Thursday, November 8, 2007

2005 Tomax and Xamot

This is a first where I have profiled two distinct figures at the same time. However, the reality is that these two figures are not all that distinct and must always be considered together. Individually, they make little sense and are difficult to fathom. Together, Tomax and Xamot are an indelible part of the Joe mythos and characters who are difficult to forget. While there have been several versions of the Twins, most of them are simple repaints of their circus inspired outfits from 1985. Rather than focus upon the limitations of that mold, I have chosen the more subdued figures from the 2005 Crimson Guard set. They are a look that was oft requested by fans. Hasbro had little to work with to make the figures a reality, but the result is a version of the Twins that gives them the versatility that was always missing from their original incarnation.

Tomax and Xamot were introduced as Twins who were mirror images of each other. They had a near supernatural link that allowed them to share thoughts and physical sensations. Their characters were hinted as being part of the "Corsican Brotherhood". But, they're true claim to fame was as businessmen. They were the financiers who made the big arms deals for Cobra possible. From the early days, they were portrayed in business suits. This is also largely due to the fact that the Twins' outfit, though, looks like something a circus performer would wear. In their first comic appearance, they were at a circus and they performed some acrobatic moves. As such, it's possible that they were intended as Cobra acrobats. But, the longevity of that idea was realized and they were given deeper characterizations even though their look did not denote them. At least not until 2005 when Hasbro finally offered the Twins in suits colored a metallic Cobra blue. Rather than the outlandish sashes and medallions, the Twins finally had a look befitting their character.

The origin of the Twins and their odd portrayal of finishing each other's thoughts is not known. When recently reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece "100 Years of Solitude" though, I discovered that he had two twins who displayed the characteristics of Tomax and Xamot. The could finish each other's thoughts, were mirror images of each other in their actions and were even able to sense physical sensations experienced by their sibling. Whether this was the inspiration for Tomax and Xamot is not known. But I find it interesting that an idea that seems so ludicrous to "normal" people was featured so prominently by a Nobel Prize winning author in his master work. It infuses a sense of culture in the idea of the Twins and makes their existence a bit more interesting to me. I always felt that Joe's longevity can be directly traced to its depth. Characters had issues. Heroes were not perfect. Villains had interesting backgrounds that spoke of a worldliness that seemed exotic to the 9-11 year olds of the day. Joe wasn't dumbed down at the beginning.   Finding a literary reference like this gives me more insight into why a toy line remains so large a part of my life more than two decades later. But, things like this show that it was much more than a toy line and that is why this hobby remains so dear to me: despite some of the rubbish that fandom brings with it. :)

In my collection, the role of the Twins has evolved quite a bit. As a kid, I was enthralled by issue #37 of the comic that Introduced the Twins. I distinctly remember the Friday night I came home after finding my first set of Twins at the local Toys R Us store. I spent a great deal of time opening the package so that I didn't damage it. The unique cardback was something that I saved for years and it remained intact in my collection until very late in 1987 when I finally decided it was time to purge the large stack of toy package trash that was in my room and I proceeded to cut out the filecards and threw away all the superfluous packaging. Once they were open, I pulled out my Ferret, Armadillo, Footloose, Flint and Alpine and tried to enact out the comic book plot. I've said before that due to circumstances surrounding their addition to my collection, certain figures are always linked together. In this case, those vehicles and those figures became a collection unto themselves and would always be used together. Flint, of course, was the ultimate enemy of the Twins and one who would always end up fighting them. However, I took the Twin's ability to feel each other's pain to a new level. I had them share the pain, but made them able to diminish the pain slightly with each passing. As such, even the most painful hit was quickly absorbed though the swapping done by the brothers. This made fighting them rather difficult for one man. Flint usually ended up fending the Twins off, but they always escaped to fight another day.

In time, though, I downplayed that aspect of the Twins and, instead, made them out to be just military commanders. The Crimson Guard were my elite army as a kid since I had 3 CG figures and the Sears SMS. So, the Twins saw a lot of use at the forefront of their CG army. When Serpentor came along, the Twins sided with him. For some reason, I simply could not see the Crimson Guard loyal to Cobra Commander. So, they sided with Serpentor. Once Serpentor got played out, the Twins sided with my own character named Rector who had designs to take over Cobra. The Twins used the power of the CG's to put Rector in a position of power. In return, the CG's remained the elite power brokers on Cobra Island.

