By Tom Shapira

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.

Today we reach the end of second year for the girls – and we’re closing the book on year two with guest annotator Tom Shapira!

Page 1:

The trio is catching a little sun. Which is weird because I’m given to understand, by friends from the island complaining on twitter, that the sun is mostly a rumor in Englad (as some living in a mostly desert country I am well jealous). Yet there she is – threatening poor Daisy like pathetic fallacy never went out of fashion.  

Future MD Susan usually has rather unappealing health habits, but here she’s the only one keeping water nearby – that’s good thinking!

It’s a shame they don’t sell outdoor chairs in sets of three – Ed.

Page 2

Daisy had decided to break off with Ingrid in the previous issues, but deciding to do something and actually doing it a very different – especially when someone as eager-to-please as Daisy meets someone as energetic as Ingrid… an unstoppable force meeting a moveable object. For all their comical advice, you can sense some fear in Esther and Susan’s behavior – they certainly don’t want to be nearby when Ingrid erupts.  

Speaking of eruption – this is one of these issues calling for big gestures, which are a boon for Sarin’s art style, pushing things just a little over the top.

Page 3

Daisy already knows Ingrid is bad for her but she considers holding back the breakup – not for Ingrid’s sake and certainly not for her. Simply out of sheer terror! Which lets you know just how bad things have gotten.

The ‘what if’ flash-forward (John Allison – I would pay good money for an ongoing What If? Giant Days) seems to depict a future after humanity has crushed the robot rebellion and brought the stray mechas under heel. Good for us, humanity!

It looks like Ingrid would retain control of what art goes on the wall in this hypothetical future.

Even emotionally shaky Daisy takes her Brownie training seriously – be prepared! (She’s gonna attack and dethrone Mufasa later) 

Bells is the best-selling whiskey in the UK. Apparently, the brand wasn’t actually named after its inventor, Arthur Bell, until four years after his death (1904) because he was too modest to attach his name to a product. Kinda fitting for Daisy then.

Page 4

Did Ed spend any considerable time with Ingrid? It seems her energy is so vast even the boys out of the immediate circle are affected. 

Bag of Holding is a classic D&D artifact that is the first necessity for every adventurer planning to plunder a dungeon for thrice their body’s weight in gold – which I’m only mentioning because this is obviously what Daisy wields here.

Febreze is not the ideal product for cleaning your feet, Tom. 

Page 5

Sun turns to rain – just in time to make everything more dramatic. 

What, or who, are “art nuisances?” Either forgotten foes from the 1960’s Batman TV show who terrorize pop-art galleries or people who just visit the shows to get at wine and chesses. I have been to very few art shows but the wine was always bad; maybe it’s a brand – “Terrible Art Show Wine”

The bus drivers are a neat touch – no explanation needed, it’s the profession of known art-connoisseurs. 

Page 6

That reaction shot from Ingrid is particularly great: every panel tells a story: from her gaze as she digests the information, the quick chugging of the drink to regain some sort of control (she’s doing something rather than something is done to her) and the moment of semi-acceptance, the calm before the storm. 

Daisy would’ve probably been OK if she let things go now. It could be cruel in any other context, if Ingrid was any other person, and Daisy can’t be cruel. She has to explain, to rationalize, to do the decent thing. Which is not at all what Ingrid wants to hear.

Page 7

Ingrid is angry. She has a right to be. Even though she is, in the words of the source of all wisdom Lottie Grote, “not a nice person.”

Her long-term girlfriend just broke up with her seemingly out of nowhere. Yet even in the midst of an unplanned emotional outburst she turns to cruelty: “do you want to be with a boy?” (are you faking being a lesbian like you faked in love with me?) “a nice boring English girl” (like your boring friends I made you drop – because I am cool and you are not). 

Page 8

“Meat Whistle” is a popular tackle for bass fishing. It’s effective for catching trout in both moving and still water. 

It’s also a theatre project from the 1970’s featuring several people who would go on to form The Human League; one of them being  Martyn Ware. The younger bus driver here is also called Martyn – so we can safely assume from these humble beginning shall arise the next great achievement in synth-pop.

I’m glad you googled that one rather than me.

Page 9

This page is an outpouring of emotions. I seriously can’t see why Max Sarin didn’t get the Eisner award for life just on the strength of what’s going on here. The “I feel incredible” to “I feel terrible” shift, great choice not to do panel breaks here, is one of people’s favourites on the RandomBobbinsverse twitter account. 

