Miniatures of the 1980s and 1990s were defined by squat poses, exaggerated faces, and and tons of character. Before the era of computer assisted sculpting design allowing for the attainment mechanical perfection, the handmade sculpts were imprinted with the quirks of handsculpting. The classic sculpts retain what is best described as wabi-sabi: “appreciating beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete in nature”
One influential artist was Mark Copplestone, who during his time at Citadel Miniatures sculpted an early incarnation of the Imperial Guard.
After his time with Citadel, mark went on to sculpt more futuristic soldiers for Grenadier’s Future Warriors line of miniatures. The Future Warriors figures keep the exaggerated facial features, but have slightly more realistic body proportions and austere body armor to give them a gritter feel than the ornate and whimsical Imperial Guard.
Mark didn’t just sculpt sci-fi figures, but also fantasy and historical pieces, such as priests and wizards.
In the picture below, Jon Ward has seamlessly incorporated the praying fantasy priests into his Warhammer 40k Inquisitor Retinue. (If you want to see more of Jon’s painting or learn about the other figures in the retinue you can check out his website here https://jonsotherwargamesblog.wordpress.com/2021/04/07/inquisitor-thrax/)
While Grenadier is long gone, fans of Mark’s miniatures can find them (and slight remixes) for sale at https://www.mirliton.it/ , https://em4miniatures.com/, and, https://www.copplestonecastings.co.uk/.
Along with Mark, Aly Morrison was another early sculptor of Imperial Guard (originally called the Imperial Army in the Rogue Trader days) for Citadel Miniatures.
Aly and his wife Trish had founded their own company, Marauder Miniatures in 1988. Both were miniature sculptors and created sculpts for their company, and later for Citadel Miniatures which absorbed it in 1993.
Trish sculpted beastmen, trolls, and other monsters for both Marauder and Citadel.
Another early sculptor at Citadel was Bob Olley. He was responsible for the “Iron Claw” range, which among other figures included Warhammer 40k’s squats.
After leaving Citadel Olley sculpted for Ral Partha and TSR, working on ranges both sci-fi and fantasy figures. From 1990 to 2003 Olley had worked freelance at companies including Renegade, Hobby Products, Simtac, Grendel Productions, AEG, Reaper Miniatures, Steve Jackson Games, Kenzer & Co, Excelsior Entertainment, and EM4. Olley has since struck out on his own, setting up his own business at http://www.olleysarmies.co.uk/home.html. Various figures are in his gallery, though there is a distinct focus on dwarves.
Unfortunately the site is no longer taking orders and the last sign of life from it was on the twitter handle https://twitter.com/olleysarmies back in 2019.
On the subject of Ral Partha, the company made miniatures for the game Vor: The Maelstrom. Released in 1999, Vor was 28mm wargame set in the near future where earth had been sucked into an inescapable vortex. Humanity, divided between the exaggerated western military Union and the Slavjank Neo-Soviets was pitted against a rogues gallery of aliens including sentient crystals, techno-barbarian cavemen, and literal space mummies. Ral Partha’s sculptors at the time included Kev Adams, Jeff Grace, Behrle W. Hubboch III, Randy Kerr, Robert Kyde, Phil Lewis, Dennis Mize, Tim Prow, Steve Saunders, C. Staples, Dave Summers, Jeff Wilhelm, and John Winter. You can find many of their names crisscrossed over sculpts of the various factions in Vor.
The Warzone line of miniatures sees Mark Copplestone again lending his talents, alongside Kevin Adams and, Kevin White. While these three worked on the Warzone line, precisely who sculpted which miniature has been lost to time. The warzone figures retain the tubular limbs common to early Citadel miniatures, but do feel uniquely chunky and angular.
This has only scratched the surface miniature artists work to sculpt figures in the 1980s and 1990s. I hope it sparks interest, as many of these vintage figures are still in circulation online, or even in the back corners of some brick & mortar game stores. With some care they can be put back into action to fight on any number of scifi, post apocalyptic, or magical battlefield in need of veteran soldiers.
*(Splash picture for the article title was provided by Reddit user mkmkettlewood)
Thanks for the shout out. An interesting little article. Mark Copplestone is one of my favourite sculptors he also has a big back catalogue off historical miniatures, in his past, especially for Wargames Foundry. One good source of 80/90s classic sci-fi and fantasy miniatures is Alternative Armies which includes some of the Asgard range which where sculpted by Bryan Ansell and his mates before they went on to form Citadel Miniatures and the very nice Ion Age miniature range. EM4 also sell the Spacelords range which is another classic range from the 80s sculpted by Josef Ochmann.
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