Daytripper, A Life Examined: Postmortem

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 30 as part 12 of a 12 part series.

Daytripper 1

Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper. This is the twelfth and final part of an ambitious twelve-part series of articles on this powerful and much-loved series.

Read the introduction here.

Read Jason Sacks’s look at Chapter One of Daytripper, titled “32”, here.

Read Keith Silva’s look at Chapter Two of Daytripper, titled “21”, here.

Read Chase Magnett’s look at Chapter Three of Daytripper, titled “28”, here.

Read Daniel Elkin’s look at Chapter Four of Daytripper, titled “41”, here.

Read Keith Silva look at Chapter Five of Daytripper, titled “11”, here.

Read Paul Brian McCoy’s look at Chapter Six of Daytripper, titled “33”, here.

Read Chase Magnett’s look at Chapter Seven of Daytripper, titled “38”, here.

Read Jason Sacks’ look at Chapter Eight of Daytripper, titled “47”, here.

Read Paul Brian McCoy’s look at Chapter Nine of Daytripper, titled “dream”, here.

Read Daniel Elkin’s look at Chapter Ten of Daytripper, titled “76”, here.

Today we wrap up our look at Daytripper with, as we appropiately call it, a Postmortem on the series.

Keith Silva: Always the writer, always the showman, Stephen King waits until the last sentence of chapter six inDanse Macabre to deliver his coup de grâce about American horror movies. King writes, ”the ultimate subtext that underlies all good horror films is, But not yet. Not this time.”

As readers we are all junkies for what’s next. For Brás de Olivia Domingos the destination was never … well, the destination. Brás is like some Ancient Mariner, he waits at the outskirts of the Bridegroom’s door and we (the readers) are like ”one of three.” In some instances, we get to be the other guys and pass by these ancient mariners these storytellers like Brás, but not yet. Not this time.

A good storyteller — tellers in the case of Moon and Bá — knows God is in the details, in those ”quiet moments,” the intangibles that explain what we need and what we want. Affirmation all the way down. Daytripper is a very mortal (and moral) story. Its humanity is found in how we relate to it, how we as readers are drawn to write ourselves into its pages, to stop others and tell our own stories. Daytripper operates on a frequency of blatant subtlety. Yes, this is a story about the death(s) of one man; however, each of those deaths is the echo, a result of an action, life.

We read Daytripper for those two final words, ”the end.” That’s the beauty, the gift, of fiction, its ability to allow us to curl our toes right on the edge, safe in the knowledge of not yet. Not this time.

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Chase Magnett: “The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.” – Andrei Tarkovskii

I died when I was eight years old.

As I write this sentence almost two decades later, I consider myself very lucky to be capable of telling that half-truth.

When I was eight years old, I became increasingly ill. I lost forty pounds and missed more than two weeks of school. Doctors discouraged my parents from taking me to a hospital because they thought I had influenza. That’s what I’m told. I don’t remember much. The one clear memory I have is staring at the roof of the ambulance as paramedics wrestled with my body and hearing my mother sob in the background before I went into a coma.

I didn’t have influenza. I had diabetes and my blood sugar had been rising for a very long time, slowly destroying my body. So I was rushed to a hospital where I was read my last rites by a Catholic priest and my family was forced to process that they were going to lose me.

But they didn’t. I pulled through. And I’m here today discussing Daytripper with four other writers who I have been incredibly lucky to work alongside.

What does this have to do with Daytripper? To me, everything.

Having a clear perspective of death changes how we live. It forces us to consider the meaning of our actions, the value of our relationships, and the purpose of our lives. Life is a finite good, of which we are allotted an unknown measure and with which we must form an answer to these considerations. We do not know how or when we will die, only that we certainly will, and in that moment our ability to affect the world will cease.

Daytripper is nominally a story about death. Each chapter focuses on the death of Brás de Oliva Domingos. We see the same man die again and again, helpless to end the cycle initiated by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá in the very first chapter. This cycle always ends with an obituary, reflecting Brás’ life and what it meant. It is here that the comic reveals its true intent.

I think of Daytripper and it reminds me of why I live. Each obituary does not focus on the manner or impact of Brás’ death, but the significance of his life. Although he departs the world, his actions and relationships retain value and that is the focus of each obituary. In those brief reflections of his life, we are confronted by our own legacies and value in the world. Through the cipher of Brás we see reflections of our own lives, our own friendships, family, loves, and art.

Together we have examined and evaluated ten tales, each revealing a different aspect of life. Although all of us come from different backgrounds and occupy different stations in life, we were all capable of finding connections to these stories. And through Brás’ triumphs and failures, we learned to recognize value in our own.

When I was eight years old, I was not ready to die. Although I have no desire to do so again, I feel better prepared today. Tarkovskii described the aim of art as preparing a person for death. Yet that quote is not really about death. It is about living. Art is what allows us to grow and develop, to understand and value our relationships, to comprehend and pursue our goals. It is what helps us live.

Daytripper is not a story about dying. It’s a story about living.

I can think of no greater miracle than that.

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Daniel Elkin: In his 1919 novel, Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson writes:

He felt unutterably big and remade by the simple experience through which he had been passing and in a kind of fervor of emotion put up his hands, thrusting them into the darkness above his head and muttering words. The desire to say words overcame him and he said words without meaning, rolling them over on his tongue and saying them because they were brave words, full of meaning. “Death,” he muttered, “night, the sea, fear, loveliness.

Yes, these are brave words — as they bring us to the sense that we are small next to their enormity. Full of meaning, by rolling these words on our tongues we confront the fact that in the face of the hugeness of the world, the overwhelming power of our passions, and the inevitability of our death, our day-to-day troubles and concerns lose much of their importance. Our small struggles with self fade as we try to understand the meaning of the far-reaching point.

