The Replacer’s Zac Thompson Opens Up About His Deeply Personal Horror Story

Comics Features Zac Thompson
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<i>The Replacer</i>&#8217;s Zac Thompson Opens Up About His Deeply Personal Horror Story

Age of X-Man co-architect Zac Thompson shares most of his professional credits with co-writer Lonnie Nadler, but the Canadian upstart takes the solo reins for The Replacer, a deeply personal story told against a horror backdrop. In the mid-‘90s, Thompson’s father survived a debilitating stroke, which irrevocably changed the family dynamic. The Replacer fictionalizes Thompson’s experience as a child, with a protagonist who is certain that his father hasn’t just suffered a medical episode—he’s been possessed by a malevolent entity with the aim of tearing apart his family. No other member of the family sees what the young protagonist witnesses, and tensions soon spiral out of control.

Told in one complete 64-page installment, The Replacer features art from Arjuna Susini and colorist Dee Cunniffe, whose lived-in styles perfectly captures the period and makes the supernatural aspects of the story all the more unsettling. Rather than pursue a traditional question-and-answer interview with Thompson, Paste invited him to tell us more about The Replacer in his own words, accompanyed by process art from Susini. The Replacer is available in comic stores and via digital retailers today via AfterShock Comics.

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The Replacer Cover Art by Arjuna Susini, Dee Cunniffe & Marshall Dillon

Writer Zac Thompson:

The Replacer is an apology.

For years, I’ve struggled with how to deal with my father’s massive stroke. It happened when I was seven, an age when I barely knew my father. My young mind fractured with his disability and I spent most of more formative years feeling angry, confused and owed. That’s a rough storm of emotions for a young kid. One that I didn’t take to well, so I lashed out at everyone around me… particularly my father. So yes, the book is an apology. To him and to anyone suffering from similar feelings of loss or grief. This is me extending my hand to you, reminding you that you’re not alone.

Experiencing tragedy at a young age can do funny things to your mind. It made me lose myself somewhere between a world I thought I was supposed to have and the one I found myself in. That duality ate away at me and I spent a lot of time feeling like I was owed a better explanation or a better life. Truth is, after sorting through all the complicated emotions, I was only left with one thing: the mystery.

I struggled for so long with wanting to know who my father was. Not who he is today, but who he was before his stroke. I wanted to ask him about what he dreamt of becoming, I wanted to go on bike rides with him, or talk about the state of the world. I never got a chance to do those things, and unfortunately I never will.

Now that I’m a writer, I wanted to use my craft to make sense of the pain I felt as a child. I wanted to create a horror comic that captured that helplessness, so I embraced fiction to tell my truth. I took all of those awful feelings and channelled them into the protagonist of the The Replacer, Marcus. It’s through his eyes that we see a supernatural version of my story.

After a night in watching movies, Marcus Beharrell bears witness to his father’s horrible stroke. In the days, weeks and months that follow, this nine-year-old boy can’t help but feel his newly disabled father has been replaced by a horrific demon. This strange and overwhelming obsession consumes him as he grows determined to free his father from the clutches of a monster he calls The Replacer.

That’s the thing about tragedy, it eats away at you slowly, eroding your comforts until there’s nothing left. Experiencing trauma at a young age feels like losing your skin. So, The Replacer is born of that vulnerability. Born of that lingering sort of anger and confusion that so many of us feel but can’t quite articulate. More than anything, I wanted to use a graphic novel to put a face to this horrific feeling. With a 64 page one-and-done format, The Replacer puts its hooks in you and slowly eats away.

But it’s not all dark. The Replacer is designed to be a lifeline to anyone who feels lost in the wake of tragedy. It’s a reminder to those who might be struggling with similar feelings of loss, confusion or anger that they’re not alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling with resentment around disability in their life, those feelings are normal. It’s easy to get lost in the wake of monumental change but we can come out the other end stronger. Even if we have to teach ourselves how to walk and talk again in the process.

My father is still alive. But he is severely mentally and physically handicapped. He has regained some rudimentary speech skills, and can now walk with the help of a leg brace/cane combo. He’s a wonderful and kind man who has more patience than I’ve ever witnessed in another person. When I was young, I was blind to his strength. Instead of the father I knew, I saw an imposter sitting in my home. I was angry with this new version of my father and it ate away at me. I felt resentment every day of my young life because I couldn’t get over how much I had lost. I was selfishly fixated and unable to see the incredible man right in front of me. Because make no mistake, it takes a hell of a lot of resilience to pick yourself up after a massive stroke. Today my father is, and forever will be, my role model. He’s an astonishing example of human spirit and sheer will.

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Process Art by Arjuna Susini

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The Replacer Early Concept Art by Arjuna Susini

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