Daytripper, A Life Examined Chapter Eight “The Quiet Tumult of Middle Age” Jason Sacks July 24, 2014 Columns, The Full Run Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper. This is the ninth 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 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 Read our Postmortem on the series here. Today Jason Sacks looks at Chapter Eight of Daytripper, titled “47″. “Why do you travel so much, asked the little man. When I am away from home, I remember how much I miss my family. And once I finally return, they always remember how much they love me,” The contentment of adulthood comes with a significant price. There comes a time in our lives when we are peaceful and happy, when everything seems to be in place – fulfilling work, wonderful family, happy house, steady income. But there’s a price that is paid for that domestic bliss, for the peaceful happy peaceful domesticity of middle age. In chapter eight, Brás de Oliva Domingos is a success by any measure of the word: he’s a bestselling author, has a wife and son who adore him, a wonderful household that gives him joy. Though he had lost his father several years earlier, Brás is surrounded by his past, his present and his future – his mother, wife and young son – and their presence in his life grants him profound joy in ways that a younger version of himself could never imagine. But Brás is a phantom in his own life. He communicates with the people he loves via cellphone messages, notes on the refrigerator, email and voicemail (no doubt if this book had been written a little later there would be a tweet or two in there as well). He has a perfectly happy domestic life but he has no way to actually live his life. His very success brings his own failure, and at the most important day of his life, at a moment when he would have wanted his loved ones by his side, Brás dies alone. It’s a very modern problem, and very much the problem of a middle-aged, middle-class person. For many of us who are muddling through those middle years, the way to support that happy family life is by traveling as much as necessary to build the income and to help fund the family. In doing so, money flows in ways that could never have been expected – and fame follows the money, with fame being that elusive chimera that helps all of us achieve some level of immortality after we are gone (ironically, the other thing that helps us achieve immortality is our children). One of the reasons that Brás seems so happy at age 47 is that he seems to have finally gotten past all of the angst that caused his youth to be troubled. He has fully stepped out of the shadow of his father — cast deeply in chapter one — and became his own man via his own writing. It seems Brás is a less literary writer than his dad, which means he’s carved his own place against his strongest influence – and he also is much less withdrawn, much more in touch with his family and those who love him. You may remember when I was discussing chapter one of Daytripper that I noticed that Brás’s wife was taking a trip without her husband, and that her face was continually hidden in shadow. That may in some way have been due to the twist that Moon and Bá set up in chapters two and three (though it’s pretty clear that Brás didn’t marry Olinda), but also potentially symbolic of their relationship. Here in chapter eight the situation is reversed. The chapter focuses completely on Brás’s wife Ana. She’s in nearly every panel of the story while our protagonist is absent but hovers over everything like a fog. Chapter eight is a transitional chapter and a chapter that stands on its own. For the first time, we truly are seeing the boy as a man – not the man nine years younger who flies to Acimera to try to save his friend, not the man fourteen years younger who finds his future in the face of a terrible tragedy, not the man who watched his son being born or who met the love of his life in a convenience store. Brás has truly grown up and become his own man. He is the product of all his experiences, of all the little deaths in his life that have preceded the death in this chapter. He is truly, completely himself. Of course, as any of us in our peaceful middle age know, we never fully become ourselves. We always remain the echoes of our parents. I feel my father’s influence in me all the time, in the way that I approach the world, in the way that I make decisions and in the way that I embrace the things that I find intriguing about the world. Though he passed away in 2005, he still looks over my shoulder like a benevolent ghost, guiding me to make the right decisions in my life. In the same way, Brás carries Benedito around in him. We see Benedito in Brás’s long absences from his family, in the way that he smokes his father’s favorite brand of cigarettes, in his embrace of the literary life, and, most hauntingly, in the way that his son Miguel wanders into Brás’s writing room and looks around as if he’s in a place where true magic is created. That scene echoes earlier scenes when Brás wanders into his father’s office — significantly, the death in chapter four happens in Benedito’s office — and becomes a signal across generations: the more that we try to elude the past, the more that the past comes to embrace us. Brás’s office feels important and special, a place set aside and a place frozen in amber in much the way that Benedito’s office is frozen in chapter four. Chapter eight is a transitional chapter because for the first time, we see the full lives of the other characters in this book. Previously we only saw Ana, Miguel and Brás’s mother Aurora through their relationships with him; finally here we get a sense of Ana’s job, see Miguel’s school, see sections of Aurora’s house other than her husband’s office, get a sense of the lives that these characters have. That is a significant change that opens the story up in ways that reflect the growth that Brás has experienced. He’s set aside the narcissism of youth for the wisdom and peace of age. He’s finally opened himself up to the people who love him, and in that openness he’s found some measure of true happiness. It’s significant that this Brás’s death happens offscreen. We see the impact of his life and existence but we only see him in the ways that he communicates himself, in the ways that he chooses to make himself available. Previously we could watch Brás’s actions and make sense of his experience with the world through his actions. In this chapter our protagonist is a ghost. He’s ephemeral. In one beautiful