where two people at a music festival meet each other at a pre-agreed place and time. This doesn’t happen in real life.
The “oh yiss” is a quick reference to Kate Beaton, one of John Allison’s contemporaries in webcomics. It comes from a strip where a seagull gets very excited about the prospect of breadcrumbs.
Daisy is right: never follow a musician to an initial location.
I’m not sure who it is in that picture on the wall of the bus, so I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s cartoonist Dan Berry.
Now that band logo makes even more sense: it was the work of amateur calligraphy enthusiasts.
I don’t think that guy’s name is actually Shinobi.
Esther quotes some Sister Sledge! Surprising choice.
Moon Drugs refers usually to something like MDMA, which is a cheap, dangerous thing, and perfect for music festivals. The UK market has a huge problem with drugs at festivals, which is why Esther and Daisy are so worried.
You have to be impressed that Susan had the wherewithal to set up a google maps pin for her current location.
Toilets at music festivals… are getting better? But they are still a warzone you should try to avoid wherever possible. Look at the tortured faces rising up out of that cloud of stink: that’s classic cartooning from Sarin.
Daisy’s hair, as if on commend, rises up like a peacock to show her increasing power and rage. Do not approach a Daisy when her hair is this commanding.
Again, Susan is aware of what’s happened to her, even if she can’t control herself right now. Woman have to be aware of this sort of thing, because men are awful and do this sort of thing all the time without consequences.
God knows what Susan’s story is meant to be, other than similar to the reading experience most of us had the first time they tried to read Pretty Deadly. It makes more sense on the reread, people!
Susan’s leg is increasingly looking like Swamp Thing. Esther is a saint for getting the wet wipes out.
Festivals are a hunting ground for charitable organisations, feeding on the left-leaning sensibilities of people who like and support modern popular culture. It can be great that they’re there, but on the other hand sometimes you don’t want to connect to the evils of the world and just want to be taken away from reality for a bit.
I googled “egg sandwich meditation” but the results weren’t what I was hoping for.
That is, indeed, the nicest thing Susan could possibly have said.
Things continue to fall apart, as the traditional downpour commences at a music festival. That means one thing: mud.
Getting round a music festival is a nightmare. Everywhere is at least 45 minutes away from anywhere else, and that’s without factoring in mud and rain.
Pukkelpop is a real festival in Belgium, which runs in August. It also has seen its fair share of mud. Roisin Murphy was there in 2008!!
Fare thee well, sweet Tarquin. I hope your parents regret paying your way into this music festival.
Daisy steps up, as Daisy is wont to do. That Brownie training really does set you up to be a real world leader. She’s also the only person who prepared for the eventuality of rain – notice how nobody else is wearing a coat apart from her?
This is a perfect page of comics.
The rain seems to be helping Susan sober up from being drugged.
Mbongwana Star are a Congolese band from Lagos. Big fan of the Lagos scene, are you, John?
Susan’s changed into a new shirt, this time supporting Home Blitz, who are an alt-rock band from New Jersey. They are, again, part of the punk scene in America.
At least the cowboy got his punishment. This whole thing was an act of God. I don’t like how easily he gets away with things here, but the panel of Susan smugly lighting up a cigarette does help.
Jake Bugg is not particularly good music, no. My sister liked him for a bit, which is how you can tell he’s not good.
That Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Fountain Pen is apparently worth something like £650! That diamond geezer with the sandwich is missing out! Then again, at festival prices, the sandwich could easily have cost £700 by itself.
Susan and her two mums. What a picture.
Giant Days #19
Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
Inked by Liz Fleming
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.
This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!
I think “sissaan vuan” might mean “come on inside” in Estonian?? I’m not Estonian but it sounds similar to “sisään vaan” which means “come on inside” in Finnish… and considering that it is a welcome mat (presumably) it would make sense
Page 3, according to Google translate “sissaan vuan” is Finnish for “in the river”. Max being Finnish that tracks but I’m not sure why somebody would have it on a sign (doormat?) outside their tent. Some kind of foreshadowing, perhaps, or simply “if you’re looking for us this is where we’ll be”. The translation may miss out on some subtlety of usage. For all I know it could colloquially mean “please wipe your feet”.
The previous commenter may have hit the nail on the head in fact.