Pepe the Frog is dead.
Pepe’s creator, cartoonist Matt Furie, has officially sent his most popular character to that great big drawing board in the sky.
Cause of death: white supremacy, which co-opted the little green guy as its mascot during the 2016 elections.
On Sunday, Furie posted a drawing on Tumblr showing Pepe lying in an open coffin and linked to a story by comic book website CBR saying Furie killed off Pepe because white supremacists wouldn’t stop using him for their own purposes.
Furie published a one-page installment of his “Boy’s Club” series to mark Free Comic Book Day. Pepe’s friends gather around his casket to mourn, one pouring a bottle of booze over Pepe’s face. (See the strip here.)
Pepe and the “Boy’s Club” characters debuted on Furie’s MySpace blog in 2005, according to CBR. Pepe was “a mellow dude getting stoned with his friends, regularly engaging in gross-out humor,” writes CBR.
He was a star on 4chan, his likeness shared so many times he became the biggest meme on Tumblr, according to The Daily Beast.
But in 2015 white supremacists hijacked Pepe for their mascot, one telling the Daily Beast that “we basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda ... we built that association.”
Pepe memes promoting white nationalism and anti-Semitic messages sprang up. People used Pepe to support Donald Trump’s campaign.
The Anti-Defamation League stepped in and designated Pepe a hate symbol last year.
At first, reports The Verge, Furie considered Pepe’s use in political messaging a passing phase. But he sounded off after the Anti-Defamation League’s pronouncement, starting a #SavePepe campaign to spread “positive Pepe memes and messages.”
“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,” Furie wrote in an essay for Time magazine.
Before the presidential election, Furie wrote, “Pepe the Frog spent years mutating online into the many-faced Mickey Mouse God of the Internet. The frog face has gone through thousands of user-made Internet incarnations, expressing rage, smugness, violence, happiness, coolness and, most notably, sadness.
“To zillions of people, mostly kids, teens and college-dwellers, it meant many things, but mostly it was a big joke.”
He noted that Trump had shared a “smug Trump-Pepe” on Twitter at the beginning of his race, “a move I assumed was a nod to young voters. Or perhaps it was a more sinister nod to some fringe, racist groups that used Pepe as a mascot for their agenda.”
Furie said that having Pepe labeled a symbol of hate was a “nightmare,” and “the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
But things didn’t change. Supporters for far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who lost her bid on Sunday, used Pepe, too.
“The rehabilitation of Pepe was always going to be a struggle, and it’s hard to imagine Furie taking much joy in creating new Pepe strips knowing that, whatever his own intentions, the character would read through tinted lenses,” CBR noted.
“While it’s unlikely Pepe’s official death will stop extremists from co-opting his image, this was, perhaps, the most effective way for Furie to reclaim his character; Pepe’s soul has returned to his creator. Rest in Peace.”