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Webcomic / Paranatural

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The (Paranatural) Activity Club: Max, Ed, and Isabel. Missing: Isaac
"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 once a week on Fridays as of March 4, 2019, due to the author's chronic wrist injury.


A fan-made, fan-operated forum for the comic can be found here. The comic was first hosted on ComicFury, and later on Hiveworks. Voxus has a let's read of the first chapter here.

This comic shows examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The student council, along with the vice-principal, makes and enforces the school rules, while manipulating the timid principal. Nobody knows who the student council president is because it was a secret ballot ("I'm pretty sure that's not what that means"), and his Twelve Black Saint Councilor-Generals are too powerful for anyone to challenge. The only one with any ability to fight this oppressive regime is Lisa, who runs the student store, but she only cares about profit. Note that none of this has anything to do with the main plot.
  • Advertisement:
  • Academy of Adventure: Mysterious clubs: check. Weird teachers: check. Paranormal activity that'd detonate a PKE meter: check.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Max in this page.
    Max: I possess a plethora of popularity prerequisites.
  • 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.
  • Alliterative Title: Partial examples with chapter 2 ("Max and the Midnight Visitor") and chapter 5 ("The Activity Club and the Insidious Infiltrator").
  • Alt Text: Shows up on most pages, save for parts of chapter 1.
  • And This Is for...: Isabel on this page as she fights the pixel spirits.
  • Animal Battle Aura: Parodied in the hitball game — Max sees Cody and Jeff with a tiger and dragon looming behind them, respectively. The next panel reveals them to be spirits that wandered onto the court.
  • 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:
  • 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, Muse 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 Mc Coolname: 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...
  • Audience? What Audience?: This page involves Isabel (who up to this point did not previously show Medium Awareness) pointing to her own speech bubbles. Max is understandably confused about what she's pointing at.
  • Badass Bystander: Penny, a waitress at an outdoor mall, falls into a fencing stance and attacks with her pen with perfect accuracy, almost skewering a fly in the eye.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Paranatural loves using this trope, a few examples include:
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    Max: Thank you, Serge. You're not half bad.
    Max: You're, like, 98 percent bad.
  • Battle Aura: Violet and Cody when tensions rise between them, with Violet having an orange aura and Cody having a blue one.
  • Beam of Enlightenment: Max, upon seeing his first spirit, with a side of Color Failure.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ms. Baxter seems relatively normal compared to the other teachers. Until the class gets out of hand...
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Mr. Starchman really doesn't like artists...
  • Be Yourself: After some thought Ed gives this advice to Johnny after Johnny feels out of sorts after Ed defeats him. It backfires, as Johnny loves being a bully.
  • Big Good: What the leader of the Doorman and Nin is alleged 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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall
    • One scene ends with Boss Leader roasting marshmallows, and the next opens with a character elsewhere looking at a bag of marshmallows. The bag is labeled as "soft and digestible, like this scene transition."
    • When Max doesn't recognize someone, the person in question says it's okay because their character design changed a lot in the meantime.
  • Brick Joke: Is that a friend? In the loose sense of the word, sure.
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: Mr. Garcia delivers one of these.
    " here's your textbook, and you can Jeff get a haircut finish this packet at your leisure so that you're caught up."
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: Chapter Five, Page 33's Alt Text says "because i'm a weird psychic and my dad loves me" which is a call back to Chapter Four, Page 55, where Max's dad says the same thing.
  • Cap: Max gets hit by a "hitball" as the number 9999 appears to imply the damage he took.
  • The Casanova: A background character on chapter 1, page 39, panel 4.
  • Cast Herd: Most of the cast can be organized by group. There's the Activity Club, Johnny's gang, the Journalism Club, a group of Max's classmates, and the teachers, for starters. Then there's a few different supernatural factions involved with Mayview: the Consortium, Doorman's group, the Cousinhood, and the group behind the 'dog' spirits.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: The comic is famous for its use of quirky faces and hilarious expressions.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While the comic was most certainly not 100% happiness and rainbows before, it's taken a pretty dark turn with chapter 4.
  • 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.
  • The Chew Toy: Doctopi are harmless, helpful, and adorable. Naturally, they get abused. Multiple times.
  • Clickbait Gag: The ads on one webpage that Ms. Baxter was looking at.
    This Fool Puppy Fell Into A Sewer. What Happens Next Will Warm Your Heart
    This Incredible New Medicine Will Lower Your Credit Score— And Warm Your Heart
    Top 10 Weird Tricks You Won't Believe Will Happens Next Will Warm Your Heart
