"I'm starting to think crazy is the norm in Mayview."
Paranatural is a supernatural humour webcomic made by Zack Morrison, a.k.a. MidnightTelevision.It stars a cynical young lad named Maxwell Puckett who just moved into a town called Mayview with his eccentric father and little sister Zoey. It soon turns out that the town is haunted by ghosts and other supernatural creatures, which only a handful of people, Max included, can see. The comic derives a lot of humor from ludicrous wordplay, self-deprecation, and its parodying of common Anime tropes.After a hectic first day of school, Max finds himself joining the (Paranatural) Activity Club, whose purpose is to keep paranormal activity around the school in check, and to help young spectrals like Max understand and control their powers. Mostly they just mess around though.The comic updates on Mondays and Fridays, and can be found here.A fan-made, fan-operated forum for the comic can be found here. The comic was first hosted on ComicFury, and later on Hiveworks.
This comic shows examples of the following tropes:
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: According to Isaac, a person can develop spectral powers if they (at least) had a near-death experience, prolonged exposure to supernatural phenomena, or a diet obnoxiously high in citrus.
The comic starts off with rough colorless pencil art and occasional gradients, switched to being fully coloured and shaded on the ninth page, then finally the author switched to using a brush pen for lineart on the 58th page (the lines are heavy and rough here because "this was the first page I drew with a brush pen and I could not control that beast").
Many characters had some noticeable redesign as the comic went on.
Isaac's spirit slams him on his usage of his powers.
Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Spirits seem oddly prone to ending up in tools related to their powers. Eightfold can manipulate paper and lives in a book, Ed's spirit has ink powers and lives in a paintbrush, a spirit with the ability to erase people's faces ends up in a pencil eraser, etc.
Awesome McCoolname: Mr. Starchman seems to think so of Max's name. Of course, he's completely and utterly insane, so it's not really worth much...
Bizarrchitecture: The base of the Activity Consortium. Flying elevators, multicolored floors, and the the whole structure appears to be shaped like a corkscrew. Of course, the fact that it's a sort of communal dream that all the members visit when they go to sleep means that it probably doesn't have to adhere to the fire code.
The Blank: Briefly happens to Ed (and, off-camera, Isabel). Boss Leader may be a more permanent example; while her face is covered in bandages, there's no sign of a nose or other facial features underneath.
Chekhov's Armory: Re-reading the comic will reveal a truly staggering amount of continuity- for example, you can see Ed receiving Isabel's message in the background of one panel, the Doctopi make an appearance before they're explained, and passing mention is given all the time to things that are elaborated on later.
Defeat Means Friendship: To an extent. Johnny seems less hostile towards Max after kicking his butt. The same seems to go for Lefty.
Discard and Draw: The possibility is implied in chapter 3, and made explicit via Word of God. Tools and mediums are really just ways for spirits to recover from grave injury, and spectrals are able to use their powers during that interval. A spectral will lose that spirit's abilities once it leaves, but they can always pick up a new tool or get possessed again.
Eye Scream: The whale-frog spirit can make reflections come to life. This is taken to the logical extreme through including reflections in peoples' eyes. Which causes tiny doubles of himself clawing their way out of P.J.'s eyes. Holy crap.
Faceless Masses: In chapter one, the school hallways are filled with purple and less-detailed extras. Subverted; they're actually ghosts.
Facial Horror: The pixelhounds can pull the skin off their faces. It's as creepy as it sounds.
Fantastic Racism: The whale-frog spirit apparently finds ghost-powered humans abominable.
Foreshadowing: Isaac is apparently ostracized from other spectrals because he's possessed by a violent spirit. This doesn't bode well for Max, seeing as how he has a tool and happens to be possessed by something much worse.
Freudian Slip: At the end of Chapter 3, Max asks Spender a question about where could a ghost more likely be found, whether where it died, or where she was buried. Every other member of the Activity Club catches the slip, Mr. Spender and Isaac comment how that wasn't subtle at all.
Fridge Logic: In-universe. Max wonders aloud in chapter 3 why the earth isn't covered in bug ghosts.
Grey and Gray Morality: The Spender/Forge conflict in chapter 4 looks to be this. Spender is focused on the greater good and acting for the future. Forge discounts this philosophy for the damage it does.
Hot Scoop: Suzy wants to be this, but has trouble finding stories for the school paper.
