James Branch Cabell

Literary Life and Legacy

Jurgen Comics Contest

face wearing a crown peers over a wall [View Image]
A final online information session will be held
January 26, 2022 at 6:00 p.m.
Complete this form to receive the link to attend.

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.


Submission requirements

Full page Gasoline Alley comic [View Image]
Gasoline Alley by Frank King, 1934

Who can enter: VCU students who are enrolled during the Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 semesters, including students who are December 2021 graduates.


The winning entry will 

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

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

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.Sunday comics page [View Image]
Little Nemo in Slumberland, November 26, 1905

Not familiar with full-page “Sunday comics?” Try these links for inspiration.

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

A final online information session will be held January 26, 2022 at 6:00 p.m.
Please complete this form to receive a link to attend the session.

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

View graphic version