Comics from Hell: The Horror Films That Spawned Comics – article

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Perhaps even more abundant than the ever-popular trend of adapting comic books into films, particularly Marvel’s ever expanding universe, is the very opposite, transposing popular characters from film onto the page. So, whilst the likes of 30 Days of Night, From Hell and Blade have all, it must be said, achieved differing levels of success onscreen, a slow trickle, building to a arterial gush, of fully-formed characters with their back-stories already well-known have fallen onto the page, allowing for story-arcs, inter-world co-existence and scenes of gratuitous disembowelling that even the bravest director would dismiss as just-that-little-bit-too-far, opening up the possibilities of horror film as never before.

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Aliens

Aliens is a comic book series set in the fictional universe of the Alien films. It was first published by Dark Horse Comics in 1988. The stories often feature the company Weyland-Yutani and the United States Colonial Marines. Originally intended as a sequel to James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens, the first mini-series features the characters of Rebecca “Newt” Jorden and Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Later series also included the further adventures of Ellen Ripley. Other stories are completely unique to the Alien universe, and are often used to explore other aspects of the species, such as their sociology and biology.

The first three stories formed a continuation of the two Alien films that had been released by the time they were published. However, 1992 saw the release of Alien 3, which contradicted the events of the comics by beginning with the deaths of Newt and Corporal Hicks. In order to keep the stories relevant to the Alien series, Dark Horse changed the names of the characters for future printings of the stories. Newt became Billie while Hicks was now known as Wilks. The only other major difference between the original publications is that as well as being renamed the trade paperbacks were also recoloured.

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A key story in the comic version of the film is Outbreak starting ten years after the events of Aliens. Hicks and Newt have been struggling with the aftermath of their encounter with the Xenomorphs. Newt is in a mental institution, and when nothing seems to help her, the doctors decide to wipe her memory. Hicks has never gotten over the Aliens and the annihilation of his squad, so he agrees to go on a mission to the alien home world to recover some eggs and to destroy one of the hives (the hive-destroying serves no purpose other than to satisfy Hicks’ hatred). Hicks goes to visit Newt before he goes, only to find out that her memory is about to be wiped. Hicks believes Newt to be the only thing that marks his existence and the only thing that marks his squad’s sacrifice, so he rescues her and takes her to the home world. Their spaceship is followed by another, though…

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Meanwhile, strange things are happening on Earth. A scientific corporation has acquired an alien Queen, and begins harvesting eggs. A weird cult that believes the Aliens to be God’s spiritual rebirth breaks in and they all give themselves up for face-hugging. Earth is overrun.

On the home world, the team lands (Newt has fallen in love with a soldier named Butler) and are attacked by a band of soldiers, who want the eggs for themselves, after tracking them to the planet. They give up their weapons and stand down, but the attackers are forced into the hive by the various other hostile species on the planet. The team gathers weapons, and foolishly go into the hive to rescue their attackers. They rescue a few, and most of them get out, but not before the reason they so stupidly went in is revealed: they are all synthetic humans.

Newt is distraught; Butler makes it back, but is ripped in half (revealing he is actually a synthetic), and Hicks almost kills them all by waiting until he has set the charges to take off, but they make it and go back to Earth. As soon as they get there, they have to leave, and are told by a general that they are following a standard military procedure against the Aliens: they are retreating. There is a mass exodus from Earth, most of the survivors being military. Butler, Hicks, and Newt get on a ship and flee Earth.

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More excitingly for many fans were the new avenues available for exploration now the characters were free from the shackles of big budgets, timid film companies and technical viability. The alien creatures were now free to battle and invade strange new worlds and similarly well-loved characters:

  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator
  • Mindhunter
  • Batman/Aliens
  • Green Lantern Versus Aliens
  • Judge Dredd vs. Aliens
  • Superman/Aliens
  • Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator
  • WildC.A.T.s/Aliens
  • Aliens Vampirella

As we can see, a duff Aliens vs. Predator film is no obstacle to the writers and artists of comics – the answer? A complete re-write and when that isn’t quite enough, the introduction of Terminator as well.

Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens

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The incessant nature of the alien and the audience’s familiarity with the ‘lore’ surrounding their behaviour meant that team-ups and face-offs were rife and there were seemingly no end to the environments and  situations they could be thrown into, future, past or against comic book characters as localised and well-loved as Judge Dredd.

