Pepe the Frog, a sometimes controversial meme from the earliest days of online culture, is making a comeback as a new NFT drop. The cartoon character, first drawn by artist Matt Furie in 2006, will be part of a new collection on Chain/Saw. The original Pepe comic sold on OpenSea earlier this year for just under $1M USD.
The collection is called PEGZ, made up of Pepe-like characters in 1/1 editions. There are 100 PEGZ to be “plopped” with special editions every 10 and 30 tokens. There is no word as to the pricing, though other Chain/Saw NFTs are auctions with 1 ETH reserve prices.
A sinister image for many
The Pepe image is familiar to many thanks to Donald Trump Jr. In a now-infamous tweet, he used Pepe in a fake movie poster for “The Deplorables”. That triggered a landslide of new memes somehow equating Pepe with white nationalist causes. For many, Pepe’s face is immediately associated with alt-right causes.
The situation bothered Furie so much that in 2018, he sued Alex Jones. The Infowars host had been using Pepe memes in increasingly provocative ways, which stopped after the lawsuit was settled.
Reclaiming Pepe via NFTs
So although Pepe the Frog is widely associated with the American alt-right, his origins are more benign. He first appeared in a “Boy’s Club” comic in 2006. His iconic phrase “feels good man” was spoken almost in passing, but went on to become a foundational part of meme culture.
Used and abused by 4chan, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, the laid-back frog became a cultural touchstone. Some of the earliest examples of crypto-art were fan-made memes called Rare Pepes. The “Homer Pepe”, mashing up Pepe with Homer Simpson, sold in 2018 for almost $40,000. It was resold this year for more than $300,000.
The original Pepe comic was sold on OpenSea in April. It marked Furie’s re-entry into a world he helped create. Now, with PEGZ, Furie is diving deeper into the possibilities and creative twists and turns of NFTs.
PEGZ NFTs about community
Furie told the Washington Post he is intrigued by how NFTs can “provide a tangible connection between a digital artwork and a collector.” That sentiment is reflected in the limited number of PEGZ in the collection. Where other projects might mint hundreds or thousands of tokens, Furie is keeping his relatively personal.
For someone whose most famous work has been copied, adapted and reproduced millions of times over a span of 15 years, it makes sense to prefer a simpler bond. PEGZ are, stylistically, similar to Pepe the Frog. But they also use some of the same visual language from other popular NFT art series like CryptoPunks, riffing on the basic theme.
Given the recent high-profile meme NFTs like “Charlie Bit My Finger“, it’s no wonder other classic meme creators are getting in on the action. And in the case of Pepe, it’s about getting back to the simple happiness that made him famous in the first place.