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
If you like the cover by Lissa Treiman, you’d probably enjoy her Shortbox comic Minotaar, which is set in an IKEA!
Oh no. The lads have decided to have a big one for the last night in their student accomodation. That’s a rental, so there’s no way in hell they’re going to get any of that deposit back. Not everybody cares about the deposit, though – especially boys, to be honest. The switch in our head flicks away from “financial security” and towards “let’s cause wanton damage”. It’s almost like you’re paying a fee for the privilege of being able to smash up a house with no other lasting repercussions.
“Danny the Tank” evokes Frank the Tank, Will Ferrell’s character in Old School. Frank was a normal middle-aged man who decided to reclaim his youth and ended up killing off his marriage in the process. Old School is one of those films where every woman is either a horny student or a complete shrew, though, so it all ended up for the best for him.
When the police show up at your home in England, it’s different to when they show up to a house party in America. The one constant? White kids always get away with it. These lads will probably get a minor viral video out of this whole debacle and that’ll be the end of it.
Old Faithful is a cone geyser in Yellowstone National Park, so named because it’s eruptions are incredibly predictable. Calling your chair that means that it must have always been there for these boys, through good times and bad. And they still wreck it. Boys are bad people, never forget that.
The bins round the side of the house are blue. I was furious about this until Patron Rob Brewer informed me that not only are there blue bins in Sheffield – but red and purple ones too?! I’m furious with Sheffield council, this is a circus!!
Is it possible to buy Susan’s shirt?
frou-frou fantomes is a reference to Instagrammer Ghoul Next Door – you can find their curation here.
Daisy is still working through her feelings about ghosts.
Turns out the boys superglued everything back together as a last-minute bodge job to protect their security deposit. I once had to buy a sampler pot of paint so I could paint over a few cracks I left in the wall of my flat. It worked!
Ashton Kutcher is, at the time of writing, not dead. He might be dead spiritually to Daisy, however. Last I knew, he was happily married to Mila Kunis and had a dodgy moustache.
“Selling a pup” means “con someone”.
As we flashback to the boys, we see our hero walk in with a Captain America shirt on and a cap of superglue in hand. Truly an icon for this modern age.
Having a “rager” might mean something else in your dirty mind, but Esther’s saying it to mean that they had a mad party and broke everything themselves. It’s unlikely that people would have caused so much damage within twenty minutes or arrival, but you can’t put anything past a tenant.
IKEA!! The blue and gold, the winding roads of triumph. IKEA is the go-to shop if you want functional, flatpack furniture at short notice. Half my current bookcases are from IKEA. Last time I moved flat I couldn’t fit some of them into the car… so I just destroyed them. I’ll just buy more!
Esther comes from a very specific type of family – the type who are ignorant to the joys of IKEA and get all their stuff from second-hand furniture places. You lose the function that IKEA offers, but you get stuff that looks like it should belong in a real home rather than a warehouse.
Very neat mid-page transition here as the girls walk past McGraw’s accomodation. See how he waves to Daisy as they pass? The scene then moves indoors. Brilliant stuff.
I think Ed’s hair is getting more out of control now he’s had more time away from his parents’ tidy influences.
Charles Mingus was a jazz musician who is part of the national curriculum. You have to listen to his music at some point during your time at school, which is perhaps why he’s the musician of choice for this particular venture. What a classy, dignified life these two live. Wouldn’t you like to have such a life?
Let’s do a “Who Do You Think You Are” for Esther. Her surname, DeGroot, is indeed of Dutch origin. It’s one of the most common surnames in the country, in fact, and means “tall person” – which Esther does live up to.
And IKEA lives up to all expectations, as anybody in this country will be able to tell you. A wonderland, it is very easy to walk in and get immediately distracted by the furnishing arrangements. A seasoned shopper like Susan or Daisy is required in order to navigate such tempting terrain.
I’m just going to assume all these items are real. I’m not going to check the IKEA website to make sure because I’ll end up buying a three-piece sofa set I don’t need.
IKEA, on top of everything else, is a labyrinth designed to make you lose all track of time and space. You can see the girls quickly leave behind their reality and enter a complex and incredibly dense fantasy punctuated by Esther’s affairs with her stablehand.
I bet there’s a load of puppets I’m not recognising (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write) but there’s definitely some muppets in there, a Pokemon, Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, and… nope, I can’t find out what “be my Andy” means. Anybody?
