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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is fine - that's a three-word catchphrase. It's come to mean things are not fine because of a meme that uses those words. Maybe you've seen this. There's a smiling cartoon dog sitting at a table, sipping his coffee as the room around him goes up in flames. This is fine, the dog assures himself. It's been 10 years since its creator put out the comic strip that bred this meme. NPR's Emma Bowman spoke with the artist who now says the dog's days might be numbered.

EMMA BOWMAN, BYLINE: To give you an idea of how mainstream this meme has become over the past decade, look to Congress. Republican Senator Richard Burr referenced it back in 2018 to describe Russian interference in American politics.

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RICHARD BURR: Some feel that we as a society are sitting in a burning room, calmly drinking a cup of coffee, telling ourselves, this is fine. That's not fine.

BOWMAN: So why does KC Green, the webcomic artist behind the meme, think the comic has resonated with so many people for so many years? Because of its simplicity, he says.

KC GREEN: I made it vague on purpose, you know? So like any good piece of art, people interpret it how they want to.

BOWMAN: He first published the work in 2013 as part of his comic strip series "Gunshow." A year later, the comic's top two frames went viral.

GREEN: I remember it first being used on Instagram meme accounts saying, like, when finals week starts, this is fine. Then it just sort of snowballed from there.

BOWMAN: From the beginning, the dog character - Question Hound is his name - has been a conduit for the artist's own thoughts and feelings. Green was 25 and focusing on his mental health when he drew the famed "On Fire" strip.

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

BOWMAN: But these days, he says he's all about fighting the fire.

GREEN: I've still gotten plenty of people say - telling me they've gotten comfort from that dog. And being seen in that way is helpful. But working past it, not just accepting it but working past it, trying to grow from it - that is my jam.

BOWMAN: The meme's success has made the artist enough money to allow him to keep drawing for a living. The dog was animated for a handful of Adult Swim ads. A Question Hound plushie continues to sell out. There's even a this is fine Funko Pop. But 10 years on, Green is ready for a new chapter. He wrapped "Gunshow" years ago, but Question Hound lives on in his comic "Funny Online Animals." In its current storyline, the dog has disappeared into the woods in a crazed state. Green has designs for an eerie noir turn.

GREEN: 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 comics. So it's for my own sanity, I suppose.

BOWMAN: Either way, the dog remains immortal in memedom, helping the rest of us feel a little less crazy.

Emma Bowman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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