Apparently as an Aussie guy, I am, so says the iconicly-famous song by Men at Work, supposed to be engaged in regular bouts of plundering (and chundering too but that’s a whole other thing) while the women around me are reported to glow from perspiration, nuclear fallout residue or some unspecified trigger.
Whatever the activity and its attendant cause, lines from “I Come From a Land Down Under” make for fairly arrestingly-quirky titles (and, rather handily, lyrics as it turns out) and so it is that Giant Days, itself a delightfully-idiosyncratic of three close university friends and their satellite group of recurring friends, has christened its latest Christmas special with Colin’s Hay’s immortally-sung words.
It’s fitting for in the 2018 festive one-shot, Ed Gemmel, one of the aforementioned group of friends, heads Down Under to meet his girlfriend’s family, all “Manly Men” whom he initially finds pretty intimidating.
Written and illustrated by creator John Allison, Where Women Glow and Men Plunder, marks the first time, so says BOOM! Studios, upon which imprint the Giant Days series is released, that he has both written and illustrated an issue of the ever-growing universe of Esther, Susan and Daisy, a fact that caused him to go for broke creativity-wise.
“When BOOM! Studios asked me for a holiday special this year, I knew I would have to dig deep. And if you dig deep, and keep digging, and pop out on the other side of the world, you end up in Australia. Which is where this year’s special is set. Expect sun, surf, spiders and snags. I grew up with Australian soap operas like Home & Away and A Country Practice, and have always loved their comedy and music. This may not have qualified me to accurately depict their country, but it hasn’t stopped me trying. I often tell anyone who listens that I would be a great showrunner on an Australian soap. So, finally, all those gold-plated ideas have a home.” (Comics Now)
The influence of Australian soaps is obvious, in the best of all possible ways, giving us a depiction of Australia that isn’t wholly accurate, or even partially so really, but which is a lot of sweet awkward fun in keeping with the series’ overall look and feel and which works as a charming tale of the lengths any of us, especially good old Ed Gemmel, will go to to find love, or at least, ensure you can live with its family.
In that respect, this Giant Days one-shot plays like a action-filled rom-com, punctuated by comical misunderstandings, seldom-used Aussie idioms, familial inclusion (despite what Ed might think) and the kind of romantic bravery that would impel one geeky guy to head halfway, or more really, around the world to meet the family of his possible one true love.
Despite the absence of the three plucky, beautifully down to earth and funny young women who usually give Giant Days so much heart and soul, Where Women Glow and Men Plunder is every bit as charming as any of the episodes that have gone before that.
That’s not simply because of Allison’s obvious hand in proceedings nor the fact that we already know, and yes love, Ed Gemmel (it’s not just you Nina) but because the Christmas special captures that sense of earnest awkwardness that powers the entire series.
Giant Days is at heart all about the messily-inconsistent business of being human, which is at a challenge at any stage of your life – don’t believe the bellicose declarations of grumpy old men and women; they still don’t have a clue what they’re doing – but even more so in the period between childhood and early adulthood when everything seems wonderfully possible but you don’t have a clue how to get there.
Well, not without a few existential bumps and scrapes anyway.
Ed, god bless him, is off one of the grandest young adult adventures of all – seeing if he and an Aussie girl, Nina, that he met in England can actually make a relationship work, a challenge not just of distance but of culture, and yes, family.
The family, in this case, might look big and threatening and “manly” but honestly that more a product of Ed’s vividly-insecure imagination that anything really.
In essence, Allison paints them, the use of old-fashioned phrases like “you massive drongo” notwithstanding, like any other family greeting the man or woman who could sweep their child away far from home.
They’re cautiously-welcoming but reserving judgement until Ed proves his mettle; in this case, by rescuing Nina’s politically-savvy grandmother who has created a family dynasty of sorts in the town’s mayoralty and who can well and truly look after herself but may need a little help doing so.
The narrative is gleefully and gorgeously over the top, a joy to read and immerse yourself in, resonant with everything that makes Giant Days such a pleasure to read at any time of the year, but especially so at Christmas when the season demands bravery, persistence and a willingness to do what it takes to expose yourself “to the most barbaric environment known to man … the Australian family unit.”
Well done Ed Gemmel, well done, and may you get everything your awkwardly-insecure heart demands, now and at any time.