Now, the Twins have found themselves in trouble. After Ramen (Cobra's South American Commander) arranged for the original Cobra Commander to be killed by the Joes, Rector assumed the role of Cobra Commander and set about establishing his own hierarchy on Cobra Island. The Twins moved from field commanders to their true calling of politicians and financiers. They were responsible for wining and dining potential Cobra clients. The oversaw the vast Cobra casino empire and were responsible for the majority of Cobra's financial enterprises. Without the oversight of the Twins, though, the Crimson Guard became corpulent and corrupt. The CG's set about establishing their personal power at the expense of the traditional military establishment in Cobra. This lead to great resentment as the CG's were not shy in using their authority to belittle and betray the combat Cobra troops. This lead to severe unrest within Cobra. Rector felt his power base eroding and he could sense that the military was primarily loyal to Ramen. He feared an outright coup and had to act.

Thus was invented the Crimson Guard Rebellion. It's not known if the "conspirators" in the Rebellion really wanted to assassinate Rector, but the evidence sure made it look like a well orchestrated plot by the entire Crimson Guard. Rector immediately began rounding up the Crimson Guard and executed most by firing squad. Tomax and Xamot were made enemy number one. In an attempt to save their lives, the split up. But, Xamot was captured as he was about to board a Night Raven to freedom. Rector had him beheaded. Tomax, though, was never found and many of the best bounty hunters in the world are after the $10,000,000 bounty that Rector has put on Tomax's head. Shortly, the Crimson Guards were emasculated and those who re-pledged their loyalty to Rector were sent back to basic training for one year where they were at the total mercy of the combat troops they had so belittled. Meanwhile, Rector has yet to be seen in public without two members of his personal guard. It's been noted that both of these men have the same gait. And, despite the disruption at the top of the Cobra financial empire, things have been very stable and many of the deals that Tomax and Xamot were working on have gone through with the acumen that was often accredited to the Twins and their ability to get the impossible deal done.

As figures, though, Tomax and Xamot are a bit hard to use. They aren't the most exciting action figure and their appearance doesn't really lend itself to most combat roles. Most people don't build exciting boardroom dioramas where the Twins engineer a hostile corporate takeover. So, it is somewhat hard to use these figures beyond background dressing in Cobra hierarchy dioramas. But, that isn't a bad thing. As characters, Tomax and Xamot are indispensable to Cobra. It's important to have them around. As such, even a somewhat boring figure like this has value to any Joe collection. I know that my specimens pretty much stand around. But, were they not there, they would be conspicuous by their absence.

The Tomax and Xamot molds have only been used by Hasbro. After their release at retail in 1985 and 1986, Hasbro offered various production runs of the Twins as mail away premiums for several years. (These figures have slight variations in coloring and can be distinguished by hues of hair color and Xamot's scar.) The characters were not revisited until 2002, though, when Hasbro included them in the infamous Wave V. However, these figures were nearly identical to the original figures and didn't really offer collectors anything new. Master Collector, though, came through with the first version of the Twins in Crimson colors in the highly desirable 2002 convention set. (They also released fuchsia versions that are much easier to find, but not as well colored as the Crimson figures.) The heads were then used for these figures and that is the extent of the mold usage. There is a long running rumour in the Joe world that Tomax and Xamot were offered in Europe in exclusive color schemes. The most often mentioned is white and green. This rumours are false and the figures do not exist in any color scheme at this time beyond what was mentioned already. Every now and then, a custom Tomax and Xamot appears in a poorly photographed lot from Europe and this rumour comes back around. But, it is false and there are no foreign versions of Tomax and Xamot.

