By Amy Garvey-Eckett
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 Guest Annotator Amy Garvey-Eckett!
Susan, Daisy and Esther engage in a classic game of “How much money would it take for you to humiliate yourself in a hyper-specific way”. In this case, involving a figurine of Vegeta from the anime series Dragon Ball Z. Vegeta IV is the Prince of the fallen Saiyan race, of “Super Saiyan” fame, proving yet again that royal families have a distinct lack of imagination when it comes to naming children.
The princely sum first suggested to Daisy to have to carry Vegeta everywhere for a year was £700, which is ~$977 USD. Rightly so, Daisy raises her price to £1,250, which converts to $1,745, but the broke student mentality does tend to make one desperate.
[Broke student? I’d take that money today! – Editor]
In a display cabinet within The Danger Nebula you can spot a Moomintroll figurine amongst Ol’ Doesn’t-Do-Oral Batman and Definitely-Does-It-With-Enthusiasm Wolverine. Moomintroll is the protaganist of the books, comic strip, tv series and films The Moomins. It originated in Finland but gained popularity across Europe and eventually Japan. The stories revolve around a family of trolls as well as a variety of other creature characters living in the woods and has a melancholic mood. The jury is out on whether Moominpappa gives Moominmama that good lovin’.
Keeping guard over the shop is a cardboard cutout of Death’s Head II, who was a flagship character for Marvel UK in the ‘90’s after his revival. He is the personality of the original Death’s Head which has been transferred into a cyborg called Minion, following the beheading of Death’s Head. And they say comics are hard to get into.
“Collar-feeling” refers to the idea of British police grabbing you by the collar of your shirt as their way of arresting you. Very Beano-esque.
Susan is thumbing through a Silver Age Comic, which refers to the period of comics between roughly 1956 and 1970, in which the superhero genre boomed in popularity. She then bemoans the shop’s use of cellophane bags for these comics. Cellophane is a thin, transparent plastic sheet made of a naturally occurring polysaccharide, cellulose. It has a low permeability for air, oils, bacteria and water, which makes it perfect to protect those precious Swamp Lad pages from the desperate panting and dirty fingers of a comic collector.
After accepting Susan’s offer of detective help, Eammon fetches his shrinkage log, this is, in fact, a penis joke. Coming quickly *wink* on its heels is a testicle joke, because they tend to come as a set.
Whilst slipping quickly back into her detective mode, Susan peppers in a “babez”, this is a mode of address which practically requires the use of an Essex accent to deliver correctly. It is a chameleon of a word, and can be thrown into any sentence and adapt to the tone. The feminine equivalent of “mate” really and despite what the errant z might imply, babez is singular, not plural. Don’t want you to embarrass yourself, babez.
This page annotates itself by citing a reference to issue 21! Oi Boom, get off our patch!
Esther laments nerds’ propensity towards baggy clothes, providing them ample space for “trousering” items. Considering the context, it feels like explaining trousering might not really be necessary, but it is amongst the many terms used for stealing: nicking, swiping, boosting, five finger discount, or the hyper-specific apple based crime committed in most British post-war children’s books, scrumping!
The crime squad goes to Dean Thompson in search of some inside knowledge for suspects, and we can determine it must be a Wednesday as we find him reading his pull list books.
Whilst reading he is enjoying a box of Ferrero Rocher, for he is a pretentious young man and only The Ambassador’s favourite chocolate and hazelnut confection will do. These gold foil wrapped spheres are typically only found in UK homes at Christmas, but Dean seems to be keeping them in business year-round by popping eight balls into his mouth every week… and in public too!
Dean refers to Esther, Daisy and Susan as The Black Swan and her handmaidens, I believe he is likening Esther to the Odile (Black Swan) role from the ballet Swan Lake. Odile is the seductress daughter of the villain, a sorcerer named Rothbart, who disguises herself as Odette (White Swan) to trick Prince Siegfried into breaking his vow of love to Odette. But the swan-maidens, which I can assume Dean is incorrectly calling handmaidens, are the other women also cursed into the form of swans by day, and are the companions of Odette, not Odile. Dean is really garbling his Tchaikovsky ballet references, how embarrassing, next thing he’ll be calling Daisy the Caramel Apple Fairy.
