"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
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 Tuesdays 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
The voice acting troupe CoLab HQ
has a let's read of Paranatural in progress, recognised by creator Zack Morrison. It is headed by member Paul. It can be watched here.
This comic shows examples of the following tropes:
- Academy of Adventure: Mysterious clubs: check. Weird teachers: check. Paranormal activity that'd detonate a PKE meter: check.
- Adjusting Your Glasses: Mr. Spender combines this with Scary Shiny Glasses and uses it as a weapon.
- Affectionate Parody: Of a lot of kid's adventure and anime tropes. At times the comic toes the line between "affectionate parody of shonen adventure anime" and "sincere shonen-style adventure". Case in point: Forge dramatically explaining his ultimate plans in the middle of a fight, played straight.
- All There in the Manual: Zack revealed the Activity Club's last names on Twitter and Isabel's grandpa's name on Tumblr.
- Alt Text: Shows up on most pages, save for a few.
- Animesque: The first chapter draws inspiration from FLCL.
- Anti-Humor: Ed sets up a joke after killing the monster in Chapter 2 and then drops the ball.
- 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.
- Art Evolution:
- 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.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Played for laughs.
- 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...
- Beware the Nice Ones: Ms. Baxter seems relatively normal compared to the other teachers. Until the class gets out of hand...
- Big Good: What the leader of the Doorman and the Rabbit Spirit is supposed to be.
Forge: My contact here has told me of his master: an angel of life and beauty, pure and whole. I can no longer follow my heart...but I can follow hers.
- 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.
- Blinding Bangs: Jeff's poofy hair entirely covers his eyes and eyebrows. His emotions are expressed through his mouth and cheeks.
- Brick Joke: Is that a friend? In the loose sense of the word, sure.
- Breathless Non Sequitur: Mr. Garcia delivers one of these.
- Broken Masquerade: Johnny's seen Isaac use his powers while pretending to be out cold.
- Soon followed by the entirety of Johnny's gang spotting the Activity Club and Agent Day sitting in the Ghost Train.
- The Casanova: A background character on chapter 1, page 39, panel 4.
- Cast of Snowflakes: The comic is famous for its use of quirky faces and hilarious expressions.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: All the chapter titles so far.
- 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.
- Cheshire Cat Grin:
- P.J. gives one to Max when they meet. Apparently, it's because he's just exercising his facial muscles "for when [he] can be happy again."
- This is also Suzy's default expression. If she's smiling and paying you attention, it's bad.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lots of kids and adults alike are a little weird, but Ed and Max's dad take the cake.
- Color-Coded Characters: The kids tend to wear their associated spectral colors- Isaac and Ed have both tinted panels in blue and green, respectively.
- Color-Coded Wizardry: Ties in with Color-Coded Characters. Each kid (and Mr. Spender) has a different colored aura. Isabel's is red, Ed's is green, Isaac's is blue, Spender's is yellow, and Max's is black (a fairly common spectral color).
- Color Failure/Blue with Shock/Thunder Shock: Max, upon seeing his first spirit.
- Also Isabel, when two... very important items... go flying off the train in succession.
- Combination Attack: According to the author, and this◊ wallpaper, all of the characters' powers can be combined.
- Combining Mecha/Fusion Dance: Parodied with Johnny and pals' "friendship fusion".
- Comically Small Bribe: In Chapter 4, Mr. Garcia tries this on Max... with a Starchman star.
- Continuity Nod: In Chapter 2, Max looks under the couch to find a tiny orange spirit battling a giant purple rat. Two chapters later, the fight is still going on in the background while Max and his family are playing Monopoly.
- Cool Horse: Isabel makes one out of her powers, complete with the ability to unfold its head into a horrible, toothy mouth.
- Cypher Language: The Doorman speaks in a cypher language to Max. The cypher was decoded◊ by fans.
- Deadpan Snarker: Max, mainly but also... pretty much everyone else.
- 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.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Doctopi. They can't heal you, but they work as a good painkiller.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Isaac wears a Clothing-brand shirt in chapter 3.
- Inverted with Ed's "PANTS" shirt in chapter 4.
- Exotic Eye Designs: Several spirits.
- 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.
- Flat "What.": Max, when a giant snake(-ish?) spirit suddenly interrupts his fight with the frog-whale.
- 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.
- Friendly Enemy: Johnny and Max have something like this going on.
- Funny Background Event: The comic is absolutely full of them.
- Gang of Bullies: Johnny, Stephen, Ollie, and R.J. chase and beat up Max in Chapter 1. Johnny and Ollie harass Max and Isaac in Chapter 3.
- Get a Hold of Yourself Man: Johnny swings his hand wildly past RJ's face twice after the latter has completely lost it, but the sound effects reveal he's actually wiping the latter's tears, accompanied by sound effects of WIPE and CONSOLE
- Gilligan Cut: In chapter 4, Isabel says: "It's Mayview. No one important ever comes here." Cut to Forge sitting beneath a tree. Lampshaded in the alt text:
Is masterful writing technique, yes? Character says "it won't rain" and then it rains. Good writing, A+
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
- Almost all of the main cast are 12-year-olds, so this is to be expected.
