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
We join the girls post-Halloween, as Esther takes down a giant cuddly spider from the ceiling, complete with webs artfully, uh, nailed to the roof. No wonder that ceiling is looking a bit ropey, if they keep hammering nails into it. There are a few notably toys hanging out round the room, including a bunch of extra skeletons and pumpkins. Most notable is a little Cassie Hack doll sat on top of the TV. Cassie Hack is the star of the long-running Tim Seeley comic Hack/Slash, and is joined on the TV by a little doll of her friend Vlad, complete with his gas mask thingy.
I can’t place the skeleton head on the shelf, which I’m sure I’ve seen before somewhere! Where have I seen that before??
Doctor Who is, of course, a British institution, one of the longest-running science-fiction television shows of all time. There isn’t a character called Billy the Wasp – when a giant wasp did appear, his name was Arnold, and he wasn’t very nice at all.
Susan’s description of a comic shop is the standard one: there are countless stories of “norms” walking into a shop, finding it impenetrable and filled with grotty people, and swearing off the entire industry. There are three comics shops in Leeds near me, and I’m happy to report that only two out of three of them are grotty and off-putting. And that ain’t bad!
Big Garf is Garfield, Jim Davis’ lazy creation who stars in an eponymous comic book strip which has been syndicated since the 1970s. Garfield is a whole industry by himself now, Davis being one of those few cartoonists to have made serious bank off his comics. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Garfield book for sale anywhere – least of all in a comics shop.
I wish that speech bubble in the second panel wasn’t there. I really want to see what was on that poster.
Daisy knows she’s gay, but that’s not the same as living an out gay lifestyle, if you know what I mean? She’s still a bit unsure of her steps – and sure, Ingrid is a bit off-putting, but that’s not the main reason Daisy is so reluctant to bring her back to the main flat.
Esther is delighted she can stop working early.
This page is a delight for anybody stocking up on images of Susan’s big mad face. Every panel brings a new winner to the situation, thanks to Max Sarin. I hope by the time this article goes up Max is on a multi-million book deal of some kind.
Do you ever think Mysterio gets ill? He’s set everything up for a big score, he’s all ready to go – then wakes up that morning and is so ill he can’t get out the front door without having a misted-up tank over his head.
Ah, the sophomore slump. Not only a great album by Grandaddy, but a real thing which happens to people all the time. It’s the idea that the second time round doing anything is always a letdown in comparison to the first. You glorify the first time round, and you keep comparing your current circumstances to those rose-tinted memories. In England it’s apparently called “second year blues”, but I listen to Grandaddy so I call it the American name.
Susan is not coping well. As a doctor she should know better – but also, doctors never know better. They take less care of themselves than anyone else on Earth. Go to bed, Doctors reading this article! Stop staring at a screen!
I don’t know who the frog person head is. Sorry! I’m really struggling with all these heads today!
This whole idea is a bad idea, and you can tell it’s come from the girl with posh parents. You can’t solve everything with a dinner party – as a matter of fact, dinner parties only ever make anything worse. Have you ever seen a movie where a dinner party ends well? No. It’s always “somebody dies” or “somebody realises their husband is having an affair” and it’s always stressful as flip.
The hot water bottle is such a neat touch. Do people have those in other countries? In England, because it’s always so cold, we have rubber things you fill with hot water and then rest on you when you feel ill, and it’s a national placebo.
American cooking shows are leaving their mark on the younger generation. We get food channels now where Americans dig a hole in the desert, chuck a pig in there, and then five hours later the entire town comes round to eat it with sweetcorn and/or mac&cheese.
Daisy creates a very quick venn diagram to see what the best food choices might be. She hasn’t an idea who is going to the party, but she’s already worked out the one thing anyone can eat – and god knows nobody is going to want to eat that. Veef is an Australian plant-based burger. Not exactly dinner party material.
Cornichons are pickles. Of course McGraw eats pickles when he’s walking round the house.
Every so often an article does the rounds which explains men can’t find anything in the fridge because of biology or something. That’s no true: we’re just useless. Biology doesn’t come into it.
McGraw’s life is a nightmare. I hate everything about this page.
By comparison, the house here is much more my sort of thing. Looking good! The Hesperus – Ed is showing his English studies here – is a reference to a work by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It basically means it looks like a storm has ravaged everything.
“Ablutions” normally means your morning wash, shave, etc. In Dean’s case, I think it may be something a bit more toilet-centric.
The kernel is a computer program that is the core of a computer’s operating system, with complete control over everything in the system. On most systems, it is one of the first programs loaded on start-up (after the bootloader). I stole that entirely from Wikipedia – come at me, Jimmy Wales.
Either Dean bought all his material at the same place, or he’s ripped down one of the curtains to make himself a dressing gown.
Let’s do a book report!
- First we see “Cooking for Jeffrey”, a Barefoot Contessa cookbook where she tells you all about the things she likes to cook for her husband. Classic, essentials type stuff, even if Jeffrey should make more of an effort.
- Rodeo Style is, um made up? I think.
- “Store Bought Will Do” isn’t a book, but it does refer to another quote by Ina Garten, the aforementioned Contessa.
