We’ve reached a weird moment in the evolution of American politics, where one of the key barometers of whether the country is swinging dangerously far to the right is the fight for a stoned cartoon frog’s soul. Cartoonist Matt Furie has had to mostly watch quietly as one of his characters, Pepe The Frog, became a mascot for the “alt-right,” up to and including being branded by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol. Furie fired back a few months ago, though, releasing a story in a Free Comic Book Day compilation depicting Pepe’s death and funeral. Now, he’s launching a full-court press to take back his own creation from people who want to use him as a symbol for anti-Semitism, announcing a Kickstarter for the resurrection of Pepe as a laid-back frog dude who “enjoyed a simple life of snacks, soda, and pulling his pants all the way down to go pee.”
Furie acknowledges that, to some degree, a full rehabilitation of Pepe (pronounced ”Pe-Pay,” by the way, not “Peep”) is probably impossible. “We understand there’s no way to fully control the internet or how people decide to use Pepe the Frog. Trying to control that would be a completely unreasonable goal,” his Kickstarter page reads. “That said, the aim of this project is to positively resurrect Pepe through the creation of a brand new comic in the spirit of the original BOY’S CLUB.” Backers at the $15 tier get a digital copy of the new zine, while $20 will get the physical version. (There’s also a tier that gets you a Pepe sticker, although it speaks to the toxic atmosphere surrounding the character that the thought of people posting those somewhere, context-free, makes us very nervous.)
Devoted benefactors can even bankroll the entire project themselves: Furie is offering a $10,000 tier for anyone for whom “material possessions mean absolutely nothing” and “the spirit of Pepe resides within you.” That being said, you also get a cameo in the comic itself, plus a special care package from Furie and his team, and the knowledge that you’ve helped pull a cartoon frog man—and the complicated web of internet activism, previously untapped anger, and all-purpose shitposting he’s somehow come to represent—back from the brink.