Back at the turn of the millennium, there was a hyper-rare Space Marine that was only available in England if you spent £500 in a Games Workshop during the Skulz programme. On a pocket money budget, it took the co-ordinated efforts of all my friends to get one. And over two decades later, here he is painted.
He’s a stellar miniature that was really ahead of his time for a number of reasons. First, he came with a solid metal base (40mm no less, when nothing larger than 25mm for infantry had ever been seen) depicting a fallen Chaos standard – at a time when scenic bases were incredibly rare. Second, he clutches a standard of Ultramar – a sculpted banner at a time when banners were paper affairs you photocopied from White Dwarf or came supplied as self-adhesive labels. Third, he was sculpted by Shane Hoyle, one of my favourite sculptors – and notable as he’s one of the first Imperial Space Marines since 1990 not sculpted by Jes Goodwin.
I wondered back in 1999 if he was Ancient Helveticus – the Ultramarines special character. But Helveticus’ defining feature is the Banner of Macragge, and this sculpted banner didn’t match the design from White Dwarf 195. Plus his wargear didn’t match the 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines Codex (or the 3rd edition Chapter Approved incarnation). And critically, as you can just about see in the photo above, his left shoulder has a skull marking inside an Ultramarines’ inverted omega sculpted on – meaning his rank is more likely Sergeant than Chapter Ancient.
On the subject of shoulder marking – his right pad features a sculpted-on Tactical Squad arrow. This is a source of irritation to me, as I’ve copied the white trims of the original ‘Eavy Metal paintjob. If you’re strict about the Codex Astartes – and Ultramarines are strict – the only two Companies identified with white shoulder pad trims are First and Tenth, and neither has any Tactical Squads. I will conceptualise my version not as a Chapter Ancient (or Company Ancient for that matter), but as a Third Company Sergeant with non-standard trim markings denoting Veteran status (and will back this up by pointing to the Crux Terminatus on his left calf as further proof of Veteran-ness), holding a sacred Ultramarines standard (but not a Company or Chapter banner).
HIs release through the tertiary channel of exclusive Skulz retail incentives makes him one of the rarest Ultramarines miniatures, except for perhaps the 2004 Black Library Uriel Ventris diorama. So here he is alongside my other limited editions, marching for Macragge.