Daytripper is an Eisner Award-winning graphic novel written and drawn by Brazilian twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and published by Vertigo.
With a shell of magical realism, Daytripper pulls no punches as it navigates the fragile puzzle of Bras de Oliva Domingos’ life. Flitting, disordered, from year to year, each of the ten chapters explores a different period, from his insecurities at age 32 down to weekends spent at his grandparents’ ranch at 11 and all the way up to a doctor’s appointment at 76. Family is a consistent theme, both its beauty and its frustrations, along with love, heartbreak, and the struggle to find purpose in life. The beauty, and fragility, of life is itself underscored by each chapter ending in Bras’ death, only for it to be wiped away the next chapter in a recurring game of what if.
Jorge and Olinda, his best friend and an early lover, respectively, are crucial for the development of the work’s discussion on the purpose of life. Jorge, after missing a plane that crashes without survivors, becomes scared of death and deep dives into trying to make his life “extraordinary.” This carpe diem ideal is unforgiving and, unable to find success, Jorge falls into poverty and insanity. Olinda at first espouses a “people aren’t their jobs” mentality, but there’s hypocrisy in how she condescends to jobs and careers pursued for the sake of survival. Brás and Olinda’s relationship ultimately falls apart because he pursues a career and stability while figuring out the path of his life, which Olinda decries as mediocre for not, presumably, being a fullblooded life of passion and adventure.
Notably, Moon and Bá never reveal the end of Olinda’s story, but through Brás’, we see a man leverage his “mediocrity” into a successful pursuit of his passion. Jorge and Olinda seem to reflect a Millenial / Boheman ideal of devoting life to a pursuit of singular passion, to chase down dreams at a breakneck pace. Through Brás, they tell a story of slow growth and artistic insecurity, worked through by time and happenstance and a community of support. While a beautiful tale beautifully presented, I was disillusioned by Brás’ resounding success as a writer. The story of the struggling artist working through demons and honing their craft is nothing new.
As Moon and Bá say in their closing notes, this is a “story about quiet moments.” There was an opportunity here to tell the story of an artist skilled enough in his craft to make a living, but despite all his effort, not enough to live up to the success of his father or his own dreams. Then despite that disappointment and failure, to find solace in the quiet moments of his life, the loves small and large, side hobbies and little joys. That is a story worth telling too, and one far less common to hear.