As a twenty-something comic enthusiast who doesn’t quite identify with a lot of Marvel or DC material, it always feels like striking gold whenever I find an exceptionally funny series with great artwork to boot. Too often I have to bargain for one or the other, either getting an eyeful of gorgeously drawn panels and a story that seems to have been scribbled in the day before publishing, or an interesting narrative amidst haphazard pictures. So of course when I stumbled upon the first issue of Giant Days at my local comic retailer, the only copy left being the one with the bent corner that everybody else bypassed, I felt like I’d found something precious. This series is not only loaded with humorous dialogue and colorful artwork, it also manages to downplay the usual importance of a serious plot line through its cast of lively characters and their theatrical dynamic within each self-contained story. Written by John Allison (who is known for his hilarious daily comics at scarygoround.com), Giant Days is an exceptional contemporary spin on the Archie format, presenting an interesting bunch of teenagers and watching their struggle with adulthood unfold.
Giant Days #1 introduces three vibrant women and the ups and downs of their day-to-day university experience. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse set of dormitory neighbors and best friends. Esther de Groot is a gothic beauty with a penchant for causing drama, Daisy Wooton is a kind-hearted and exceptionally naive nerd-girl, and Susan Ptolemy is a stubborn and aggressive realist who isn’t afraid to speak her cynical mind. Set in present-day Britain, the subject matter heavily revolves around dating or college-related affairs as nearly every issue is set on campus, and each instalment does a wonderful job delivering its whimsical and intelligent comedy with an original flair.
The first issue begins with Esther, Daisy, and Susan lounging in Susan’s dorm room, discussing their experiences of the past few weeks. To embellish their contrasting looks, Daisy is drawn in a striped sweater with a turquoise headband in her gigantic, poofy hair, Esther is covered head-to-toe in black clothing, and Susan sits at her computer in a frumpy yellow top, a pack of cigarettes at her side. During the course of their conversation, Esther is accused of being a “dramatist” by Susan, who recounts her friend’s propensity for causing a scene. Esther adamantly denies this claim, and the two bet on how long Esther can subsist without inciting drama. Following their wager, we’re introduced to two other characters, a scruffy-haired geek-boy named Ed and, more importantly, his mustached roommate, McGraw, who is actually a bitter enemy of Susan’s from back home. Soon we begin to identify the invisible string that ties these characters together and how they all function as friends (or foes).
With campus as a backdrop, there are endless possibilities for situational humor—and John Allison knows this. In one lunchroom scene, a plate of thick and gooey gravy flies through the air and lands all over McGraw. Despite Susan’s taunting laughter, he insists nothing can ruin gravy for him, combing it from his hair and flinging it onto his own mashed potatoes. Some of the funniest panels are due to the characters’ ridiculous facial expressions, and even the expressions of students in the background. My focus often shifts from the protagonists to the scenery beyond, laughing at the zany reactions from random extras. There’s humor to be found everywhere, whether it’s the focus of the scene or hiding in secret places outside the foreground. Giant Days artist Lissa Treiman does a wonderful job breathing life into John Allison’s witty scripts, her cute, cartoonish artwork fitting the series like a glove. Just for Esther’s outfits alone, it’s obvious why Giant Days #1 sold out of over 7,300 copies at the distributor level.
Let’s return to the main characters for a second. I absolutely love the way Esther, Daisy, and Susan function together, completely without rivalry, always ready to stick up for one another in a way that never feels forced. Innocent Daisy Wooton is a refreshing ingredient to the Giant Days recipe in that she isn’t a “sass queen” like a lot of female protagonists tend to be, and even Susan and Esther (though they’re a lot cheekier than Daisy) toe the sass line only slightly, their self-assuredness coming across as audacious rather than overdone. McGraw is an engaging character as well, with his bushy black mustache, flannel shirts, passionate love of craftsmanship and—let’s face it—his general undercurrent of woodsy masculinity. Though his heated history with Susan Ptolemy is never fully explained in Giant Days #1, you know we’ll be provided a juicy backstory eventually.
Overall, this is a great first instalment to the Giant Days sequence. The characters are developed exceptionally well within the short time period, the setting is fun and relatable, and most importantly, Allison’s wit translates perfectly with aid from the colorful and contemporary artwork of Lissa Treiman. Giant Days #1 has made a splash in the comic world, offering a spunky distraction from real life and delivering more than just a shallow bundle of pages. With its animated characters, brilliant visuals and laugh-out-loud humor, I can’t wait to see more of this promising series.