In other news, I can’t believe I finally get to combine my three niche interests: ballet, comics and pedantry.
Susan threatens Dean with a knuckle sandwich if he doesn’t help. I think this is used across most English speaking countries, but just in case: it’s a punch to the mouth. Fairly run off the mill threat, when you consider some of the regional specialities such a Glasgow Kiss or a Chelsea Smile available in our fair country.
Dean’s list of potential suspects turns out to be the people who consistently beat him at Magic the Gathering. Magic, or MtG, is a fantasy card game with gameplay centered on the use of spells and artifacts, or summoning of creatures. It was the first ever trading card game and if you’re reading a detailed annotation of a comic book, I will bet my Black Lotus card that you have at least heard of it before*.
*disclaimer: I do not own a Black Lotus card, please do not try to claim against this bet or burglarise me.
Note: Shelfdust will not look favourably on anybody who attempts to trouser Amy’s Black Lotus card.
The use of a ;-D emoji, that’s classic detective-work right there. Bergerac did that all the time.
When leaving Daisy and Esther to meet up with the suspected shop-lifter by herself, Susan calls them “a couple of Mary-Sues”. Susan seems to be using this as a replacement for the 1920’s detective noir term “Moll” for a young woman. Mary-Sue has an interesting history in fandom, it was originally coined in the ‘70’s by two women to describe a trope seen often in Star-Trek fan fiction, of an under realised, self-insert character who was inexplicably excellent at all things, as well as incredibly beautiful and attractive to all the canon characters. The term has been misused in recent years and is often an accusation wielded (usually by men with fragile egos) against any female character in media who has been written to be stronger, or smarter, or both than a male counterpoint.
For how could it ever be believable for a woman granted super strength and flight by an alien race’s machine to be stronger than a man granted super-strength by human created gamma rays? Don’t be ridiculous!
Susan walks off into a Sin City-styled noir situation on the final panel.
During Susan’s attempted sting operation she claims to have been caught out by knock-off “Ban-Dai” before. Bandai is a Japanese toy manufacturer and produces the licensed toys and figurines for properties such as Power Rangers, Gundam, Super Sentai and many more.
After tailing her suspect back home, Susan dramatically describes it as a “grey house where young dreams went to die in 1979”, which is a noir way of saying that it was a council house. Presumably one of the many homes built across the UK in the 70’s in the same drab, boxy, concrete-fronted style for social housing.
I am not sure if 1979 is of significance or not; but the “Right to Buy Act” came into effect in 1980, which allowed tenants of council houses to buy their home from the council at a discounted price, between 33-50% off market value.
Susan interrogates McGraw as to the best pipe to “shin-up” to allow her to break into the house. This is a phrase to describe how one might climb up a tree, pole or pipe using your hands and legs. It is hard to imagine how this came to be since I’m a little dubious of the importance one’s shins play when using this method. But as an exclusive rock climber, I will cede this point to an experienced “shin-er-upper”.
McGraw begrudgingly relays that Susan’s sturdiest option is the soil pipe, which really seems like a pretty high risk/low reward option because that, dear readers, is the poop pipe. I am not sure catching a petty criminal is worth a faecal facial and an odour that will haunt you for eternity.
Just as Susan begins her foray up the sewage pipe, she is interrupted by a looming figure who calls her “duck”. Duck is yet another term of endearment, usually used to someone younger than you and is more commonly used in the South Midlands area of England, where Sheffield sits. It is posited to have originated as “duke”, as a term of respect in a similar way you might call someone “boss” these days and has morphed from there to duck. But as a Glaswegian I am well aware of the tendency to liken people to small birds.
The imposing man turns out to be the father of the shop-lifter who is wearing a blue and white vertically striped football (soccer) jersey. Those are the colours of the Sheffield Wednesday F.C. home strip, also known as “The Owls”. They are one of the oldest football clubs in the world, only 10 years behind Sheffield F.C. which is the oldest club still playing football in the world. Suffice it to say, Sheffield was an early adopter of the official sport of football.
This guy sure loves his skulls, doesn’t he? I wonder if that’s significant.
