Like Nyancat, “the cake is a lie,” Tron Guy, and Doge, “trollface” is a bona fide piece of internet history.
And more than that: It’s an incredible profit-generating machine for its creator.
Kotaku reports that the black-and-white cartoon face was originally drawn by 24-year-old Carlos Ramirez, and since 2008, he’s made more than $US100,000 off of his creation.
Ramirez drew the cartoon 7 years ago and posted it to anonymous imageboard 4chan, and it immediately exploded in popularity.
The internet is littered with millions of derivatives and copycats (just search Google for “trollface”), and has even been referenced in mainstream media like Adam Sandler movie posters and the comic Deadpool, Kotaku points out.
Such is the life of a meme: Sudden, meteoric growth, before slowly tailing off over a period of years. What sets Trollface apart is what Ramirez’ mother encouraged him to do next — copyrighting the cartoon.
The accidental artist told Kotaku that at the peak of trollface’s popularity, he was making “between $US10,000 and $US15,000 every few months.” This would come from merchandising, licensing, and settlements over unauthorised reproductions of the meme. Overall, Ramirez has made made more than $US100,000.
It’s a rare success story for a meme, which often have far more unpleasant unintended consequences for their originators. Blake Boston, the unwitting star of the “Scumbag Steve” meme, was hit with a wave of online abuse after being painted as a “scumbag.” And Ghyslain Raza, who is better known as “Star Wars kid,” was on the receiving end of years of bullying after a video of him “goofing around” with a fake lighsaber made its way online.
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