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, provided by our Head Annotator Kelly Richards!

Page 1

I had forgotten that Esther has a job!

The Doctor Who in question is the eleventh doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith. Amy Pond, his first companion, was played by Karen Gillan, and Bloody Rory, Amy’s fiance, was played by Arthur Darvill. No spoilers, it gets weird.

Page 2 

Prescient old man.

I’m glad Esther is coming to terms with this crush.

Eamonn’s folly refers to Eamonn’s (that old dude right there on the page) own foolishness in not being better organised and kind of a hoarder.

Werner Herzog is, amongst other things, a filmmaker and documentarian. Clearly Esther feels that he would be best suited to chronicle her descent into the deepest reaches of the stock room.

Shoes off in the stockroom is a must when doing any serious organisation. (Source: personal experience)

Page 3

That’s just how love happens, Esther.

The ‘problem areas’ Eamonn is referring to are the parts of Belfast that were militarised or otherwise occupied during ‘The Troubles,’ or the Northern Ireland Conflict which took place from 1968 until 1998. The Troubles were such that an unsupervised parcel would appear suspicious and potentially dangerous as letter bombs were not unheard of. 

R.E.M are an American rock band who formed in 1980. On the last panel, Esther is referring to R.E.M.s 1993 hit song “Everybody Hurts”.

I would like to know more about Sexy Pet Rock. [At last a strong female character we can invest in – Editor]

Page 4

Ancient advent calendars. What could possibly go wrong?

Is being a nerd a sickness? And can we get time off of work for it?

Babylon 5 was a space opera set on a space station and which aired from 1993 – 1998 so I guarantee the chocolate in that thing is rancid.

The 90’s were certainly a time.

Page 5

Very astute. Susan’s ability to diagnose is coming along leaps and bounds.

Ed is going to need someone’s dad to come over and get that one blown up.

Find someone who looks at you like Esther looks at an old, old Babylon 5 advent calendar.

Page 6

How creative, a gallery wall of advent calendars. Totally regular.

Losing your marbles is apparently a phrase that was coined in America – so for everyone else, it means to lose your mind.

Space Precinct was a British science fiction show that aired in the mid 90’s about some space cops. I had Space Precinct bedding so I can confirm it was popular amongst 7 year olds in the valleys. This was a legitimate show? I thought it was an Allison original!

Widdle is a family friendly way of saying urinate, therefore to widdle on someone’s parade is a slightly more aggressive form of rain on your parade – which of course means to intentionally ruin another person’s plans.

I don’t know if Susan is intending to be mean when describing Nina as vast and loud but I find it extremely complimentary. I too wish to be hard to focus on all at once.

Page 7

You are definitely supposed to return crutches, so I can only imagine the state they must be in for the NHS to send them away.

It’s good that they donated them to a charity shop though. I would have expected them to be repurposed for desk chair corridor jousting. Desk chair corridor jousting is… exactly what it sounds like.

Page 8

What do you think they were going to cook? I can see oranges and bananas but that’s not dinner.

Hello disgusting student accommodation kitchen. I don’t miss you. Now with added POWER PROTEIN!

Nina powering through a moment of insecurity is so inspirational. Get it Nina!

Lovely colouring on this page to show off that insecurity. Blushes all round!

Page 9

Ha! Cheffield!

Not everyone will be compost. If you are cremated you could get your ashes turned into jewellery or made into paint or pressed into a vinyl. I think they can turn you into tattoos now as well.

Garf-worthy: worthy of Garfield, the lazy orange lasagne cat. You know Garfield. YOU’D BETTER *shakes fist*

Page 10

Not only can you not insure non-standard constructed houses, they are also incredibly difficult to get a mortgage for.

I love Susan shooing away McGraw’s non standard constructed houses reveries.

Page 11

Is Cliff going to murder McGraw? Is Cliff going to murder McGraw and burn his body on the wasteland behind the closed pub? Everything is frightening about this situation.

Page 12

Dean is the sort of person who sees a clear attraction between his flatmate and a new crush and thinks “how can I get in the way of this?”

Esther growing little devil horns in line with her demonic machinations is excellent.

Ed Gemmell hasn’t come home!

Page 13

Mega slump. More of a shlomp, if you ask me!

Do what thou willst is actually a central tenet of Thelema, a new religious movement started by Aleistair Crowley in the early 1900’s. It’s satanism-adjacent but neither the Church of Satan nor the Satanic Temple really jive with it.

Flipping is what nice British people say instead of the dreaded F-bomb. My 8 year old brother who is DESPERATE to say fuck, says flipping all the time like maybe he’ll be able to sneak it in and no one with notice. 


Times of great anxiety are the best time for shaving, bleaching, piercing, and other dramatic changes to one’s appearance. That’s just science.

Page 14

Cliff broke McGraw.

Svengali was a hypnotist in George Du Maurier’s novel, Trilby. It’s come to mean a person with a sort of otherworldly influence. I don’t think Cliff is a svengali, I think McGraw is just too nice.

Breaking up with people at Christmas really sucks – but waiting until after Christmas (when you have your gifts) is WORSE.

Page 15

Big sex monster is certainly a thing humans say.

I can’t be sure but I am choosing to believe that when Nina says “thank Alf”, she is referring to Home and Away mainstay (and the godfather of Summer Bay) Alf Stewart.

Page 16

It’s definitely too early! Flights from the UK to Australia and back run in the region of £1,500. It’s not cheap.

Page 17

Wow, Cliff. Cold.

Lance has, amongst other things, a neck tattoo of a football. Is that important? Probably not.

I would be interested to see how a moustache could be worn as a hat.

Page 18

Split times are a way of measuring the time of a specific distance within your run. So if you tracked how long each mile or kilometres took; that would be your split times.

Christmas Market! Christmas markets are street markets that appear all over Europe in late November and disappear suddenly on Christmas eve. They are often German-themed and they sell all sorts of trinkets and treasures and locally produced wares. It is always Christmas at the Christmas market so regardless of what time you visit it is always acceptable to drink mulled alcohol or spiked hot chocolate.

I don’t think it’s a cult but it is mysterious so I suppose it could be. I’ve never heard of anyone running away to join the Christmas market though.

Page 19

Translation: Good morning Mr Gemmell. How are you? – Consider that proof that the three years of German I studied 19 years ago wasn’t a waste of time and that Frau Herman was wrong about me. Gut job Kelly.

I think everyone is just secretly in awe of Nina. This is awkward.

Five levels? That’s one way of putting it. What was each level?

Page 20

These cereals are real, this is not the cereal content I have come to expect.

Get me those Honey Nut Loops!!

Page 21

Oh, Esther. She’s broken her heart and mine. Good job she has a metric ton of rancid chocolate to gorge on.

Page 22

Work is never like a fun hobby… but they do tend to give you money.

Dun dun DUUNNNN!


Giant Days #42

Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
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! 


This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!