Holiday Gift Bag: Daytripper

Well, well, well, looks like it’s time again for the biggest shopping day of the year! Time to go fight your way through wall-to-wall crowds at the mall, while stores offer insulting “doorbuster” sales that require you to get up at dark-thirty so they can squeeze another few pennies out of you. And don’t you just love shopping mall parking on the day after Thanksgiving? You know why they call it “Black Friday,” right? Because it’s EEEEVIL.

But I’m here to offer you an alternative: comics! There are lots of comics and comic-related gifts you can find for the comics fan in your life, or for the person who you want to turn on to comics. So we’re going to spend a few weeks looking through our Holiday Gift Bag to find some good presents that won’t require anything more stressful than a trip to your friendly neighborhood comics shop.

Today, let’s start things off with Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

If you’ve read this site for a while, you know that this was my very favorite comic series from last year. It wasn’t available in trade paperback last Christmas, but it is now. And here’s why you should consider gifting it to someone else.

This isn’t a traditional comic story. There are no superheroes or villains, no great battle between good and evil, and the only fights are short, brutal, and generally deadly, just like real life. It’s not really a story about mundane life either — though the main character and everyone he knows are perfectly normal people, there are a few traces of magical realism. It’s definitely not a linear story. We follow our hero from the age of 32 to 21 to 28 to 41 to 11 and older and younger and older. But every chapter ends the same way.

Our hero is a Brazilian named Brás de Oliva Domingos. He’s the son of a famous writer, and he has dreams of becoming a writer himself. For now, he’s employed at a newspaper writing obituaries while working on his own novel. He’s got coworkers, a best friend, a prickly relationship with his father, and everything’s going about the way things do. And at the end, Brás dies.

No, not at the end of the entire story. Brás dies at the end of the first chapter.

And then at the end of the second chapter. And the third.

Brás doesn’t have superpowers. He just seems to die on days that are significant and important to him. The day of his first kiss, the day he meets his wife for the first time, the day his son is born, the day he spends writing obits for dozens of people dead in a plane crash.

You can call it miracles, alternate universes, metaphors, whatever you want. Because the deaths aren’t ultimately any more important than anyone else’s death. We all have death to look forward to, or to dread — we all get to die, from the top 1% to the schmuck at the bottom of the 99% rung.

What’s important is how we get there, right?

And how Brás gets there is what keeps you turning the pages of this story. His life, his family, his friends, his lovers, his trials and triumphs, from the entire stretch of his history, from childhood to old age. I wasn’t able to get enough of this, and I think you’d love it, too.

In a way, I’m still a little surprised it didn’t get more acclaim. It’s pretty much the best comic work that Moon and Bá have done — and both of them have done lots of brilliant work prior to this. The series won an Eisner Award, a Harvey, and an Eagle, and I’ve never heard anyone say a cross word about it. DC never published this as a hardcover, just a regular paperback — and this was definitely good enough for a hardcover. Still, DC’s loss is your gain — you can buy it for less than $20.

Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. Go pick it up.

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