May 9, 2017
Cartoonist Matt Furie kills Pepe the Frog
by Chad Felix
This past Saturday, to celebrate Free Comic Book Day, illustrator and cartoonist Matt Furie killed Pepe the Frog.
In a single-page, six-panel comic released by Fantagraphics, the peace-loving, free-living, pot-smoking green frog who first made the scene in Furie’s Boys’ Club comics, only to later become the poster amphibian for the fellow swamp-dwellers of the American neo-fascist movement popularly known as “the alt-right,” was pictured dead in a purple casket next to a framed portrait.
In the comic, fellow Boys Clubsters Landwolf, Andy, and Brett preside over the body. Landwolf pops a bottle marked “xxx,” toasts his dearly departed friend, and pours one out right onto Pepe’s face. Andy responds with a long “um.” Brett just closes his eyes. Landwolf takes a slug. It’s a fitting farewell.
Pepe had a good run, and an unlikely fall. Before being officially deemed a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League on September 27, 2016, shortly after the infamous Deplorables tweet (which featured a Trump-faced Pepe alongside the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Alex Jones, Ben Carson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Pence, Roger Stone, Chris Christie, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump himself), Pepe was most often found holding court over a toilet bowl, pants around his ankles, looking wry, looking free, enunciating: “Feels good, man.” He smoked the occasional joint. He had a good time with his friends. He was comfortable with his weirdness, always exuding, in Ian Dreiblatt’s words, an “implacable chill.”
Shortly after the ADL became involved with Pepe, Furie involved himself with the ADL, launching a campaign in concert with the organization to try to save his green friend from the racists and the xenophobes, the homophobic, the transphobic, and the misogynistic jerks who’d stolen his identity. Unfortunately, the #SavePepe campaign failed, largely because the internet, and meme culture in particular, works in mysterious ways. And also, the world is unjust.
And so Furie has killed Pepe. Pepe is dead. Pay your respects over Furie’s final Pepe comic below, however you so choose.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.