Daytripper [2010/11] – ★★★★★
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are twin brothers from Brazil who are the creators of Daytripper, an ambitious comic book about Bras de Oliva Domingos, an obituaries’ writer living in Sao Paulo. We follow and experience his life in a non-chronological order and witness everything from Bras’s “unusual” birth, his first kiss, his major break-up, his career change, to the birth of his child and the death of his parent. Bras learns important life-lessons along the way, and it is his relationships with other people that come to define him and his most memorable life moments. Daytripper may be dealing with very uncomfortable issues of life and death, but this beautiful comic book is also eye-opening, inspirational and moving. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon invite you to step into their colourful, slightly transcendental world of one’s memorable life moments, into the world of “what ifs”, ups and downs, hopes and despairs. Their message is clear: we have one shot at this thing called life and should prioritise the most important things in it, including the people we cherish and the relationships we hold dear. Daytripper is simply an exhilarating journey to uncover the mysteries of life and death.
The comic book starts with Bras as a thirty-two year old obituaries’ writer who is disillusioned about his career of a book writer. His best friend Jorge tries to cheer him up as Bras prepares to attend one of his father’s big events. He does not make it…he is killed on his way there. Moon and Bá capture and hold their readers’ attention with the repeated deaths of their hero Bras, a guy we start to sympathise with a lot as the story moves forwards…and backwards (each chapter ends with a tragedy). At another point, Bras is a carefree twenty-one year old, enjoying his vacation in El Salvador with his best friend Jorge. There, he meets beautiful Olinda. Jorge and Olinda, as well as Bras’s parents, almost act as spiritual companions/guides in Bras’s life journey, teaching him valuable life lessons – directly or indirectly. Bras’s relationship with Jorge is particularly moving. Jorge is the man who teaches Bras how to relax and enjoy each moment in life – he shows him the fun side of life. Bras, in turn, keeps wild Jorge, a photographer, grounded.
The theme of life and death, as well as the meaning of life, is at the very centre of Daytripper. The authors want their readers to ask such questions as – “what is the most important thing in our lives?” and “If something bad happens tomorrow, have we lived true to ourselves and to those dear to us?”. These are not the questions one will ask on a daily basis or even want to ask oneself, but Moon and Bá present their “thesis” in such an enjoyable and thought-provoking format, one will ponder about these questions when reading the comic book and be happy to do so. We are shown Bras at various stages of his life – and most of them end abruptly. The point is clear: do not wait for an opportunity, create it and take it (tomorrow may not come). Bras learns something profound at each period of his life and it is only by living through his experiences he is able to know – there is no shortcut to the answers.
When Bras has to deal with sorrow and grief in his life, we are taken on this ride too. Meetings and partings are all part and parcel of a thing called life, just as losses, loneliness and new beginnings are. The courage is to make those new beginnings, the story says. By writing about death and the lives of others, Bras actually gains a new perspective on life and its meaning, and, as he becomes more reflective, so do we as we read his story. Bras battles his own inner demons when he knows at some point that his career of a writer is going nowhere – “he knew he has been running away from his dreams….because he was afraid of failing” [Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, 2011: 210] – and even though the readers may be far from creative pursuits, Bras’s story somehow feels very relatable and personal. The joys of friendship, romantic love and parenthood – they all sit there alongside the chance of a heart-break, uncertainty and depression, but this insightful comic book has many other observations to make, including on the true nature of people: “Everybody has to work, right?….these people in here who have to do something to get by…But, that doesn’t tell you who these people truly are” [Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, 2011: 47], explains Olinda passionately to Bras at a street market. The nearness of death in the story also gives a new perspective on life, and there are still surprises when finally facing the expected and the inevitable – it is when death is so close that life (and its meaning) is suddenly so clear and simple. Near the end of the story, Bras’s life journey becomes dream-like, possibly because he is now closer than ever to uncover the mysteries of life.
The comic book is not all about philosophical considerations and transcendental experiences, however – there is much humour and dramatic moments which make for a roller-coaster of a reading ride, especially when coupled with chaotic time sequences and memory “flashes”. Some moments are so dramatic as to be laughable, but the main talent of the brothers still lies in capturing the nuances and “still” moments, things left unsaid or silences that speak louder than words. In this sense, some pictures in this graphic novel are really “worth a thousand words”. The comic’s colours (red to signify danger; bluish colours to signify sadness; and bright colours to signify carefree childhood, for example) and transport depiction (a boat, a train), to stand for the passage of time, are other clever devices to make the story more impactful.
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s beautifully-illustrated comic book is something very special: it presents timeless themes in an entertaining format, and makes one wonder and ponder about the meaning of life and things that make it all worthwhile. Daytripper may not be a comfortable ride, but it is a necessary one for everyone – so significant and deep its messages are. Like a good cup of coffee the twin creators love so much, Daytripper is sometimes “bitter”, sometimes “sweet”, but it still guarantees to give you “a boost” – a boost you will not forget any time soon and will want to come back to again and again.