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Predator

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A natural next stop-off on our journey- if anything, Predator found itself used even more prolifically. partly perhaps the more humanoid form lending itself to better interaction, sadly, more likely, that the chances of a good new Predator film were slimmer than a good Aliens film. Again, from the Dark Horse, ahem, stable:

  • Aliens vs. Predator, the better known comic books
  • Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator
  • Predator vs. Magnus, Robot Fighter
  • Predator vs. Judge Dredd
  • Batman versus Predator
  • Superman vs. Predator
  • Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator
  • JLA vs. Predator
  • Tarzan vs. Predator at the Earth’s Core (by Walter Simonson and Lee Weeks, 4-issue mini-series
  • Aliens vs. Predator/Witchblade/Darkness:
    • Overkill (by Paul Jenkins and Clarence Lansang, Top Cow, 2-issue mini-series, 2000)
    • Mindhunter (by David Quinn, Mel Rubi, and Mike Perkins, Dark Horse Comics, 4-issues miniseries

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Bringing the saga to a temporary conclusion is Dark Horse’s Prometheus: Fire and Stone, from the Eisner Award–nominated team of Paul Tobin and artist Juan Ferreyra. It’s not stretching the brain  cells too much to be given a scenario of a search team being dispatched to discover what happened to the ill-fated Prometheus. Set over a hundred years after the film (and forty years after Aliens), many fans have already speculated a to whether it continues clues to Ridley Scott’s sequel. The Weyand-Yutani corporation are still very much a feature and a return to their previous ‘behaviour’ once again makes an already difficult proposition for the team even harder. When they arrive at the moon the expedition was last heard from, it isn’t quite what the team expected.

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28 Days Later

It wasn’t only established films which were chosen for ink and papyrus. In lieu of another film, Fox Atomic Comics, in association with HarperCollins, published a graphic novel bridging the time gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, entitled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, written by Steve Niles.

28 Days Later, a comic sequel also linking Days and Weeks and produced by Fox Atomic (until its demise) and Boom! Studios, begun production in 2009. The series focuses on Selena and answers questions about her in the film and her sequel whereabouts.

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 Child’s Play

Beginning in 1990, Innovation Publishing released the first comic books based on the films, in the form of a three issue adaptation of Child’s Play 2. It was later collected in a trade paperback. The success of the adaptation led to a monthly series of new stories starting in 1991. The series, titled Child’s Play: The Series, ended in 1992 after only five issues. This was followed by a three issue adaptation of Child’s Play 3.

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In 2007, Devil’s Due Publishing obtained the license to publish Child’s Play comics and released a one-shot crossover with Hack/Slash titled Hack/Slash vs. Chucky which takes place after the events of the Seed of Chucky film. This was followed by a four-issue series called Chucky. A second volume began in early 2009 but ceased publication after only one issue.

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Clive Barker – Nightbreed, Hellraiser and beyond

Some film-makers lent themselves to comic-book adaptation, none more-so than Clive Barker, an artist of some renown in his own right. A long-time comics fan, Barker achieved his dream of publishing his own superhero books when Marvel Comics launched the Razorline imprint in 1993. Based on detailed premises, titles and lead characters he created specifically for this, the four interrelated titles — set outside the Marvel universe — were Ectokid (written first by James Robinson, then by future Matrix co-creator Lana Wachowski, with art by Steve Skroce), Hokum & Hex (written by Frank Lovece, art by Anthony Williams), Hyperkind (written by Fred Burke, art by Paris Cullins and Bob Petrecca) and Saint Sinner (written by Elaine Lee, art by Max Douglas). A 2002 Barker telefilm titled Saint Sinner bore no relation to the comic.

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Barker horror adaptations and spin-offs in comics include the Marvel/Epic Comics series Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Pinhead, The Harrowers, Book of the Damned, and Jihad; Eclipse Books’ series and graphic novels Tapping The Vein, Dread, Son of Celluloid, Revelations The Life of Death, Rawhead Rex and The Yattering and Jack, and Dark Horse Comics’Primal, among others. Barker served as a consultant and wrote issues of the Hellraiser anthology comic book.

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In 2005, IDW published a three-issue adaptation of Barker’s children’s fantasy novel The Thief of Always, written and painted by Kris Oprisko and Gabriel Hernandez. IDW is publishing a twelve issue adaptation of Barker’s novel The Great and Secret Show.

In December 2007, Chris Ryall and Clive Barker announced an original comic book series, Torakator, published by IDW.

