Daytripper’s story follows the life of Brás de Olivia Domingos, the son of a famous Brazilian author. Living in his father’s shadow, he dreams of becoming a famous author himself and having his words live forever. Brás writes obituaries as a job, creating ends to others’ stories. Therefore, Brás is surrounded by death.
As I started reading Daytripper, this original story brought to mind a reference (commonly misquoted) of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1843):
It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.
The reason why Kierkegaard’s view on the impossibility of understanding life forced itself in my mind derives from the Daytripper’s structure. Each chapter is a moment in Brás’s life, going from his early life to old age, and is not recalled in chronological order. Subsequently, the structure mimics how memory works with hiatus, linking one chapter to the next with a single element, regardless of the time and space in which it belongs. Moreover, each chapter ends with Brás’s death sometimes as an adult, a boy, or an old man. This ingenious way of capturing life seems to be a way to make the readers of the book remember life’s brevity and randomness.
Upon hearing about the structure of the book, one may presume that this graphic novel is about death. Strangely, it is not so simple. The book is much more about what makes a life than how it ends. It is about those small moments that define us and reveal what is important: family, friendship, love, and professional success. The chapters show that self-defining moments do not only happen in uncommon events like abandonment, birth, and death, but also in the small moments when one decides to change his or her life. Furthermore, by ending the chapters with the protagonist’s death, the twin authors, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, actually put the focus on life itself and on its changing quality. This book is an effort to make you stop and enjoy life as it is right now. To not wonder about the impossibility of the present time but to seize the moment that is already fading away.
The brothers truly reproduced intense emotions through their artwork. The chapters feel like looking at old pictures of yourself, remembering a specific moment in your life and how you felt. Knowing the person you were does not exist anymore because that person died a long time ago. In doing so, the book achieves its goal: “Firmly based on reality, the most difficult thing wasn’t trying to create a world that would look real. No, the hardest thing was creating a world that would feel real. Every reference, every photo, every color and every character, everything was made to try to reproduce feelings. A feeling that you were alive, happy, lonely, afraid or in love.” (Fábio Moon, Daytripper) Moon and Bá worked together on the story, but they divided the artwork between themselves, thus employing their strengths to their full potential. Moon did the majority of the drawings, and Bá made the covers and the more oneiric moments of the book. Dace Steward’s colors are simply wonderful. When the character is seen as a child, the colors are bright and beautiful, just like we remember the world when we were young. The colors are also brighter when in a dream or in a dreamlike state. The different artworks and the clever use of colors truly create a world in which you can feel, not just a world in which you believe.
As the brothers said in an interview, the title Daytripper is an echo to the Beatle’s song and its many interpretations. When listening to the song and thinking of the book, I chose to read into the song as a metaphor for life. That sometimes life is “a big teaser [that takes us only] half the way there” without giving us any reason or answer. That sometimes life ends too soon and is definitively a “one way ticket”. It takes time to realize our own mortality, and when we do, it is almost over. “It took me so long to find out. And I found out.” One may want to argue that this song is about drugs or prostitutes, and he or she may be right. Maybe, and probably, the song was written with something else than life in mind. But it does not mean that the reference to the song does not add to the book. In fact, it truly completes the project of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá with its cheerful music about how life may be short and unpredictable but full of pleasures.
I bought Daytripper before knowing what the storyline was. I loved Gabriel Bá’s art in The Umbrella Academy so I wanted to discover his other works. In other words, I did not know about the structure of the book. After two chapters ending with Brás’s death, I started my journey through the common and the extraordinary of life. Daytripper rapidly became a personal experience for me, as I think it is meant to be. It made me contemplate my similar experiences (first kiss, family gatherings, true friendship, first love, and so on). But it also became a time to wonder about the experiences that I never had, about what will come next for me, and about what truly defines me.
Daytripper is a book of emotions. My reading made me sensitive to the importance of my friends and family, and how it could be over abruptly. “Only when you accept that one day you’ll die can you let go… and make the best out of life.” (Daytripper) This single sentence accurately summarizes the lesson these fragments of life want us to learn.
Daytripper’s Deluxe Edition is scheduled to arrive in stores today, April 16th, with a wonderful upgraded cover. Find out more on the brothers’ blog HERE.