Hall of Fame: Tybalt Andrus’ Choice: Ultramarine Captain
When the guys from Paint Water Diaries invited me to contribute to their own version of the Citadel Miniatures Hall of Fame, I was initially daunted. How many excellent miniatures have been released during the twenty-two years that I’ve been involved in the GW hobby, after all?
Doing a first cut was easy; if I had to pick one, it would be a Space Marine. I’ve been an Imperialist at heart ever since I’ve played 40K. However, beyond that, what to pick? There seemed to be numerous choices that leapt into my mind in rapid succession – Dante, Corbulo, Azrael, one of the 1990s Chaplains, a dynamic Terminator captain, the most recent Terminator Librarian. The list seemed to go on, and I was no closer to reaching a conclusion.
Then I glanced to the right of my painting desk, and was confronted by my new copy of Horus Heresy: Massacre. And the day before, what had I finished reading? The Unremembered Empire (which, I think, may be the one-thousand and seventeenth novel in the Horus Heresy series. I’ve started to get a bit hazy on the numbering…). At that point, I knew what my classic Space Marine was.
The Ultramarine Captain, by Jes Goodwin, circa 1991.
So, why this particular model? For personal reasons, this miniature’s release coincides relatively closely with my entry into the hobby and, coincidentally, was one of the very first that I bought and painted. I believe I painted it sensitively by effectively pouring a pot of blue paint over it. However, that’s not why I think this model stands the test of time as a classic.
Rather, this miniature manages to be both entirely of its time, and simultaneously ahead of its time. As was the case for the majority of miniatures from the early 1990s, it’s pose is essentially ‘flat’; a consequence of mould-making and miniature-casting processes employed by GW of the time. He’s got almost no movement in his pose at all; legs locked rigidly, cloak hanging vertically downwards, one arm thrust to the left while holding a power sword, and the other, holding the 2nd edition design of plasma pistol, cocked at a somewhat uncomfortable looking angle to the right. He’s hardly dynamic, so why is he iconic in my eyes?
Look at all that detail. Drink it in. In the early 90s, I can’t think of a Marine that compared with him. Power armour was increasingly standardised by that point, refined by Jes’ excellent designs into the clean lines of Marks VI and VII. Most marine miniatures, even characters, had minimal detailing, but here was this Captain, with his inlaid detailing and overtly classical influences – more so than any other Marine, here was a Roman Centurion in the far future, complete with his helmet crest, decorative tabard and gladius. He looked ornate and rather awesome but, to my eyes, rather stuck out when every other one of his battle brothers didn’t stretch much beyond a purity seal in the way of decoration.
Fast forward to around 2010, however, and you need to start re-assessing this model. Even a cursory glance at the visual imagery defined by the Black Library and Forge World around the Horus Heresy will show classical influences dripping from the Legiones Astartes – ornate armour marks, helmet crests, body shields, vexillas, leather tabards, and pauldron detailing.
The background itself for Legion structure and history explicitly draws on a wealth of (largely) Roman history. Most Marine hobbyists go nuts for Forge World’s Heresy marines – they’re successful in a way no other Forge World products have been. Now look back at the Ultramarine captain, sculpted decades beforehand; all the details are there – the first truly ‘classical’ Astartes. A forerunner of 31st millennium styling, and thoroughly ahead of his time…