They Went Into The Field: Thunderpaw Review


Jen Lee
Update 5 times a month
SFW, but full of GIFs

What is it to fall in love? Perhaps it is to want more for the object of your affection than you do for yourself. To want to put the loved one on stable footing and look them in the eye and recognize and be recognized? Yes, maybe that is love. And that is how I’m feeling about Thunderpaw. Last year, Claire wrote about the use of GIFs in this magnificent webcomic, but I didn’t get around to appreciating them until recently. Now I can’t stop looking at it. This comic illustrates my anxiety unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Thunderpaw is about two best friends, Bruno and Ollie, who happen to be young dogs and who are lost while the world is ending. It’s also about friendship, anxiety, self-care, and personal journeys. Plus, it’s just super cool to look at. So, I have pretty bad abandonment issues, and this has on occasion led to me being compared to dogs. This panel in particular of the two main characters left in a locked car spoke to me:

Thunderpaw Thunder

The comic is full of these intense colors. I suppose they’re all neutral shades, but the intensity has been so heightened that I can feel the world ending right along with Ollie and Bruno. Hallucinations and dreams and anxieties spill over into their waking lives, and I feel that too. I worry a lot, and I express these worries to my loved ones constantly. So, when Bruno asks Ollie, “Do you ever get bored of being scared?” I felt like he was asking me. You see, I worry about everything, and then I worry about worrying, and I share, and then I worry that I’m boring people with my worrying. The anxiety cycle.

Thunderpaw Scared

Ollie is the Me of this story. Bruno has his own moments of feeling upset, but they’re tied to specific events, like the loss of his knapsack. He doesn’t experience the constant, clawing, cluttering emotion that is chronic anxiety the way that Ollie and I do. Bruno is, however, a great friend and ally to Ollie. He remains calm and reassures Ollie over and over again that everything will be alright, that everything is okay, that they’ll make it home and be safe and that they’re together. These are things we all need to hear once in a while, and some of us need to hear a lot. In return, Ollie calms down Bruno when the bag is stolen and comes up with a clever way to keep all of Bruno’s prized sticks together. It’s a good, supportive, functional friendship.

Thunderpaw MushroomsThe whole comic speaks to me, and to the specific part of me that feels alone and scared almost all the time. When the friends eat mushrooms, it affects them just as one might guess. For Bruno, he experiences so much happiness and joy. The grass feels like milk to him, everything is calm and comfortable and beautiful. The art is in shades of cream and soft blues.

But for Ollie, who already experiences a reality altered by worrying and fear and doubt, the mushrooms heighten that sensation and distort things further. Everything is harsh, blurred, rough. The colors are the intensified oranges and harder blues. The lines are unclear between things. His vision is distorted, and while Bruno has a hard time understanding him, Ollie has a hard time communicating. This is a serious fear for those with mental illness, that we will not be understood. That what we’re saying or feeling is distorted and “crazy.” That even the people closest to us will not be able to follow our train of thought. That we’re entirely alone.

When we find people who do understand, others who have experienced this overwhelming sensation of not-rightness, it can be freeing.

Thunderpaw Afraid

Bruno and Ollie come across a coven of fawns. Their leader looks after them and connects with Ollie. Ollie tells her, “I used to be so scared of this rumbling box…but Bruno showed me it wouldn’t hurt me. I hope one day I’ll stop wanting to hide all the time, it must feel so nice…” And the fawn’s response is, “Hey you’ll get there, but it’s still good to be scared of hings that will actually hurt you.” Yes, this is excellent. This is real support. There are two parts to this. There is the reassurance that with work, things will get better. Anxiety is a chronic illness, and it’s not curable for most people, but it can become manageable. The second part is equally as important, there are some things you should be afraid of. It can be difficult to parse out what is an “anxiety” and what is a “real fear” for people who experience fear all of the time.

Thunderpaw is an absolute work of art. It is beautiful to look at, and soothing to my soul. I await its updates now and forevermore.

Al Rosenberg

Al Rosenberg

Gay weirdo. Talk to them about tiny games, big books, trash, and all things illness.