Last year, the Eisner award-winning indie comic Lumberjanes was a bestselling hit for publisher BOOM! Studios, and now John Allison's Giant Days, a series about the misadventures of three women in their first year of a British college, looks like it's on the same path.
Both comics are part of the BOOM! Box imprint, which focuses on creator-owned comics that appeal to women readers. Both got a boost from online fans. Sensing an overlap between the audiences, BOOM! previewed the first periodical issue of Giant Days in Lumberjanes; Giant Days had preorders of about 6,000.
The characters of Giant Days – Daisy, sweet and naïve; Esther, pale and interesting; Susan, down-to-earth and sensible – give the series a witty, heartfelt, and a bit over the top feeling at times—just like Lumberjanes. The artist for the first six issues of Giant Days is Lissa Treiman, a Disney animator whose credits include Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6; artist Max Sarin took over with issue 7.
The first volume of the collected edition of Giant Days hits stores this week. We spoke with creator John Allison about the series’s history and how working on a series is different from working on the web comics he made his name with.
PW: How did you make the transition from a page-a-day webcomic to a more continuous flow of story?
JA: I'd had a few goes at writing that way over the years, and did a self-published two-issue series (Expecting to Fly) in the same format just prior to starting Giant Days, to make sure I could actually do it, and to work out any flaws in my process. The process isn't so different. Plus, I'd done three Giant Days mini-comics myself before taking it to BOOM!, so it was more a matter of tightening those up (all 80 pages are summarized in three panels at the start of Volume 1). The nice thing about having done thousands of pages of comics, at different sizes, is that you have a lot of problem-solving tools in your box.
PW: How have you been connecting with the readers of Giant Days?
JA: I've been lucky enough to have had amazing support from the direct market [the comic shop market]. Comic stores have been recommending the book, staff are really behind it, and where that's happened, it sells out every month. You can't pay for that kind of word-of-mouth. There's a rump of my webcomic readers who have been picking it up monthly, others are clearly trade-waiting. I've been so busy writing that I've only done a couple of conventions since the series started but it feels like there's a really good split of old and new readers.
PW: How has the shift from a limited series to ongoing changed your plans?
JA: I've worked on this big, open-ended universe of comics for more than 17 years now, so I automatically have my eye on what comes next. I knew what the six-issue arc would do—it was kind of issue-led—each issue touched on something difficult to overcome. When the [original 6-issue] run was upped to 12, I had to deepen the character arcs a little. Now it's ongoing... let's just say there are a new set of challenges. I don't want it to become like the third season of “Gilligan's Island,” where it's all dream sequences and celebrity guest stars.
PW: Most of your comics have female leads. What do you find interesting about female characters?
JA: I like my male characters as much my female characters, but I always seem to have less for them to say. As the artist on most of my work, I prefer drawing women—there's just a lot more going on, a lot of fun you can have with hair and clothes, but that's not it. Women are more complicated communicators than men, who have a tendency to pronounce and bloviate, and that makes for better writing in talky work. I never set out to be the man who writes a lot of female characters. When I try to explain what my books are about to strangers—say, the sort of strong, rough-handed man who visits your house to fix something—I feel a certain incongruity in telling them that I write stories mostly about teenage girls and women. But I'm proud that I do. I intend to write a lot more of them.