Isabel's Grandpa: Arrogant girl! How could an immaculate and majestic being such as myself produce a descendant with such a flaw?!
Improbable Weapon User: The "tools" used by the activity club to fight monsters include such things as paintbrushes and books. There's even a plunger tool out there, though as of yet no one's gotten stuck with it.
Just like the Funny Background Events, the comic is chock full of important ones too. For example, when Johnny recounts his version of the battle with the sphinx to Ollie, the sphinx is edited out the panels cropped from previous strips because he didn't see it.
Often doubles with Chekhov's Gun. A good example is in chapter 1 when Max was talking to Violet and Lisa, you can see Ed receiving a paper plane message in the background which later turns out to be from Isabel.
Obfuscating Insanity / Obfuscating Stupidity: An interesting out-of-universe example, the comic itself seems to display either of these tropes. While at a glance it could be said the comic oozes random humor and whimsical nonsense, readers that pay attention to detail can notice there's a certain method to the madness. Dialogue that seems random has its purpose or are witty responses to previous lines. Characters that seem to be just fooling around actually have reasons to do what they do. Pages that apparently make no sense at all are later explained off when the time is right. There's even purpose to background events and stylistic choices. Random? Think again.
One-Winged Angel: Pulled off in quite a big way by the bat spirit in chapter 1, and then again (possibly) by the whale-frog spirit in chapter 2. It's implied to be a form of Super Mode that all spirits are capable of when under stress, which Mr Spender calls "the Grudge effect".
The sixth panel of chapter 4, page 47 counts as well. It originally had such wonderful sound effects written in the wind like "Emo Fresh" and "Sweet Breeze". Zack later removed them after deciding he wanted to playthat momentstraight.
"Ghosts" are dead people; "spirits" were never alive and run the gamut of weirdness. Everyone from either category has a special power that is fully subject to the Superpower Lottery (one spirit can shoot lightning while one ghost can...conjure pretty glowing butterflies).
"Spectrals" are humans who can see the supernatural, and with some training can access a basic set of ghostly superpowers, such as a Finger Gun. Spectrals can supplement their powerset by obtaining a "tool" (a possessed object that can access a spirit's powers) or becoming a "medium" through direct possession.
Other ghost-related terminology includes "poltergeist" (a ghost that can manipulate physical objects—also used as a verb), "shade" (the indistinct, shadowy blobs that people see when their sixth sense is first awakened), and "grudge" (a dangerous spirit that runs on fear and rage. Max's spirit is one).
Pintsized Powerhouse: Isabel, one of the strongest members of the club, has far and above the smallest spirit seen so far. Eightfold is about the size of a chihuahua. Isaac's spirit is the size of a minivan at least, and just how big Scrapdragon is remains to be seen, but we've seen enough to know that it's enormous.
Portmantitle: The title Paranatural comes from the fact that, amongst themselves, the Activity Club calls itself the Paranatural Activity Club. This splices and combines the words 'paranormal' and 'supernatural', even though both words mean the same thing. The silly name is justified by the fact that they're middle-schoolers.
On the flip side, we have Supernormal — one-off gag strips in the extras section that show the non-supernatural side of life in Mayview.
Psychoactive Powers: While Spectrals can generate energy voluntarily, they also tend to radiate it when angry or upset. P.J. also implies that the reason he can't interact with physical objects is his lack of self-confidence.
Pun: This comic is absolutely chock-a-block with these.
Max notes with glee that since Isaac is possessed by a spirit, he's...a tool.
Followed up by this:
Isaac: I'm not a tool, Max. I'm a medium. Max: Yeah? I'm a large.
"Wuh-oh! Snark attack! Close the beaches!"
Punny Name: P.J., a pajama-clad ghost living in Max's house. Although he would like you to know that his nickname was P.J. before he died in his pajamas.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gets delivered to Spender by Forge on chapter 4, page 89. However, based on its wording, it could be more of a "Reason We Suck" speech. Either way, Spender's getting chewed out for his "greater good" mentality. Possibly subverted, as in the next page, Spender does give a reason for his actions and seems to turn the conversational table on Forge.
School Club Front: The Paranatural Activity Club, whose purpose is to keep paranormal activity around the school in check, and to help young spectrals like Max understand and control their powers, while Invisible to Normals creatures roam around the town.