Missing in Action: The original Johnny Red War Game Figure

Back in early 2018, Wargames Illustrated teased a Johnny Red miniature on its cover – but, it would be a while before a war game version of the character, plucked from the pages of Battle, actually materialised, via Warlord Games.

For those unfamiliar, Wargames Illustrated, affectionately known as WI, is the world’s leading and best selling magazine dedicated to the hobby of miniature wargaming. Each month, the magazine features news, views, reviews and over 100 pages of articles relating to the noble hobby of miniature wargaming – the pursuit of collecting, painting and gaming with miniature figurines (known variously as figures, miniatures, figs, minis or toy soldiers).

When downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf saw the front cover of Wargames Illustrated Issue 366 (April 2018) poking out of the shelves of my local WHSmiths, he was intrigued.

Why? Because there, on the front cover, even though he’s smoking a cigar, was Battle‘s Johnny Red, the character created by Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun caught up in the war on the Eastern Front.

“What on Earth is he doing there, I thought?”, noted Richard on his own Boys Adventure Comics Blog at the time.

The answer lay inside, with a two-page feature – the first, coincidentally to be written for the magazine by ace modeller and Beano cartoonist Steve Beckett – on how to use a character like Johnny in a then new aerial wargame Blood Red Skies from Warlord Games, an article that also revealed Johnny’s backstory in Battle, a character whose adventures were also drawn by John Cooper and Carlos Pino – and, latterly, continued most recently by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns, in a mini series for Titan.

Seeing that the figure was described as being a new figure in the ‘Giants in Miniature’ range produced by Wargames Illustrated, sounded good to Richard. However, a look on their website showed no sign of Johnny. Where was he hiding?

Eventually, he e-mailed the magazine, who told him that the model had only ever been available to pre-order but that, due to “unforeseen circumstances”, all casts of the model had had to be melted down and that the figure would not be going onto production.

So – close but no cigar. Literally. But you can’t keep a good idea down for long…

Although this first iteration of Johnny Red was consigned to the furnace, for copyright reasons, all was not lost, because it wouldn’t be long before the fictional hero of the Eastern Front would soon be flying free.

“I commissioned both article and figure when I worked at Wargames Illustrated,” Wayne Peter Bollands revealed on Facebook after seeing this article. “Unfortunately, we were slightly blasé and used the characters real name rather than a non de plume. Rebellion Publishing sent a C and D email. The cigarette smoking version had to be withdrawn.

“However, Warlord were given the figure, whereupon they made their own official version. No smoking though, Rebellion didn’t like that!”

Warlord Games produced a Johnny Red tie-in under license for their Blood Red Skies game, and released their own (non-smoking) version of a Johnny Red figure and rules, which is sold alongside its Strontium Dog game over on AmazonUK – or check it out here on the Warlord Games store.

The game lets you feature your rogue British pilot and ace ‘Johnny Red’ in his Hurricane, alongside the rough and ready Soviet Fifth Air Brigade Squadron known as the ‘the Falcons’ – and in the special edition of the game, you get Johnny in 28mm free, alongside a 1/200th scale Hurricane II Ace.

Check out Warlord Games Johnny Red and Strontium Dog Release’s here on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Wargames Illustrated is online at www.wargamesillustrated.net

Wargames Illustrated, which has often run items on games involving both comic and SF media characters and universes, is published each month in printed and digital formats. The print version is available online, from your local hobby store, and WHSmith in the UK.

The digital version – Wargames Illustrated “Prime” – is available from this site and via the Apple, Google and Amazon Apps stores, but It’s cheaper if you go directly to the Magazine’s web site. To find out more about Wargames Illustrated Interactive click here.

Please note that while the Wargames Illustrated shop is open for business during the Coronavirus Crisis, they are running a very restricted service. Items will only be dispatched on Thursdays, and they are currently not taking orders for new print subscriptions

Check out the work of brilliant cartoonist Steve Beckett at beetoons.wordpress.com

Read Richard Sheaf’s Boys Adventure Comics item on the original figure in 2018 here

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