By Clark Burscough

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.

Now we’re headed towards the end of Second Year for the girls, it seems like a good time for some Guest Annotators – starting with the return of good ol’ Clarklebee!

 

Page 1

Straight off the back of Ed “Soft Boi” Gemmell ceding his claim to the big room in Esther’s favour, we arrive in media res celebrating his birthday, in time-honored British fashion, as one of his friends decides they’re going to get him needlessly drunk. Tale as old as time, and I’m sure one that will have absolutely no negative repercussions.

If we look in the background of the first panel, we can see that, in the Scarygo-verse, Michael Kupperman’s Snake and Bacon exists as what appears to be a mid-range chain of eating and/or drinking establishments. Will wonders never cease?

Page 2

Self-denial is a powerful drug… as is a driver’s license, apparently. I remember being viewed as some kind of magi when I revealed that I could drive, and owned a car, at uni.

My base of learning for higher education was Leeds University, and our version of the Lewin Run pub crawl was the Otley Run, starting at the Bodington halls of residence and travelling down into the centre of town, ideally amassing random clothing items from charity shops as you went. Halcyon, and hungover, days.

I’ve done the Otley Run too, and don’t remember the experience – Steve

Page 3 

Ed’s hypothetical future progeny here wearing what is known in common parlance as a “beanie hat” – I only know this because of a Calvin and Hobbes strip which centres around the procurement of said apparel.

The only note I could probably think of giving to an O’Neill’s pub would be “this floor is very sticky” and “the place was so understaffed that I could easily make use of the facilities without having to buy a drink”. Silver linings and all that.

Page 4

I agree wholeheartedly with Ed’s assessment of Guinness here – to quote Mike from Spaced “you can’t drink a pint of Bovril”.

Ed has so much hair that Esther has to push it out the way so she can use him as a leaning-post to write on.

We start to see the fleeting nature of Esther’s engagement with conversations she’s not the centre of here, which will be a recurring theme throughout, and her need to take the spotlight, but also speaks to the mercurial nature of those university friendships that seem so vitally important at the time.

Page 5

In attempting to wheedle more personal history out of Ed, Esther here sets us up for a flashback to her own storied past – told you the theme would recur!

Page 6

Esther is referring to Ed’s carnal knowledge of Big Lindsay here, but both she and Sarah Grote have Scarygo-verse history. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see one of them very soon in a future issue of the comic *exaggerated wink*.

Secondary school in England is a time for both Physical Education lessons in the rain, and undirected hatred towards one’s peers, all of which leaves one tired and miserable, if memory serves!

I’m fairly sure Big Linds’ high tackle here would be penalised in any league hockey match worth its salt.

Not at posh schools.

Page 7

Ed is correct here – a prank that makes a teacher vomit is indeed “genuinely repulsive” – while there may be awful teachers in the world, I think that students can generally be relied upon to be the most awful, on average.

Page 8

Looking back, I think school is as much about learning to test boundaries as it is to take tests, and I think every class had at least one person in it who would swear down they saw a teacher flip out and rampage at some point. One assumes that Ofsted (the UK’s governmental assessor of school standards) would have something to say on the matter.

Page 9

The worst realisation as a child is that you have genuinely caused pain to another person. This is doubly so if the fact of the matter is imparted to you by a stoic giant with an eyepatch. Mr Knott knows how to make a life-lesson sink in, and is really rocking that Steranko Nick Fury vibe.

Page 10

As Ed realises that the binge drinking adage that “eating is cheating” is possibly one of the single most stupid rules to lead one’s life by, we segue gently into a Gemmell flashback.

Max Sarin is doing a lot of nice work with eye detail this issue – skulls and stars a-plenty to heighten the stakes.

I don’t think there actually is a Saint Bad, and I shudder to think what they would be the patron of if there were. There is, however, a Saint Chad, who appears to have been written about by the Venerable Bede a lot, a name I vaguely recall hearing in Sunday school, but retained no knowledge of, probably because I was thinking about Batman instead.

