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The Only Time I’ve Wished John Allison Were American

And I assure you, it’s for entirely selfish reasons.

You see, the last regular issue of Giant Days released yesterday. The series built on the three minicomics that followed Tackleford goth queen Esther de Groot to university, and told the stories of Esther, Susan Ptolemy, and Daisy Wooten as they became the best of friends. And university in the UK lasts a typical three years instead of the four you get here in the States, so that’s potentially one more year of story time (or maybe 18 issues) of Giant Days that could have been and won’t be.

The again, if Allison were American, the delightful weirdness that was born in Tackleford more than twenty years ago across multiple series would never have been what it was. Americans can be weird, but we don’t have the sense of absurd whimsy — and I use that phrase solely in a complimentary sense — that undergirds British humo[u]r. Sure, we might have gotten Allisonian stories about Mike Bloomberg (the man has an uncanny sense about what the man meant as New York City mayor), but there would have been no McGraw, no Ed Gemmell¹, no stories about vengeful European exes or occasional visits from Shelley or Lottie or Big Lindsey.

It is worth mentioning that Giant Days was a team effort from the beginning, and that Allison’s creative partners made his delightful dialogue and benign chaos sing. Pencillers Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin understand the necessity of exaggerated motion and super-malleable faces when dealing with Allison’s characters, maybe even better than he does himself. Liz Fleming’s inks added weight and energy, Whitney Cogar’s colors made everything lively, and Jim Campbell did the most important thing a letterer can do — he made his work completely invisible, except for when it needed to grab your attention.

The tale, as they say, grew in the telling, from a planned six-issue limited series to ongoing; I’m not sure that there’s anything else I get now with a higher issue count than Giant Days². Allison could have kept it going another 54 issues or more, if he’d felt the desire to; the passage of time was fluid enough that each academic year could have been stretched almost infinitely.

But the charm of the story was knowing that it’s a prequel (Esther left for uni at the very end of Scary Go Round, and Bad Machinery started three years later³ in story time — about the time Esther was finishing school. We watched those child mystery solvers grow from about 11 years old to about 16 or 17. In real-world terms, Esther, Daisy, and Susan have been apart for a half-decade, maybe more. There were hints in Bad Machinery (and the various Bobbins resumptions) about things that must have happened to Esther, we knew where we were heading. It’s easy to get disinvested in a prequel and it’s even easier to get lazy about the story, knowing how it has to end.

But that never happened. Giant Days was a story that got stronger as it went along; literally each issue was better than the one before, each bit of life — small moments and big catastrophes, as Allison described it — thrown at the characters ringing truer, each hard-won bit of growth making us feel for them more than the one before. It’s a hell of a thing to do a comic for five years or so without a bad stretch; it’s considerably harder to continually improve as you go along.

We aren’t quite done with the ladies; around Halloween there will be a double-sized finale issue that catches up with them a year after graduation. I imagine that if Allison ever gets the itch to revisit them, he can find a story to tell in the same fashion, and I will always be there for it. I watched Susan and Daisy and Esther navigate the transition to early adulthood, and I will be thrilled if I get the chance to revisit them as they continue to change and grow, like a comics version of the Up film series.

Or maybe we’ll soon see the last we’ll ever see of them. Like any beloved friends, I’ll treasure the time I got to spend with them and always be glad of more when the stars align. In any event, there will be more stories from Allison and his collaborators, and more new characters to come to love. But nothing he does in the future will diminish the very real accomplishment that has been Giant Days, nor will I ever stop putting these issues into the hands of people that haven’t read them. Thank you, John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell. You done good.


Spam of the day:
Spammers don’t get to share today with the Giant Days crew.

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¹ Who, I can’t believe I’m finally realizing after all these issues, was always referred to by Esther & Co by his full name, never just Ed. He’s like Charlie Brown, if Charlie Brown finally got with the little red-haired girl and she was also a giant Australian muscle-babe who loves and appreciates him for who he is. Well done, you two.

² That’s a bit of a dodge, as both The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Usagi Yojimbo restarted from issue #1 since Giant Days started.

³ And holy crap, ten years ago in the real world.

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