I think it’s safe to assume that everyone knows the tale of the Eighth Wonder of the World, King Kong, but I doubt many know how the below-pictured beautiful King Korpse (2016) piece came to be. The collaborative brainchild of artists James Groman and Hiroto Ohkubo, we’re thrilled to be able to delve deep into this work of art with you.
James Groman & InstincToy - King Korpse - Size comparison

The History of King Korpse

While James Groman is probably best known for his 1980’s design work, especially on the Madballs and My Pet Monster creations, he took the designer toy movement by storm when his Rotten Rexx was introduced in 2013. Depicting a rotting corpse rendition of a Tyrannosaurus rex, this Lulubell Toy Bodega produced piece properly debuted at New York Comic Con with an unpainted piece pre-order promptly following.

A month later, Lulubell featured Rotten Rexx prominently at their DesignerCon booth. And, in the booth next door, happened to be Hiroto-san and his InstincToy label. Hiroto-san was preparing to release his own Tyrannosaurus-inspired design, Vincent vs. Liquid (2013), so the Rotten Rexx struck a special cord with him even though they were very different takes on the same dinosaur form. Hiroto-san entered Lulubell’s lottery to purchase one of the hand-painted Rexx figures, luckily having his name chosen first and thus allowing him pick of the litter.
Afterward, Hiroto-san discussed creating InstincToy exclusive versions of Rotten Rexx with Lulubell. And, in mid-2015, the ultra-limited and gorgeously painted Ultimate Red and Ultimate Purple editions were released. These were so impressive looking that Groman, after receiving his complimentary copies, contacted Hiroto-san to express how much he loved these versions. And Hiroto-san took this opportunity to suggest that the two of them should collaborate on a piece, thus the very first seeds of what would become King Korpse were born.
As Hiroto-san contemplated what form this collaboration could take, his mind turned to the fact they’d each done Tyrannosaurus rex inspired pieces and how he’d been wanting to create something depicting a battle between two monsters. It wasn’t long before these thoughts led to a King Kong style giant gorilla, one that would be sized to brawl with their respectively 10- and 12-inch tall rex pieces. And when the Japanese artist conveyed this idea to Groman, the Ohio-based artist amazingly had already pondered something similar.
Immediately getting to work, Groman sketched out a concept illustration for Hiroto-san to approve. And, given the go ahead, Groman spent months hand sculpting the original King Korpse model. Once he was done, that model was 3D scanned to be sent to Hiroto-san for digital cleaning and preparation for production. Though, once he saw it, Hiroto-san had an idea to make the finished piece even more dynamic and collaborative, one which Groman whole-heartedly agreed with. But we’ll come back to that in a bit.

My Impressions of King Korpse

In examining the actual figure, we should start with the packaging. InstincToy has historically housed their more expensive works in exquisite presentation boxes, but they captured the bestial and undead aspects of this work perfectly with its container: a thick burlap sack that has the creature’s head silkscreened on it. Topped with a leather limitation tag and metal drawstring, this packaging conveys the feel of not only a snared animal being illicitly transported but also a poor man’s coffin.

Of course, what was contained within is anything but poor. King Korpse features over thirty vinyl parts, allowing for a massive range of motion and poses. And, as you look over it, you’ll surely spot the depth and detail of the color application, which required almost 70 metal paint masks to achieve.
By going above and beyond like this, we’re presented with a finished vinyl sculpture that can’t help but impress. Beyond its massive size, there are plenty of gasp-worthy elements one finds through continued examination. From the visceral realism of the gashed open skin areas to the multi-toned bone protrusions, everything is immaculately conceived and executed, including the dent and ding imperfections marring the restraining cuffs, belt, and individual chain links.
But there’s more than meets the eye with this monstrosity, which brings us back to the ideas Hiroto-san had when he received the initial sculpt. There was a removable rib cage element to Groman’s concept sketch which, thinking of the production process, he’d simplified in his sculpture. Hiroto-san was dead set on fulfilling this original vision, and even wanted to push the concept further, which we’ll see in a moment…
But, to properly see this part, we have to manipulate the figure a bit. First, we’ll remove this one rib — which is easy enough to do — so that we can more fully turn the head. Now, with the ribcage properly exposed, we’re going to take a hair dryer to the left arm, warming up the vinyl so that it pops right off. Only about 20 to 30 seconds of heat should be needed.
With the arm off, you can see the where the ribs poke through the body, locking the whole in place. To remove these, we’re just going to hit those with some heat as well as the base of the ribcage.
And now, with that all removed, you can see the beast’s heart… which has the well-known Liquid Eroded design from InstincToy incorporated into it. In fact, it’s been hinted that perhaps this parasite is the reason the undead gorilla walks once more.
But that’s not the end of this added element. This Liquid Eroded Heart is removable. Held in place by the arterial vessels atop it, the piece is easy to slide out, allowing you to gaze upon the masterful artistry it is composed with.
Speaking of gazing, there is one other hidden aspect that Hiroto-san added. While the piece’s doll eye does lend an even greater air of realism to the whole, it also has a secret to it… If you remove the head, once again using the hair dryer, then you’ll notice this weird circle inside of the head. Using a needle or other properly sized tool, you can use this to move King Korpse’s eye! While it doesn’t have the greatest range of motion and it is probably an aspect I won’t frequently use, I do love how this little touch gives one a bit more control over the display of the creature, specifically in where his gaze is landing.
And coming full circle to Hiroto-san’s vision of these being part of a battling monsters set, the closed fist can be easily exchanged for an open palm, allowing King Korpse to hold either Rotten Rexx or Vincent above his head!
Though displayed as early as June’s WonderFestival in Japan, King Korpse was first properly released at the Singapore Toy, Game, and Comic Convention in September of 2016. Made available at that time in three color schemes, there was the unpainted mixed parts version alongside two factory painted renditions: Fearful Fantasy, which was inspired by the rich colors of American comic books, and True Terror, which is the one I have here, a more realistic rendition, especially in the torn skin, innards, exposed muscles, and bare bones.
King Korpse returned in InstincToy’s 2017 Lucky Bags, in a golden form with black paint rubs to accent the details. And while all these versions are completely sold out from InstincToy, there was a “surprise” DIY version debuted at February’s Wonder Festival, which will most likely be available elsewhere later. And we’re told that a new Yeti-inspired edition is coming in May of this year. But it doesn’t end there, as Groman and Hiroto-san have already begun work on a second collaborative piece… with a third and fourth already planned.

Editions of King Korpse [show]

For more information on James Groman:
blog | store | instagram

For more information on InstincToy:
website | blog | instagram | facebook | twitter

Otto Bjornik's Mogu: Kana & Kali Review
Fans of artist Otto Bjornik’s illustrations know that images of wood elf characters have haunted his work for years. And when a wood elf shows up, one can frequently also spot her anthropomorphic mushroom companion. The History of the Mogu Characters Initially known as Shroomie, the…
Alessandro Gallo & Beth Cavener's Lost in Thought Feature
When it comes to anthropomorphized animals, artists Alessandro Gallo and Beth Cavener have very different approaches. Gallo sculpts fantastical hybrids, as exemplified in his For Some Reason exhibition (see report here), realistically rendered bestial heads supplanted on equally lifelike human bodies. Cavener, on the other hand, utilizes figurative forms for…
Otto Bjornik's Mogu: Kana & Kali
Alessandro Gallo & Beth Cavener's Lost in Thought