By Matt Sibley

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 Matt Sibley!

Page 1:

There’s something about the way which John Allison draws Susan, particularly her teeth, that I enjoy so much. His interpretations of Daisy and Esther are more in line with how Sarin has defined them for much of the run thus far, but when it comes to Ms. Ptolemy, that third panel which captures her in profile is enhanced so much by the jagged smile setting up the sharp shift into annoyance at McGraw.

Speaking of, he’s caught between a rock and a hard place with this predicament. Telling Susan would surely create even more stress depending on how far in advance he did it and leaving it until the last possible moment at least has the benefit of pulling off the band-aid swiftly. Sure, it still stings, but hopefully not for as long.

Page 2:

Reef – apparently a real band! Which I wasn’t expecting when I googled the name just to be sure. [Very upset by this ignorance of Reef, Matt – Editor]

By the looks of things, Frank’s one of their earliest fans, as the concert listed on the poster (January 8th 1995) happened before Replenish, their first album, dropped the following June.

I imagine there were already a number of Daisy and Esther – Daster – fics written prior to this issue but can also safely bet that the duo’s subplot here caused an uptick.

Page 3:

Taking a break from writing this piece to draft a tweet that says “would you stay a month at the Frog Hall for £[ludicrous amount of money that you would of course do it for]?”

Heck, you might also be able to get a publication out of, just like Christopher Sebela and the Clown Motel.

They got signed posters from frogs! Who *wouldn’t* want to go?

Page 4:

The Frog Chorus shirt also asks more questions than it answers? Is it a chorus of one or made up of multiple employees? If it’s the latter, then how many people work at the Frog Hall? Does it require an organisational chart to keep track of? Questions like this now haunt my waking hours, and presumably yours, now that I’ve shared them.

Glad to see Esther point out the real purpose for family-sized bags of sweets. We all know that they’re designed for one, no matter how many portions the fine print claims they contain.

Page 5:

It wouldn’t be a hotel room if there wasn’t a Gideons. Daisy reflexively reaching for a Bible at the thought of forbidden acts is a neat character choice.

This page also reminds me just how well-handled Daisy’s development over the series is. Compared to the young Wooton we first met, she’s grown so much in terms of learning and accepting who she is. Even if that’s led to some new neuroses to come to terms with, like here, when she’s unsure about sharing a bed with Esther.

Page 6:

Anzac Day is a joint Australian/New Zealand day of remembrance, celebrated on April 25th, that was originally created to honour those who served in the Gallipoli Campaign in World War 1 and has since gone on to encompass all those who have served since in the wars and operations that followed.

Whomst among us hasn’t taken a phone call while cramming ourselves underneath a desk…

… No, this isn’t a joke — finding second year housing for uni was particularly stressful – but unlike Susan, I didn’t have anyone suggesting a trip to the pub, probably because this call was at 10am. And worse, my back hurt once I finally climbed out.

Page 7:

On the day I’m writing this, the UK is lifting restrictions on the hospitality industry (among many others). As such, it’s been close to 16 months since I’ve seen people standing up like those two on the right of the first panel. And if it’s a little strange to see it on the page, who knows what it’ll be like to see it in person.

Love the little detail that they’ve picked an establishment which Karen Shaw’s been barred from.

As a series, I would argue that Giant Days can be classified as a sitcom just as much as it can slice-of-life. Seeing Susan’s anti-marriage stance come up at that point brings me back to that comparison, in the sense that some sitcoms drawing near their end return to character details like this in order to invert them. Like how Parks and Rec sees April position herself as against having kids for so much of its duration only for the finale to have her become a parent just like that. So, I’m glad to see that Allison dodges that kind of pitfall here by not having Susan’s opinion entirely reshaped by this one wedding she doesn’t particularly want to be at.

Page 8:

Considering that flashback in the second panel, now seems the appropriate time for some backstory. The Shaws are the hardest family in Northampton. Before Susan went to uni, she blew the whistle on Karen’s alleged faith-healing boondoggle. When she returned home for the Christmas holidays in issue #6, she (and McGraw) found themselves receiving more than a few threats on Karen’s behalf. And an attempt to meet up and put a stop to all this turned ugly as Karen first locked Susan in an office, then considered bashing her head in with a brick and finally contemplated letting Susan fall of the roof, as pictured here.

