Twin brothers Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon have several Eisner awards between them. But they won a whole new set of accolades when the two united for the Vertigo mini-series Daytripper.
Next week, Daytripper will be released as a collection, bringing together the 10 issues that most comic reviewers have hailed as one of the best stories of the year.
Set in the creators' native Brazil, the comic's title explains the basic premise for Daytripper, as readers are taken on a trip each issue to one day in the life of the main character, an aspiring novelist named Brás.
But through the lens of his life, and the exploration of how short life really is, Daytripper shows how the small, intimate moments in a person's life can often be the most meaningful.
Best-known for their work on Casanova and The Umbrella Academy, Bá and Moon co-wrote and drew the 10 issues during 2009 and 2010 after pitching the project to Vertigo. Newsarama talked with the two of them about the series.Newsarama: How did the original idea for Daytripper evolve? When you first came up with it, did you have any idea it would become such a personal story that would resonate with readers the way it has? Or did it evolve to that point as you developed it?
Gabriel Bá: The initial idea first came to me nine years ago, one night in the shower. We used to live in a building near a small "favela," and I wondered if a conflict would happen there, a lost bullet could cross my window and kill me out of the blue, with no explanation or reason, just like that. What would my life be up until that point? What does death mean on our lives?Then I figured we could tell a story of this guy who dies over and over, in different ways. Nothing deeper than this.
This idea hibernated like that for years until Bob Schreck asked us to pitch him ideas for a series at Vertigo. That was in 2007, I think. One of the ideas we pitched was this one, of the dead guy, and it was the one the Vertigo people liked the most. Especially Bob, who was really excited with the whole concept. We made some sketches, thought about some chapters, but all the depth of the story was developed only after we got the series approved, more then six months after that.
Fábio Moon: Once we knew we would deal with death in ways the reader could relate to, we started to think how to have the same reaction, if not a greater one, when we focused on the character's life. "Are you living life to its fullest?," we would think. Or even "are you paying attention in life to realize how the mundane is extraordinary?"
Nrama: The title, "Daytripper," obviously refers to each chapter visiting a different day in the life of Brás. But does it also refer to more than just the structure of this story? To the meaning of what happens in a "day" in our life?
Bá: The title initially came from the Beatles song and an article I've read that this song had a second meaning to it, of their experimentations with drugs. Fábio and I always try to put multiple layers of interpretation on our stories and I thought this title could fit the purpose of our story. Every day, something small or big can happen that could change our lives forever. Every day is an adventure. If you could look back, what would be the days that struck you the most?
Nrama: Brás is an obituary writer, which plays an important role in how the story is narrated. How did you come up with the idea of an obituary as a storytelling device, and what does it say about the overall theme of this story?
Bá: Being an obituary writer is not seen as a glamorous life, especially from a writer's perspective. That was a good enough conflict for us to decide that would be Brás' dead-end job. And we thought about the guys on newspapers that write obituaries of people who haven't died yet. Important personalities and such. They have the thing ready in case this person may die so they can run it fresh on the next day's paper. If you could do something like that for your life, what would you write? How would you describe it?
Ending every chapter with Brás' obituary just seemed the right thing to do.
We always wanted the story to have a third person narrator, one that wouldn't have all the answers, but would certainly help pointing the way. We didn't want Brás to narrate his story, because it would become too introspective, and he's not the character who knows it all, who figures it all. He's discovering things at the same time the reader is.
Moon: Some obituaries are written to make people focus on the deceased's life instead of their death. Death isn't the most important moment of your life — no matter what age you die — and obituaries help us to remember that. They're a metaphor to what we want to accomplish with the story.
Nrama: "Death" is an issue that most people don't want to think about, yet Daytripper deals with death in every issue -- often sudden, unexpected and even brutal death. Was death always meant to play a central role in Daytripper? And how did you deal with that subject in a way that wasn't threatening or overwhelming to readers?
Bá: We actually talk about life, but we use death to do it. After 10 issues, we haven't told a story about death, but we have told one about life, the important moments that define who we are, who we care for. I think people tend to take life and all it's little details for granted and by killing our character, we give a lot more power to every single little thing we tell that has happened to Brás. Without it, people wouldn't pay so much attention.
Nrama: The way Jorge eventually reacts to what he perceives as a meaningless life appears to be the opposite of what Brás experiences. Does the eventual clash between Brás and Jorge represent a fight within ourselves between one approach to life and another?
Bá: The plane crash had a huge impact on both their lives, but in different ways. Brás was building something, a relationship, a career. Jorge was just playing along. When the accident happens, at the same time that Brás had found his way with his job and all, Jorge lost his. One was moving forward while the other was adrift, unattached from the life he once knew.
