Jurgen Comics Contest

Announcing the winners of the Fall 2023 contest

Wanda Felsenhardt grand prize winner Fall 2023
VCU Libraries invited graduate and undergraduate students from across Virginia Commonwealth University to enter the third annual Jurgen Comics Contest by creating a single-page, multi-panel comic telling a story centered on a specific historical incident of censorship or suppression of visual art, books, music, film or performance.

Wanda Felsenhardt won the $1,000 grand prize with “The Right to Read: Censorship in America’s Prisons.”  Felsenhardt’s comic shines a spotlight on the vast number of titles banned by state prison systems and reasons given for keeping books out of prisoners’ hands.

Naomy Cardoso Perez and Gillian Grunenfelder received the Artistry prize ($250) for “Monument Woman.” Their comic tells the story of Nazi attempts to control art and of the bravery of Rose Valland, a French art historian and member of the Resistance, who secretly documented Nazi art theft.

Winston Broiles Storytelling prize winnerWinston Broiles won the Storytelling prize ($250) for “Spider-Man, Terror of the Comics Code Authority.” Broiles’ entry recounted how Spider-Man comics emboldened the comics industry to reject oversight and censorship by the C.C.A.

Hannah Diment Research prize winner Fall 2023
Hannah Diment’s “Allegory of Artemisia” received the Research award ($250) for a comic examining the challenges faced by the talented 17th-century woman painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Two comics received Honorable Mention: “America’s Sailor Moon,” by Cici Eltermann and “Dystopian University,” by Ayla Bramblett.

The Jurgen Comics Contest focuses on telling stories of banned art as a way to consider the complex relationship between art and society and the long history of censorship. By challenging students to explore these topics through comics, VCU Libraries asserts the value of comics as a medium of expression and social commentary, and a subject for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study.

Fall 2023 challenge

Create a single-page, multi-panel comic telling a story centered on a specific episode of seizure or censorship of visual art, books, music, film or performance at a particular historical moment. 

Among the many examples of such incidents: 

Other resources:

Submission requirements

Full page Gasoline Alley comic
Gasoline Alley by Frank King, 1934

Eligibility: VCU students enrolled in 9 or more credit hours during the Fall 2023 semester. 

Part-time VCU students, including university employees who are taking classes, are also encouraged to participate. Their entries are eligible for digital and physical publication, but will not be considered for cash prizes.


  • Single-page, multi-panel, vertical format comic in the spirit of the “Sunday funny pages” 
  • Submitted as a digital file; sized as an 11″ x 17″ original, 300 dpi JPG or PDF
  • Submissions must include an artist’s statement that includes
    • Historical research conducted
    • Process of creating the work 
    • Description of its format, which includes tools/software used. Any use of generative AI must be cited in the artist’s statement. 
  • Judges will review both statements and comics
  • Artist’s name should appear in type at the bottom of the page along with the words “Jurgen Comics Contest, Virginia Commonwealth University, Fall 2023”
  • Submissions must include a panel-by-panel transcription of the text of your comic to aid accessibility
  • Email submissions to LibJurgen@vcu.edu by 11:59 pm Eastern, October 31, 2023

Winning entries will 

  • Skillfully and engagingly tell a story centered on a historical incident of censorship and the ideas and issues at stake
  • Demonstrate innovative use of the single-page comic format
  • Ask readers to consider larger questions about censorship and self-censorship, the business side of the creative arts, and the tension between artistic freedom and community standards  

Deadline for submissions: 11:59 pm Eastern, October 31, 2023

Judging: completed by week of November 26, 2023 

Our panel of judges may include representatives from

  • Professional comic or graphic artists
  • VCU Libraries
  • The Cabell Associates
  • VCU students
  • VCU faculty
  • Previous contest winners

Winners will be announced by the close of the Fall 2023 semester.

Copyright: Artists will retain copyright to their creations, and by entering the contest grant a non-exclusive license to VCU Libraries for publication and display.  NOTE: The use of generative AI may affect artists’ copyright claims.

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 

Not familiar with full-page “Sunday comics?”  Wondering what you can do in a single page?

Sunday comics page
Little Nemo in Slumberland, November 26, 1905

Try these links for inspiration.

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

Incidental Comics by Grant Snider

Art Spiegelman  “One-page graphic novels

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay

Lynda Barry – non-artists can create! Find a copy of Barry’s book, Making Comics

Explore VCU Libraries Comic Arts Collection located in Special Collections and Archives

Take a look at previous winners’ comics

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 is an annual VCU student competition dedicated to telling the story of banned art and encouraging discussion of the complex relationship between art and society. The inaugural competition (Fall 2021-Spring 2022) focused 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 and supported by the generosity of donors.

brightly colored lino-cut of two figures on horseback
Jurgen in Lino-cuts by William John Bernhard
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries