“Giant Days #1” is just what the doctor ordered if you’re in need of some rather droll humor. John Allison has been dishing out his humor, dry and stylish, for many years. Fans of Allison’s “Scary Go Round” are fiercely devoted to the misadventures of Shelly Winters, which you can check out here. Allison has gone beyond the youthful misadventures of Scary to the schoolgirl sleuths in “Bad Machinery.” And, in between, he created “Giant Days,” featuring Esther de Groot, just starting university, and always ready to get into trouble.
The characters in Giant Days are all quite young, full of spunk, and part of a way of looking at the world, all deadpan and cute. The quirk factor in Allison’s comics falls right in with comics by Kate Beaton and Bryan Lee O’Malley. All three cartoonists don’t seem to have a mean bone in their bodies. Their characters may say things that are snarky and yet they also come across as quite vulnerable, never much of a threat to anyone. Even when things come down to pounding fists and kicks, the genius to keep to a cartoony distance repels any real harm. That is a big part of the appeal. These characters can say and do anything and remain in a cartoon safe zone. That’s the story of a lot of great comics.
You would think this sort of thing is such a piece of cake. The art appears rather simple, yes? The jokes seem so casual and carefree, yes? But, no, it’s not easy cake. It’s not even easy cupcake. The process can be magical, enjoyable, and may seem easy. But it requires the right type of cartoonist: diligent, brave, and full of wit. So is the case with Allison. In Giant Days, he gives us one Esther de Groot, all cute and idealistic. She loves the cerebral and the misfit. Those are the types she wants to hang out with as she starts her life, away from home. But, given her cuteness, the cool girls want to take her as one of their own. Of course, they never expected Esther to have a mind of her own. Sarcastic remarks are made. Cat fights ensue. All in all, just the sort of comic to enjoy with a nice tea and crumpets.