The 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson, inspired by the life of Liver-Eating Johnson, is at the origin of some of the creations in the Whiskey, Scalps And Beaver Pelts collection by John Jenkins Designs. One of the latest releases, the JJ-WSP-59 - Del Gue, once again refers to this universe. This new set comes with a buried-to-the-neck version of Del Gue, making it probably one of the smallest toy soldiers ever produced by John Jenkins. But could Del Gue be the smallest toy soldier produced by John Jenkins? To answer that, we will have a look at other small figures John Jenkins has produced in the past. But first, let’s take a look at Del Gue as it is the one who started this big questioning.

Jeremiah Johnson theatrical poster.

Played by Stefan Gierasch, Del Gue (with an “e”) is, for many, the best character in the whole movie. With his weird sense of humor, doubtful ethics and deadly skills, he can easily steal the show. There is a bit of parallel to do here with Tuco from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but in a friendlier version. And just like Tuco, Del Gue can find himself in some hard to believe situations. One of them is when he is discovered buried to the neck in the middle of the desert. This figure (the head only version) refers to that specific scene.

The real Del Gue and his toy soldier counterpart.

Without surprise, the head version of Del Gue is smaller than the average 28mm figures by John Jenkins if we consider the measured height. Some collectors are not aware of this, but John Jenkins started his business in the world of the 28mm tabletop gaming. His first figures were a collection of Terror-Cotta Warrior Zombies. At the time, there was a market for this kind of fantasy figures. He used those figures to test the rules and mechanics of online sales. But sculpting at such a small scale requires constant concentration. John Jenkins eventually switched to the 1:30 scale that we know today as this larger scale implies more relaxing surface preparation before applying the details. When you sculpt 8 hours per day, this is the kind of thing that is important to consider! Nevertheless, the head alone of a 54mm figure will always be smaller than a full 28mm figure.

Some 28mm figures from the Terror-Cotta Warrior Zombies.

John’s favorite in this collection is the Jade Mummy.

Arguably, it could be said that the smallest toy soldiers produced by John Jenkins Designs might be the pilots in the 1:35 Speedbirds collection. A 1:35 figure (47mm) is technically bigger than a 28mm figure. However it’s the sculpted pilot part that needs to be considered and like those are only made of a head and a portion of the torso, this gives them a place amongst the smallest toy soldiers by JJD. Despite that small volume, they actually are a bit taller than Del Gue buried in the sand.

The pilot in the JJ-SB-02 - Macchi M.C. 72. He is there. Thrust me.

To find a toy soldier that might be smaller than Del Gue, we need to go back in time a few years ago. When the Conquest of America collection started, one of the first figures produced was the JJ-CQ-02 - Warrior Priest. In terms of size, this figure is a classic 54mm. But this priest carries with him a crucifix on which we can see a very small representation of Jesus Christ. Maybe the figure on that crucifix could be one of the smallest figures produced by John Jenkins. Unfortunately, I doubt that Jesus Christ on a crucifix could qualify as a proper toy soldier.

Jesus Christ on the JJ-CQ-02 - Warrior Priest. Even if this is not really a toy soldier, this is still impressive sculpting work!

So far, there is a certain ambiguity on what could be considered as the smallest toy soldiers produced by John Jenkins. This could be disappointing to conclude here. Luckily John Jenkins produced a figure in March 2012 for the London Toy Soldier Show that gives us a final answer to our initial question. This figure is a reference to the The Spanish Inquisition series of sketches by the Monty Pythons. It’s a 54mm figure and this makes it an unlikely potential winner. What makes this piece interesting is what is in the inquisitor's right hand. It's a fully visible toy soldier, sculpted from head to toe, painted on all sides and with a rifle slung over his shoulder! Smaller than the head of Del Gue in volume and in height, the toy soldier in the hands of the JJDUK - Nobody expected …… is by far the smallest toy soldier ever produced by John Jenkins Designs!

Were you expecting this?

At last, we have an answer! The JJDUK - Nobody expected …… wins the title for the smallest toy soldier produced by John Jenkins Designs. It is possible that we will see some new releases in the future that will challenge that title. However, I fail to see how a toy soldier could be smaller than this one and still possible to mass produce! If you know of a smaller toy soldier by John Jenkins Designs, let us know in the comments below! Meanwhile, I leave you with that classic scene that inspired the head-only version of Del Gue.