The controversy surrounding Looney Tunes' Pepe Le Pew has had a surprising impact on the secondhand comic book market. Since DC Comics is owned by WarnerMedia, the two intellectual properties have crossed over from time to time. That means that obscure old comic books featuring Pepe are now selling for exorbitant prices.
Pepe Lew Pew has left a persistent stink on the headlines for the last few weeks as culture critics and social media users debate whether the old cartoon character is "problematic." Pepe's penchant for physical affection regardless of consent has been a source of unease for many years, but for some reason, the debate is raging particularly hard today. As with the Dr. Seuss fiasco, earlier this month, that has some of Pepe's defenders going out of their way to purchase his paraphernalia, apparently out of fear that he will be "canceled" and his media will become impossible to find.
That includes such collector's items as Starfire #6, published by DC Comics in 2016. According to a report by Bleeding Cool, this comic book was going for $2 on eBay until the controversy hit. This week, it sold for $55.
Other comics featuring Pepe have been selling at higher prices lately too — including some that are older, rarer and generally more collectible by conventional standards. Copies of 1961's Looney Tunes #240 have sold for as high as $81, while 1990's Looney Tunes #9 sold for $90 — up from its $4 price the previous week. As the bids have risen, so have the asking price — a copy of 2010's Looney Tunes #193 was spotted with a $142 price tag on eBay.
All of these bidding wars stem from a New York Times op-ed by columnist Charles M. Blow, published earlier this month. In the article, Blow was commenting on Dr. Seuss Enterprises' decision to stop printing six of the author's old books. He pointed to other long-standing issues in children's media, mentioning Pepe as just one example among many.
For some reason, readers became completely preoccupied with Pepe in their responses. It seemed that some had never heard criticism of Pepe before, though it has been going on for decades now. Many also seemed to leap right to the fear that Pepe would be stripped from TV and from every written record, which could explain at least some of the panic-buying over on eBay.