Fred Basset

Fred Basset

"Fred Basset" is a comic strip about an eponymous male basset hound. The cartoon was created by Scottish cartoonist Alex Graham and first appeared in the "Daily Mail" on July 8 1963.cite web | url= | publisher=C21 Media | title=Fred Basset is back | author=Maria Esposito | accessdate=2007-03-27] It has since been syndicated around the world.

Fred appears in the UK newspaper "Daily Mail" and more recently "The Mail On Sunday" from 1963 to date.cite web | url= | title=Fred Basset | publisher=Toonhound | accessdate=2007-03-11] Alex Graham, the creator and cartoonist based Fred on his own dog Frieda and drew over 9000 comic strips. Alex Graham died on 3 December 1991. Fred's cartoon strips are renamed as "Wurzel" in Germany, "Lillo il Cane Saggio" (Lillo the wise dog) in Italy, "Lorang" in Norway, "Laban" in Sweden and "Pitko" or "Koiraskoira" in Finland. [cite web | url= | title=Titles of Over 230 Comics in Finnish | accessdate=2007-03-11]

The comic strip

Fred's owners are a young to middle-aged husband and wife, who are not given names in the strip. The husband is a white collar worker in the City; he enjoys socialising at his local pubs, The Swan and The Chequers. He is shown often as being short of temper and spends much free time reading the newspaper, walking Fred and playing golf. The wife runs the house and the family, and has a busy life socialising with friends. She is shown several times as being a poor driver with many accidents in the family car. Known relations to the family are "her rich eccentric" Uncle Albert, and her sisters, one in UK and one overseas. A new relation introduced in the mid 1990s was mentioned as "her Aunt Flo." There are no children in Fred's family.

The names and areas pictured are made from places and people Alex Graham knew, areas are said to resemble Scotland.Fact|date=March 2007 Family friends' names would be used, as was Tinker's Wood, taken from a house Graham lived in.Fact|date=March 2007

Topical references are kept to a minimum; one mention to The Beatles and the family's continually-recovered lounge sofa suite are the few giveaways of its age. There are mentions to New Year in 1970 and 1971 and 1 January 1973 when the UK entered the common market. The Michael Martin era strips have more topical references and mention of modern appliances, such as mobile phones and a microwave oven.

The strips do not generally feature follow-on storylines; a rare storyline with Fred staying at Jock's house or Uncle Albert staying a few days are the only times the story extends beyond the one strip format. A variant on this are basic themed strips for Christmas or their Summer Holiday with no continuation. Again, later Michael Martin strips do follow on for a few days, as with a Birthday Party mentioned in the 1997 book.

The first copyright dates (then for Associated Newspapers) were added to the cartoon strips in 1969.

The nature of Fred

Fred Basset himself seems to have been born in 1959 from comments in the earliest cartoons, and in true cartoon style, appears not to age. Fred's observations can be wry and a certain amount of surrealism enters his life, with one early strip having his owners mention they thought the "Fred Basset" strip in the day's paper was "quite amusing" (cartoon 553 in book number 4). Later strips mention both Fred, his owners and passers-by being surrealy aware of the newspaper "Fred Basset" strip and commenting as such, unaware that their Fred is the character mentioned.

Fred has a certain amount of snobbishness and appreciates the finer things in life, as shown clearly in the Alex Graham era strips. He is equally at home misbehaving, being selfish, chasing other dogs and being a coward when more aggressive dogs are around. A small black Scottie (Scottish terrier) dog, Jock, is a regular companion, as well as Yorky (a Yorkshire terrier) in later years. A Doggy-Girlfriend, Fifi the poodle appears too. An alsatian dog, referred to as Satan, is his adversary. The Tucker Twins and Amanda are regular young human companions. Fred likes chasing cats but freely admits he would not know what to do with one if he caught it (echoing similar in Warner Bros. "Roadrunner" television cartoons).