I wonder if that pen came from Esther’s time at the musical festival a few issues ago?
That really is a very low letterbox. Postal workes have to be so agile.
Esther is so stunned by the goth stuffed birds that she has a narrative caption. Rare!
“Dukakis Monteforte” is a reference to Rachel Dukakis-Monteforte, heiress to a biscuit fortune. She was one of the characters of John Allison’s webcomic series Bobbins, where apparently she got thrown off a bridge to her death but then sold her soul to the devil for another shot at life.
The girls are entertaining the guests pre-meal, as per fancy tradition. They’re both in their aprons in case they need to dash back into the kitchen at any moment.
We’ve already discussed scrimshawing, but it’s the art of carving patterns into bones. This is, well, a more ominous appearance of the verb than we’ve had prior.
Daisy – who is actually doing the cooking here, it seems – is the only one not wearing an apron. Again, this is all tradition.
Hulk and Wolverine have fought several times, including in Wolverine’s first-ever appearance in comics. Typically it goes very badly for Wolverine until they work out their misunderstandings and team up against whoever the real villain is. In reality, the winner of this fight would be Wolverine. I will not explain my methodology.
Superman would beat Thor. Complain in the comments section.
I had to cite that damn Larry Niven essay in my Masters Dissertation. Basically, he thought about the idea of Superman and Lois Lane having sex, and that his super-strength and, um, uncontrolled reflexive climax during sex would result in him killing her. Larry Niven: get out more, mate. It got memorably reversed in the recent Amazon Prime series The Boys but, yeah, people should stop thinking about these mechanics to be honest.
Dean is furious that Susan is dying in front of him. Really, he’s quite livid.
This probably should have been the end of Daisy and Ingrid’s relationship, and yet. “Prost! Zum Wohl!” means “Cheers” To your good health!”, which is an added dig at poor Susan. Max Sarin absolutely nails every reaction.
Every dinner party features somebody crying in a bathroom: in this case, it’s Susan. It’s sweet of Emilia to try and offer some kind of reconciliation, but also – she did bring that bloody guitar. Who brings a guitar to someone else’s party?
Guy Fawkes Night is the 5th November. It’s the night when we have bonfires and light fireworks to celebrate the time when some Catholics failed to blow up the houses of parliament. Nowadays it’s more common for people to burn effigies of parliamentarians than of the original plotters.
Emilia raises a good point. But also, have you heard about the emissions raised by the use of superyachts?? In this essay I will…
Um, anyway. Ingrid and Daisy are sharing toffee apples – literally, apples coated in toffee and served on a stick. They’re impossible to eat and pretty grim overall. Not recommended.
Susan immediately flips her dislike for Emilia into like for Ingrid – because she doesn’t like Emilia, she has to stand in opposition to everything that Emilia offers… even the good advice which Emilia gave her earlier in the night. The use of Spanish adds insult to injury.
With most drugs illegal in the UK, there’s been a rise in “legal highs”, which if anything are usually more dangerous than the drugs they’ve been brought in to substitute for.
The neighbour doesn’t approve of these unmarried women – note how he seemed to be fine with the lads being lads only a few months earlier? Double-standards from the golden generation.
Can you have too much cheese?
Susan, enraged by being unable to smoke, brings the fire to her neighbour instead.
Written in 2006, The Road is a Cormac McCarthy novel set after the end of the world. With most of the world destroyed by some unknown force of nature, a father and son walk out on “the road”, seeking something better for themselves. I won’t spoil the novel, but it’s fair to say they certainly seek down a lot of things which don’t make things better for themselves.
Esther’s towel has a skull on it.
The comic store! Finally some easy references. The owner is seen stocking away a copy of Jem & The Holograms, which was published by IDW. I think this issue matches up with the time when Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell were on the series, which was a really good run. Batman sneaks into the background too, as Batman is wont to do.
All the comics mentioned by Esther are ones which John Allison has mentioned before in his various Scary-Go-Round stories. He’s frequently teased that he’s going to actually publish a “Robert Cop” comic, but it has yet to materialise, sadly. We’ll just have to make do with Robocop for the time being.
Daredevil lost his sight to radioactive ooze. The same ooze which then turned four turtles into teenage mutant ninja turtles!
Spider-Man got his alien back costume from spaaaaaace.
Those are some prodigiously-stuffed pants right there. This is what the people want! If that fourth panel was released in 1991 it’d make this comic the highest-selling story of all time; it’d cost £400 on Ebay, the works. Esther hasn’t really grasped what Dean was saying, but who wants to ever listen to Dean?
Dice licking is probably one of those legal highs I’ve been hearing so much about lately.
Can we tell which toothbrush belongs to which girl? I’m…. not going to try, but you weirdos should feel free to.
Giant Days #23
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.
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Page 6, the frog headed being would almost certainly be Desmond Fishman, a character from the weirder side of the Tackleford-verse. I have an idea he crops up in the background of a pub scene in one of the later Giant Days as Esther’s returned home again and navigates her way through the crowd of the “(un)usual suspects”