Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Daytripper, drawn and written by Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, is the first mini-series I remember buying and reading in its entirety. Each issue of the ten-issue arc is a stand-alone story, but when read in sequence, paints a complex portrait of the successes and failures of daily life, and is one of the best uses I have ever seen of the monthly serial 32-page comic as an artistic medium (and was in fact recognized as such, winning the 2011 Eisner award, the comic industry equivalent of a Grammy or Oscar, for Best Limited Series).
Each issue recounts one episode in the life of Brás de Oliva Domingo – the last. Usually, he is having some sort of personal crisis – he resents being in his father’s literary shadow; or he is still in love with his ex; or he is a successful novelist but still unhappy; or in one issue, he is a child and he loses his favorite kite – when he has a sudden epiphany and learns something valuable about family or friends or dreaming or chances, only to die abruptly from rather unforeseen circumstances. The age at which he dies becomes the title of each issue, and the next issue usually recounts some mentioned history or aspiration rather than following a temporal order.
Consequently, the arc develops rather like a poem, each small narrative building on the previous to create an overwhelming sense of both joy and sadness as the comic celebrates the life and death of an ordinary man. After the first few, picking up an issue became itself for me an anticipatory moment of bittersweetness – I was going to see something beautiful, and in a very organic way, it was going to end.
In one issue, Brás dies trying to help a friend. In another, he dies intervening in a family dispute. But even when his death is caused directly by some action on his part, the comic does not laud him as a hero. He is not to be celebrated for trying something in particular, but rather for caring enough to try.
The comic centers on human interaction as grounding and meaning-producing, but also features a very strong sense of location. The watercolors and hand-written onomatopoeia evoke a kind of nostalgia that is based in lived experiences. Both brothers write and draw, but their styles flow together seamlessly – they can be differentiated but do not need to be.
If finals are getting you down, or if you want something to get you excited about all the possibilities that lie latent in summer, pick up this comic for a rejuvenating dose of beauty amplified by the perfect imperfections of everyday existence. A copy of the trade is available at McCabe.