Daytripper tries to make sense of who we are and what we leave behind us when we are done. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá seem to tell us that, in the end, regardless of our accomplishments, our true significance is the effect we have on the lives of others. The good we bring into the world defines our legacy. When we love others and are loved, then our lives have been momentous.

And it’s easy to get distracted, get hung up in vanity and ego, feel restless and unsure. We are so lost in a miasma of admonitions to “do” and “be” and “buy” and “go” — the future is before us — why aren’t we doing more? We suffer from discontent because we strive for the constantly unreachable — the orange carrot swaying enticingly from the end of the stick. The late T’ang Dynasty poet Li Po summed it up best when he wrote (here translated by Arthur Cooper):

Hard is the Journey
Hard is the Journey
So many turnings
And now where am I?

But Moon and Bá’s art perhaps give us access to another option. Something more meaningful because it is obtainable, because it makes sense, because it revolves around home and love, friendship and family.

Come, be a Daytripper. Sure the world is vast, our emotions overwhelm, and our end inevitable. But there is goodness all around — purpose to be found — and it is as easy as staring into the eyes of the person you love.

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Paul Brian McCoy: Daytripper is a noble experiment — One that clearly hits home with the vast majority of its audience. I, however, just don’t seem to be that audience. I haven’t nearly died. I have no children. I don’t have father issues. I wasn’t even twenty when I realized that life is what you make it; that we create meaning; that a life worth living is a life lived to create. The insights here are self-evident.

Like being told, adamantly, that the sky is blue and the sun warms the earth.

It is a beautiful parade of images, determined to impress upon the reader that life is good; that life is sadness and happiness; beautiful and sublime. All told from the perspective of a selfish character who never really understands suffering — who never really loses anything, despite losing everything every chapter.

At the same time, I could look at these pages for days unending. They are simply gorgeous. The craft that goes into every single panel creates a dreamlike world that blends the surreal and the naturalistic in a way that is simply masterful.

Reading the words, however, is a tedious and sophomoric experience.

Despite this, Daytripper is pretty much review-proof. Critiquing this book is the equivalent of correcting grammar and symbolism in a student essay about the death of a beloved grandparent. The emotional connections are too strong; they overpower any shortcomings in plotting or character development.

This is an achievement in itself, of course, but not one that holds up to prodding.

Even our work here, diving into each chapter, plumbing them for meaning and insight, is ultimately futile. Any critical evaluation of the work is subsumed by sentimentality, as we talk about our feelings and our own lives and how Daytripper made us cry and have all the feels. But that’s why Daytripper is so popular and satisfying in the end. It’s not a work that you can approach with reason and expect to make any headway. It’s about emotional moments and allowing those fleeting instants to inform the rest of our lives; all of our lives, all of our experiences.

It doesn’t matter that this is the story of a privileged man who ultimately finds his sense of worth in writing a book — a single book that gets more attention in the narrative than this marriage or his child. There is an attempt, in the final chapters, to course-correct, to reinstate Bras’ friends and family into the picture, but by then it’s thematically too late.

Other characters become plot devices. They are conceits used to promote a theme that subtly shifts as the work goes on, moving from finding meaning and value in the sublime beauty of life to something vague about family – fathers and sons, specifically. Family is valuable, or something; male family, anyway. Wives, mothers, and sisters are peripheral; existing in this narrative only to support (or not), mourn, and breed a new generation of men and boys.

Daytripper is a work that is beautiful to look at, and will break your heart chapter after chapter, but doesn’t stand up to critical scrutiny when taken as a whole.

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Jason Sacks:

“Don’t take life so serious, son. It ain’t nohow permanent.”
– Walt Kelly, “Pogo”

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to live your life with grace and dignity, of the desperately important idea of appreciating the best in your life, of emerging from the shell of your adolescent angst and aimlessness and truly inhabit your body in all its glory and insecurities and strangeness and pain.

Through the course of these ten chapters we’ve seen Brás de Olivia Domingos as a child, an adolescent, an aimless young man, a directed adult and a mature old man. We’ve seen him live his life with a childlike wonder, with adolescent angst, with deep emotional pain, deep joy and deep contentment. Like so many of us do, Brás has slowly become comfortable in his own skin and has grown into the type of man that we all aspire to be. We see him grow into grace, embrace gratitude, become an admirable person.

And though I sympathize with the comments from my good friend Mr. McCoy, I also respectfully disagree with them. In a world consumed of banal instant gratification in 140 characters or less, the respectful, thoughtful, clockwork construction of Daytripper stands as a counterweight to that world; it is a deeply felt, deeply thoughtful expression of throwing off the bounds and truly becoming oneself, becoming content in one’s skin.

The emotions are key here because they are the moments that make us most fully human; in the echoing beat of the chapter endings, the deaths at the end of each chapter represent emotional epiphanies and moments of growth. They are the punctuation of the journey to adulthood, to peace, to a certain amount of grace.

In the end we are all just bags of flesh with tiny little brains that move our feet and hands. We’re born babbling and often we die babbling. It’s in between that counts. It’s in the impact we have on others, on the growth that we experience, in the way that we experience the world, that makes us truly human.

Daytripper is a meditation on what it means to be truly human.

Daytripper is a treasure. I’m very glad I got to share that treasure with my dear friends Daniel, Chase and Paul and Keith — and with all of you readers. Thank you for following us as we followed Brás’s journey. We hope that you have experienced your own epiphanies through our essays.

“Brás realized that home is not a physical place at all, but a group of elements like the people you live with — a feeling, a state of mind. He feels safer just knowing that even if he is away, there is a home waiting for him to return. It’s where he can rest. Where he can find peace.”

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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