The Emergence of Rage Comics and their History, Virality, and Profitability

Looking at the history of memes, it is apparent that one of the primary characteristics of a meme is the virality and circulation capabilities of it. Once the definition of a meme is established and agreed upon, as stated previously, we are able to determine when memes first started to appear. When people talk about memes, they typically focus on something that they have seen on some sort of social media. What majority of people overlook, however, is the fact that memes date back far into history. Since we established that a meme is a cultural idea that gets spread from person to person, we can consider many things in history as memes. In fact, one of the first ever traceable (sort of) memes actually originated somewhere around the World War II era. While there are a few other semi-traceable examples of memes in history, it is still very difficult to access and analyze the data and true origins behind them all. This leads us to the introduction of the internet. It is obvious that the internet revolutionized peer to peer connectivity and communications, and thus also revolutionized memes as well. This is where we are able to begin an effective search on the history of memes.

Analyzing the history of internet memes, it is obvious that Stock Character macros are a large majority of the meme-makeup on the internet. A reason for this is the accessibility, virality potential, and relatability of these memes. However, while Stock Character macros are prevalent online, there is also a different, yet similar genre. This genre is called Rage Comics. Rage comics are essentially “amateur cartoons, made using a recurring set of expressive characters” (Connor). The expressive characters are basically faces that have been drawn or cartoonized from a real image. These faces are the defining factors of every single Rage Comic, considering each face tells a specific story that is typically relatable or entertaining to the reader. As Connor stated, these cartoons are “amateur”. What he really means by this is that they seem like a two-year-old drew them. However, these cartoons are unique because a majority of them are very simple and poorly drawn; a major characteristic being that they were drawn in Microsoft Paint. This Rage Comic characteristic actually goes hand in hand with the reasons as to why this meme genre was/is so popular. The fact that these faces were so easy and simple to create captivated the readers. The popularity that these comics generated is attributed solely on the potential to recreate them. Initially, the first rage comics caught wind on media sharing sites such as 4chan and Reddit. The users in those communities quickly became intrigued by the memes, and began recreating them, as well as creating their own and thus, Rage Comics were born. 

Rage Comic Examples

The term Rage Comic actually stems from a specific type of face that appears in the comics called the Rageguy. As Chen states, "A typical baoman (rage comic) consists of four panels featuring simply drawn characters with exaggerated facial expressions created with basic drawing software such as MS Paint, and usually concludes with a rage face expressing exasperation, anger or resignation (Chen). Rageuy, also known as FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU (f7u12), is considered to be the origin of Rage Comics (hence the word Rage Comic). The popularity and attention that the character created inspired the creation for Rage Comics. The origin of the character has been traced back to 2008, where it appeared on 4chan, under the “random” imageboard (Dubs). This first instance of the character was titled as the “toilet splashback”. The comic was a 4 pane comic strip, with the face of the rageguy in the fourth pane and a story leading up to the face in the first 3 panes. The face itself is meant to depict an emotion of anger or rage in response to something happening (usually something relatable). This short comic quickly spread through the community, and inspired people to create their own 4 panel comics using this face to explain “rage” situations.


Trollface is probably the most popular and most recognized rage comic character on the internet (the reason being mention in the Profitability section). The face was first uploaded to a media sharing site called devianART by Carlos Ramirez on September 19th, 2008. Ramirez created this meme in response to all of the trolls that were a part of 4chan’s “video game” thread. The comic, just like Rageguy, quickly spread across media platforms such as 4chan and Reddit. Users began recreating the comic and using the trollface in their own comics as well. Eventually, Trollface began to be associated with Rage Comics on the f7u12 subreddit, and thus became a Rage Comic itself.

Me Gusta
Me Gusta is a very interesting character from the Rage Comic series. Me Gusta, which literally translates to “I like” from Spanish, is a face that is attributed to perversely enjoying something that can be strange or maybe even frowned upon. The meme is meant to be relatable for people to situations that give some sort of satisfaction and relief, which in many cases is sexual. The Me Gusta face was created by illustrator Matt Oswald and was uploaded on March 18th, 2010. Much like the other Rage Comics, Me Gusta was originally uploaded to 4chan and Reddit, as well as Tumblr and DevianART.

Other viral Rage Comics:

Cereal Guy
Okay Guy
Fuck Yea Guy
Forever Alone Guy
Like a Boss

Virality and Profitability

Taking a look at all of the Rage Comics that are out there today, one can question the reasoning behind the thousands of comics that are and have been generated. Without a doubt, the primary reasoning behind users’ desires and involvement in creating Rage Comics is the fact that Rage Comics are so easy to share. With social media being prevalent in most internet users’ lives, the transfer of information literally takes seconds. Therefore, when someone stumbles upon a Rage Comic and shares it, they are taking part in making it viral. The second part of the virality of Rage Comics is the fact that they typically relatable. What this means is that people create these comics with the intentions of sending a message that people can relate to. While a Rage Comic is typically relatable, the third part of the virality of it is the humor aspect behind it. Most Rage Comics are created to have some sort of comedic punchline, which generate a positive emotional response from the consumers.  Putting it all together, the formula for a memes virality is the means and media through which it is circulated, the relatability of the meme, and the comedic value of it.
Often, people go on social media and see a certain Rage Comic or viral meme circulating constantly. Whether it be Rageguy, Trollface, Planking, or even Damn Daniel, memes are often underestimated. In this day and age, it is obvious that social interactions through social media and the internet in general are highly monetized; YouTube being one of the better examples. Observing the circulation of Rage Comics, one can ask the question; are Rage Comics profitable? The answer to this is basically: sort of. While the internet is highly monetized, it also has strong support for free and fair use. In reality, Rage Comics are things that are remixed from one original Rage Comic. While people who create Rage Comics typically do so solely for the enjoyment of creating something viral, there are others who profit. One example of someone profiting off of Rage Comics is the websites and developers who create either phone applications or websites that facilitate the creation of Rage Comics. There are many websites and applications out on the internet that have templates for Rage Comics, which make the creation of the comics that much easier. However, these websites and applications can very easily make a profit through a required usage fee, or quite simply, off of ad revenue by hosting advertisements on the sites. Another example of profitability in the world of Rage Comics are specific cases. One of these cases is the Trollface. Carlos Ramirez, the creator of the Trollface, has actually profited quite substantially from his viral meme. When Trollface first started to spread across the internet, Ramirez noticed people using his creation for their own monetary gain. Companies even began to put the meme on t-shirts and other merchandise. Eventually, Ramirez registered his creation with the U.S. Copyright Office, and began reaping the benefits. As stated on Kotaku “Registering trollface has been reliably profitable for Ramirez. Since registering the copyright in 2010, he estimates he’s made a little over $100,000 in licensing fees, settlements, and other payouts associated with trollface. At the meme’s height, when it was plastered on t-shirts at Hot Topic, Ramirez would pull in between $10,000 and $15,000 every few months. One document Ramirez showed me totaled out to $10,049” (Klepek).  It is obvious that memes have not only social, but also profitable value.

 Chen, S. (2014). Baozou manhua (rage comics), Internet humour and everyday life. Continuum: Journal Of Media & Cultural Studies, 28(5), 690-708. doi:10.1080/10304312.2014.941334
 Connor, T. (2012). Fffuuuuuuuu: The Internet anthropologist's field guide to "rage faces" Retrieved May 11, 2016, from 

 Dubs, J. (n.d.). Rage Guy (FFFFFUUUUUUUU-). Retrieved May 11, 2016, from 

 P., & Klepek, P. (2015). The Maker Of The Trollface Meme Is Counting His Money. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from 


This page has paths: