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
It’s Christmas! And the girls are celebrating by sticking a real, lit candle on their Christmas tree, which is a slight distraction from our lovely opening tableau. You might remember that a few issues ago the girls had a dinner party and read a bunch of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in order to get some ideas – well, the Contessa herself, Ina Garten, gets another namedrop here. Clearly the girls are big fans.
Esther seems to have been gifted a vinyl of one of her favourite bands, given how incomprehensible the calligraphy on the front is.
I thought Esther and Daisy had matching gloves on before I realised that’s just how pale Esther is.
What do we think the five words are that Daisy wants to say to her granny? Also, in case other countries don’t use the word, “granny” is a way of saying “grandma” or “grandmother”.
Susan calls her mum “mother” in her phone contact list, which clearly says a lot about their relationship. Very factual and formal stuff there. Not “mummy” or even her mum’s real name – “mother”. Potential yikes. She then goes on in her narration to call her “mummy”, which is an interesting disconnect, no? It’s a far cry from her noir narration at the start of the first year.
Mums have never really gotten texting right, have they?
Heaven help us, we’ve a bunch of sisters to work through in this issue. Bobbie is first up, currently pregnant and the one who seems to be closest to Susan. It turns out that Susan’s nickname is “baby”, which she certainly hid from her friends at Uni.
We also have Anita and Tamsin, both pregnant; Greta, recently a mother; Ellie; gone AWOL and Electra, who… uses a lot of sunbeds, it seems. Beats having a baby, I guess. I spent a long time trying to work out if they were named after a famous group of women or something – doesn’t seem so! Their Greek heritage is definitely snuck in there, though.
Bobbie is a doctor already – you have to wonder if every girl in the family has a different doctorate in something?
There’s a cute, small cartooning detail here as we see Susan’s mum has little sharp shark teeth whilst she grimaces through her binoculars. Something’s going on!
Susan’s mum grabs a meat tenderiser from the kitchen, which has to be in the top five cool kitchen tools out there today. This doesn’t seem to be her first time.
Chili isn’t really a thing in the UK like it is in America, which is why our go-to option is “Stagg Chili”, which comes in a can and you can get at ASDA. It didn’t make this list of the top eight canned chilis available, but I still think you should read the list just because of the overwhelming amount of detail it goes into. Who would’ve known there was so much to say about Chili?
Big Geoff has been stocking up on pies and tinned meats. He also has a dartboard! That’s cool.
Amazon dash buttons are this whole world I never knew existed. You buy one and stick it to the wall – for example a button for “Nerf Guns”, which apparently exists – and then each time you want more, uh, Nerf Guns ordering you press the button and it automatically buys one from Amazon. All the thought and consideration of a weekly food shop budget is happily tossed aside in favour of instant gratification. This wall of buttons does not bode well.
Auto Trader Magazine was closed down in 2013, and this issue came out in 2017. You have to assume that Big Geoff has been using these buttons for a very long time, then.
Interesting to see that Big Geoff is a smoker as well. We didn’t see that back when he was showing off for Daisy and Esther!
The original series of Charmed was about three sisters who find out that they’re witches, and is one of the best television shows of all time. It also led to almost certainly the best Television without Pity recap series, which partially inspired Shelfdust’s creation to begin with. Once Susan finishes Charmed she could consider watching the Charmed remake, which I think is currently still on air.
Is there anything more joyous than the sight of Daisy’s granny staring in wonder at her freshly made cakes?
Did you notice that giant bunny rabbit has returned to its rightful home on Susan’s bed? Big Geoff must have brought it to University just to make Susan happy when she was ill.
A charabanc is a very old-fashioned sort of car, the sort of thing you see in Peaky Blinders. There’s a chance Esther’s family actually have one, to be honest. The first charbancs were pulled by horses, until that whole “engine” business saw the horses off and made them all redundant.
Daisy’s Christmas home is a thing of beauty. Somebody’s clearly been watching a lot of Sarah Beeny.
Those women appearing behind Susan are, of course, the original cast of Charmed: Alyssa Milano, Shannon Doherty, and Holly Marie Combs.
I’m writing this in the past, September 2019, so hopefully by now you’ll be able to take a guided Giant Days tour of Northampton. If this is the case then here’s the menu for The Lamplighter, so you can plan ahead for your trip.
Susan is the only one round the table to have bought an alcoholic drink. Just pointing it out!
I’m not explaining the concept of “a Brazilian” to you.
Greta’s baby appears to be Steven Universe.
Anita’s husband says she has feet like a cheese grater, which begs the question: what is Anita doing with her feet that he’d notice that??
