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
Who’s that girl? That phrase has been iconic in so many places – but surely we all should take a moment to listen to Eve.
La la la la la laaaaa
Being “well thick” has a different meaning if you type it into google, so to save you the embarrassing search history let me tell you that it means “very stupid”. Reminder: please don’t google this phrase.
It looks like Esther’s tutor is actually Walter Cronkite, who was a news anchorman for CBS over in America. He was considered the most trusted man in America, although here he does seem to be valuing image over attendance – Esther is clearly late to the seminar. We trusted you, Walter!!
The 18th-century collective of Graveyard Poets are a thoroughly on-brand strain of poetry for Esther, centred as they were on things like skulls, coffins, and – duh – graveyards. Preceding Romanticism, the Graveyard Poets started off with a lot of mourning poetry but slowly started to bring in this ideal of the “uncanny” in their work. Basically the uncanny is like The Force – it’s this thing which underpins everything and connects it all. The uncanny would become the Sublime over time, and with the Sublime came transcendentalism and oh, I’m repeating my university essays now.
Esther’s question about Mary Shelley, Byron, Percy Shelley and John Polidori doesn’t take into consideration the threatening presence of Cybermen.
Skull shirts, skull broaches, skull necklaces, so many skulls! Esther rules this roost.
If Claire were still doing these, she’d tell you what that tie…thing is that Professor Lord is wearing. I’m going to call it a choking cravat because I’m ignorant.
Anna Laetitia Barbauld is a fascinating part of English literary history: she was a key Romantic poet – but she was also a critic, and when her progressive poetry dared criticise British participation in the Napoleonic Wars, the industry basically turned their backs on her. She was shunned by her fellow critics, and written out of history for years. It’s a really interesting example of how history favours the domineering voice over time – it’s only been in recent years that she’s been brought back into the conversation because of the work of feminist literary historians.
Esther joins Susan in the medical canteen – you can tell by the skeleton, but mainly by how tired everyone looks.
“Poly phonic spree” is a very clever pun. “Snowflakes bolted” is the second use of “SJW” wording in the issue after a previous page mentioned “triggering”, how very curious.
Wikipedia tells us that a madrigal is a secular vocal music composition of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six. Pentatonix are… sort of a madrigal? They’re an a cappella group from Texas who crop up every few years at Christmas to hawk a new album at us.
I went to an all-boys school and the process for selecting head boy was “pick the most Oxbridge person, and alternate between a white and not-white boy each year”. The girls’ school over the road had the process of “let them destroy one another and the survivor will become head girl”.
See how Susan’s umbrella can’t stay secure in the oncoming storm? Metaphors, people!
Oh no, what has happened to Ed.
In the Star Wars films, a “padawan” Jedi has a single weird braid to denote their training. Anakin Skywalker was such a padawan in the second film, Attack of the Clones. I don’t remember him wearing dungarees though.
It’s quite surprising that Ed is the one with an umbrella rather than Daisy, isn’t it?
“a fine boy, big and strong” would probably be a decent Tinder profile for Ed, to be honest.
The dungarees are a choice, but I think Claire would probably have appreciated them. We need to get Claire back on these annotations!!
“Me estás tomando el pelo” means “you’re kidding, right?” in Spanish. If she weren’t the enemy, she’d be the best?
“If we had no sheep, we would have no wool” is also an incredible turn of phrase. This annotation has just become me quoting bits from it and giggling. Both approaches are valid.
The names of these novels are sensational. “A Bris for Shergar”? “Waiting for Rhubarb”? “”JERK THE GROTTO”? It’s possible I’m not reading them accurate, but don’t you dare correct me.
The fact that Professor Lord knows about the other Ken Lord who writes books – and hates him – is a terrific small detail.
Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet from the early 1900s. Emilia is doing something nobody did at my University: talking about writers who aren’t from Britain.
Another thing I do like is that the series constantly shows that Esther has a smarter mind than the syllabus allows her to have – picking someone like Pam Ayres (not Eyres) shows how out-the-box she can be, and although she cringes as she says it, you can’t fault her argument. It’s always far more interesting to pick a new canon than accept the canon that is handed to you.
It did seem like Esther’s outfit only had three skulls to it – nice to see her jacket adds an extra one to the mix. I was worried for a minute!
That popcorn is suspiciously cheap.
It seems immediately apparent that the issue with dating isn’t with the dating itself: it’s with Ed. He still has the braid?!
Cathy seems lovely! Marry her, Ed.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was created by Philip Francis Nowlan and spawned comics, TV shows, radio serials, the lot. It’s about a space explorer in the future – and it cited by many as being responsible for popular culture’s growing interest in space exploration as a concept.
Pick a small genre and it’s easier to rule it: that’s why I picked comic book criticism rather than Lego criticism.
Giant Days evokes a more inclusive world whenever it can: all-gender bathrooms!
Ed you FOOL. I am FURIOUS
Coren has one of those choking cravats as well! What is the name of those posho thingos??
What the hell is Esther’s story here. What is the context. Where was it meant to be going? Why is she telling it?
Just imagine John Allison, thirty issues into his wildly popular series, thinking intensely about lyrics for a song about turnip farming. What a wonderful thought, and wonderful world.
Esther’s song, on the other hand, is a slight reworking of “Achin’ to Be” by The Replacements. You can hear it here! Very shoe-gazey.
Esther’s got jokes about vassals and serfs, and that’s exactly why Ed isn’t able to settle down with perfect women like Cathy.
Patron Rob Brewer pointed out that Lord does have previous form with students like this, as Bobbins revealed.
“Brim me” – top up the wine to the very top of the glass, “the brim”. This is going in a worrying direction.
This is properly grim. When Lord “helps” her up, he’s fully groping her. Good staging from Sarin to have him stand in front of the skull, putting horns on each side of his head.
Esther tells him where she lives but he immediately says he’s taking her to his house instead, and that she’s staying the night. I’m not sure what a “boxer’s breakfast” is, but surely it’d just be something like smoked salmon or fruit.
Thank goodness for Emilia. I think the implication is that the party’s ended, but she’s stuck behind just to make sure she can keep Esther safe at this exact moment.
The Swedish word for perfect is actually, uh, perfekt.
You touch it, you buy it, Ed.
There isn’t a dating app where your friends can check in with the girls you meet to see how things went, meaning Daisy has gone the extra mile here to find out how things went with Cathy. Also: that she didn’t ask Ed how things went. Daisy is smart in this thing.
It is worth saying of course that compatibility isn’t actually just about compatibility: as Daisy should probably know, given the nightmare she’s dating right now.
“steampunk”, Daisy. It’s “steampunk”. They do all sound like Amazon Prime shows though – the free ones you find once you scroll past the shows you’ve actually heard of but have to pay an extra £5 to rent.
For reference, this is what a Bratz doll looks like.
Both Daisy and Ed are sort of in the right! This is the kind of conversation you never really get in comic books, where usually one person is right and the other person is wrong. Who wants to date a unicorn, anyway? Because of their healing blood?
The Emilia Assimilation: coming to Amazon Prime in 2021!
Giant Days #29
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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