VCU Libraries invites VCU students to explore some episode or aspect of the seizure and censorship of James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice in a single-page comic. As James Branch Cabell was intensely interested in literary forms, this contest will challenge artists to create within a form similar to the early newspaper Sunday comics pages that Cabell would have known.
Students from all departments, working individually or in teams, are invited to enter the competition. Beginning in October, VCU Libraries will be holding information sessions on Zoom for students interested in participating.
- Grand prize $1000 along with print and digital publishing with VCU Publishing
- 2 runners-up $250 each along with print and digital publication
- All entries considered for digital publication as honorable mentions
Who can enter: VCU students who are enrolled during the Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 semesters, including students who are December 2021 graduates.
- Single-page, multi-panel, vertical format comic in the spirit of the “Sunday pages”
- Submitted as a digital file; sized as an 11″ x 17″ original, 300 dpi JPG or PDF
- Artist’s name should appear in type at the bottom of the page along with the words “Jurgen Comics Contest, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2022.”
- Submissions must include a panel-by-panel transcription of the text of your comic to be used in creating an accessible version. Indicate the name of the font used in your comic, if it’s not hand-lettered.
- Email submissions to LibJurgen@vcu.edu by 11:59 pm Eastern, February 21, 2022
The winning entry will
- Use skillful, engaging storytelling or presentation of ideas to tell all or part of the story of the banning of Jurgen
- Demonstrate innovative use of the single-page comic format
- Ask readers to consider larger questions about censorship, public morality, the role of art in society, or the connections between Cabell’s story and the current day
Deadline for submissions: 11:59 pm Eastern, February 21, 2022
Judging: completed by week of March 14, 2022
Our panel of judges may include representatives from
- Professional comic or graphic artists
- VCU Libraries
- The Cabell Associates
- VCU students
- VCU faculty
Winners will be announced: In-library event and exhibition April 2022
Artists will retain copyright to their creations, and grant a non-exclusive license to VCU Libraries for publication.
VCU Libraries reserves the right to refuse to award prizes should no entries meet the judging criteria.
Questions about the contest? Email VCU Libraries at LibJurgen@vcu.edu
An online information session will be held in October. Details for how to register will be posted here.
How to begin
Learn what happened when Cabell’s novel Jurgen was banned.
When representatives of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV) seized Jurgen (pronounced “JER-gen”) and prohibited its sale, many writers rose to Cabell’s defense. Much of this defense, and the growing public dissatisfaction with the NYSSV, related to questions about art and society, and about morality. Should there be different standards for “literature” and “pulp” magazines? Can art be obscene? Who is to judge? Are there topics—perhaps even dangerous ideas—that art allows us to usefully examine? Is it right for private citizens to be enlisted for law enforcement? And, as 1920 was a time when Prohibition was the law of the land, and distribution of contraceptives and birth control information was illegal, how much say should the government have over citizens’ private lives? Read the full story: “Banning Jurgen” on this website.
Not familiar with full-page “Sunday comics?” Try these links for inspiration.
- Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay
- Copper by Kazu Kibuishi
- Art Spiegelman “One-page graphic novels“
- and because all VCU students who wants to participate are encouraged to give it a go! Lynda Barry – non-artists can create
Explore VCU Libraries Comic Arts Collection located in Special Collections and Archives
Investigate Cabell’s Illustrators
Questions about the contest? Looking for a writer or artist to collaborate? Email VCU Libraries at LibJurgen@vcu.edu
About the contest
The Jurgen Banned Art Comics Contest will be an annual VCU student competition dedicated to telling the story of banned art – books, music, film and more – and encouraging discussion of the complex relationship between art and society. The inaugural competition (Fall 2021-Spring 2022) focuses on the events and issues surrounding the banning of James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. The contest is sponsored by VCU Libraries with generous funding from the James Branch Cabell Library Associates.