Fred Basset is a comic book dog who first appeared in the Daily Mail during 1963.The titular character was created by Scottish artist Alex Graham (1913-1991) who did not own a dog at the time he started work on the comic, and was not familiar with what a basset hound looked like. However, he did like that dog’s faces were so expressive. The result of this unfamiliarity was a slightly unusual dog appearing in the first few issues of “Fred Basset” which,at first, distanced some readers from the comic strip. After a few issues, the Daily Mail gave Graham a basset hound which he named Freda. He used Freda’s likeness to further develop Fred Basset’s look and eventually audiences were much more receptive to the new redesign.
“Fred Basset” is set in a suburban neighborhood in England. The dog has married unnamed owners and he interacts with the entire community, including the butcher, neighborhood children, and other dogs: Jock, Yorky, Fifi, and Taffy. The comic strip explores real life situations, but from a dog’s perspective. Thus, emphasis is placed on genuine emotion as Fred interprets the world around him in a way contrary to how most people think. The result is a surprisingly relatable character who is approachable by many different audiences. The formula for Fred Basset’s characterization was so successful, readers demanded “Fred Basset” merchandise so that they could engage with the character even more. Included in the “Fred Basset” merchandise are more than fifty books which collect the comics in different volumes. The volumes are usually collected by year, however some focus on a particular theme.
The success of “Fred Basset” is due in part to Fred’s method of communication with the reader. Even though he has an inner monologue, he does not speak to human characters. Thus there is an element of reality and speculation in the comic that draws in audiences. “Fred Basset”was so popular, the character was eventually given his own television show in 1976 starring Lionel Jefferies (1926-2010) as the voice of Fred’s inner monologue. The series was produced by Bill Melendez and shown on BBC. Though it only lasted one season, it became syndicated fairly quickly and reached a fairly large audience.
After Alex Graham’s death in 1991 from cancer, about eight months of completed comics were published posthumously. Then British artist Michael Martin took over illustrating the comic, with the content being written by Arran Caith, Alex Graham’s daughter. “Fred Basset”has been published in more than twenty different countries and has gathered many fans (including Peanuts creator Charles Schultz). The theme of a dog who thinks like a person is something that has continuously charmed readers who have fallen in love with “Fred Basset.”
— Michael Baker
- Graham, Alex. The Fred Files. London: Orion, 2005.
- Jarvis, Alice A. “Fred, the Hound Who’s Had Britain Chuckling for 50 Years.” Daily Mail, July 9, 2013.