Fred Basset communicates eloquently. Artist: Alex Graham.


Original medium: Newspaper comics
Published in: The London Daily Mail
First Appeared: 1963
Creator: Alex Graham
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Verbal communication from dogs in comics ranges from none (e.g., Marmaduke) to full articulation, understandable by all (e.g., …

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Dogbert). Fred Basset is in-between, on a level just below Marvin's Bitsy, who can think in perfectly intelligible English and be "heard" by others of his species. Like Superboy's dog, Krypto, Fred can think loud enough for the reader to understand him, but not so loud he can reach others in the strip.

Fred was the brainchild of Scottish cartoonist Alex Graham, who had already been doing his successful feature, Wee Hughie, in The Dundee Weekly News for 18 years when he launched the comic he's best remembered for. Fred Basset, possibly inspired by Graham's own basset hound, Freida, started in London's Daily Mail on Monday, July 8, 1963.

Fred's adventures aren't exciting and larger than life, like Dynomutt's or Scooby Doo's. He just hangs around the neighborhood with his pals, such as Fifi the poodle and Jock the terrier, and deals with the humans in his life on an as-needed basis.

The strip was a success, moving almost immediately into a semi-annual series of reprint books. Also, it was quickly picked up by The Chicago Tribune Syndicate, which has distributed it in America ever since. In the 1970s, producer/director Bill Melendez (who made Charlie Brown a TV star) put him in a series of five-minute TV cartoons, but these appeared only in Britain. In addition, quite a few real-life basset hounds have been named Fred Basset.

The jokes in Fred Basset aren't the least bit topical. They'd be understood and enjoyed almost anywhere in the world, generation after generation. This was proved in 1991, when Graham died. After using up the 18 months of unpublished inventory he left behind, the strip went into reruns. The reruns continue to this day, and will no doubt remain on the comics page for years to come.


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Text ©2004 Donald D. Markstein. Art © estate of Alex Graham.