...I'll half-swear all I want, you scallion!
- Giving Someone the Pointer Finger:
- 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.
- Hurricane of Puns: The comments section and, occasionally, the alt text.
- Hypocritical Humor
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.
- Invisible to Normals: Few people can see the supernatural creatures.
- iPhony: Suzy's tablet has a banana bunch on the back. Lampshaded in the alt text:
I am proud to be breaking into the well-respected "Just Like My Cat" and "Putting Different Fruit on the Back of Apple Product" genres of humor.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: If P.J. is any indication, ghosts appear in whatever outfit they died in.
- Kamehamehadoken: One of the basic spectral attacks is shooting a ball of energy. Isabel's grandpa calls it a "spectral energy compression projectile burstshot". Isabel just calls it a spec-shot.
- Lame Pun Reaction: It can come from whoever happens to be holding the Straight Man Ball, but one of the best example comes from Isaac while dealing with the Sphinx (and Max):
Max: Isaac, I sphinx you should calm down.
Max: I'm just saying, you seem a riddle bit mad.
- Large Ham:
- Mr. Starchman - announces his presence, throws gold stars and promises fabulous prizes. At least he's enthusiastic.
- The Whale-Frog spirit loses its damn mind when it finds out Max is a spectral.
- Johnny has a few hammy moments. To quote a random commenter: "Johnny’s face assaulted me as I clicked upon this page, and I was forcefully made aware of his appearance..."
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The first chapter alone introduces 21 characters.
- Lampshaded in the alt-text of the page that introduces PJ and Lefty.
- Look Behind You: Spender thinks this is what Forge is attempting here.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Max expresses some concern over entering the Doorman's belly-portal.
Max: What if the other side is a simulation in this guy's stomach? What if he's eaten us and we live out our lives mistaking extremely slow digestion for the aging process? What then?
- Magic Mirror: The Whale-Frog spirit can create these at will, summoning crude copies of itself or others from any reflective surface. It uses these copies for offense or nutrition.
- Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Suzy wears literal rose-colored glasses which appear to be only for decoration. She alternates between wearing them on her head and on her face.
- Mathematician's Answer: Mr. Spender: "I work for... the government. I am, after all, a public school teacher."
- Subverted in this extra strip◊ When Max asks if he can go to the bathroom, Mr. Starchman replies with the expected "CAN you go to the bathroom?". "May I go to the bathroom?" yields a similar answer.
- Masquerade: So ghosts are like totally a secret, OK? Lampshade Hanging when Max asks why this needs to be a secret, Mr. Spender seems to be at a loss for an answer and quickly changes the subject.
- Meaningful Background Event:
- 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.
- Metaphorgotten: Spender's attempt to explain why ghosts can't use tools gets... a little off-track.
- Missing Mom: Max's mother. She apparently died traumatically.
- Mission Briefing: Dramatically attempted by Spender before Activity Club catch the Ghost Train. Key word: attempted.
It's kind of hard to hear you when you're talking with your back to us.
- Mood Whiplash: After setting down a photo of Max's Missing Mom, the family goes quiet for a moment. Then Max's dad erupts into "WHO WANTS PIZZA?"
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: When Isabel slices one in half, we learn that the Pixellhounds have teeth all the way down.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The "Super Max Speed-Changing Cool Technique", the soup can throw, and other things.
- Mundane Utility:
- Nerd Glasses: Max's dad wears half-moon glasses.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Agent 13 jumped the gun and killed the Ghost Train, thus trapping every single spirit and spectral in Mayview.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Collin is the only Pie-Eyed character.
- No Ontological Inertia: All of the whale-frog spirit's reflection mooks melt upon his defeat.
- Noodle Implements: Exactly what was Mr. Starchmann planning to do with that pool noodle?
- Noodle Incident:
- Something regarding Mr. Garcia and a pizza.
- Isaac alludes to a previous new spectral having a Freak Out over suddenly seeing ghosts all over the place before Mr. Spender cuts him off, likely referring to himself.
- In chapter three Mr. Spender implies that he used to have a different fourth spectral on his team before Max showed up. May or may not be related to the above.
- According to an Alt Text, P.J.'s last words were "Heh, I accidentally buttered both sides of my toast". And then adds a disclaimer that it's not a joke.
- Whatever the third riddle of the sphynx was.
- No Social Skills: P.J., probably because he's been dead, desperate, and needy for who knows how long now.
- Not So Different: Isaac's spirit says he and Isaac are this.
- Not What It Looks Like: A constant situation, since normals can't see spirits but can see the spectrals trying to fight them. This situation is an exemplary example.
- No, You: Johnny does it loud and proud here.
- 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-Hit Kill: How Max takes out his first spirit.
- 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".
- OOC Is Serious Business: Chapter 4, page 82:
- Opaque Lenses: Ed and Mr. Starchman, both of whom are hyperactive, eccentric, and nerdy, and Mr. Spender.
- Orwellian Retcon: A date on chapter 1, page 38 was altered from "September 25, 2008" to "September 25, 20––" because an explicit date would call attention to the Webcomic Time.
