For the better part of a century, the gang of idiots at MAD have been taking the best and worst of popular culture and revealing all of it as mere playing pieces in the ridiculous game we call reality. To that end, they’ve turned their attentions to the tragedy/farce of the Trump era, a period of time in which a great deal of fuss has been made over one little creature: Pepe the Frog. Created by cartoonist Matt Furie in 2005 as part of a surreal series entitled Boy’s Club, Pepe was originally supposed to be a chill stoner, and his antics with three of his fellow animal buddies turned into some of the best comics of the past decade. But, alas, Pepe was hijacked by the far right, inexplicably becoming a symbol of white supremacy identified by the Anti-Defamation League as being on par with the swastika and the burning cross.
However, Furie isn’t letting his brainchild go down without a fight. He’s drawn a few new Pepe strips for comics site The Nib, but Vulture has learned that he’s returning with a new printed version of the little guy in the venerable pages of MAD in its new issue, set for digital release on Friday. The artist has penned a full-page illustration — which you can see below — in which a new frog appears, eerily mashed up with MAD mascot Alfred E. Neuman, while sinister creatures lurk behind him in a moonlit swamp. It is, in its quiet way, a brilliant piece of observation about his own work, pointing out how preposterous it is that someone like Pepe — an embodiment of the MAD mantra of “What — Me Worry?” if ever there was one — could become an object surrounded by such hatred and scorn. “Swamps have a bad reputation,” Furie tells Vulture. “I have family in Florida near a beautiful swamp reserve. It’s a great refuge for swamp critters that need the ecosystem to survive. I hope they never drain it.”
And here’s the cover for the issue the illustration appears in: