Comic Arts Club emphasizes creativity, imagination in changing artistic landscape
Under new leadership, the club meets twice a week to host workshops, create original comics and zines and enhance their art portfolio.
March 6, 2023
Creative juices flow out of roughly a dozen students as they huddle up inside the friendly confines of Humanities Room 581. The crew uses a variety of pens and pencils as they produce doodles and sketches, essentially uncovering their hidden thoughts into original pieces of art.
It’s dark, but not too dark –– sunshine still sneaks in through the window to illuminate their drawings. The upbeat music is overshadowed by the sound of light scratches of lead carefully brushing up against paper. There’s laughter too, but it’s subtle and controlled, as the students can’t afford to take their eyes off their projects for fear of one small detail being screwed up.
For the SF State Comic Arts Club, it’s just business as usual.
“Last semester, I was trying to find an art club to join because I love doing art as a hobby,” said Hugh Wang, a second-year psychology major and current club member. “The thing was that a lot of them seem a bit more serious than the other ones so I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna go with this one because this is more casual.’ We mostly just do some fun doodles –– some comics from designs in general. It’s pretty nice.”
Established roughly seven years ago, the Comic Arts Club meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 p.m.. They also plan and participate in inclusive workshops, contests and showcases to display their work. According to the group’s Discord server, roughly 300 students are connected to the club, but 15-20 students are the consistent turnout for in-person meetings.
After being reeled in by graphic novels in middle school, sophomore Justine Bulaong was introduced to the Comic Arts Club after noticing them tabling one afternoon in the Quad. The pitch was convincing enough to take action and Bulaong dragged another friend with them to join. When the outgoing leadership was set to graduate, Bulaong took the keys to the club and now serves as president.
“It just made me continue being involved in the club and I wanted to expand my love of creative arts and graphic novels,” Bulaong said. “I was taking the role to kind of get out of my comfort zone a little to give out my love for comics.”
Under Bulaong, the new leadership has continued to produce content in the new normal of the pandemic. One of the club’s projects has been zeroing in on publishing frequent zines. According to Wang, they plan to start fundraising in the future by selling artwork and giving away stickers at tabling endeavors.
For the most part, the student-led operation promotes imagination and curiosity. In an industry that has continued to shift to graphic design using a keyboard and a screen, the prospect of freehand drawing is still taking place for the Comic Arts Club during meetings.
“I feel like certain types of comics are dying, yes, but I do believe that there are other paths that are still striving like manga –– Japanese comics,” Bulaong said. “So I can say some parts of comics are dying, but some are still alive as well, too.”
From time to time, the club has some fun with its creativity. Wang says at one point, a student spun a randomized wheel of ideas that resulted in them drawing an emotional version of actor Kevin Hart, with tears dripping from his eyes. It was all done free of a screen.
“Yeah, I mean, initially, I didn’t think that computer science would combine with comics art since comic art is like a niche area of art,” said Jonathan Chen, the club’s editor. “But I’m really into video game design, so a lot of aspects that I find in comics could actually translate.”
Chen is a computer science major and will minor in math and studio art. Inspired by the likes of The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Chen considers himself a “Marvel nerd” and enjoys spending the club time drawing characters from the Avengers, Chang Chi and other 1980s-era heroes.
The study and creation of comics are far from new at SF State.
In 2016, published cartoonist Nick Sousanis was hired by the College of Liberal Studies at SF State, he started a comics minor program shortly after –– around the same time the Comic Arts Club formed. The first cohort, of roughly five students, graduated from the program in the spring of 2018.
“Humans have been making pictures, stories and sense of their world as long as we’ve been human,” Sousanis said. “I think that’s important, but I’m really interested –– or equally interested –– that all students understand that they can communicate through visuals and it’s not just reserved for people who are fine artists, but for everybody in the same way that writing is not just reserved for people who are professional writers.”
Sousanis serves as the club advisor for the Comic Arts Club, usually letting the students run things on their own. As of now, there’s not a ton of intersection between the minor and the club itself, which is something Sousanis hopes to further develop.
He says the minor will soon launch a certificate nonfiction comics program, where students are allowed the chance to create content for different departments and events around campus.
“My goal of the club –– as far as I can have a goal as somebody who’s supposed to mostly let them do their own thing –– is to promote more synergy to promote the club, but also to promote the fact that comic studies are a thing that every student could have access to on our campus,” Sousanis said.