Nrama: The settings are so important to each of the "days" in Brás' life, but they also seem to reflect the story somewhat -- the colorful, family-filled scenes of a simpler childhood, the empty dry dunes where he ends up with Jorge. How much did the story choose where you would set the scenes?
Bá: I think different places can have an impact on us in very distinguishable ways. "Being in the right place at the right time" comes to mind when I think about it. And we have such a diverse range of settings here in Brazil that we felt we could travel a bit with the story and characters. Of course, we never meant it to be a tour guide through the natural beauties of the country, but we want to tell a story of the surprises life has to offer. I believe most people have childhood memories of a simpler world, even if it's not on the countryside. If you have ever been to a desert beach, you may have felt small and alone and tiny compared to nature's overwhelming magnitude. We feel safe at home, in our own city, among our friends. It's in people we really rely on.
Nrama: How did the story content of each scene influence the style of the artwork and the visual depiction of the settings?
Moon: The story influences the artwork all the time. I believe the best way to portray the world is trying to show not what something looks like, but how it feels to you. The world that feels real is the world we care about.
Bá: I think that on issue #5, when he's an 11-year-old kid, we did play with the artwork to enhance the wonderful world seen from a child's perspective. That happened once more on issue 9, when Brás is dreaming. On both these issues, Dave's colors have a huge importance on the final result. He got exactly what we wanted; he's the best.
Nrama: Looking back at the completed project, what are some of your favorite scenes or visuals in the comic? What pages or scenes do you think really came together?
Moon: I'm really proud of our first chapter. I think it really grabs the reader and gives a glimpse of everything we'll deal [with] in the story.
My favorite page is right in the middle of the book (it's page 110 of our 220-page story), on chapter 5, under the tree. What else?
I'm proud of how every character aged. And I'm really happy with the artwork on chapter 10. I have no idea how I did some of those pages; I look at them as if another artist, a better artist, did them, and I think that's the best sensation you can have about your own artwork.
Nrama: According to the reviews and reader comments I've read, this story has come to mean a lot to the people who experienced it during the release of its 10 issues. What has this story come to mean to you?
Bá: The story really grew on us too. We had no idea how deep we'd get on the subjects we talk about until we actually started writing. We couldn't imagine we'd care so much for these characters until we started drawing the series. These are subjects we try to tackle on all our stories, but it has always been very light and subtle, and I think we got a depth on Daytripper that could only be achieved because of the length of the story — the longest we've ever told. And we spent 2 years working on this story, and it was great to see it taking shape, moving forward and, finally, reaching people.
Moon: We dove into our own emotions and personal experiences a lot while writing the series to make it feel sincere, so the same way the story reminds people of something that happened in their lives, it reminds us of something as well.
Nrama: We've seen some comic publishers really embrace original graphic novels lately. Yet one of the things that made Daytripper work so well was the use of chapters. How important is serial storytelling to the art form of comic book storytelling?
Moon: It's wonderful when it's used right. We tried to use the chapter format to give each chapter a complete story feel, which helped readers who might find separate chapters by accident, but by doing that we had this opportunity to jump back and forth in Brás life in every new chapter, bringing mystery to the story and, hopefully, leaving the reader guessing about what would happen next.
Bá: We love good stories told in chapters, the art of getting the readers hooked and bringing them back on the next issue. I think even good novels work better when they have chapters to keep the pacing of the read and to keep the reader interested. It was a very difficult challenge to write our story in chapters, but it was marvelous to play with this structure. I think people who will read the book now will take breaks on the chapters, take the pause to reflect about what they've just read. It's not a story to read in one sitting.
Nrama: In the first issue of Daytripper, Brás doesn't seem to appreciate or understand life the way he does in later chapters. Is that because of age and experience? Or is your hope that it can be achieved on any day in our "trip" through life?
Bá: I think Brás' is like our readers'. And in the beginning of the story, we have a lot of possibilities and lots of different directions we can go. That's kind of exciting, but we can feel a little lost. Of course we treat the character differently according to his age, as he grows older and wiser. The world we portray when he's 11 is a simpler world, because it's what he knows. On the first issue, he is lost but hopeful things can get better and the future is bright. Things will end up good. Ten issues later, I think we got there.
Nrama: What are you two working on next?
Bá: I'm working on the third arc of Casanova, written by Matt Fraction. It'll be four issues, and then Fábio takes over the art for four issues on the fourth arc. We also make a weekly comic strip on the newspaper here in Brazil.
Moon: Besides that, we're still figuring out what our next projects will be. We have some ideas; let's see what the future brings.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Daytripper?
Moon: If you like the book, give Daytripper to your friends. Specially those who don't usually read comics. Life can be pretty great, and our friends and loved ones are an important part of that. We're grateful for being able to tell this story, and very happy with the response of the readers, so thank you.