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R.I.P. Pepe The Frog

(Image: Matt Furie)
(Image: Matt Furie)

It’s a bittersweet day for the world of stoner cartoon characters, as comedy meme Pepe The Frog—who had recently been adopted as a mascot for the racist “alt-right” community—has died. This comes from Comic Book Resources, which says Pepe was killed by creator Matt Furie in a one-page strip for publisher Fantagraphics’ Free Comic Book Day special World’s Greatest Cartoonists.

Pepe was born in 2005 alongside Furie’s other Boy’s Club characters in a MySpace blog post, and he was originally depicted as comedically mellow dude who enjoyed getting high with his friends. The character’s slightly strange appearance and bizarre sense of humor brought him to the attention of likeminded individuals at sites like 4Chan and Reddit, which turned Pepe into a popular meme that—like a lot of things that people on 4Chan and Reddit think are funny—didn’t make a whole lot of sense to people outside of those circles.

Unfortunately, as the internet goes, so goes the internet’s memes, and as the “alt-right” began to infect more and more of the web with its disgusting views, Pepe found himself falling in with a bad crowd. Somehow, Pepe The Frog became like a secret handshake or lapel pin for neo-Nazis who didn’t want to call themselves neo-Nazis, and just a few months after mostly being known as a weird meme, the Anti-Defamation League officially classified him as a hate symbol. Even the frog emoji became associated with the darkest corners of the internet—and humanity in general—with Donald Trump’s most openly racist and bigoted supporters using it as both a nod to Pepe and a banner proclaiming how proud they were to be miserable assholes.

It was a sudden and dramatic fall for the formerly chill stoner frog, and Furie himself began to try and distance himself from the new life his creation had taken on. As a Hillary Clinton supporter, Furie seemed shocked that Pepe had become something he could no longer control, especially since he was now inadvertently tied to a hate symbol, and he even created comics specifically about Pepe dealing with the sad turn his life had taken. Of course, Furie was never going to reclaim Pepe from the monsters who had corrupted him, which meant that his only recourse was to put the frog out of his—and our—misery. There might not be a heaven for cartoon frogs, but if there is, hopefully Pepe is up there getting stoned and doing some weird bullshit right now.

Pepe is survived by his Boy’s Club friends Landwolf, Brett, and Andy, and you might be able to get a copy of World’s Greatest Cartoonists at your local comic shop.

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