Thursday, September 12, 2013

1985 Tomax and Xamot

Tomax and Xamot are two characters who are forever intertwined to me. There simply is no way to separate them. Individually, they are nothing remarkable. But, as twins, the characters begin to step above the Cobra riff raff and have some very redeeming qualities about them. The twins are characters that show that Joe was willing to think even more outside the box. (A trend that would continue until it probably went too far.) The Joe designers were willing to introduce different types of characters who were more super villain-ish without pushing the boundaries too far astray from the base realistic military concept. The twins fit within Cobra, but allowed it greater leeway as an evil organization. Plus, as characters, they were something different that had never been offered as a toy before.

In the spring of 1985, I was on a Joe buying mission. Flush with money from cutting grass all over the neighborhood, I was able to purchase any figure I found with my own funds. As such, on every trip I took with my mother to Target or the grocery store that was near the local Toys R Us, I was able to convince her to let me spend time looking at the Joes. If there was nothing new on the shelves, we left quickly. But, if I found something new, I would buy it for myself. This often lead to fits of jealousy from my younger siblings. But, it also kept my parents off the hook for the large array of G.I. Joe toys that I wanted to acquire every year.

I found my first Tomax and Xamot set in the spring of 1985. This was just after the release of G.I. Joe #37 where the twins were introduced. This comic made the characters very desirable to me and the spectacular mirrored packaging only enhanced that feeling. I purchased the figures on a Friday night and brought them home, placed them atop the Ferret and proceeded to have Footloose and Flint battle them in the Armadillo. All this was on the floor of my parents' living room before they sent me off to bed. The entire next day was spent with those figures out in the yard, replaying scenarios from the comic and me coming up with new adventures.

In time, the Tomax and Xamot characters evolved. When Serpentor was introduced, the twins joined his cadre. (This was counter to the comic where they were loyal to Cobra Commander. But, I just couldn't break up the Cobra Commander, Destro, Major Bludd grouping that had defined so much of my childhood play.) As Serpentor faded out of my play rotation and the new Cobra leader portrayed by the Sea Slug came into light, Tomax and Xamot joined up with him against Cobra Commander. They rarely actually commanded the Crimson Guard. More likely, they were just named leaders who were exceptionally talented and dangerous. I had the twins able to withstand and defeat pain by passing it back and forth. When one was injured, the pain would travel between them, lessening each time. This allowed them to fight through terrible physical beatings, but could also be a detriment as the pain passing between the brothers could be distracting and would lead them to capture or defeat from time to time.

The molds for the twins are very well detailed. The classic combination of blue and red with the silver accents firmly entrench the characters as Cobras. The adornments of their uniforms are very intricately detailed with ridged pads, chained belts and textured cloth. In case you thought these figures weren't combat ready, though, each twin features a knife, pistol and arm communication device sculpted onto the body. The heads are finely detailed to look like each other, but have slight differences you expect in twins. The figures are mirror images of one another with the sashes facing different directions, the arms being reversed and even the pistols and knives on their legs switched. It had to be a fun set to design for this reason. But, it didn't allow Hasbro to save any sculpting cost since each figure is, essentially, a completely unique mold.

I have always felt, though, that Tomax and Xamot were a bit "circus-y" in their appearance. While their uniforms worked for me as a child, as an adult, I have found them a bit more cartoonish than I like. The reality is that had Tomax and Xamot been introduced in the 1990's, collectors would abhor them. But, their classic release date gives them credibility that, perhaps, they don't altogether deserve. This is likely the reason why the twins' role in my collection has diminished over time. The introduction of suited figures in 2005 actually brought them back into a role in my collection since those figures were less outlandish and fit with the characters. But, being so linked to my childhood keeps these figures relevant, even if their look has diminished them a bit to me.

The twin's accessories are unique and both perfect and lacking. Each figure included a large, black pistol. The weapon found ubiquity in the modern line with release with tons of Cobra army builders. But, during the vintage period, it was exclusive to Tomax and Xamot. Also included with the figures was a small length of rope and a two handed hook that the figure's could use to slide along the rope to a quick getaway. While the rope included was too small to be of any real use, the hook became an integral part of my Joe world. In short time after acquiring the figures, my bedroom was strung across with various strings that connected the "building" that was my dresser, to the "light tower" that was a floor lamp. From this, the twins would quickly escape from any Joe captors. (I would also use Stormshadow's nunchucks in the same way. At least until one day when I slid them across the rope too quickly and it sliced the accessory in half!)

In the 1985 Joe catalog, the Crimson Twin figures' pictures are nothing like the actual retail release figures. It's likely the final samples were not ready in time. But, the pictured figures have larger heads and silver weapons. When I got my first set, I compared them to the picture and was actually happier with the released figures. (This was rarely the case. The prototype figures in the 1984 catalog looked much cooler to me than the versions that were actually released.) The mocked up figures are an interesting insight into the designer's vision of the characters. But, the slimmer heads on the production figures are actually better, even if they are not as detailed.

The Tomax and Xamot molds were only used in the U.S. In fact, they, Crankcase, Lamprey, Snow Serpent and Frostbite are the only 6 figure molds released in 1985 that were never released by another country as well. It is likely that this is due to the fact that all of these figures (Except the Snow Serpent which is just an oddity.) were available as mail ins from Hasbro Direct for many years. Since the molds were in production, there was no need to ship them off to Argentina, Brazil or India. The mail away version of Xamot features a scar variant. But, due to the large number of figures offered, isn't really that much more desirable than any Xamot figure. The entire figure molds returned in 2002 as part of the super limited Wave V of the A Real American Hero Collection. These figures are nearly identical to the original versions. In the summer of that year, Master Collector repainted the twins in Crimson and Fuchsia as part of their inaugural Convention set. The heads then appeared in 2005 in the Crimson Guard set. There were long rumors of a white pair of Twins released in Europe. This was simply urban legend caused by grainy photos. But, it does lend credence to the notion that these figures could have been repainted one or two more times in color schemes that collectors would have enjoyed.

On a personal note, the characters of Tomax and Xamot have taken on a deeper meaning to me in recent times. I am now the father of identical twin boys. (They have a fraternal, triplet brother as well!) Seeing how they interact with each other, and how they seem to know what the others are thinking with little outward communication has given me more insight in the Tomax and Xamot characters. It has made them much more real to me since I can see how identical twins and even the triplet have a connection far beyond anything I shared with my brothers of different ages. It lends credence to some of the more outlandish character traits of the twins. And, on mornings where my twins wake up with their hair parted in opposite ways, I always think of Tomax and Xamot!

Mint and complete with filecard sets of Tomax and Xamot can be problematic to price. You will see them sell anywhere between $12 and $30. Usually, though, high quality, complete versions can be had around $20 with consistency. This is down from a few years ago when the Twins were extremely popular and the figures would hit $50 with regularity. Considering that Tomax and Xamot are iconical in both the Cartoon and the Comic and that there was just the one vintage release of the characters, $20 isn't too much to pay. While the molds are a bit clownish, they are also integral to the characters. No Crimson Guard army is complete without Tomax and Xamot leading them.

1985 Tomax, Xamot, Ferrett, Crimson Guard Commanders, Crimson Twins

1985 Tomax, Xamot, Ferrett, Crimson Guard Commanders, Crimson Twins

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