Caitlin McGurk was destined to work in the comics industry. There were telltale signs during her childhood on Long Island. She remembers obsessively collecting and organizing comic book cards and admiring the pictures in the "Stations of the Cross" while waiting in the communion line at her Catholic church.

Caitlin McGurk was destined to work in the comics industry. There were telltale signs during her childhood on Long Island. She remembers obsessively collecting and organizing comic book cards and admiring the pictures in the "Stations of the Cross" while waiting in the communion line at her Catholic church.

"That was probably my first experience with sequential art because there [were] these beautiful stained glass or carved images with a little bit of text," McGurk said. "I'd study the image and read the text a thousand times."

Following high school, McGurk put out her own mini comics and zines and interned at an auction house where she catalogued - and fell in love with - underground comix (small press or self-published comic books). She interviewed famous cartoonists like Chester Brown for her senior college thesis on memory and consciousness in the graphic novel, and went on to obtain a master's degree in library and information science from Long Island University.

After gaining experience at Marvel Comics and the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, McGurk moved to Columbus to work as a visiting curator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, which houses the world's largest cartoon and comics collection. In just over four years, she has moved up to associate curator for outreach, organizing exhibits and public programs. She is also an assistant professor.

"I try to communicate to all different kinds of departments and disciplines at OSU that comics can be used to study their subject matter," she said.

On track to receive tenure in 2020, McGurk is required to publish journal articles or books. "I really want my contribution to the world of comic scholarship to be about celebrating the unsung history of women in comics," she said.

McGurk ensures that women are also represented in Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), a free, multi-day festival, which includes exhibits, conferences, presentations and expos. The event debuted last year and even drew attendees from overseas.

"It's just as much about the creators as it is about the fans," said McGurk, who serves on the festival's council. "One of the things we're most proud of is that we are giving out awards [to comic artists] every year. … One of them is an actual cash prize."

This year, CXC, which begins October 12 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, will bring in "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, among other prominent guests.

Through efforts like CXC, McGurk is giving back to the Columbus comics scene, which, she said, welcomed her with "open arms."

"What I think is really amazing is how supportive the community is here, despite the diversity of taste [and] the diversity of age," she said.

In fact, her first year in Columbus, she was able to throw an after-party for the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo.

"I didn't really know anyone, but I was like, 'Party at my house, who wants to come?'" Since then, McGurk has hosted the after-party at Kafe Kerouac, and helped book famous cartoonists like Simon Hanselmann, Michael DeForge and Leah Hayes at the venue.

"It's important for me to keep up the … momentum of celebrating comics with people from all across the country, let alone the world, coming to Columbus," McGurk said.