In October 2009, IDW published Seduth (Written by Clive Barker and Chris Monfette; art by Gabriel Rodriguez; colours by Jay Fotos; letters by Neil Uyetake; edits by Chris Ryall; and 3-D conversion by Ray Zone), the first time Barker has created a world specifically for the comic book medium in two decades. The work was released with three variant covers; cover A featuring art by Gabriel Rodriguez and cover B with art by Clive Barker and the third is a “retailer incentive signed edition cover” with art by Clive Barker.

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In 2011, Boom! Studios began publishing an original Hellraiser comic book series. The comic book picks up 2 decades after the events of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and from there, builds its own mythology. The book has several credited writers: Chris Monfette, Anthony Diblasi, Mark Miller and most recently Witch Doctor creator Brandon Seifert. The series is ongoing and has just celebrated its second anniversary in print.

In 2013, Boom! Studios announced the first original story by Barker to be published in comic book format: Next Testament. The story concerns a man, Julian Demond, who unearths the God of the Old Testament and discovers that he has bit off more than he can chew. The series is co written by Seraphim Films Vice President Mark Miller.

Cloverfield

With a sequel/prequel to the surprise 2008 hit Cloverfield evidently lost in development hell, enterprising folks digested every morsel of information given in both the film and surrounding PR material to produce their own interpretation. Cloverfield/Kishin (クローバーフィールド/KISHIN Kurōbāfīrudo/KISHIN) is the manga and cross-media tie-in result. It was published once a month on Kadokawa Shoten’s website and consists of four chapters. There are English translations for the story, but only on fansites.The story details the lives of two students seeking for shelter before what may seem to be the Chuai incident seen in the film’s viral marketing material, and their internal conflicts when the Cloverfield monster makes an appearance. One of the students is being tracked by a cult that has connections to both the monster and the fictional Japanese drilling company Tagruato. The manga has a stronger focus on the viral-marketing materials such as Slusho! and Tagruato than the film. There are several new revelations regarding the nature and biology of the monster.

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Evil Dead

It may be viewed as slightly depressing that it was the most inferior film of the Evil Dead films trilogy that spawned the most comic book adaptations. Army of Darkness comics are based on the film of the same name published originally by Dark Horse Comics, and later by Dynamite Entertainment who initially published them through Devil’s Due Publishing. The stories follow the adventures of the Evil Dead series, Ash Williams, and has included a number of crossovers with a wide variety of characters such as, Marvel Zombies, Darkman, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Dracula, Xena, Danger Girl, Re-Animator and Barack Obama.

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In 1992, Dark Horse published an adaptation of the film with the original ending intact. John Bolton adapted the story from the script written by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi, in addition to providing the artwork. It was published as a three issue mini-series and was released as a trade paperback by Dynamite in 2006. From here, the twists and turns were myriad.

In Ashes to Ashes, the plot picks up right at the end of the film, where the wizard of Army of Darkness goes to Ash’s times to tell him that he’s still not in his right time and that he arrived moments before he left to the wood in the first Evil Dead. Now he once again faces the evil in the woods and encounters his self from the true present, and along with the Wizard sends him to the past where the events of The Army of Darkness took place. While trying to destroy the book that caused all the events of the trilogy to take place, the two travel to Egypt, where the wizard is killed and Evil Ash is resurrected, in a final battle Ash is able to destroy Evil Ash and his army with the help of the medieval warriors of Arthur’s court from the third film and once again encounters Sheila, after the end of the battle everybody goes to their respective timeline but Ash leaves the book behind, forgetting to destroy it.

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After developing the natural story as far as it would go, it became time to introduce Ash to characters from other films, something long mooted by film production companies and fan-boys but never, as yet, risked. A crossover with Herbert West from H. P. Lovecraft’s short story, “Herbert West – Re-animator” and well-known from the film Re-Animator and its sequels came first, with a rather more traditional foe, Dracula, up next – it was this twist that led to Ash’s appearance in the hugely popular Marvel Zombies strand.

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Later, a crossover with another Sam Raimi film character, Darkman was published. It was written by Roger Stern and Kurt Busiek, with art by James Fry. It ran for four issues from August 2006 to March 2007 and the trade paperback was released in late 2007. The story features Darkman/Dr. Peyton Westlake’s former love Julie accidentally read the incantations of the Necronomicon, which unleashes a deadite infestation throughout the city and transforms Julie into the Deadite Queen. Helping her friend Brynne Kelly escape with the book, the pair use it to open a portal and summon the ‘Legendary Hero’ to them – which turns out to be Ash Williams. Teaming up, the trio take on the army of deadites – led by Darkman’s deceased enemy Robert Druant – as they plan to use the book to help rid Julie of the evil inside her. The trio succeed in reversing the effects, freeing Julie and destroying the deadite army. Ash and Brynne share a kiss before he disappears while Darkman watches over Julie and her boyfriend Tony, understanding that his desire to save Julie cost the lives of others and that he will have to live with it.

