Daytripper makes excellent use of the graphic novel’s unique strengths in storytelling to draw the reader into Bras’ mind as we delve into his life. For instance, the novel utilizes the ambiguous voice of the panel’s expository text to suggest that the intriguing characters described in the opening will be important characters in the story. In fact, the descriptions are obituaries written by Bras, the true main character. These obituaries, while they may have had a passing influence on him, are just his day job. If they come to mind now, it is probably because he was working on them earlier that day. It is not until the bottom of the page that the actual narrator takes over, a transition which is demonstrated to the reader visually with a change of text box style. The obituary-style text boxes are used again at the end of each chapter to describe Bras’ deaths. It would be difficult or impossible for a traditional book or film to achieve this ambiguity. A book would have to forgo the distinct forms of delivery which make the transitions in voice clear. A film would have to let the actor playing Bras deliver the opening lines, which doesn’t provide the same sense of narrative layers and would be less effective when used to describe Bras’ own deaths.
One powerful recurrent image is that of the tree under which Bras’ father, Benedito, writes. When the tree is first shown to the reader, it juts out from the landscape, a scraggly mass of roots with Benedito’s legs seamlessly intertwined. It portrays both the aura of grandeur surrounding Benedito and his perpetual isolation from all those around him. Bras seems tiny in comparison, even as the tree stands far in the distance.
Later the tree is used more subtly. In this panel, the tree complements the text, its image a symbol for the growing influence that Benedito’s image as a great writer is having on Bras. As we look into Bras’ later years we see that he becomes far more like his father than he would ever wish to admit – frequently absent, larger than life, prioritizing career over family. Though the line here refers to Bras’ family tree in terms of genealogy, it also gives a name to the iconic image of his father that would eventually grow to dominate his life.
The tree reappears in the penultimate chapter when Bras takes over for Benedito as storyteller and begins to explain the importance of life and death to his son as only he can. He has at last carved out an identity for himself that is not primarily defined by his father. As such, he now appears larger than his father within the frame.
Again, these images convey complex emotions and themes more effectively than a textual description or film could do alone.