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
A part of being a medical student is that you have to see dead people at various stages in the whole “death” process. A big deal is made of the first time you’re taken off to the morgue to see your first body, and most medical students tell me that their instructor deliberately chose a particularly gross one just to add to the experience.
In Britain all our horses smoke pipes after 5pm, typically whilst reading the Evening Standard. Buncha Tories, the lot of ’em.
At the point where Susan realises that this is clearly a dream, things warp immediately just for a split second before she wakes up. Dream Warps would be a good name for a Vertigo series, likely written by Neil Gaiman.
An old-fashioned kettle, warmed on a stove, will whistle as it starts to reach boiling point – it’s a very Mary Poppins sort of thing. We have electric kettles now, although I’m told that America hasn’t reached an understanding on the matter yet. Do you still use stove kettles, you Victorians?
Nell is a 1994 movie starring Jodie Foster as a woman raised in the absolute wilderness by her mother. When her mum – spoiler – dies, Nell is found by Professor Liam Neeson who is fascinated by her use of language, which isn’t affected by society and is hard to understand and work through. Jodie Foster basically got paid to growl at a lot of people, which is a dream gig for many.
Esther decides to use that most upper-class of games – Charades – as the basis of her linguistic model. Esther is an English student, it should be remembered.
Ah! A nine-panel grid! Finally Giant Days reaches Kingian levels of value. Let us all gather round and study the power of the nine-panel grid, children, we might finally all learn something about art!
What a simple, no-frills, snot trail. Poor Susan. Maybe I’m not ready to talk about high art in this series.
In very cold countries, touchscreens aren’t a very good idea because of frostbite and all that. So! Apparently sausages – or, as most declare, a Pepperami – are able to translate as organic material and so a phone will recognise if you jab it with one. This is a real thing: you can use a sausage in place of your real fingers, which will presumably be wrapped up nice in gloves should you ever be in Siberia.
Terry’s All Gold are dark chocolates. Dark chocolate isn’t very nice to eat, so it’s presumably medicinal in some way. I also get the impression that Boom wouldn’t be allowed to use the Lucozade brand name even though that’s the only true medicine this godforsaken country has ever known.
Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. I don’t know what that means. Nature Vs Nurture or something like that, probably.
Ghoul next door is a reference to the seminal movie for 14 year old boys (and girls – I see you) called The Girl Next Door. Many a lonely teenager has a VHS lurking on their shelf, tucked next to Road Trip and the first two American Pie movies.
If you work in a useful field like electrics, you own a white van. It’s a rule in Britain. You probably have a little ladder attached to the back door even though there’s no reasonable need for you to ever stand on the roof.
Look at that arm hair! What an absolute specimen.
There isn’t a brand of beer called “manly beer”, although it would be very popular if there were. Big Geoff probably goes for a Boddingtons.
St. Vitus’ dance is a euphemism for Sydenham’s chorea, which is a disorder that makes you jerk and twist your hands and feet as an uncontrollable reflex. Apparently there are cases reported where doctors were able to cure people of the disorder by, uh, giving them a fever.
“Flipping brutal” is a brilliant turn of phrase.
A storm force score is the marker for how strong a wind is going to be before it hits the shore. A storm force warning gets ordered if there’s going to be a hurricane – storm force is also the name of seemingly ever other paintball company in England. I’m told by Shelfdust patron Rob Brewer that technically a “hurricane” (Beaufort scale force 12) is greater again than “storm” (force 10-11). I don’t think any of us expected to learn so much about storms today, but I’m glad we did!
Milady is the correct form of address for any posh French lady – most famously, Milady de Winter, one of the villains encountered by the Three Musketeers.
If my eyes are working correctly, can you see that slight smudge in the colouring Jim Campbell gives to Susan’s first fake cough? It’s just slightly off-black, and adds to the pretence.
Have you ever seen Susan look so angelic before? Daddy’s little princess, clearly.
One of the mythic snacks shown here is a pack of Revels – little chocolate balls, each of which has something different in the middle. Will you get a raisin? Caramel? What if you get a pure chocolate? Oh the joys of revels.
Being at University gives you an independence which makes you realise how much you love both independence and being waited on hand-and-foot by your family.
Ed’s glasses really are bonkers. Look at those massive things!
At the canteen, Esther has a juicebox and Daisy has a bottle of juice – see how they’re infantilized! Ed, on the other hand, is casually necking some kind of energy drink, because he is independent and unhealthy.
Another thing – Ed looks like a mess, as always, whereas Susan looks happy, healthy, and calm – that’s the influence of a parent.
Daisy and Esther pounce on Susan via a classic pincer movement, cutting her off from both sides.
The skeleton watches on, but is unable to interfere. Such is the pledge of a skeleton.
Phoebus is one of the many names used for Apollo, Greek God of the Sun and minor recurring Wonder Woman foe.
Max Sarin cuts out the background images when Susan has her realisation about their next-door neighbour. Ooh, get me, I’m a regular Strip Panel Naked! Noticing stuff about artistic choices and everything, how fancy and unexpected!
The Acheron river forms the border of Hell in Greek literature, so if you want to get yourself down there you have to pay a bloke on a little wooden boat so he’ll row you over. Things were simpler back then, and more elegant. Nowadays you probably get on a Cunard.
Big Geoff! He climbs gates! He breaks windows! All-action! If you’re into your DILFs you’re having a grand old time today.
Big Geoff also seems to increasingly be dressing like a student, rather than a dad. Is that a college jacket he’s wearing?
RIP neighbour guy. Nobody really liked you but you did have a stuffed owl.
Tiny touch, but the ambulance has the name “ambulance” in mirror-writing on it’s bonnet, just as it does in real life! Such attention to detail! You can’t stop me from noticing these things, Hassan! I am the new arbiter of minor artistic choices from now on! I’m going to notice EVERYTHING FROM NOW ON.
In Australia, “coo-ee” is used to attract the attention of birds, because Australians are always chasing after birds for some reason. In the UK, it’s just a way to get the attention of your neighbour Phyllis because you want to invite her round for scones and gossip.
Susan’s representation of what happened may have been affected by her recent hallucinations.
Big Geoff takes the idea of his daughter as being a murderer straight on the chin. “right you are” he says, which is the English way of rolling up your sleeves. He’s about to sit his daughter down and straight-up school her on some emotional issues, bro!
But interestingly, he goes to check with the paramedic first. He consoles Susan by telling her that the neighbour died of a stroke, rather than infection – so he’s only actually telling her that she’s not a murderer because it’s the honest truth. Interesting!
For more of the angel of death, check out the cover to Giant Days issue #24. Hey, that’s this issue! Shelfdust’s patrons tell me that this cover is potentially original series artist Lissa Treiman’s last artistic contribution to the series. What a way to finish!
A stiff drink = alcohol. But not beer or wine – a stuff drink is something like a whisky. Something that’ll put hairs on your arms.
They’ve headed to a local pub, which isn’t like the pubs you saw in The World’s End: pubs in Britain are cheapo affairs now, and in all honesty they’re probably in a Wetherspoons right now.
Truculence is not something you’d associate with Big Geoff: it’s belligerence, hostility, etc. Big Geoff is lovely! He can’t have a hidden dark side, can he?
Big Geoff (I shall never call him Susan’s dad) gets the full Wetherspoons experience whilst he’s there: getting on the fruit machine to have a bit of a gamble, see if he can’t win a million pounds out a machine that’s stood out in the open in Sheffield.
This is a very sweet page.
Some might think it sad that only four people came to his funeral, but this strikes me as a life magnificently well lived. No family, constant access to Airfix, and three little tarts next door to glare angrily at. What more could the Golden Generation have wanted for?
Oh, I’m meant to be annotating this. Airfix models are deconstructed kits of vehicles like planes, trains, tanks and boats. You get a set of instructions and some glue, and your job is to work through and assemble the plastic bits and pieces into a whole. It’s like if Lego were staggeringly hard.
Esther’s veil has waited longingly for this day. Likewise Daisy’s mourning gloves. Susan is just in a coat.
Probably Esther’s finest moment. Bask in it.
Giant Days #24
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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