By Kelly Richards

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.


Page 1:

Esther provides an accurate and in no way exaggerated or over dramatic recap of issue #32’s house hunting drama by recounting the events to occasional enemy, Emilia. Recapping from a character perspective is smart as hell and I am in favour. 

Esther can imagine Susan skipping along a yellow brick road but she can’t imagine her not having a face like a smacked arse while she does it. By “like a smacked arse” I of course mean “miserable looking”.

Unwanted trash lives in the bin, not on the floor. We’re not animals.

Page 2:

The coalition of the willing generally refers to the countries that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, it’s also the name of an instrumental jazz and rock ensemble led by Bobby Previte. Esther just needs to find housemates.

Page 3:

Truly nobody embodies sadness like a middle aged, newly divorced man.

Is that a Tiffany lamp? He’s going to want to put that in storage if he’s letting to students – they will obliterate it. 

Page 4:

There are in fact very few things that a person won’t milk. However… just because you can milk it, doesn’t mean you should.

Oat: Best milk alternative. 10/10

Soy: A mistake. 2/10

Rice: Oddly sweet. Makes your tea go a funny colour. 6/10

Almond: Tastes like nothing and then nuts. 4/10

Cashew: See Almond. 4/10

Alfalfa: Not a milk, a herb used to increase milk production. Recommended for people who are breastfeeding. Speak to your doctor I guess.

Cactus: Poisonous. Irritant. Would not recommend ingesting. 0/10

Hibiscus: Not a thing. 

Page 5:

The dichotomy of McGraw is adorable.

Daisy’s scrunched up nervous body language is speaking volumes here. Volumes I say. It makes me want to give her a pep talk about having courage in her convictions.

Page 6:

McGraw’s powertool sense is tingling.

As much as I would like to believe Ingrid in this moment I think she is being facetious. Germans never withhold Strudel.

Page 7:

McGraw speaks German?

Einstürzende altbauten translates to collapsing old buildings. Google would prefer I search for Einstürzende Neubauten which translates to collapsing new buildings and is the name of a German experimental music group that is known for using custom built instruments made out of scrap metal and tools. This is probably a reference that I’m not cool enough to get.

I love Ingrid’s manic woodworking energy.

Page 8:

Incredibly accurate filthy sport lad house complete with cracks in the walls, chunks taken out of the door frames, muscle posters, and vigorous chest bumps.

Page 9:

Sport lads love a chant.

Nina has what looks like a lacrosse tattoo and she has the shoulder freckles of someone who has been sunburned too many times. In my experience lacrosse players are the best at getting their transport booking forms delivered on time.

Nina’s use of the term ‘massive spunk’ as an affirmative suggests that she is Australian where the term is used to describe a sexually attractive person and not as a charming alternative to semen.

Who among us hasn’t cried in a Top Shop changing room? It is, after all, where self esteem goes to die. I had an interview there once and they told me I wasn’t pretty enough to work there.

And now look what’s happened – Top Shop is falling apart! A startling reminder of what happens to any company who doesn’t treat Kelly Richards with respect and admiration.

Esther has a remarkable knack for finding clothes with skulls on them, even in a high street store out of season. It’s a skill and people should pay attention.

Page 10:

Wiping your running makeup on clothes you don’t own is a pro crying-in-the-changing-room move.

Page 11:

Ed Gemmell’s facial expression in panel 1 is transcendent.

The creative team here is imagining a better world, where a Top Shop employee would ask after a person’s wellbeing. 

Page 12:

Ed and McGraw are I believe taking their bins to the curb for collection the following morning. They have 2 green bins which feels like a relic of times gone by. Sheffield now uses a 3 bin system to encourage recycling. Brown for glass, cans, tins, and plastic bottles, blue for paper and cardboard, and black for general waste. Some councils also have green bins for food and garden waste but the colour and contents really depend on where in the UK you live. That said, even in the before times McGraw should have been putting that plastic bottle in the recycling box.  

Page 13:

Berth is usually used to describe the little bunks you find on a boat or a train. Here Dean uses it to describe a place to live in a more general sense because he is a pretentious ass.

A cryptocurrency rig is a computer that you use to solve really hard maths problems in exchange for points. The bigger it is the more maths it can do. Their electricity bill is going to be massive.

Doesn’t running cryptocurrency use more electricity worldwide than several whole countries do? I read that somewhere but I’m not willing to read it again.

A pizza stone is essentially a ceramic baking sheet that allegedly holds heat more evenly and gives your pizza a great big crust. You can get one for less than a tenner.

Page 14:

The creative team is once again imagining a better world with this cartoonishly large sandwich. There is no escape from disgusting student kitchens though. 

The third panel is referencing the sarlacc pit from Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) just with computers and Dean instead of teeth and tentacles.

Page 15:

Shoes off in the wooden privacy cube. 

Red wine straight from the bottle, for the sophisticated student. 

Page 16:

Ingrid did such a good job of constructing the wooden privacy cube that we didn’t even know that there was: 1) a party going on outside of it; and 2) people on the actual roof.

Everyone at this party looks like they are having a great time, big toothy smiles all around. The person with the beard and the nipple pasties is LOVING it.  

The way Susan is clutching her wine is giving me drunk person flashbacks.

Daisy is being very brave here. Her smile is unsure but she is following through. I’M SO PROUD.

Page 17:

(Not so) evil counterpart trope! This is a fun example, and really puts the same but different to full effect by having the Esther counterpart repeat her own insult back at her. There is no evidence that they are evil but they are students so that chances that at least one of them smells like Lynx is high. The only other example of the evil counterpart trope I can think of is in the Lemon of Troy episode of The Simpsons where we meet that kids from Shelbyville. Again none of these are really evil, they just weren’t lucky enough to be the protagonists.

I’m sure they are lovely boys really.

The recently divorced man is so sad. He’s making me sad. Put him away.

I too have been called toward a sauna by a mystical pink vapour. 

Page 18:

It’s Sarah Grote time.

She’s split up with “The Boy” Eustace already. Claire Napier will want to know about this.

The birds and the roses make Esther look like a wayward Disney princess

Page 19:

Ed Gemmell is a good boy. No further questions.

Esther has spent a ridiculous amount of time in this issue with her arse up in the air. I’m glad she made the decision to wear jeans during her spiral.

Page 20:

Ed has magic colour changing shoes. Like a mood ring for your feet. This mood ring colour chart that I’ve just looked up says red means nervous (see page 19), and that black means stressed so this theory 100% checks out.

Page 21:

Y’know I don’t think Dean likes women very much, I’m also not convinced that he knows the difference between poisonous and venomous. I wish someone would challenge him on his outbursts. 

According to Wikipedia the puff adder is a venomous viper species found in savannah and grasslands from Morocco and western Arabia throughout Africa except for the Sahara and rainforest regions. It’s unlikely that one would be found in Tackleford, but even if they were I think Esther would be a gothier snake, like a papuan black snake maybe. 

I had a room exactly like Ed’s in second year except it had a wardrobe where Esther is stood. It’s uncanny.

Page 22:

Daisy is a party gremlin, we know this not only because of her wild eyes and mouth and hair but her wavey speech balloon. Super neat touch.


Giant Days #33

Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
Inked by Liz Fleming
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell


Kelly Richards is an Eisner-winning critic who has written for sites including WomenWriteAboutComics and Sidequest. You can find more of their thoughts over on Twitter here! 


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