Whilst chasing down the deviant, Susan curses her “pit pony legs” comparing her short leg length to that of the small (1.2m/11 hands) horses and ponies that were once used to haul coal up through the narrow and small mine tunnels. Hopefully hers are less caked in coal dust.
I feel like I, a 32 year old white woman, am not going to be able to improve on the description of “creps” and “non-peng” given in the book.
But, oh boy can I describe some foliage to you! Our miscreant ends up inverted, stuck in a box elder bush. This is a species native to North America, but which is highly invasive and has been introduced to much of the world. I would make a joke about the US’s propensity for invading across the world, but it would be more than a little, pot calling the kettle black. It is known for forming dense, impenetrable thickets, so Susan is on the money when she says it never lets go.
Daisy’s internal detective monologue espouses her love for Cheshire Cheese, a dense and crumbly cheese originating, unsurprisingly, from Cheshire. It is also made in the surrounding counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire (in England), Flintshire, and Denbighshire (in Wales). I put on my own detective hat and went on a deep dive to see if perhaps Daisy grew up in one of these counties, to explain her propensity for this specific cheese. But after internet research, consultation with past-annotator Tim Maytom and a (skim) review of the entire series; I believe that it is still a mystery where exactly Daisy grew up.
All we have are the 4 panels from Issue 1 where Susan correctly guesses she is from a hamlet, with 4 or 5 houses in the middle of nowhere. There are no signs of her or her nan being Welsh, so I theorise we can narrow our area of origin to 1 of 3 English counties: Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.
Is this my white whale now?
Esther 3000 Ex-Pro is a terrific name for a Top Cow series.
After successful retrieval of most of the stolen goods, Susan says she is going to order an Uber Tank… this is in fact not an option available on UK Uber. It is usually sedan cars with various states of plastic covered interiors.
Daisy, we’ve seen what happens when people write songs for people they’ve fallen in love with, you know this is not good advice!!
Back at The Danger Nebula we get a look at the 4th statue in the display cabinet and as far as I can tell it is of The Groke, which is another Moomin character. She has a row of white, shiny teeth and freezes the ground she stands on. As such she seeks warmth and friendship but is denied it and lives alone in the Lonely Mountains. Now I feel sad for the fictional figurine of the fictional character that no one has bought and brought home to be warm and have friends.
We’ve jumped one week later and Daisy is telling Ed that she has passed her Driving Theory test over a game of pool. In the UK this consists of a 50 question, multiple-choice, computerised test where subjects must achieve a score of 43 or above to pass. And a 2nd part where 15 short video clips are shown from the POV of a car driver and subjects must click when they observe potential hazards. The pass rate is about 50%, so it’s not uncommon to have to sit it more than once. But, having passed it, Daisy is now able to sit her practical test.
Daisy departs with an “Excusay Mwah” which, we can assume from context, is an exaggerated pronunciation of “excuse-moi” (in English, excuse me (informal)). This delivery is often used in the UK to express faux disbelief but can also be used as an ironic show of pretension to leave a pool table. In my family we went a step further in butchering the French language with such phrases as: silver plate (sil vous plais, please) and merci buckets (merci beaucoup, thank you very much).
McGraw ends this issue with an ominous reference to Daisy on the Pond Forge Roundabout. Officially this is named the Park Square Roundabout and is a notorious roundabout in Sheffield with 7 roads leading into it.
US readers may be only vaguely familiar with them and some may never have driven through one as there were only ~7,100 in all of the USA as of 2019. Which pales in comparison to the 25,000 as of 2015 in the UK, especially once you adjust for size difference.
The acclaimed benefits of a roundabout lie in the constant movement of traffic, lack of traffic lights and in an ideal world they are a beautiful ballet of yielding and equal flow from all sides. The reality is often a cacophony of white-knuckle darts into the fray, heart-stopping illegal lane changes, horn blasts and swearing as you realise you didn’t get into the right lane as you approached. Although I’d take 100 roundabouts over having to reverse around a corner.
I wish my sincerest luck to Ms Wooton as she attempts to conquer the iron beast next issue.
Giant Days #46
Written by John Allison
Drawn by Max Sarin
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Amy Garvey-Eckett has written for sites including WomenWriteAboutComics, and is the co-host of the Comic Book Classroom podcast. For more, you can follow her on Twitter here!
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