Though unintentional, Matt Furie's "Boy's Club" comics gave the world a true Internet phenomenon when his character Pepe the Frog became a meme-generating icon on 4chan, MySpace and Tumblr. Of course, Furie's comics shouldn't be overlooked in the blaze of Pepe's online celebrity, as "Boy's Club is a gross-out fest of bad antics and slacker ennui.
Debuting in 2005 on Furie's MySpace blog, "Boy's Club" eventually migrated to print for a four-issue run that concluded in 2010. While a few short "Boy's Club" strips trickling in the years since then, Fantagraphics is bringing the entirety of Furie's "Boy's Club" back to print with a collection of all the material published to date.
CBR News spoke with Furie about the antics that inspired his "Boy's Club" adventures, where Pepe can be seen next (hint: it'll be wearable!) and sharing his baby with the entire Internet.
CBR News: You started "Boy's Club" on MySpace back in 2005, but you haven't really visited the characters much since the fourth issue in 2010. Are they still percolating in your mind?
Matt Furie: MySpace used to be such a great platform for sharing and reflecting on one's true Internet self. You could blog, you could customize your background and make super colorful wallpaper, you could play your favorite song, you could show the world who your top eight friends were. Facebook feels cold and institutional and downright creepy. We can never go back to those carefree MySpace days. The ship will only move forward no matter how hard you yell to the captain to turn around. There is no going back.
That said, the characters in "Boy's Club" will always be a part of me. Andy the wise guy, Landwolf the party animal, Brett the fashionable dancer, and Pepe the chill frog -- they are all tweaked reflections of my own values and sensibilities. Their personalities unfolded and blossomed as time went on, but just like the person in your life that you love the most, one day they will die. And death can be as beautiful as life, because it's what makes life important.
What led to the first "Boy's Club" comics? And what's it like now, to see them all collected into a your own book?
It's becoming more and more difficult to sit down and read a book. Why read a book when you can scroll endlessly on a phone, listen to music, watch a porno, swipe your life into new dimensions of interconnected perpetual Instagram nothingness? The temptation of a glowing phone is taking over, yet it can somehow never replace, for me, the smell of printed paper and the subtle grease left by your fingertips on the corners of the page. Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe the trees are more happy. I can see both sides. The beauty of the cloud and the Internet is that you no longer need things like books, but at the same time, if you go to someone's house and they have no books, I wouldn't trust them.
Are the characters modeled after specific people?
The characters are kind of archetypes of "dude" personalities that are within me, as well as my close friends. The roots of a lot of the gags are from real life. For example, in one of the more confusing pages where Pepe sniffs a baby and asks if there is any baby powder to cover up the smell of mold -- that comes from working at a thrift store and sniffing a baby doll that truly smelled like mold. I noted it in my pocket notebook and spun it into a weird gag. Same goes for one about a pizza-bubble being a nest for baby spiders. That was psychic residue from a cloudy childhood recollection.
Even among these four friends, Landwolf takes everything to the extreme. There always has to be one, doesn't there?
I was bunkmates with this dude, "Wild Bill," my freshman year of college. I had to sneak cafeteria food to him for weeks as he skipped class and hid in the room playing "Tomb Raider" to dodge authorities after he drunkenly let wild dogs into the dorm, burst into the computer lab and sprayed down thousands of dollars worth of computers (and two students) with a fire extinguisher. He did weird stuff, like peel the skin off of a slim jim, toss the core, squirt easy cheese on the skin and dangle it into his throat right before my eyes as if it was normal. He only lasted one year, but the memories will never fade.
The humor is very bodily -- bathroom moments and vomiting, gross-out stuff. What keeps that humor fresh for you?
I actually get pretty grossed out by bodily stuff, but drawing it is no big deal. Maybe it's a way to make that kind of stuff more safe. There was this kid, Jerry Dick, in elementary school, and he had a line of neon green snot strung across his face at the lunch table. I was terrified. Someone pointed it out, and he wiped his face and it got way worse. It was way longer, somehow brighter, and I almost fainted.
How surprised were you to find your character, Pepe, catching on as a popular Internet meme?
I was more surprised to find out that a little frog named Dat Boi riding a unicycle has begun to overshadow Internet Pepe. I'm devastated.
Has Pepe's increased exposure impacted your work on "Boy's Club?" As the comics inspired the memes, did the memes inspire more comics?
I saw a cute drawing of Pepe ejaculating and made one comic inspired by that. It's great to see all of these different strange Pepe interpretations. Gotta catch em all!
What's your sense of these comics, looking back on them now? Is it possible for you to view them without all the Internet celebrity stuff that grew out of it?
I'm proud that Pepe is a celebrity now. One thing that happens is I'm asked almost daily to give permission to use Pepe on a shirt. I always ignore them, unless it's a school club, in which case I'll give it the thumbs up as long as they send me a shirt. I own two school club Pepe shirts -- one is for a high school clarinet club (Pepe in shades playing a clarinet), and the other is a photo club. I love these shirts.
What are you working on now?
"Official Pepe" clothing line by Teenage is just out! I'm also working on a new comic that is all girls.