There’s a blurred sign on the back wall advertising Boddingtons. I bloody called it last month! Boddingtons, everybody!!
Susan’s hereto-unseen friends appear! One of them has a ridiculous hat. What a comic.
“Drunk as a lord” is a phrase which is used here because it’s far more polite than the more colloquial expression “drunk as a c***”. Ahem. Just saying. McGraw looks immaculate for a drunk, although that tattoo is worrying. Who would’ve thought he’d be the one to get the awkward university tattoo, out of all of them?
Boom Studios are the current publishers using the Peanuts license, which is why he can appear here in alarm clock form.
Seeing those stockings all in a row, I’m now convinced that the first letter of all the girls in the household is an anagram for… something. But what??
Susan’s home life does nothing to betray her modern-day status as a noir cynic. Unicorn PJs, easy bake ovens, cuddly toys – and an obsession with a balance bird toy. None of this is what we were led to expect, and it’s brilliant. So many layers to this modern-day Philip Marlowe.
Current Susan has moved past Christmas, it seems. This is why my parents insist the whole family stay in on Christmas Eve and play Monopoly rather than go off out drinking somewhere: they need to reign us in for the following morning.
Susan’s beer goggles fail her, it appears. Excellent cartooning from Sarin – not just with the wonky McGraw, but that reaction page where she realises something important happened last night and she just can’t remember it.
I thought that Charmed poster was some sort of visualisation that was just in Susan’s head. Nope! You can see it here. She has an actual Charmed poster in her room.
Susan downs some of the orange juice straight from the cartoon before her mother – predicting this – hands her a glass so she’ll be more hygienic.
Susan’s mum (do we know her name?) is an entire mood board on this page. What an aspirational gossip-loving icon.
Kala Christouyenna is “Merry Christmas” in Greek, in case you hadn’t guessed. Now we both know how to celebrate the holiday with our Greek chums! Hurray!
I’m glad to see we’ve returned to more traditional green wheelie bins outside the house. Susan’s yaya has a very neat little car, top marks.
As far as I can tell, Greek tradition is to not decorate a Christmas tree in the extravagant way most households do – which is shown here, neatly.
Kallikantzaroi are Greek Christmas Goblins. WHAT A BRILLIANT CHRISTMAS INNOVATION. You have to keep the fire burning through Christmas in order to ward them off – luckily yaya has a cross so she can perform a quick exorcism.
She also has a bottle of holy water to hand, so it’s nice to see she’s always prepared for the eventuality of Christmas Goblins attacking.
The Christmas jumpers have come out – a vital part of tradition. It was shocking that nobody was wearing them in the pub the night before, very untoward behaviour.
Look at the little manga stars glowing away inside Ricky’s eyes. Look at his little gap tooth. Look at how many hearts flow out his face as he gets given his orders. What an effectively cute child.
Lego. Do you see that, America? It’s called LEGO. IT’S NOT PLURALISED. IT’S SINGULAR. REMEMBER THIS, AMERICA
A Proustian memory – named for French writer Marcel Prous – is a sudden rush of unconscious memory. It’s when you suddenly are reminded of something you’d completely forgotten about except in your most remote subconscious, and feeling that memory jolted creates a tangible, almost physical reaction. Big Geoff does not appear to have had that full jolt as Susan intended.
Greta looks completely wrecked, bless her. Little Stevie Universe is loving that mistletoe, though.
Those shark teeth return as we get a look into the secret origin of Susan’s mum hating Christmas. It can be a really tough time for people, because there is an awful lot of compromise required.
The vacant, tired stare as she just dumps the rest of the cakes onto the tiered cake stand is outstanding.
Yaya sees all.
Oh god, another grandchild. This one appears to be a pirate as well.
Another thing I really like here is how Sarin adds in various assorted members of the family who aren’t named, have no dialogue, but are just wandering around. There’s children at the table we don’t know, assorted husbands wandering around – it adds to the feeling of orderly chaos that makes Christmas what it is.
This isn’t a standard length comic! Blimey, bonus page content.
“Sweet Christmas” is the catchphrase for Luke Cage, a Marvel character Esther knows all about now she works in a comics shop.
That’d be the Krampus offering Esther a gift here, with Santa having been summarily executed by her parents prior. Susan has quite the imagination but she’s possibly not wrong.
Esther’s got a Christmas chocolate box – 50p says they’re Guylian Seashells, the connoisseur’s choice.
Is it too much to hope that Susan has a Charmed dustbin in her room?!
McGraw’s dog has three tails. This feels symbolic…
Giant Days #25
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!