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More familiar fare followed, pitting Ash against both Freddy and Jason, as well as featuring cameos of known characters from the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, Xena (of Warrior Princess fame), before throwing the rulebook out of the window entirely and introducing Santa Claus and the President of the USA to the action!

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Final Destination

The wildly successful but seemingly studio-unfavoured Final Destination films actually only number five, despite feeling rather more like fifteen. The enjoyably high death-count was too much for other creative types to resist – no fewer than ten, and that’s not a typo, novels were published before a rather more restrained number of comics. The first Final Destination comic book, entitled Sacrifice, was published by Zenescope Entertainment and came packaged with a limited edition DVD of Final Destination 3 sold exclusively at Circuit City. The premise of the story involves the survivor of a terrible accident, who continually experiences images of other people’s deaths, isolating himself from the rest of the world to escape the visions that torment him. Zenescope later released a five issue miniseries, subtitled Spring Break, which involves a group led by Carly Hagan being stalked by Death after surviving a hotel fire and becoming stranded in Cancún, Mexico. The miniseries was later released in a trade paperback collection, which included the Sacrifice comic as bonus content.

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Friday 13th

Since New Line Cinema’s acquisition of the franchise, several Friday the 13th comic books have been published by Topps Comics, Avatar Press, and DC Comics imprint, WildStorm. The first comic book release for the franchise was the 1993 Topps Comics adaptation of Jason Goes to Hell, written by Andy Mangels. The three-issue series was a condensed version of the film with a few added scenes. Topps Comics published another series in 1995, with Nancy A. Collins writing a three-issue, non‑canonical miniseries involving a crossover between Jason and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Leatherface. The story involves Jason stowing away aboard a train and eventually meeting Leatherface. The two initially become friends, with Leatherface adopting Jason into the former’s family. After a series of misunderstandings (those guys), Jason and Leatherface turn on each other.

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On May 13, 2005, New Line first exercised their rights to use the Friday the 13th moniker when they, along with Avatar comics, released a special issue of Friday the 13th. Written by Brian Pulido and illustrated by Mike Wolfer and Greg Waller, the story takes place after the events of Freddy vs. Jason, where siblings Miles and Laura Upland inherit Camp Crystal Lake. Knowing that Jason caused the recent destruction, Laura, unknown to her brother, sets out to kill Jason with a paramilitary group so that she and her brother can sell the property. 

Avatar released a three-issue miniseries titled Friday the 13th: Bloodbath in September 2005. The series was written by Brian Pulido, illustrated by Mike Wolfer and Andrew Dalhouse, and revolves around a group of teenagers who come to Camp Tomorrow, a camp that sits on Crystal Lake, for work and a “party-filled weekend”. The teenagers begin to discover that they share common family backgrounds and soon awaken Jason, who proceeds to kill them. Brian Pulido returned for a third time in October 2005 to write another special issue for Avatar, titled Jason X. Picking up after the events of the Jason X film, Jason is now on Earth 2 where a bioengineer, Kristen, attempts to subdue him in hopes that she can use his regenerative tissue to save her own life and the lives of those she loves.

In February 2006, Avatar published their final Friday the 13th comic, a two-issue miniseries titled Friday the 13th: Jason vs. Jason X. The series was written and illustrated by Mike Wolfer. The story takes place after the events of the film Jason X, where a salvage team discovers the spaceship Grendel and awakens a regenerated Jason Voorhees. The “original” Jason and Über-Jason, a version of Jason with mechanical limbs, are drawn into a battle to the death. In June 2006, a one-shot comic titled Friday the 13th: Fearbook was released, written by Mike Wolfer with art by Sebastian Fiumara. In the comic, Jason is captured and experimented upon by the Trent Organization. Jason escapes and seeks out Violet, the survivor of Friday the 13th: Bloodbath, whom the Trent Organization is holding in their Crystal Lake headquarters.

