“I was going to say that it just reinforces my belief that the internet is a dark and horrible place but really, that’s not fair,” he added. “The internet is a fine and impressive culmination and convergence of technology and art and science and information. It’s humanity that just stinks.”
Needless to say, I felt terrible. I grew up reading — and loving — the “Frog and Toad” books, and yet, I found many of these images hilarious. Was there something wrong with me?
Luckily, Mr. Lobel, 58, a video editor who lives in Los Angeles, agreed to talk on the phone, where he was slightly more forgiving.
“Some of these are cute,” he allowed, surfing the images while we spoke. “Some of them are in tune with the original’s friendship and its camaraderie. And some of it is like, ‘Toad is waiting for the roofies to kick in.’”
Mr. Lobel also said that I should talk to his daughter, who was well aware of the memes, to get a different perspective.
Lena Lobel, 25, grew up with her grandfather’s books and loves them as much as anyone. But her attitude toward the memes was similar to mine. While we were on the phone, she burst out laughing at one that repurposed an image of Toad in a sinister way.
“Good,” Toad says. “Frog is not home.” A Reddit user added: “Toad finally found an opportunity to move the bodies.”
Ms. Lobel suggested that our nonchalance toward the memes was generational. Dark humor, the abasement of familiar characters — these qualities were inevitable when something fell into the hands of redditors armed with Photoshop.
“I’m able to see these as a part of meme culture rather than a comment on the books,” she said, adding that her parents are “only able to see it as blasphemy against Frog and Toad.”
Ms. Lobel lives in New York, where she works in the same industry as her father. She calls him one of the best people she knows and says that the two text all the time, about new cellphone games and television shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Futurama.”
“The way I think about the world, see the world, is like my dad,” she said. “But the darker memes are never going to compute with him.”
He agreed. But he said that his own father, who died in 1987, might feel differently about seeing what had happened to the characters he created.
“Frankly, he would be shocked and amused that there would be all this hubbub and furor,” he said. “I mean I guess, at a certain point, there’s no such thing as bad P.R.”