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Tara Caught a Tom: An auto-bio-graphic-novel (review)

Creator: Matthew Hill

Independently published, March 2024

Tara Caught a Tom: An auto-bio-graphic-novel is a 32 page web comic from author Matthew Hill, which the author himself summarizes as “Tom makes a name for himself, albeit not in the best way.”

While the synopsis is a functional description of the comic book’s story, it is rather vague and does not really give potential readers enough to form an expectation. It is difficult to pitch, but maybe that is the author’s intention.

The subtitle implies that the story is autobiographical, which is difficult to believe as not only is the main character named differently from the author, the events and setting of the comic feature metahumans that are treated as celebrities. We are assuming that if it is indeed based on the author’s life, it is liberally garnished with fantastical elements, so as to elevate it from what would otherwise be a simple slice of life comic.

The story of Tara Caught a Tom is fairly easy to follow. The titular character seems to have superhuman abilites but is bitter about not having a career, unlike other gifted individuals who join super talent agencies. His bitterness seems to be directed towards a successful super heroine called Tarrific Tara.

The comic is a light read, and 32 pages might not be enough for worldbuilding. We can surmise that in the depicted world, superhumans are treated like celebrities, as evidenced by Tarrific Tara meeting fans and signing autographs in an event called Super People Expo. Tom, in his misguided effort to prove himself as worthy of success, decides to attend the Super People Expo and confront Tarrific Tara. What follows is an impromptu fight sequence between the titular character and Tarrific Tara.

It is hard to give an objective review of Tara Caught a Tom because it seems like it is a very personal story dressed up as a crude superhero pastiche. We could criticize it for being too shallow and disjointed while missing out on what the author is trying to tell, or we could dive too deep and find meaning where the author intended none. We are leaning more towards the former, but that is not to say that the comic isn’t enjoyable to read. There seems to be a lot of thought put into it, and it can be enjoyed on the surface level – the premise is silly, and the art style helps emphasize the fact that the comic is not to be taken seriously.

Speaking of art style – this is where Tara Caught a Tom shines. The art is objectively solid. It is not what you would expect from a comic about super humans, but it uses consistently clean line art, and the artist does not skimp on detail. A double page spread of the main character in front of his house shows a lot of detail – all the houses and buildings in the street, all the cars parked in the sidewalk, the electrical wirings, and even the leaves scattered by the wind. There is a lot of clarity in the artwork that helps carry the narrative when the sparse dialogue can’t. We also like the cover design, featuring a vintage-looking photo of a snow man amidst a row of houses. It looks like an album cover for a 90s band, or the cover of a coffee table book. Definitely not what you’d expect from a comic about superhero influencers duking it out.

Tara Caught a Tom: An auto-bio-graphic-novel is available to read online for free at