I don’t know if you can get a good job even despite the albatross of an English degree 😦
One of the key parts of a visit to IKEA is the meal at the end. IKEA meatballs are infamous – if you go there, you have to stop at the cafe at the exit and have meatballs. It’s a rule of British life.
We’ve all done it: you go to the shops and buy something only to realise that you can’t really carry it, and now you’re going to kill your back trying to lug the whole thing back home.
“Ducks” is a term of endearment, although I didn’t know it was used in Sheffield. Always seemed more like a Mancunian term to me.
East Anglia is flat. I went there earlier this year to do a talk about comics. Very flat, so it is.
Do other countries have Rice Krispies? Oh surely you do, you’re all civilised, aren’t you? Little bits of crispy rice, float them in milk, chop up a banana, there’s your breakfast.
The girls have the right technique for flatpack furniture: you take everything out of the bag and line them up in distinct sections, so you can find them later when needed and you don’t use the wrong size screw. THEN (and ONLY then) do you open the instructions. Note the Allen key – that’s a great touch. You always get one of those from IKEA.
More blue bins!!! SHEFFIELD!!
I’m pretty sure you only “scrimshaw” ivory – it’s the art of carving directly into ivory bone or tusk or horn or whatever. It’s also a verb which I guarantee only John Allison would ever think to invent.
We get an early look at some of the troubles going on next door to the girls. Their neighbour is having a bit of a Jurassic Park moment, as their clanging and banging of the furniture makes his tea shudder and shake.
This is one of the hardest parts of IKEA assembly – putting on the back panel, which has to be nailed in place. This never goes according to plan, and if you’ve ever done it properly I demand you take photographic proof and post it in the comments. Until I see that comment section fill up, I will never believe that this act is achievable!!
Daisy is understandably very worried about getting a screwdriver in the eye.
“House Beautiful” is a magazine in the UK which does basically exactly what you would expect it to. That is to say, it shows you photos of very nice houses and tricks you into thinking you have the DIY skills/budget to replicate said houses yourself. Do not be fooled!
There’s more Jurassic Park, as Esther quotes the signature Jeff Goldblum line “nature finds a way”. I don’t think Jeff intended that to mean “let’s do some flytipping”.
Do you see what colour that bin is? DO YOU??
Their neighbour looks like the guy from Home Improvement who lived next door and never showed his face for some reason.
Look how wide-eyed and innocent that first-year looks. These are mere children, unready for the cruel world they’re headed out into.
The “new first years” joke works as a sort of callback to Bad Machinery: The Case of the Lonely One – Rob Brewer
After fluking her way through first year, Esther is looking to put a solid 1/3 of her effort into her studies. As an English student, she’ll probably be fine with that. 33.3% is probably overdoing it, to be honest. I only had like four hours a week of work during my second year – it was all “go off and write some poetry” or “start a comics blog because you’re bored and have nothing to do all day” for me. And now look where we are. At least I’m not reciting poetry at you, eh.
Oh no. Ingrid awaits…
And so does Dean. Two nightmares in stereo.
The ghost of coffee makers past flies off. How many bananas did he try to stuff in that thing before determining it doesn’t work?
This is golden stuff. A euphonium? Nobody has one of those! It’s the sort of instrument someone would bring into primary school one day, everybody would gawp at it, nobody would be able to make any noise from it, and then we’d all move on with our lives and never consider again. Nobody actually… owns one?! It doesn’t even pass the spell checker on wordpress!
The last panel of this page is how I always imagined the X-Men franchise should ultimately conclude.
Giant Days #20
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!
For those of you who didn’t see my comments on Patreon (and WHY NOT? Give the site some money) http://govbins.uk/ will show you photos of various local government issue wheelie bins in a range of colours. Sheffield has black, brown and blue bins: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/bins-recycling-services/your-bins
Page 9. Well Esther lives up to her first name too. She’s in the middle of a drama where it seems like everyone wants her to a dangerous extent. And it’s likely to lead to heavy drinking and fair odds of some people getting impaled with stakes.
Page 11. “Be my Andy..” Andy’s the boy who owns the toys in the “Toy Story” Movies. It’s a clever way to say “Take me home!”.
Page 12. This is the one scene that really screams Britain. Car ownership among American College students isn’t all that common (especially if your city is big enough to HAVE an IKEA). But any group of American Students would have knowledge of at least one “person with a truck”, who can be called in for the price of gas (and a few meatballs). Every group has one.
Page 21. Obviously you’ve never heard of “Hibike Euphonium”, a Japanese Anime series about a high-school music club. Well now you have, go watch it.
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