I was excited when I first saw Pepe popping up on strange corners of the internet. After years of spotting Matt Furie’s work at indie comics shows like SPX and MoCCA, the online community was starting to take notice of his work, albeit in that idiosyncratic internetty way. But after years of bizarre and benign appearances on body building forums and Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed, the stoned frog character seemingly, suddenly took a strange turn, embraced by some of the internet’s darkest recesses. Over the past several weeks, Pepe was reference by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, highlighted on the Rachel Maddow Show and, as of yesterday, designated as a symbol of hate by the Anti-Defamation League. Suddenly, the artist’s phone start ringing off the hook with dozens of calls from journalists asking Furie to defend his benign cartoon creation. Sure most artists would kill for a moment in the national spotlight, but practically overnight the cartoonist was in the incredibly unenviable position of having his name and creation linked with online hate groups. Furie kindly jumped on the phone for a quick chat while driving from his home in Los Angeles to an art showing in San Francisco. We talked about his unexpected and unfortunate fame, the power of simple symbols and his on-going efforts to steal Pepe back for the forces of good.