Page 11

Where Esther claimed her school days were “just like Harry Potter” Ed’s appear to actually have been, albeit minus the wizardry and underlying bigotry of those stories, just taking a whistle-stop tour through the bullying aspects.

Esther has moved onto the elaborate fruity cocktail drinks, a part of any night out drinking known by the term “uh oh”.

If you ask me, that’s the part of a night out known as “the first drink”.

Page 12

Again we’re seeing the core of the characters here, diametrically opposed – Ed overlooked and unseen, failing to stand up for himself; Esther taking centre stage, under the spotlights, even when she should be in the audience. She’s derailing the narrative.

Page 13

The Audrey on display in this school production of Little Shop of Horrors looks very elaborate and I approve wholeheartedly.

We see the origins of Ed’s ability to fall in unrequited love at first sight here, and also his unhealthy attitude towards relationships in general. Oh, Ed.

In the last panel there’s literally a sign above his head telling him to show caution.

Page 14

I’m a big fan of the trope of high school plays drawing from completely unsuitable source material, and there is none more unsuitable than David Lynch’s serial masterpiece Twin Peaks.

Back in the present, we can see that both parties are drunk at this point, thanks to the time-honoured visual shorthand of swirly lines and bloopy bubbles coming out of heads (which I always liked when they appeared in Tintin) and the surrounding environments losing their coherence.

Page 15

A happy ending for young Edward! The story stops here, and there’s no sad denouement, so that’s it for this edition of The Annotated Giant Days, thanks for reading!

 

Giant Days #34

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

Just kidding.

Page 16

Uh oh.

Although, silver lining, we do get the origin of Ed’s facial hair.

Page 17

Esther and Ed have gotten to the part of the night where they’re drinking from Toby Jugs, which I think only happens in the Scarygo-verse, if I’m completely honest.

You know things are getting hairy when you choose to sit in the beer garden at night, because you know otherwise the barstaff won’t tolerate you.

A classic example of the “falling over through inebriation on the crest of a revelation” trope to close out this page. Nice.

Page 18

Is the elephant bartender here a reference to the pink elephants seen by Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse, in one of the psychically traumatising sequences ever committed to film? Maybe.

If you reach the part of the night where you’re unironically quoting Churchill, as Esther and Ed are doing in the fourth panel, then things have gone badly, badly wrong. They do indeed “thoroughly deserve” what happens to them here.

Page 19

Ah, a nice relaxing Susan and Daisy interlude here, as they spend the evening indulging in the wholesome activity of colouring in.

Black Eyed Peas fact – Will.I.Am‘s name is also the url for his website, which seems like some extremely canny marketing for this social media hyperlinking day and age.

Page 20

And here we get to the heart of things, as Ed confesses what Esther’s known for a while at this point. It’s a Max Sarin cartoon face masterclass on this page, especially that fifth panel – no putting the genie back in the bottle there.

Page 21

If you’d like to take a phone box diversion at this point in the story, then the history of why Hull has cream-coloured phone boxes, as opposed to the red seen here, is a nice geographical oddity.

Thanks Clark.

Otherwise, if I had a penny for every time I’ve seen someone drunkenly exhorting an equally drunk person to “be careful” as they haphazardly clamber up a phone box, lamppost, statue, etc, why, I’d be a very rich man indeed.

Page 22

And here, 34 issues in, we finally see how Ed Gemmell became the Dark Knight, world’s greatest detective, saviour of Gotham – yes, father, I shall become the bat – knocked from atop his perch by a leather winged minion of his… friend?

We have actually reached the end of the issue this time, thanks for reading!

 

Giant Days #34

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

 

Many thanks to Clark Burscough for returning in our hour of need to provide this issue’s annotations! Clark now writes every week for The Comics Journal, which is probably because of his previous work with these annotations over the years. You can follow Clark on Twitter here!

 

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