“Another irony is that all of the Boy’s Club characters are anthropomorphic, abstract creatures,” Furie adds. “I purposefully turned them into these little Muppets to transcend race, so they have this universal appeal. And it’s weird how Pepe on the internet evolved to stand for white supremacy—because he’s a damn frog.”
In a cartoon that Furie contributed to an anthology given out on Free Comic Book Day in May, the artist seemed to have let Pepe go: The strip portrays the frog dead, in an open coffin, while his pals from Boy’s Club pay their respects.
But rather than admitting defeat and allowing Pepe to drown in the online swamp, Furie has decided to fight back. A hashtag campaign was launched in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, but #SavePepe has been predictably fraught—for every supporter, there seems to be two people vowing to keep Pepe hateful.
In one example among many, a Twitter user employed the hashtag to post an altered picture of Pepe’s funeral scene—one in which a Hitleresque frog is popping out of his coffin, a green arm raised in a “Sieg Heil.” One user said, “Matt Furie is lucky we do not launch a meme jihad against him for trying to profit off our Prophet.” Another user added, “Matt Furie doesn’t understand how the internet works.”
Furie has, meanwhile, maintained his composure. “I like the idea of people in their mom’s basement thinking that they’re controlling the fabric of reality through this frog,” he says, “and that they’re winning right now.”
The cartoonist has launched a Kickstarter
campaign to raise funds for a new Boy’s Club
book that aims to refurbish Pepe’s tarnished image. “It’s been a long strange trip for Pepe,” he tells me, “but as his so-called creator, I’ve got my own narrative, too. And my narrative has been to continue being creative, and focusing on the positive stuff.”