Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, and Manuela Pertega have created a graphic novel version of a story long thought to be lost in Giraffes on Horseback Salad. Based on the only known copy of artist Salvador Dali’s rough script, which he wrote with the Marx Brothers in mind, the book brings the never-produced story to life through Pertega’s properly surreal artwork.
Giraffes on Horseback Salad follows Jimmy (a role that would have been played by Harpo Marx), a businessman who becomes enthralled by a “Surrealist Woman” who transforms his pedestrian reality whenever she appears. Outside forces discourage Jimmy from seeking her out, but he persists despite the obstacles.
Illustrations can’t completely recapture the Marx Brothers’ manic humor, but it’s difficult to imagine that a filmed version of Dali’s story (with its flaming giraffes, among other difficult if not impossible to film scenes) would have fully achieved his vision either. Thus, the transition from planned film to graphic novel loses a bit in slapstick, but gains in surreality—a fair trade, considering the uniqueness of Dali’s vision.
Judged on its own merits, Giraffes on Horseback Salad is bizarre but successful—in part because the talents of Frank and Heidecker, Dali’s surrealism, and Marx Brothers comedy blend nearly seamlessly, with impeccable delivery of jokes about lobster phones, taxis with interior rain systems, and the like. An assortment of extras includes original sketches and photos, completing a book that should satisfy fans of Dali or the Marx Brothers, or anyone looking for something completely outside the norm.
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