“Pepe is whatever you say he is, and I, the creator, say that Pepe is love.” So says Matt Furie, creator of one of the most ancient memes that has hopped its way into the world of Web3. Born in 2006 as a frog from a comic, then stolen by the alt-right movement for dark purpose, it was finally snatched by the world of NFTs with its arrival on the marketplace Counterparty. Minted on Bitcoin, the interest this anthropomorphic green charmer sparked field communities around digital collectibles, which further fueled developers to create platforms for the exchanging of these tokens: In many ways, Pepe the Frog was among the founding fathers of the crypto market.
From then, the popularity and demand led to the creation of the Rare Pepe Wallet, a revolutionary tool where the frog enchanted community could buy, sell, trade, gift, and destroy digital art. Anyone could submit their very own Pepe, incorporating the mythology and folklore of the bewitching green frog and turning him into likenesses of famous figures, such as Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin rendered in Pepesque green, red lips downturned, face sagging frog like, bespectacled under a silvery sheen of hair. Others show Putin in a variety of poses, carrying a dog or bowling pins. PepeBasquiat commemorates the American artist who rose to prominence with his expressive graffiti, with a graffiti style Pepe rendered in bold green paint strokes against a white washed and red painted backdrop. He holds a trumpet to express his views on poverty, racism, and social issues with the date of the artist’s death in his mouth. Each Pepe tells its own unique story in the person it displays, whether it is a historical leader or a character from the Simpsons, but at the same time all Pepes are petals from the same vivid green flower, the same original and beloved green anthropomorphic frog that besotted a community and made them lovelorn for his enduring charm. The charm of Pepe is the way in which he binds a community while also inspiring a myriad of artwork and digital storytelling.