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In December 2006, WildStorm began publishing its own series of comic books under the Friday the 13th title. The first set was a six-issue miniseries that involves Jason’s return to Crystal Lake, a lone survivor’s tale of the murder of her friends by a monster, a new revelation about the evil surrounding Crystal Lake, and the truth of what Jason embodies. On July 11 and August 15, 2007, WildStorm published a two-part special titled Friday the 13th: Pamela’s Tale. The two-issue comic book covers Pamela Voorhees’ journey to Camp Crystal Lake and the story of her pregnancy with Jason as she recounts it to hitch-hiker Annie, a camp counsellor who is killed in the original film..

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WildStorm released another comic book special, titled Friday the 13th: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, consisting of two issues that were released on September 12 and October 10, 2007. The comic book provides insight into the psychology of Jason Voorhees as he befriends a boy born with a skull deformity. WildStorm released a six-issue sequel to Freddy vs. Jason, titled Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, starring the two aforementioned killers and Ash from the Evil Dead film series. The story focuses on Freddy using the Necronomicon, which is in the basement of the Voorhees home, to escape from Jason’s subconscious and “gain powers unlike anything he’s had before”. Freddy attempts to use Jason to retrieve the book, but Ash, who is working at the local S‑Mart in Crystal Lake, learns of the book’s existence and sets out to destroy it once and for all. The story, by Jeff Katz, was a sequel to the Freddy vs. Jason film in development before the former film had been theatrically released. After meeting with executives, the negotiations ended and the story was shelved.

Following the bewildering success of Freddy vs. Jason, the idea of including Ash was brought up again but New Line ultimately decided they would put the story in comic book form and bring in James Kuhoric to write and Jason Craig to do the artwork. On January 9 and February 13, 2008, WildStorm released another two-issue miniseries, titled Friday the 13th: Bad Land, which was written and illustrated by Ron Marz and Mike Huddleston, respectively. The series explores the history of Crystal Lake before Pamela and Jason Voorhees arrived. Bad Land takes place in two time frames, the “present day” and 250 years before “present day”. It follows three hikers in the present and three fur trappers in the past, each of whom is snowed in by a blizzard at Crystal Lake. Each group experiences similar events, suggesting that there is a connection between the two groups.

A one-shot comic, titled Friday the 13th: Abuser and the Abused, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov with artwork by Andy B., was released on April 30, 2008. The story involves a teenager named Maggie tricking her abusive boyfriend into travelling to Crystal Lake, where she plans to murder him, but she encounters Jason shortly after arriving at the camp. The six-issue sequel to Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, subtitled The Nightmare Warriors, began. Written by Jeff Katz and James Kuhoric, and illustrated by Jason Craig, the miniseries has Ash and survivors of both Freddy and Jason banding together to defeat the two after Freddy is released from the world of the Deadites by government operatives who had discovered the Necronomicon.

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Fright Night

Although there were only two films (though later a remake of the first) and the second being almost lost in the memory of those who watched it, the Fright Night films were simple enough and more importantly held in affection enough to warrant a quick comic book jaunt. In fact, the quick jaunt spanned 22 issues, published by Now Comics between 1988 and 1990.

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George A. Romero

Even before The Walking Dead made zombies even cooler than CGI werewolves and foppish vampires, comic publishers were exploiting George Romero’s world of the undead, a handful of books and comics books taking place in the Living Dead universe, some of them are officially endorsed, while others not.

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Toe Tags, also known as The Death of Death is a six-issue comic book mini-series originally published from December 2004 to May 2005 by DC Comic and was based on an unused script by Romero. It was drawn by Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos, with covers by horror artist Berni Wrightson. Romero’s story is actually based on an unused script for a sequel to his Dead films; the miniseries therefore follows his similar tropes: Extreme gore, social commentary, evolving zombies, and the heroes riding off in the end into an unknown fate.

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Categories: adaptation of a graphic novel, article, British, comic book

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9 replies

  1. Great article and helpful resource, but you forgot Motel Hell (IDW 2010). It’s totally new, but there’s also a Pumpkinhead series that just started.

    Like

  2. No Swamp Thing? How come? Otherwise, great article. Tremendous research shown. Bravo!

    Like

  3. Interesting to note that the Marvel Godzilla series prefigured many aspects of the second TOHO series.

    Like

  4. AWESOME man. Fantastic post.

    Like

  5. FAN-FUCKIN-TASTIC. Greetings from a new brazillia fan. =)

    Like

  6. Fantastic article. Great research here. Much appreciated.

    -Mat, DeadLantern.com’s Splattercast

    Like

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