In 2022, the first Jurgen Comics Contest invited students from across Virginia Commonwealth University to develop comics that explored the events and issues surrounding the censorship of James Branch Cabell's Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV).
In January of 1920, the NYSSV seized the printing plates and copies of Jurgen, and James Branch Cabell’s publisher and editor were charged with violating state obscenity laws because it was an “offensive, lewd, lascivious and indecent book.” Cabell's satirical fantasy was barred from the mail, and demand for copies skyrocketed. Suppressed just as Prohibition took effect, Jurgen was sold at exorbitant prices by "bookleggers.” The case dragged on, but after a two-year battle, the indictment against Jurgen was dismissed.
In preparing their entries and to learn about the uproar and repercussions accompanying Jurgen’s suppression, students explored VCU Libraries' James Branch Cabell: Literary Life and Legacy.
2022 Grand Prize: Erin Crawford — Cabell Walks into a Bar
Runners-up: Jay Crilley — Swear to It; Tess Wladar — The Judging of Jurgen
Honorable Mentions: Katy Hooper — Moral of the Story; Hannah Smith — The Banning of Jurgen;
Ty Campbell — A Silent Fate
Literary figures F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald make an appearance in this wry work calling to mind the Sunday comics of Winsor McCay. The Prohibition era story is told with a modern twist, as characters drink from juice boxes. Their heads are drawn as speech bubbles as a commentary on how we are all our thoughts and words/actions.
A student works with laptop and sketchbook to develop insight into the events and issues surrounding the censorship of James Branch Cabell's book Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. A drawing of a devil taunts the artist throughout the comic.
Digital edition of the Jurgen Comics Contest broadsheet newspaper celebrating the 2022 Contest winners. The newspaper design and supplemental artwork was created by contest student editor Alyson Piccione. Supplemental promotional materials include poster, comic, and caricatures of historical figures who played a role in the censorship of James Branch Cabell's work Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice.
Inspired by the work of Frank C. Papé, one of the illustrators of Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, this comic features a young Jurgen and numerous fanciful creatures surrounded by an angry crowd calling for them to be banned.
Playing with sight gags and double-entendre, this comic refers to James Branch Cabell's own response to New York Society for the Suppression of Vice censor John S. Sumner. Cabell wrote a satirical fable called "The Judging of Jurgen," featuring a tumblebug, or dung beetle, who made accusations against King Jurgen in the court of Philistia.