Pepe the Frog, the cute slacker cartoon who was adopted by the far right as a covert symbol of white supremacy, has been killed off by his creator after it became clear that he couldn’t be reclaimed.
Matt Furie, who first drew Pepe in more innocent times in 2005, had originally envisioned him as a harmless slacker frog, but his creation resonated throughout the darker corners of the internet. A decade later, Pepe had become a racist rallying figure amongst the online alt-right to such an extent that his existence was referenced by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become US President. He often appeared surrounded by Swastikas or making racist comments, even though he’d been conceived, according to Furie himself, as a slightly psychedelic symbol of chill vibes and love.
At one point, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of himself drawn as Pepe, in a statement often interpreted as a coded gesture to online white supremacists.
Now, however, Pepe is dead. After an online campaign to save Pepe was thwarted by an outpouring of racism, Furie used last weekend’s international Free Comic Book Day to release a one-page strip showing the frog’s three friends at his funeral.
“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate,” wrote Furie in the pages of Time magazine. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate. “Before Pepe the Frog was a meme designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, he began his life as a blissfully stoned frog in my comic book Boy’s Club, where he enjoyed a simple life of snacks, soda and pulling his pants all the way down to go pee.”
However, in a Daily Beast interview with a white supremacist, it was revealed that the rot set in when Pepe was subverted by a concerted effort from a group of anonymous 4Chan users.
“We basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda, etc,” they said “We built that association.”
We will always try and remember Pepe in happier times, as part of a lurid comic foursome which, while determinedly anti-racist, was also totally unsuitable for kids: