- ABOUT US
Cherokee artist Roy Boney Jr. melds comic books and fine art into startling and vivid modern interpretations.
By Megan Rossman
Published July/August 2012
Batman, Superman, Spawn, the Maxx: Rarely are superheroes like these cited as influences in Native American art. But Roy Boney Jr. is no traditionalist. The Cherokee artist, a Locust Grove native who’s called Tahlequah home for the last five years, has been gaining national acclaim with offbeat pieces that marry the color and velocity of graphic novels with the gravity of fine art.
Despite always knowing he wanted to be an artist, Boney’s venture into the Native art world was unplanned.
“I had no intention of doing what you would call Indian art,” says the thirty-three-year-old Boney. “I didn’t like that genre, because a lot of what I saw was what you’d call romantic tourist art, but I always liked cartoons and comics.”
For about as long as he’s been able to grip a pen, he’s been pouring his imagination onto paper. His parents still have his first drawing—of a tick—done when he was just two years old.
Aspirations of being a comic book artist led Boney to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration and graphic design. While there, he began contributing his comics to online sharing sites. His first, Plugin Boy, chronicled the life of a robotic boy who lived plugged into an electrical outlet in his bedroom. For the next series, Boney collaborated with Canadian author Matt Shepherd to create The License, a series about a man licensed by the United States government to beat up rude people. After that, the pair created the zombie tale Dead Eyes Open.
After Boney and Shepherd pitched an eight-page mockup to several publishers, Slave Labor Graphics in San Jose, California, picked it up and published six issues that were collected into a trade paperback in 2008.
A detail of Boney's acrylic on wood panel work, Troubles, above, references Cherokee lore, where owls often appear as messengers and omens of future trouble.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when Boney was working on his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, that he began integrating his tribal background into his art. As a fellow at the Sequoyah National Research Center—an organization at the university that collects and catalogs Native American language in all its written forms—Boney was introduced to Bill Wiggins, the school’s retired dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and an ardent collector of Indian art.
When he saw Boney’s work for the first time, Wiggins was intrigued. The dark themes common throughout his pieces ran counterintuitive to what might be expected from someone Wiggins describes as “a very nice-looking young man who smiles ear to ear all the time. He’s just a very nice fellow.”