Hillcrest High School junior Zack Hix, creator of Good Boy Roy, draws on real-life inspiration
In his Simpsonville art studio, also known as the kitchen table, 16-year-old Zack Hix sits among stacks of well-worn sketch diaries, which his mother buys from Walmart. He seems subdued and focused, even though he is running a little late today—the baseball coach had a meeting after school. He is trying out for the team.
This is Zack’s life of late—juggling school and home life and a dynamic graphic design business, which includes stocking a Web store full of merchandise bearing his catchy gang of cartoon characters and their animated, adolescent expressions—from “Rock on Dude” to “Must Have Ice Cream.”
Web sales aren’t great, says Kim, his mother and Chief “Everything” Officer of Zach’s design company, Good Boy Roy. The good news is, his work has recently taken him in a new direction: creating custom designs. In the past few months, he’s drawn logos for a Zumba teacher in Oklahoma, a marching band in Chicago, and a beauty salon in Greer.
If Zack’s accomplishments seem to belie his age, the adversity he has endured downright defies it. “Nobody can have it worse than anybody else. It’s just a matter of how you look at it,” Zack says, slightly monotone, eyes diverted—as they often are—his hand firmly tapping the seat of his wooden chair.
In a few years, folks will likely chalk up his mannerisms to artistic eccentricities. But the tapping, knocking, and pacing actually stem from various impulse control disorders, including Tourette’s Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity.
The truth is, the happy, vibrant characters that Zack creates are more like alter egos. He is content for now, but with little warning he could fly into a screaming rage or an anxious, tearful fit that might last for hours.
Zack’s differences have made him a target for bullying. But drawing has always offered an opportunity for escape and reconciliation, especially following some of his more violent outbursts. He often told his family, “I really am a good boy,” after an episode had ended, and the name Good Boy Roy was born.
About two years ago, Kim surprised Zack by putting one of the characters, Good Boy Roy, on a T-shirt. The gratification he got—not only seeing one of his sketches brought to life, but also from folks who saw and admired his work—turned out to be the beginning of the most healing season in his adolescence.
At times, perfecting his drawings becomes something to obsess over, but mostly it’s an outlet for his anxiety. “It’s just helped me to cope sometimes,” Zack offers simply.