VCU Libraries invites graduate and undergraduate students from across Virginia Commonwealth University to enter the third annual Jurgen Comics Contest.
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.
- Grand prize (Best overall): $1,000 and print and digital publication
- Artistry $250 and print and digital publication
- Storytelling $250 and print and digital publication
- Research $250 and print and digital publication
- All entries considered for digital publication as honorable mentions
- Only one prize per person
How to Enter
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:
- FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” routine for which the comedian was arrested.)
- The repeated censorship of director Amy Heckerling’s film Fast Times at Ridgemont High
- The attempted censorship of “Judgment Day” a comic in EC Comics Weird Fantasy, No. 18, March/April 1953
- Opposition to The Rabbits’ Wedding a children’s picture book by Garth Williams, illustrator of Charlotte’s Web
- Marina Abramović’s Imponderabilia, shut down as obscene in 1977, is adapted by the artist for a 2023 retrospective.
- Challenges and bannings of Persepolis Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir
- The banning of Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell
- The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith – either the original silent film and its remake as a “talkie” (Director Griffith responded with a pamphlet)
- Nazi Party suppression of German modernist art, which was labelled “Degenerate Art“
- PEN America v. Escambia County School District – a recent lawsuit asserting that Florida County School Board unlawfully removes or restricts access to books on race, racism and LGBTQ identities
- Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, Virginia may be forced to close due to funding cuts brought about by a campaign protesting certain books. The library director resigned in early August.
- PEN American Index of School Book Bans – Fall 2022
- Banned Comics: Case Files, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- Banning Books in Prisons, Equal Justice Initiative
- VCU Access to The Washington Post and The New York Times
- Jurgen Banned Art Comics Contest Research Guide
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 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 grant a non-exclusive license to VCU Libraries for publication. 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?
Try these links for inspiration.
Copper by Kazu Kibuishi
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.