In Which I Can’t Get Out Of My Own Way: Graeme Reads Giant Days

March 18, 2015

The announcement of Giant Days — the new Boom! Studios series written by John Allison and drawn by Lissa Treiman, based on characters from Allison’s solo webcomics like Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery — was something that I found myself both incredibly excited, and surprisingly worried, about.

I’m a relative latecomer to Allison’s work, having only discovered it when Oni Press put out Bad Machinery in print back in 2013, but there was something about it that I immediately gravitated towards. It sounds like an insult, but it’s intended as a compliment to say that its artificiality and artifice was a big draw — the characters don’t speak naturally, the situations are wonderfully unrealistic and Allison’s art was specific and cartoonish enough that the whole thing added up to this joyful, ridiculous world that existed outside everything else, complete and wonderful in and of itself.

Giant Days, then, manages to fulfill both the fears and hopes I had for it when it was first announced. It’s not a comic book version of Allison’s web work — not only does it look very different, but there’s a more traditional narrative structure in place that alters the pacing that I’ve come to expect from his work. It all feels, oddly enough, more like a traditional comic book than what I think of as Allison’s style.

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On one level, that’s not a bad thing — Giant Days #1 is actually a really cute, really enjoyable comic book, with female leads and mystery and distinct characters and some wonderful artwork from Treiman, who brings an animated life to everything. It’s fully-realized and inviting, and if I hadn’t been a fan of Allison’s other work, I’d be far less ambivalent about it and far more you guys, you have to read this, this is amazing.

And yet… it’s not the same as Allison’s other work, and that dissonance makes me wary. Is that self-defeating? I feel foolish about it, because I’m normally far more willing to let go of preconceptions when something gets adapted from one format to the other. Do I care that the X-Men that appear in the movies aren’t the ones I grew up reading? Not particularly. Am I bothered that the Barry Allen that speeds around on the CW isn’t the same Flash who runs around in the comic books? Not at all. (And also, last night’s episode was great, wasn’t it?) So, what is it about Giant Days that’s different?

I really can’t answer that, frustratingly. Instead, I’m going to keep reading the comic — which feels like a good companion piece to Lumberjanes in many ways — and trying to convince others to do the same, while I try and work out my discomfort and confusion in silence. There really is a great comic here, if only I could get past my preconceptions to be more excited about it.

(In related news, Giant Days, Bad Machinery and Allison’s webcomics are all worth hunting down and enjoying more than I make them seem here. In particular, Scary-Go-Round: The Continuing Adventures are really, really great.)


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