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A decade on, the 'This is fine' creator wants to put the famous dog to rest

The panel on the right, from KC Green's web comic strip "On Fire," became a popular online meme by 2014.
KC Green
The panel on the right, from KC Green's web comic strip "On Fire," became a popular online meme by 2014.

Thanks to a ubiquitous meme, the ironic phrase "This is fine" means things are not really that fine at all.

You've probably seen it: A smiling cartoon dog sits at a table, coffee mug on hand, as a room goes up in flames. "This is fine," the dog assures himself.

It's been a decade since its creator put out the comic strip that spawned the meme. Web comic artist KC Green recently marked the anniversary on Twitter.

Now after 10 years of using the famous dog in his comics to project his own thoughts and feelings, Green tells NPR that he might be ready for a new chapter.

"It's a fun challenge to try and embody a different character," he said. "And I would like to try that with some of [my] other characters."

He first published the work in 2013 as part of his Gunshow comic strip. A year later, after the comic's top two frames were posted to Reddit, the meme went viral.

"I remember it first being used on Instagram meme accounts, saying like, 'When finals week starts,' ... this is fine. 'When everyone's yelling at you and you're supposed to keep a smile on at your work,' you know, this is fine," Green said. "It kind of snowballed from there."

It's since entered the mainstream. In 2016, the Republican National Convention posted the meme on the official GOP Twitter account as a commentary on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Republican Sen. Richard Burr referenced the meme in 2018 to convey his stance against Russian interference in American politics.

Though his creation has taken on a life of its own, Green accepts it as a natural consequence of what it means to create content online.

He thinks his comic panel has resonated with so many people for so many years because of its simplicity.

"I made it vague on purpose," he said. "Like any good piece of art, people interpret it how they want to."

The canine character — whose name is Question Hound — has also been Green's conduit for the artist's own state of mind. Green was 25 and focusing on his mental health when he drew the famed "On Fire" strip.

"I'd been trying to get my anti-depressants right and taking the meds," he said. "That was my feeling at the time — of worrying if this was the right choice," he added. "I believe it was now."

"I was just like, is this OK or am I doing good? Am I supposed to ignore everything else? It kind of feels like you just have to ignore all the insanity around you like a burning house. And the comic just ended up writing itself after that."

He says his job these days is about fighting the fire.

"I've still got plenty of people telling me they've gotten comfort from that dog," he said. "Being seen in that way is helpful. But, I like to say, we're not just accepting it, but working past it, trying to grow from it."

Green says he's grateful that, through merch and licensing deals, the meme's success has helped make him enough money to allow him to continue drawing for a living. Adult Swim paid him to use his art for a handful of cartoon bumpers that aired on the network. A crowd-funded project on Kickstarter to make a Question Hound plushie continues to sell out. There's even a "This is fine" Funko Pop.

After drawing it for more than six years, Green wrapped up Gunshow in 2014, but Question Hound continues to live on in his comic series Funny Online Animals. However, maybe not for much longer, the artist says.

In the comic's current storyline, Question Hound has disappeared into the woods in a crazed state.

"It's going to have kind of an eerie, noir turn," he said. "I think after that, I might lay him to rest for a while."

"I mean, people still post with or without me using the character or not in my own comic. So, it's for my own sanity, I suppose."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emma Bowman