scene, he’s the empty half of a queen bed; in another, he’s the missing storyteller at his son’s bedside; in another, he’s the thoughts inside his son’s head as the son sits and daydreams at school. Chapter eight of Daytripper is also about silence; not the silence that represents an absence of something essential, but the silence that represents a true contentment in one’s life. There are so many talismans of that quietude: my favorite may be the long-shots of Ana and Aurora eating lunch at an empty table. Following the edicts of traditional storytelling, Moon and Bá should have placed their camera close to the table to bring the women’s’ faces into close perspective. Instead the artists choose to distance us from the women, placing them at an oblique angle, off center and oddly askew, nearly overwhelmed by the word balloons above them. The distance emphasizes the quiet of the moment and the calm, quiet contentment of their existences – underlined by the way that the second word balloon of panel four during their lunch sets aside the words ‘too silent’”. But silence is everywhere in this chapter. We see it in the magical moment when Miguel wanders downstairs to his room. We see it in the way that Ana contentedly sets up the bed she shared with her beloved husband. And, maybe most ominously and most intriguingly, we get silence in the scenes in which Ana rushes through the torrential rain to pick her son up at school. The storm is silent and the only noise is a subtle, too-quiet ringing of a cellphone that can’t be heard over the tumult of silent noise that surrounds it. The storm can be seen to represent a sort of abstract nature’s revenge against the silence, perhaps an indication that at times when we’re too content that there’s a storm brewing and that chaos may soon descend again. For all of our middle age striving for security, our peace and calm can only be ephemeral in a world that contains so much that is out of our control. No matter how in control of your life you may be, a storm can always begin raging that might shake you up in the ways that only nature can do. As this chapter ends, the child who was born as a miracle during a blackout dies during a blackout as well. The miracle has been reversed; the formerly miraculous becomes tragic. The scene can be read as a comment that perhaps miracles are no longer necessary, that the living of a wonderful, full life is as much a miracle as the act of coming into the world. In super-hero terms, it’s like saying that the origin story no longer matters because the storylines have been so transcendent. There’s a sense of full circle in Brás’s death in this chapter, in so many different ways. The miracle disappears on a miraculous day. The man who had just learned to become present in his own life sees his life end when he is not present with his family. The man who vowed to not become his father has taken on habits and attitudes that reflect his father. The man who dreamed big dreams and hoped deep thoughts, who struggled to fill his life with passion and joy, surrounded by the people and things that he loved, died suddenly when far away from those very things that gave him life. And there’s irony that this man who lived so much in his own head, whose existence was so tied to the subjective ways that he perceived his life and the stories that he told himself, died of a brain tumor. His own head rebelled against Brás Domingos. The very thing that made him the person that he wanted to be was the same thing that killed him. In chapter one of Daytripper we watch dissolute 32-year-old Brás wander through his life while living with the ghost of a wife and the phantoms of his parents. That young man seemed to be sleepwalking through his life, without direction or attitude, in the shadow of everyone around him. The only tangible living thing in his life was his dog, a loving pooch that stands guard outside his office door. Fifteen years later, Brás has become himself. He’s achieved happiness and success. Though he’s gone, his life is beginning again. And on the final page of chapter eight of Daytripper, we see that Brás’s family has renewed the cycle. They have a new puppy. Life ends and life begins. From the end of a cycle the next cycle begins. CODA You know, guys, this is the one chapter of the book that genuinely moved me to tears. Maybe because I’m pretty much the same age as Brás, maybe because I’ve raised three children past Miguel’s age, maybe because I have a completely difficult relationship with one of my children, the idea of home as a refuge and place of joy and happiness is very powerful to me. This is my life, for all its complexity and its wonder — me with my office filled with all the ephemeral items that make me into the complex and quirky person that I am; me, with all my endless writing and traveling (if only in my mind); me with my wife asleep alone in our queen bed and my daughter watching comic-influenced anime. So much of this chapter rings true in terms of attitude and approach. So much of this chapter seems right on the mark. In many ways I am Brás, having stepped outside of the shadows of my upbringing to become my own person. I’ve weathered the storms, emerged into a content existence, embraced the 40s as a real emergence into my own self. And though I may be weathering a storm with one of my children, though the metaphorical storm may always be on the horizon warning me not to get too complacent, the fact is that the 40s are a decent life. They’re quieter years (annual visits to Comic-con notwithstanding) but they’re also deeply fulfilling years as well. I always felt the impact of Brás’s death at the end of each chapter, but his death here hit me harder than the rest of the book. With our protagonist away from this chapter, it allowed me to see my own existence through the eyes of my loved ones, to not dwell on the circumstances of my death but to dwell on the impact of my death. “As a writer, Brás de Oliva Domingos knew that everything he did affected other people, either the ones close to him or those he had never met. He had a place in other people’s lives, a part in their histories.” In the end all we have are our legacies. We must live our lives well, affect other people well and take our rightful place in their histories. I hope that this series of essays go some small way towards that legacy for you and for me. Jason Sacks is old and happy and doesn’t much like rainstorms. So why does he live in Seattle? He tweets, sometimes like a torrential rain, sometimes like a drought, @jasonsacks.