Brian Basset, Creator of Adam@Home and Red and Rover

6 February 2004

   Working from home is a dream of workers in all manner of careers. After dragging their weary bones out of bed and into the car or bus for the mind-numbing trip to the dreary office, they long for a change, for independence and control. Being a home-worker has its good points, allowing personal time-management and a feeling of freedom. But it also has its weird moments, such as making use of the local copy shop much too often.

    "We're the ones at Kinko's who help the other customers change the paper and the toner because we know more about it than the employees do," cartoonist Brian Basset said about his work from home. "Just the other day, a kid came up to me and said, 'You know, we ARE hiring.'" *(1)

    Working for 16 years as Editorial Cartoonist for the Seattle Times, Brian Basset was laid off in 1994 during a downsizing period. Though probably a blow at the time, it may have been a good step for Basset. Ten years earlier, he developed the comic strip Adam and received successful syndication through Universal Press. Based on an at-home father, the working mother and their family, Basset suddenly found a kinship with his creation. “I became my own character, which was a little scary.”

    As Basset’s life changed, so did the life of his main character. (In further similarities, Basset’s wife Linda had to find work to help support the real family.) Adam began to evolve into a “Home Office strip… the voice of the telecommunter and the home-based businessperson.” The strip name was changed to Adam@Home to reflect the modern working environment. It now appears in over 200 newspapers plus six book collections. *(2)

Basset 1

     Though well-grounded in contemporary life, Basset found himself yearning for the simplicity and innocence of an earlier time. He created a second cartoon titled Red and Rover, a comic strip about a young boy and his beloved dog set in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It was a long journey from inception to print, with Basset calculating that he and his wife put in over 1700 hours to develop Red and Rover. After receiving many rejections from the syndicates who wanted something targeted to a specific audience, finally The Washington Post Writers Group understood the comic strip’s value and picked it up in 2000. Red and Rover, reminiscent of the style of Bill Watterson’s "Calvin and Hobbes", appears in 60 newspapers world-wide and is gaining in popularity. In an interview on the Washington Post’s Online Chat in June 2001, Basset said, “I felt and still feel that it’s possible to do a comic strip that appeals to all generations, not unlike ‘Comfort Food.’” *(3)

    From his home studio, Basset does all drawing, lettering and inking by hand for both strips, creating two very different comics for each day and then the Sundays. He uses no assistants. Basset is a speedy-of-pencil artist, taking only 45 minutes to complete a daily strip and several hours to cartoon the larger Sundays. His strips are disparate in theme and plots, and the character sketches of Adam@Home are unique from those in Red and Rover. It leaves the reader to think that possibly two cartoonists were behind the art and humour, yet it is the skill and ingenuity of just one very talented man.

    Brian Basset was born on November 30, 1957; he has one brother and one older sister. Gene Basset, their father, was a sports, theatrical and editorial cartoonist for over 40 years, retiring in 1993. Needless to say, the young Basset picked up cartooning skills early, beginning to draw cartoons as early as kindergarten and then into high school for his school newspaper. He attended two years of the Fine Arts program at Ohio State University and continued his cartooning in The Lantern, the student newspaper. Skipping the third year at university, Basset tried a 6-month stint as political cartoonist for the Seattle Times in 1978. They hired him and his career as a professional cartoonist began.

    The Basset family of Brian, Linda and teenage sons Keegan and Trevor live in Issaquah, Washington with five cats and a golden retriever-border collie-mix pooch named Reeses. Brian is a dedicated animal supporter and participates in events such as the Bark Ball in Washington, DC in 2001. He also travels to promote art and cartooning, such as a trip in 2001 to the US military base in Italy to speak with families posted overseas.

Basset 2

    Being bunted from his editorial cartooning job seems to have been a good thing for Basset. He has created two sincere, funny and heart-warming cartoons that are gaining steadily in popularity. Basset does it all from his home office and if he ever tires of all that cartooning, he always has the job offer from the copy shop to fall back on. Let’s hope he never tires of drawing.

*(1) http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,37649,00.html

Read Red and Rover:
http://www.unitedmedia.com/wash/redandrover/

Check out Adam@Home:
*(2) http://www.ucomics.com/adamathome/index.phtml

Read the Online Chat with Brian Basset:
*(3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/01/style/comics_060801.htm

Stars and Stripes Magazine article on trip to Italy:
http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=&article=18079&archive=true

© Susanna McLeod 2004
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)