Back in the summer of 1996 I was a Joe buying fool. As the line had been cancelled, I was on a mission to find every different figure I could before all the toys disappeared from retail. As such, I often did not discriminate as to the figures I bought as I simply followed the mantra that if I didn't have them, I needed them. Of course, the strategy landed a number of less than stellar figures in my collection. However, it also gave me a keener appreciation for many of the figures that were released at the end of line. These figures that I bought at retail became the backbone of my collection as my older stuff was all buried away in a closet at my parents' house. As such, I used these later figures in a variety of capacities and really expanded their characterizations as they had to fill many roles in my collection. Among these figures is one that I have long thought a decent mold and excellent colors, but never really used beyond a niche capacity: the 1993 Beach Head.
1993 is generally considered one of the worst years ever for Joe figures. Though there were nearly 100 original figures released, most were horribly colored or utilized lame gimmicks that really had no place in the Joe line. In my opinion, it was the '93 figures that really killed the line. The '94 lineup was very solid and showed a return to what made Joe great. However, by that time, it was too late. The aftertaste of the '93 assortment was just too great and there was no saving Joe from its original cancellation.
However, while '93 as a whole had its problems, it did give us some very nice figures. The recent Mirage repaint has shown there were some decent molds released in 1993. They were just poorly colored. There were a few places, though, where the figures were done right. Cutter, Duke, Spirit, Cobra Commander, Snow Serpent and this version of Beach Head all utilized decent color schemes on solid molds. The fact that they were all known characters should have helped them. Unfortunately, though, Beach Head's look was so ingrained that this figure has become a point of collector scorn. If you look at the mold itself, though, it is a nice update the Beach Head character. He retains the face covering while adding a protective helmet. The chest is a bit bulkier than earlier figures, but has detailed web gear that suggest the character's abilities. (My one major beef with '93 and '94 figures is that the molds were well detailed, but those details were left unpainted. As such, a cursory glance at the simple paint jobs leaves many people with the impression that the later molds don't have as much to offer as their predecessors. This is simply not the case. The detail is there but is obscured in simple paint schemes.)
As with most of the '93 and '94 figure molds that were well done, Beach Head suffers from one fatal flaw: his accessories. He includes a tree of bright, neon yellow guns that ruin what could have been a great figure. However, as accessories are easily replaced, this slight drawback can be easily remedied. Personally, I like outfitting this figure in the same manner as the original mold. This used to be fairly difficult as the original Beach Head is a highly sought after figure that many collectors consider to be a key component of any Joe collection. However, there is currently a Beach Head figure available in the Wave 3 new sculpt figure wave. He comes with the Beach Head pack and and a nice, black version of the gun that looks even better with this figure. As we move away from Wave 3's retail availability, though, there is another option. For about $4 and change you can get a Funskool Beach Head figure that comes with excellent accessories that fit this figure perfectly. (Plus, you get the ammo pack that is missing in the newest American release.) With these new accessories in place, this figure's value quickly rises and he can become a welcome addition to any collection.
For me, this figure has had a myriad of uses. First and foremost, I used him as a maritime Joe army builder. He represented random troopers who specialized in harbour, shoreline, and ship to ship combat. They weren't divers, but soldiers who were trained to repel boarders, operate aquatic vehicle mounted gun stations, patrol harbours and docks, and just keep maritime operations flowing. In this capacity, the figure served the longest. In fact, his first duty was manning the side gun stations on the Shark 9000. He later branched off onto the Whale gun stations. From there, though, the figure stagnated. However, the recent interest in Beach Head gave me occasion to revisit this figure. When I pulled him out of the '93 drawer, I was amazed at the level of detail the mold was given. At that point, I decided to re-classify this figure as a new, original character. (Topside has also replaced this guy as my maritime Joe army builder.)
Going forward, I see this figure in a role closer to what was Beach Head's originally intended specialty. He will be more of a self sufficient commando and soldier who is utilized in self supporting missions. I haven't come up with a name for him, yet, but will probably match him up with a characterization in my database in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm still determining just how important a role he will play. This figure has long intrigued me, but was never able to really grab my attention. Now that he has, it will be interesting to see how long he holds it. Keep checking the dioramas and profile pictures on the site for the next few months. If you see this guy lurking among them, then you know that his popularity has survived beyond the proverbial 15 minutes.
This figure mold has a bit of an interesting history. First off, he utilized the legs of the highly popular 1988 Shockwave figure, only they are reversed. Second, this figure was repainted in 1994 and released with a bright yellow vest. Third, the figure appears to have been planned for a 1995 release. There exists box art for a planned set of "Arctic Commandos". It was intended to be a retailer exclusive product that was to be offered as part of the 1995 line. The box art shows silhouettes of two figures that appear to be the Sub Zero mold and this Beach Head figure. The intended color scheme is not shown, but I think this figure could have been quite nice were he done right in an arctic scheme. Finally, this mold was also released in Brazil as Armadilha. This figure is nearly identical to the American release, but has one important difference: the figure was released as a Cobra. However, the figure itself has no markings indicating the change in affiliation for the mold.
As far as availability goes, the 1993 Beach Head is pretty easy to find. Over my Joe buying years, I've picked up about 5 of them. Even mint and complete, you can get them without too much effort. Even carded, the figure should barely cost over $12. For that price, this guy is a great addition to any collection. Sure, the accessories suck, but what you save in the cost of the figure can be applied to any of the options listed above to properly accessorize this figure. While I know that many people simply will not be able to associate this figure with the Beach Head character, the figure itself is simply a great addition to a collection. I use this figure as a new character, faceless maritime soldier, or aquatic gunner. The lack of distinguishing facial features allows for more leeway in play and has made this figure one that has seen a lot of use in my collection when you consider that it's only been recently that he's become a true, original character. I think, given a chance, this version of Beach Head can prove a nice member of any collection, regardless of his use.