These figures use the body from Headman. It is pretty much the only body in the Joe line that is in anything resembling a suit. Unfortunately, that has meant that Hasbro got quite a bit of use out of it in the modern line. It was used for Headman in 2002, General Flagg in 2004 and these Twins in 2005. It isn't a bad mold and it works for the look Hasbro was trying to create. Each of the Twins includes a two pistols and a knife. They lack a briefcase which would have been a nice addition. But, at least the included pistols are not the buffoonish pistols released with the original figures and every modern version of the Alley Viper. Really, that's all they need. The Twins aren't used in traditional combat so having smaller weapons makes sense for them.

The Crimson Sets were somewhat well received when they were released, but not to the extent that one would have expected just a few months earlier. While the sets were very well done for what they were, they were also plagued by problems. First off, the set was conceived as an army builder. While Crimson Guards remain the second most expensive vintage Cobra army builder, the mold that Hasbro used for their modern take on the Crimson Guard had been rather easy for collectors to acquire in the months before this set's release. It had first been used on the mail away Agent Faces figures that collectors had purchases en masse. It was then used again on the KB Toys exclusive Operation Crimson sabotage. This was a set of 3 racially distinct Crimson Guards, a Hiss Tank and a red ASP that was sold for $20 and ended up on clearance in many markets. As such, when the Crimson Set was released in early 2005, collectors were somewhat Crimson Guarded out. This lead to decreased purchases by many as the sheer volume of Hasbro's army builders were finally starting to defeat even the most aggressive retail army building collectors. The set was also plagued with another issue. Originally, Hasbro split up Tomax and Xamot. This made sense since that allowed collectors to buy 2 packs for the Twins and not accumulate tons of superfluous Tomax and Xamot figures as they army built Crimson Guards. But, for some reason, Hasbro then included a red Firefly as the 6th figure in the set.

All of the reason for splitting up Tomax and Xamot was instantly rendered obsolete by the inclusion of Firefly. If you look at the box art, though, it seems that Firefly was the absolute last figure to be included in the set. Logically, it would have made sense for Hasbro to include a Crimson Guard Immortal figure in the set in lieu of Firefly. It seems likely to me, though, that this was the plan. However, the mold for the Crimson Guard Immortal was wanted by Master Collector for their convention exclusive Destro in 2005. As such, it seems the CGI mold was taken out of the Crimson Set and used for Destro and Hasbro threw the Firefly mold into the retail set since they knew that the mold was usable and that Firefly was a major character. This was made all the more frustrating by the fact that Master Collector had the 1988 Destro mold available to them and even ran test shots of it. But, they concluded that the '88 Destro was not that popular and they went with the CGI body Destro instead.

The result of all of this was the Crimson Set was readily available at Toys R Us stores around the country well through the summer of 2005. Toys R Us ordered a full run of 20,000 sets. However, it is not known if that was 20,000 of each set, or 20,000 total sets leaving 10,000 of each Twin figure. If it was 20,000 of each set, then they outsold all other Joe exclusives. But, once the set dried up it has taken a second life on the aftermarket. These days, a MOC set with either Tomax and Xamot will run anywhere between $30-$35. Some even go higher. The effect of Hasbro splitting up the Twins seems to have been a worthwhile gambit as collectors were not able to acquire huge quantities of duplicates like they did with the Firefly figures. As such, both Tomax and Xamot will easily fetch $6 or more on the second hand market. It's a price worth paying as the figures are probably the most useful editions of the Twins and it is doubtful that Hasbro will ever produce a superior version of them in ARAH form.

2005 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, Crimson Guard Commanders, TRU Exclusive, Crimson Guard, Crimson Guard Immortal, Operation Crimson Sabotage, SMS Sears Exlcusive

2005 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, Crimson Guard Commanders, TRU Exclusive, 2006 Convention Overlord, Coil Trooper

2005 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, Crimson Guard Commanders, TRU Exclusive, Crimson Guard, Night Watch Trooper, Officer, 2007 Convention Rock and Roll

2005 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Twins, Crimson Guard Commanders, TRU Exclusive, Crimson Guard, Crimson Guard Immortal, Operation Crimson Sabotage, SMS Sears Exlcusive

2005 Tomax and Xamot, Crimson Hiss, Crimson Sabotage, Crimson Guard, Crimson Shadow Guard, Fred

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