This moment has very similar energy to when Nicole Kidman broke up with Tom Cruise and her divorce finalised. Daisy’s outfit looks a lot like Kidman’s outfit, too!

We all know that feeling, right? The maniac shift were you can’t quite decide what’s your emotional situation. There are no panel breaks in real life – you just move immediately from one state to another.

Page 10

Once again bus drivers save the day. Hail to the bus drivers.

The back seat and to the side – a canny choice for Daisy.

Page 11

That painting is gone. There could be horror movies made about it – the evil painting that won’t let go. Hunting people’s dreams, killing them, decreeing property values…

The great white wall, painted over the original artwork, is the kind of thing you would probably see really pretentious articles about if this was in a Grant Morrison comic. I just think it’s neat.

That’s the academic analysis we pay you for, Shapira.

Page 12

We’ve been through a lot, emotionally, hard to believe it’s only halfway through the issue. One of the great things about Giant Days is that it manages that seemingly impossible task of making every single issue a story by itself while moving the plot forwards. 

I had an English Lit professor who actually spoke Middle English as if it was his mother’s tongue. Not saying he communed with demons, but there was always a whiff of brimstone near his office. 

Page 13

Character growth! Old Esther, that is younger Esther, would just pretend this whole thing never happened until it was impossible to avoid dealing with it. There mere fact that she understood the meaning of the result and tried to find a way to solve the issue is quite a tremendous change.

“Eldritch” means ghostly, which is fairly apt, even if Esther for once isn’t wearing any skulls on her outfit.

Page 14

Oh no! I’m wrong, she has a skull purse. Sorry Esther!

Page 15

Tom King’s favourite Giant Days page.

Sergei Eisenstein didn’t quite invent the montage, but he taught us how to think about it. Comics, unlike cinema, exists in a perpetual state of amorphous time. 

Daisy, ever the healer, fixes the poor ducky she broke while throttling the alarm clock. What a shining soul! 

Page 16

Esther gets skulls, Susan has the shark teeth and when Daisy is elated she gets star-eyes. If they were magical girls these would all be forms of special attacks.

Water landings are notoriously difficult, which is what made the peaceful landing of US Airways Flight 1549 such a big deal. Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was awarded the highest honor possible for a USA citizen – being played by Tom Hanks in a movie. 

And by Paul F. Tompkins on a podcast!

Page 17

Henry Laurence Gantt was a man with an impressive moustache whose charts were used on “minor” projects like the Hoover Dam. Moving day for students is only slightly less complicated and tasking.

“Squatter’s rights” are also known as “Adverse possession” in legalese. Daisy probably shouldn’t take Big Geoff advise seeing as the conditions were changed in the Land Registration Act 2002 (replacing the Land Registration Act 1925 under which Big Geoff probably occupied more than one empty domicile). 

Esther has a whole box just for her tutus and muumuus. 

Page 18

Geoff and McGraw are such a good team. They should have a TV show in which they help people by building things like extensions, rooms and giant robots.

If this was a Silver Age Marvel story you can be sure that editor Smilin’ Shannon would let you know the house’s Garage was used to secretly house Chinchillas – as seen in the classic Issue #28, true believers!

A peppercorn rent is a nominal, token fee, which is so small it doesn’t matter. The name comes from leases where the rent is one peppercorn a year. I don’t make English Law, don’t look at me like that.

Page 19

David Niven is one these classic English actors that appears in a movie your dad probably really likes. As I get closer to ‘dad age’ I’ve started to get the urge to watch The Guns of Navarone and My Man Godfrey.

Seeing as this is a comic-book website I should probably mention artist Gil Kane claims to have based the Green Lantern character Sinestro on Niven.

Page 20

The woodworm from before are still there, living in their sandy stair beds.

There are a surprising amount of Artisan Turkey Farms in England (by which I mean – more than one). This one, chosen at random, looks nice.

Are we getting paid for this advertisement?

Page 21

“Next year won’t be the same, not living with you.”

“Would we want it to be the same?”

I don’t think I can this better than issue itself. So I won’t. See you next year!

Giant Days #36

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


Tom Shapira’s writing has been featured on many different websites, ranging from Multiversity and The MNT right through to recent pieces published at The Comics Journal. The best place to find him online is on Twitter, right here! 


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