The meaning of Fred Basset

The comments made about Fred Basset cartoons as shown on various media show the cartoon strip is not understood properly. Some strips are merely a surreal or whimsical glimpse of a moment of life as taken from a dog's point of view. As a very British cartoon strip, they break the normal cartoon strip rule of sometimes not having a traditional ending, a punchline or even a distinct purpose, making them different from a more direct American style "Garfield" or "Peanuts" strip. YouTube has some Fred Basset cartoons, comments added continuing the misunderstood nature of the cartoons, mainly by American users.

After Alex Graham

Once the stockpiled 18 months' worth of Alex Graham cartoons had been published, they were continued in Graham's style with artwork by Michael Martin and Graham's daughter, Arran Graham, continuing the family link. They are new cartoons being published, not merely re-runs of earlier ones.

The Michael Martin drawings started out following the general style and humour of the original Graham Freds, but after around 2000 strips, a more casual style of drawing is apparent.

Fred Basset books

"Fred Basset" features in many books worldwide, in the UK a long-running series of books reprints most of the newspaper strips. These are books number 1 (1963) to book 45 (1993). Later books dated by year, 1994 onwards, include the Michael Martin drawn cartoons, as well as Graham's colour ones until they ran out by the 1996 book.

In 1977, a large hardback book entitled "Fred Basset and the Spaghetti" was published by "The Daily Mail". It featured a children's story, not the usual comic strips, written by Alex Graham's son, Neilson, together with illustrations by Alex.

In 1989, a compilation book entitled "Fred Basset Bumper Book No 2" was issued. The title has since caused confusion, as there is no Bumper Book No 1 as such. A book published in 1988, "Fred Basset 25 Years", a similar compilation, is considered its forerunner.

Colour strips as used in "The Mail On Sunday" were added from book 36 in 1984. This backlogged the black and white strips, and by book 41 in 1989 they were still using 1984 strips. The next book 42 jumped from book 41 ending with strip 6483 to strip 8159 dated 1990. The missing cartoons remain unpublished since the original newspaper strips.

The distinctive "Fred" handwriting font was supplied by Les Hulme until the early 2000s.

One "Fred Basset" book appeared in USA in 1969, "Meet Fred Basset" published as a 'Fawcett Gold Medal Book'. Several books appeared in Australia from 1979-1985 and one published in Germany.

Fred in other media

Despite his many years featured in newspapers around the world, his profile is not as high as other cartoon characters, as Fred currently is one of the few enduring cartoon characters not yet to have a full-length film made featuring them, as with "Garfield", "Felix the Cat" and others. There were just a few toys and novelty items made, as well as a yearly Calendar and the books mentioned.

"Fred Basset" is currently syndicated using the Michael Martin strips and is available by email subscription from and others.

Syn FM (Student Youth Network) radio show Mornings Without Kerrianne also ran a segment each week in which they read out Fred Basset on air, with host Ben Lewis playing Fred, Chris Tremonti narrating and Lauren Smith filling in any other required parts.

Fred Bassett is regularly read out on air by Hamish Blake through all of Australia on the Today Network's Hamish and Andy Show at the end of the Friday afternoon show. Hamish loves it and plays it at every opportunity, much to the dismay of his co-host, Andy. Andy has tried numerous times to keep Hamish from reading the strip, using various tactics such as flicking hot wax at his legs and forcing Hamish to eat powdered gravy before he was allowed to read the strip. They both also own a Greyhound which is called "Fred Basset" and is raced throughout Victoria.

Fred Basset television cartoon series

In mid 1976 a short-lived 5 minute television cartoon of "Fred Basset" was shown on the BBC, made by Bill Melendez Productions, voiced by actor Lionel Jeffries that is available on VHS.


*The Fred Files, Orion Books, 2005
*'Fred Basset' Annuals & books 1963-date
*"Fred Basset" VHS Video Castle Vision

External links

* [ "Fred Basset"] at GoComics -- The current syndicated Fred strips
* [ "Fred Basset"] at Don Markstein's Toonopedia - A brief overview

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