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

That’s a pretty sick dissertation title. Mine was something about the use of craft based elements in contemporary graphic design.

Extremely accurate depiction of the writing process. Mine at least. Not the giant eagle though, just the despair.

Page 2

While there is precedence for giant eagles appearing to save the day I am not convinced that this is what’s happening.

Poster Watch: Esther’s room edition 

  • Band of any other name – Not a real band
  • Spooky lady face – Spooky, very goth.

Page 3

More of that accurate depiction of writing.

I don’t know if I believe that Esther owns and wears white underwear. 

It looks like her room has been partially taken-over by parental clutter: the box of Xmas decs in your room is the first sign that your parents have mentally moved you out – Editor.

Love me some gently backhanded parental advice, especially during stressful situations.

Page 4

Apologies but I am unable to identify the components of what I’m sure is a very traditional British lunch.

It’s weird that Esther gets so little done when passive aggression is such a great source of inspiration.

Page 5

LOTTIE GROTE. I love Lottie. This is now a Lottie Grote fan annotation. Fannotation if you will.

Page 6

Poster Watch: Lottie’s room edition

  • Guns for Eyes – advert for Esther and Sarah’s former fanzine of the same name.
  • Baltimore – American city, home of Hannibal Lecter, setting of The Wire.
  • L from Deathnote – anime boy and world renowned detective 
  • Sherlock Holmes – renowned detective with big anime boy potential, on consultating with local Sherlock aficionado, we believe this to be the Jeremy Brett incarnation.
  • Poirot (suspected)- renowned detective, Belgian, gastrointestinally compromised.

Lots of detectives here. Curious…

Esther, you are an adult, get your shoes off the bed. In fact take them off entirely, you are a guest in the house, you shouldn’t be wearing shoes at all.

Page 7

A bunk up is when you sort of push someone up a wall or a fence, just like in the next panel. I think giving someone a boost might be the American equivalent.

I looked up what a venture capitalist was and there was a lot about investing and equity so I think it might just be a fancy way of saying rich villain, which I think would qualify them as a vampire of sorts. Correct.

Page 8

410 words is more than I have written for this piece right now, so personally I think you’re doing great Esther. Long form anything is a TRUDGE.

The de Groots are very into masl based decor aren’t they?

This conversation gives me chills. It’s perfectly okay to not know what you want to do with the next 50 years of your life. I don’t even know what I want to do tomorrow.

Page 9

Every dad aspires to having a separate chair to the sofa which only they can recline in.

One of the benefits of being a student is that going to the pub in your pyjamas with no makeup and unwashed hair is generally not viewed as a cry for help.

Page 10

I would like to know more about the fish person

As with most crowd scenes in Giant Days, someone here is wearing a Steven Universe shirt.

Page 11

Quirky is my favourite passive aggressive insult to receive from people I went to school with.

I forgot to mention that the whole going out in your pyjamas thing not looking like a cry for help only works around other students. Otherwise you will look like you have The Depression.

A round robin letter is a letter you send out with your Christmas cards that chronicles everything that’s happened to you or your family that year. It’s not something you should aspire to as a person.

These letters are a passive-aggressive form of attack between mothers, as they try to make their life sound as idyllic – and their kids sound as successful – as possible. It’s Instagram for the generation who didn’t have Instagram.

Page 12

Eustace. The ex-boy. Extremely cute. Would ghost with.

Henry VIII is a long-dead 6-wived king known, amongst other things, for being particularly rotund. 

Little bit of internalised fatphobia there, buddy? Fat is not a bad word or a moral quantity.

Page 13

Efe’s is an institution for drunk people in towns all over the north. I don’t know why there is always an Efe’s but there is.

They won’t put curry sauce on chips either. It’s a travesty. 


Page 14

Stalag is a German term for a prisoner of war camp. Esther might be being a little overdramatic here.

This is such a clever page, showing Esther wondering if she can go back to her past in order to avoid the future.

Page 15

This woman is awful. There’s no reason for her to even be in that room except to create drama. No one asked you to get involved in the washing! 

I love Esther mirroring the wolf on the poster behind her.

Lottie Grote, tiny angel.

Page 16

I would also never talk to my mam like that but she would also not get up on my business like that. If I don’t wash my clothes, that’s on me.

I think Esther has run out of skeleton-based outfits to wear so she’s onto plain jumpers.

A pint seems like a lot of holy water but I am willing to defer to Lottie’s expertise.

Vicars are easy to distract, they are just so glad to talk to someone other than god.

Lippy means mouthy, which means gobby, which means you got a big snipey rude mouth.

Page 17

Anne was too quick for them. This is clearly not her first rodeo. 

Page 18

I don’t think that reconnecting with an ex is necessarily a bad thing or that a gentle hang with clear boundaries is the gateway to crossed wires. Three years is a long time and you are definitely different people, it doesn’t need to be weird.

At least Lottie is capable of rational thought.

Page 19

It’s not even that much washing.

If you’ve been reading for a while then you will know that I’ve already written about Babylon 5. If you haven’t then issue 49 is a weird place to start and you should really go back to the start.

A thing about moving away is that when you come home you feel like you’ve outgrown wherever it is you came from. The thing you don’t always realise is that that place and those people kept growing too, and that your new shapes might not be entirely compatible anymore. It sucks.

Page 20

Emotions but yes.

Page 21

Desiccation is to remove the moisture from something, Esther is writing a dissertation. Desiccation would be more fun.

I also wrote my undergraduate dissertation in 2 days. It was not my best work.

For such a smart girl, Esther can be a proper dunce on occasion.

Knowing Tackleford, there’s every chance this vampire is real, you know.

Page 22

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius is the title of a memoir written by Dave Eggers. It’s also a great way to describe the dissertation you just finished proofreading for your best friend.

No one has ever described my spelling and grammar as top drawer. Probably because it’s quite bad.

McGraw looks very proud of his… cricket bat? I’m also not sure what it is.


Giant Days #49

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!