- 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 play that moment straight.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Best explained at the end of chapter 1 and midway into chapter 3. But for a brief primer:
- "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).
- Painting the Medium:
- 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.
- Powers via Possession: Mediums.
- 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.
- 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.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Parodied. Isabel has a poster advocating vaccination for them.
- Rapid Fire Interrupting: This page.
- "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.
- Redheaded Bully: Johnny
- Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Done twice in quick succession, and lampshaded both times.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: According to the cast page, Cody is this. Indeed, he's one of the few named characters without any particular quirks.
A friendly kid in Max’s grade. His most abnormal trait seems to be his tolerance for his friends’ abnormality.
- Running Gag: Isaac, you're too anime.
- Sacrificial Lamb: No one technically dies, but Eightfold falls out of the Ghost Train in Chapter 4 to a place that is apparently nearly impossible for Isabel to find her, effectively removing her from the plot and fulfilling the purpose of the trope. She was at least able to give a heartfelt goodbye before she left.
- Sarcastic Confession: Spender asks Max and Isaac how they snuck into his office. Max replies, "Through the door, mannote ", earning a swift punch in the arm from Isaac.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Mr. Spender has these occasionally. Combined with Adjusting Your Glasses and weaponized here.
- Scenery Porn: The town is very pretty and bright. It's even prettier when it's dark (and crowded with ghosts).
- 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.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Johnny apparently likes to try and bribe the faculty with his muggings.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The rules governing tools lend them to this...even if the "evil" is kind of pathetic...
- Sealed Evil In A Six Pack: Whatever is possessing Max says it "didn't end up with the sense of humor", implying that it's just a part of a bigger threat.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Try Willy Loman.
- Shaping Your Attacks: Isabel's grandpa demonstrates that spectrals can do this, but one wonders at a possible application for dolphin-shaped punches.
- In Chapter 4, one of his students makes a stylized wolf head to grapple an opponent while both of her arms are pinned.
- Sinister Shades: Mr. Spender.
- Slouch of Villainy: Isaac is in this pose before going into a rant about Max the new guy is apparently more accepted by Spender and the others than he is.
- The Smurfette Principle: Isabelle, as far as main characters go.
- Sunglasses at Night: Mr. Spender again.
- Symbol Swearing: Referenced in the Alt Text of this page.
[BLACK EVIL SKULL SPEECH
W-what foul language is this?! Alt Text:
So either Spender doesn't understand the dogs' language or he does and they're just swearing like crazy
- Taking the Bullet: P.J and Lefty in Chapter 2
- Tele-Frag: Occurs in one instance when a spirit spawns right where a character's hand is. It really stinks for both Isabel and Max.
- This Cannot Be!:
- Top-Heavy Guy: Ollie.
- Touched by Vorlons: A normal human can become a spectral by being possessed or spending enough time around a tool.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Mayview is full of crazy people and haunted by supernatural creatures.
- Transformation Of The Possessed: This happens to mediums over time; their physical appearances are influenced by their spirits.
- True Companions: Unlike most bullies and their cronies, Johnny and his gang are true bros 'til the end.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: Attempted and failed by Max who just ends hitting his head.
- The Unreveal: "Wait, giant time-freezing snake? Oh! That's just... ...cool."
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The other members of the Paranatural Activity Club often get up to wacky adventures off camera that are just summed up as "standard fare" rather than explained. Examples: 1 2.
- Voice of the Legion: On chapter 3, page 39, Max briefly speaks with two voices, represented as one speech bubble with two stems.
- The Voiceless: R.J. is described as, "A quiet member of Johnny’s gang of bullies and ne’er-do-wells." They don't speak until Chapter 4, page 69.
- Webcomic Time: The webcomic started May 1st 2011. January 20th, 2015 marks the 4th day Max has been in town.
- Welcome Episode: Chapter 1.
- Wham Episode:
- Chapter three, towards the middle/end of it, is full of WHAM. Johnny sees Isaac use his weather powers, and Max is revealed to be possessed by something bad.
- Wham Line:
- Chapter four, page 146, by Dr. Zarei:
You just trapped us all inside Mayview.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Part of the Doorman's lecture involves the fact that Isaac called him his "shortcut", labeling him for his utility rather than his own being, even if Isaac didn't mean anything by it.
: You refer to me by my function ...how ...human
- A large part of Eightfold's departure stems from the fact that Isabel unconsciously considers her more of an item than an equal.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Delivered bluntly by Lucifer for Spender's long chain of childish, shortsighted actions in one night. Lucifer being Lucifer, this isn't the most morally sound speech, but the fact that Spender put his students' lives in danger multiple times is very effective at breaking his usual coolness deflectors.
- With Great Power: We get a highly effective With Great Power speech in chapter 3. Delivered by a guy with a door handle for a face, no less.
- World of Ham: A good number of Mayview residents are very over-the-top.
- You Keep Using That Word: Max's dad misuses the words 'sext and 'meme', to hilarious effect.
- "You!" Squared: Isaac and Max meet again. Max has had a weird night (and can't remember Isaac's name); not sure what Isaac's excuse is.