March 7, 2018 9:42 am -

Cartoonist Matt Furie’s Pepe the Frog, a regular character in the Fantagraphics comic series “Boy’s Club”, was never intended to be a symbol of hate:

Fantagraphics Books wants to state for the record that the one, true Pepe the frog, as created by the human being and artist Matt Furie, is a peaceful cartoon amphibian who represents love, acceptance, and fun. (And getting stoned.) Both creator and creation reject the nihilism fueling Pepe’s alt-right appropriators, and all of us at Fantagraphics encourage you to help us reclaim Pepe as a symbol of positivity and togetherness, and to stand by Matt Furie.

Furie is no friend of celebrity politician Donald Trump, his cult-like fans who have embraced a perversion of Pepe, or the bigots and nationalists who have been emboldened by Trump’s power grab. Last year, Furie decided to “kill off” the character due to its having become a favorite symbol of rising racism and bigotry:

It could be argued that Pepe has been dead for a while now – at least in terms of the original sentiment behind the cartoon. The little frog was first created in 2005 as one of the reoccurring characters in Furie’s comic series, Boy’s Club. Over time, he turned into a popular meme and began popping up all over the internet.

But it wasn’t long before he was claimed by the alt-right and became associated with hate crimes, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. It got to a point where the Anti-Defamation League even had to list Pepe as a hate symbol, explaining: “These anti-Semites have no shame. They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”

Given the number of social networks and Web-based organizations that had been using stolen Pepes, we surprised that Furie did not make headlines when he began to aggressively assert his intellectual property rights

In 2017, Furie decided to start aggressively enforcing his copyright. Cease-and-desist orders were issued to Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich and the Trump-centric subreddit The_Donald. Eric Hauser, a former assistant principal in Texas who wrote a children’s book called “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede,” which was accused of containing thinly veiled allegories for Trump supporters and anti-Islamic sentiment, settled with Furie out of court. Hauser was forced to donate profits from the book to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

… until now. Furie’s latest legal move made the LA Times and several other news outlets.

Pepe is headed to court.

Rather, his creator, Matt Furie, is.

Furie, who debuted Pepe the Frog in 2005 in his comic “Boy’s Club,” has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the far-right-wing site Infowars for using Pepe without permission in a poster for sale on the site.

The poster shows the “heroes of the 2016 anti-establishment revolution,” including President Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Milo Yiannopoulos, Roger Stone, Matt Drudge, Infowars creator Alex Jones and Pepe. “MAGA,” which stands for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, is written across the bottom.

“Furie did not authorize the use of the Pepe image or character in this poster, and does not approve of the association of Pepe with Alex Jones or any of the other figures shown in this poster, or with the ‘MAGA’ slogan,” reads the complaint, filed Monday in the Central District of California.

Furie has already had one big and notable win in court. Louis W. Tompros of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, one of Furie’s attorneys, told Hyperallergic:

“The first case was against an author in Texas [Eric Hauser], who used the image of Pepe the Frog in a book that featured some very Islamophobic imagery and messages. He ultimately agreed to stop selling the book and turned over all the profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.”


Got that, Alex Jones?

We hope Furie cleans the pudgy media bully’s clock in court — and cleans out the beloved-by-bigots conspiracy media entity InfoWars’ bank account.

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Dave "Doctor" Gonzo is a renegade media producer, occasional bassist, web developer, and Grammy® voter. He is editor and senior contributor to News Behaving Badly. He has written for American Politics Journal, Alan Colmes' Liberaland (Dave was also a semi-frequent Friday guest on Alan's radio show), and (in print) Audio Review. Dave lives in s fortified compound with doorman in Manhattan's not-so-trendy Yorkville neighborhood.