Comic arts contest offers chance at $1,000 prize and a challenge to create

August 15, 2023
a yellow and black illustrated book cover

VCU Libraries invites students from across Virginia Commonwealth University to enter the third annual Jurgen Comics Contest. Graduate and undergraduate students will create and submit single-page comics for judging to win a $1,000 grand prize.

The new contest asks students to respond imaginatively to historical incidents of art censorship. Artists will create a single-page, multi-panel comic telling a story centered on a specific episode of seizure or censorship of visual art, book, music or film.

Examples of such incidents may be found on the contest website  and include: 

  • FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (George Carlin’s "Seven Dirty Words" routine)
  • The repeated censorship of director Amy Heckerling's film Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • The attempted censorship of "Judgment Day" comic Weird Fantasy, No. 18, March/April 1953
  • 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 

The deadline for entries 11:59 p.m. October 31, 2023 - Halloween.

Full submission specifications may be found on the contest website:

  • 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

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. 

An online information session will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 6 p.m. Registration through the contest website  will open soon and is required. 

Jurgen Comics Comics Contest project manager and student assistant Julia Martinez will set up a table in Cabell Library Lobby on the morning of Oct. 3, 2023 during Banned Book Week to share information and previous year's broadside comics newspapers. 

Comics from previous winners and contest artwork may be viewed on ScholarsCompass. [ ]

Posters of winning artwork are also on display on the first floor of Cabell Library. 

The Jurgen Comics Contest is named after James Branch Cabell’s ribald and satirical fantasy, Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. In 1920, Jurgen was declared a “certain offensive, lewd, lascivious and indecent book” by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Suppressed just as Prohibition took effect, "bookleggers" sold copies of Jurgen at exorbitant prices. Two years later, courts exonerated Cabell's work, and Jurgen was again available–reaching an even wider audience due to the interest generated by the sensational trial.

The Jurgen Comics Contest is sponsored by VCU Libraries and supported by the generosity of donors. 

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