It wasn’t a massive viral hit and wasn’t associated with anything particularly repugnant. He made a little money off an Adult Swim interstitial that animated the strip, and his internet-savvy fans seemed to be good at letting memers know who created the original. What was the harm?
But that all changed with the 2016 presidential campaign. During the run-up to that horrifying electoral contest, online punditry started making widespread use of Question Hound’s placid statement to describe any number of political disasters. Green continued to tolerate it, though the meme was going into uncertain waters. Then came July 25, 2016. On that day, the social-media team behind the official Republican Party Twitter account saw fit to appropriate those first two panels of “On Fire” for a tweet about the near-anarchic atmosphere during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
That began KC Green’s efforts to regain control of his creation.
He issues takedown requests at user-generated e-commerce sites like Etsy and Redbubble all the time. “I’ve done it enough that it’s like, ‘You guys should maybe know this by now. Do you guys not check that shit unless someone complains?’ The answer is probably, ‘Yes,’ which, I guess, I get it, because it’s a big store, but it’s still kind of lame that I have to keep doing this.” Nevertheless, he does do it and has been effective at keeping the bootlegging from getting out of control. He also harnessed his folk-hero status to launch a massively successful Kickstarter for a Question Hound plush toy — it aimed to raise $35,000 and ended up drawing $454,717. Not bad for a meme.
“Humor is a big, important tool, that no one takes seriously.”