Winking frog is best frog.

Page 9:

Conversely, the frog on the toilet might be a step too far. Just the sense it’s watching you. Ugh…

Daisy is reading “Tipping the Velvet” on this page, a classic piece of queer literature by Sarah Waters. It focuses on a woman called Nan who travels to London after falling in love with a male impersonator.

Page 10:

That transition of Esther turning off the lights is what we in the biz call the good stuff.


Page 11:

This and the past couple pages show just how great Allison is at structure. In terms of the three as a sequence, you get set-up, paradigm shift and pay-off from one page to the next (and each of the pages themselves manage to contain those elements). This page in particular also manages to contain an entire emotional journey across its eight panels.

Page 12:

Talking with friends’ (or significant others’) family is always a strange time, I get why Susan would want to avoid them.

Also, I find this page quite interesting because of some supplemental material in the trade. A few of Allison’s layouts are included and while the others are essentially what the finished pages look like, this one changed. He started with a perspective on the scene more aligned with Susan, making her a bigger presence in the first panel and emphasising her reaction as a result. The actual page works better to me for how it puts the focus on the space and thus, how ineffective her hiding spot really is. Though that’s not the tree’s fault.

Page 13:

I’ve not been to a wedding in forever – my family mostly got those out of the way before I was born and the friends in my early-twenties peer-group who are in relationships barely have enough money to consider cohabitating much less taking any steps further than this. So, it’s nice to be going to one vicariously through this issue as well as being able to skip through the long, potentially arduous build-up to the reason we’re all there.

The River Ouse runs through Yorkshire. It’s 52 miles long, stems from the River Ure and feeds into the Humber Estuary. 

Hmmm, that vape cloud does look particularly ominous.

Page 14:

Susan is proof that you don’t need to have fun to have alcohol.

Killing a swan is a crime in the UK because every swan is the legal property of the Queen. This is not a lie!

Page 15:

Conversely, drink tokens are not fun. They might sound like a democratic idea, but for the couple of Christmas parties that I’ve worked, the company has never provided as many as people would like and after a certain point, the hardened drinkers start scrounging around for any that haven’t been redeemed yet in the same way that gangsters go about collecting protection money.

She’s also managed to crawl out with her glass of red wine in hand, which is smart.

Page 16:

Like I said earlier, it’s pretty great that Susan remains steadfast in her belief. 

And honestly, brawls never break out in the toilets.

Page 17:

Esther and McGraw’s dance is a lovely moment, even with the caveat that it doesn’t make Susan feel any better after everything that’s happened this issue.

Page 18:

Is that a drunk Simon Pegg from Sean of the Dead sat in the background?

We’re a little short on staff right now at the pub and I would happily take anyone on who can carry a loaded tray that easily and shoot back a snarky response to someone at the same time. However, Susan would have been in the right if she had happened to “accidentally” drop the tray right onto Karen.

…but at the same time, with that name, you can be sure that she’d be asking to speak to a manager and kicking up a storm.

Page 19:

Remember, if Esther ever invites you to dance, double check that you’re wearing steel toecaps.

It’s nice that Susan’s perspective was of her boyfriend dancing with a pretty girl, whilst McGraw’s perspective is that he just got his foot broken.

Page 20:

It’s been a long time since we had a karaoke event at the pub, but sometimes when things are quiet, I can still hear the inebriated “Come on, Eileen” renditions lingering in the air. It gets people up and singing just as hard as “Sweet Caroline”.

Page 21:

You think the toilet frog is creepy? Just look at how happy that frog which Esther falls over is. He would absolutely be fine killing you, heck, he might even start grinning more.

Campbell’s stars are a nice touch too.

Page 22:

The books in Esther’s pile are from authors Joan Didion, John Irving, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer. If you say so! I was going to double-check but then I couldn’t be bothered.

I never wrote a dissertation at uni, but if I were in Esther’s shoes and had left it this late to start the ball rolling, I know that I’d be in a much more hectic state.


Giant Days #48

Written and drawn by John Allison
Coloured by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell


Matt Sibley is a writer, critic and podcaster who is most commonly found writing for Newsarama as part of their “Best Shots” reviews team. You can find him on twitter here!


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