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Foggy Ruins of Time – What Gorilla Commercial?

This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Scott F., we look at an obscure reference in an early issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero…

In G.I. Joe #23, written by Larry Hama with art by Mike Vosburg, Jon D’Agostino and John Tartaglione, Cobra Commander is being blackmailed by Major Bludd and is none too pleased about it…


The commercial that Cobra Commander is referencing was a very popular long-running ad campaign by the luggage company American Tourister. Here’s a 1980 version of the commercial…

In 1993, American Tourister was purchased by Astrum International, who produced Samsonite luggage and the whole company was renamed Samsonite Corporation in 1995. Nowadays, American Tourister is no longer a major brand (as Samsonite is the main brand of the company (obviously, as that’s the name of the corporation).

Thanks to Scott F. for the suggestion! If YOU have a suggestion for a future edition of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!


It would have been kinda stupid if Dumb and Dumber had phoned for Mr American Tourister.

I was too young when this commercial started airing to remember this, but my mom has told be before that I used to get really excited whenever it came on. Even as a toddler, I was already fixated on apes!

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By the title, I thought you were blaming Foggy Nelson for destroying the time stream.

I don’t mind these topical humorous references. You should take advantage of every cultural aspect available to you when you’re writing and not wonder whether people will get your joke in 20 years. That said, I kind of cringed in “Avengers Infinity” #1 when Tigra picked on Moondragon’s new uniform and said “you used to show more cleavage than Jennifer Lopez.” I thought, “that’s gonna sound dated pretty soon.”

One reference I didn’t understand was in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, one of the characters mentions that gas station attendants would write down either driver’s license or license plate numbers when you got gas. I don’t see why that would’ve been necessary.

In 1986, American Tourister had started a search for a NEW gorilla, but one that could TALK, so they started atalent search for comedians to put inside an ape suit.

There were East Coast and West Coast open casting calls for people to try out (and maybe a mid-west one as well), and then the winners of each division would meet in a final contest, and the winner would get the contract for the gig,.

I was attending college in NYC at the time (School of Visual Arts) and was also trying my hand at acting, and so replied to the casting call.

Having worked up a stand-up act, I auditioned and surprisingly got a call back to perform.

I thought the humour should be faily monkey oriented, as I had no idea that any stand up routing could be performed.
Luckily, not all my jokes were ape-based, and I did fairly well (for my 1st time).

It was seen on HBO and heard on WNBC radio.

I came in third (there was a 1st Place Winner, and a @nd Place Runner-Up. – everyone else came in 3rd.) lol.

But as near as I can recall, the contest went nowhere, the talking, funny ape pitchmen gig never manifested, but I did get some sweet American Tourister bag out of the deal as a parting gift.

And y’know… it IS so tough that I still have it and use it today (nearly 30 years later).
Darn gorilla was right.



I just noticed this column today and see that the last installment was four years ago! Why so long? Love the concept. I’m always commenting on topical references being lost on younger people with older reruns (like Saturday Night Live, for example). Match Game is on every morning and many times I have to put my mind “into” the 1970s to answer the questions. Luckily my wife and I are old enough to remember the decade.
This reminds me of the Legends column which dealt with mid 80s Marvel Tales reprints of Ditko Spideys where they would update topical references (like changing Kruschev to Khomeni). Understanding older references makes me glad I’m over forty.

interesting forgot about those old luggage commercials for remember seeing them and thinking who ever owned that luggage is going to be needing some new ones. and forgot it got refreranced in a gijoe comic.

Paul – it was a method of watching for stolen cars.

I just noticed this column today and see that the last installment was four years ago!

Well, the last installment was just a few days earlier. ;)

But yes, the installment before that was almost four years ago. Why? There’s lots of good features to be written! :) Some of them fall by the way side for a while.

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