The man behind the viral Pepe the Frog cartoon has seemingly killed the character off, giving in to relentless trolling from the alt-right and white supremacists, who hijacked the frog as their own during the 2016 US presidential election.
Pepe was originally created by Matt Furie, an artist and children's book author who created the frog as part of series called Boy's Club. Over the weekend, a single-page comic drawn by Furie as part of Fantagraphics' Free Comic Book Day depicts the green frog in a coffin, surrounded by other members of the Boy's Club family.
In the 2010s, Pepe the frog became a symbol of internet trolls, moving up from Myspace – where it was created and popularised in 2005 – to the lofty, notoriously aggressive, and troll-filled 4chan. It was on 4chan, and with the burgeoning alt-right movement, that Pepe the frog was transformed from a reactionary meme to a coordinated white supremacist image. Hillary Clinton's staff even wrote an explainer on Pepe in 2016 and the Anti-Defamation League called the cartoon a hate symbol.
Pepe creator Furie had hoped to reclaim his creation, denouncing the use of the cartoon as a hate symbol. A campaign was started to "save Pepe the frog" but failed to really put a dent in the alt-right's transformation of the image.
In late 2016, Furie described the situation in an article he wrote for Time as a "nightmare."
"The only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate," he said.
People online have been quick to offer commiserations for Furie after news of his decision to kill off the character went public.
One of Furie's final comics featuring Pepe showed the cartoon frog transforming into a Trump-esque version of itself, before waking up from a nightmare and being swallowed by its bed. It is titled Pepe the Frog: To Sleep, Perchance to Meme.