SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With the same comic cool with which he created him, cartoonist Matt Furie has killed off his character, ‘Pepe the Frog’ after the carefree amphibian was hijacked by far-right extremists.
In a one-page strip in Fantagraphics’ Free Comic Book Day offering, “World’s Greatest Cartoonists,” Pepe’s stoner-bro roommates, Andy, Brett and Landwolf toast him as he lies dead in an open casket.
The quartet of slackers were part of Furie’s ‘Boy’s Club’ series that debuted in a 2006 comic book and shot to meteoric comic book fame. Fans identified with the “comical vignettes combining laconic psychedelia, childlike enchantment, drug-fueled hedonism, and impish mischief,” according to the blurb on Amazon Books.
Years later, Pepe would spawn a fan base that Furie never anticipated. His beloved “chill frog-dude” would be dubbed a symbol of hate.
Internet memes showing Pepe adorned with swastikas, mocking progressives, and making racist and sexist and anti-Semitic remarks were plastered across social media.
Hillary Clinton condemned the meme during her 2016 election bid and it was designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
In retaliation, Furie mounted a campaign to #SavePepe.
In a video, ‘Pepe the Frog: From Innocent Meme to Hate Symbol,” Furie says, “Pepe is just basically a chill frog. He likes to do nothing, just basically hang out with his bros, watch tv, eat snacks, chill out, occasionally smoke various plants.”
“It just kind of melts my spirit a little bit because a cartoon that I made had evolved to become somebody’s symbol for hate.”
Furie would spend months trying to spin his dilemma into something positive, teaming up with the ADL, and even coming out in support of Clinton in 2016.
“Life’s too short to be a hater,” says Furie in the video. Apparently, he has opted to cut Pepe’s life short to keep the green icon from being just that.
No doubt, haters will continue to exploit Pepe, but for Furie, it appears his chill-frog dude’s soul can finally rest in peace.