(JTA) — Pepe the Frog, an online cartoon character whose image was co-opted by anti-Semites and white nationalists associated with the “alt-right,” has been killed off by his creator.
A Pepe cartoon released Saturday shows the Matt Furie character in an open casket being mourned by other characters from his “Boys’ Club” strip that debuted online in 2005. The first printed version was released in 2006.
Furie portrayed Pepe as a stoner who did as he pleased and frequently used the catchphrase “feels good man.” The alt-right adopted the character as a mascot after it was repurposed on far-right message boards. Images of the frog, variously portrayed wearing a Hitler mustache, a yarmulke or a Ku Klux Klan hood, proliferated in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter.
In September 2016, the Anti-Defamation League added Pepe the Frog to its online hate database.
Following the casket cartoon, Twitter users leapt to Pepe’s defense, some saying the internet meme would live on and others showing images of Pepe dressed as Jesus and writing “He is risen.”
“It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate, and that racists and anti-Semites are using a once peaceful frog-dude from my comic book as an icon of hate,” Furie said when the ADL announced the characters inclusion as a hate symbol. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
He said in a Time magazine essay that “Pepe is love.”
Donald Trump Jr. stirred up a controversy last year by posting a photoshopped image of Pepe alongside himself and various Trump advisers in a caricature of ads for the movie “The Expendables,” but relabeled “The Deplorables” in the wake of a comment by candidate Hillary Clinton.