  • 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. Every spectral has a different colored aura, and within colors there are related but distinct shades. Isabel's is red, Ed's is green, Isaac's is blue, Spender's is yellow, and Max's is black. The only known difference between colors is that a Spectral's color and a Tool's color must match otherwise the Tool will be a normal object. With effort, a Spectral can attempt to use a Tool if their shades fall under the same color, as Mina's lime green is close to the Ghost Train's teal, though this is said to be "no fun for anyone involved". It's also been implied that advanced techniques using spectral energy differ between colors.
  • Color Failure:
  • 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 Missing the Point: Max turns down on offer by his dad to visit their old town over the weekend and avoids explaining why by going to take a shower. Max's dad asks him if his shower is really going to take all weekend.
  • Comically Small Bribe: In Chapter 4, Mr. Garcia tries this on Max... with a Starchman star.
    • Later found out to be a bit less comical when it's revealed Lisa uses them as currency for information. Still funny, though.
  • 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:
    • Several spirit characters speak in a cypher language called High Spirit. The cypher was decoded by fans only a few days after its first use.
    • Shortly afterward, when Max sees Isaac talk to his spirit, the Alt Text says "Easy, 4chan, it's just random squiggles this time".
    • He kicked it up a notch with Cursed Words, the second cypher language, this time represented by pairs of skulls. Each pair decodes to a specific word located somewhere in the comic's own archives, with the parts of the skulls representing the chapter, page number, and how many words into the page it is. A pain to read, but undeniably creative.
  • "Darkness von Gothick" Name: Boss Leader doesn't know Spender's middle name, so she makes up ones for him like "Darkstorme" or "Nightfox".
  • Dead All Along: A crowd of students in the first chapter turn out to all be ghosts.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Max, mainly, but also... pretty much everyone else.
  • Death Glare: Suzy levels a couple at Dimitri. The first one is effective, but the second one fails.
  • Defeat Means Friendship:
    • To an extent. Johnny seems less hostile towards Max after kicking his butt. The same seems to go for Lefty.
    • A more straightforward example in Chapter 5: Johnny and RJ's interrogation of Ed ends with Ed beating up both of them. Johnny shortly afterwards implies that Ed is now his friend ("The best friendships really are forged through fights violence") and states his desire to hang out with him again after the trio beat up Mr. Starchman. RJ also seems to have befriended Ed through this incident.
  • Deus ex Machina: Just when Max is about to fall off the Ghost Train, a large, heretofore unseen insectoid spirit catches him, gently lowers him onto the Train's roof, and then flies off without a word. Max sums up the readers' reaction.
  • 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.
  • Double Standard: Spender refuses to tell Isaac what he wants to know because he's a medium for a violent spirit. Later, it's revealed that Spender is the vessel for an extremely dangerous spirit, but he's still in charge of the Activity Club and an agent for the Activity Consortium. Granted, it's unknown if his superiors and colleagues are even aware of this, which kind of makes it worse either way.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Lucifer and Hijack argue over this. Lucifer favors cold reason, arguing that basing morality on feelings is a dangerous path to go down. Hijack argues that being emotionally removed from the consequences of your actions is just as dangerous.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Alex, the girl who actually did give Max the note in Chapter 5 claims to know what the word before "Activity" is. This initially has Max nervous, but then she reveals that she really doesn't by saying "Extraterrestrial," instead of "Paranatural". Amusingly, her reasoning has some basis in the truth.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first thing Stephen sees upon encountering Ritz Price-Lee is her kicking a Hijacked dog around while recording a conversation to herself as if she was talking to her lover.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Doctopi. They can't heal you, but they work as a good painkiller. Which is exactly what Max calls the Doctopi PJ puts on his arm, PK for short.
  • 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. Many of the human characters get in on this too, such as Collin's pie-shaped eyes and RJ's concentric green irises.
  • Eyedscreen: Invoked by Isaac using two black notebooks.
  • Eye Am Watching You: RJ gives this gesture to Ed in the fourth panel of this page.
  • 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.
  • 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. On the other end, Isabel's grandfather considers Tools unreliable, despite the fact that the majority of Spectrals shown use them.
  • Fish-Eye Lens: In chapter 1, when Max realizes that the students crowding the hallway were all ghosts.
  • Flashback Cut: In chapter 5, Max looks off and has a flashback to recall the plan that he discussed moments ago, allowing the audience to know what he's up to. The flashback only lasts three panels before Dimitri asks him to "stop wasting time having a flashback to things that happened seconds ago," only for Max to defiantly have a flashback to Dimitri telling him to stop having a flashback.
  • Flat "What.": Max, when a giant snake(-ish?) spirit suddenly interrupts his fight with the frog-whale.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Gorf alludes to the existence of mediums before we learn about them the next chapter.
    • One in chapter 3, for chapter 5. On this page you can see a book about aliens next to the brown-eyed girl. In chapter five, she reveals her theory about the activity club being involved with aliens.
    • PJ's magical journey following Max into the school and constantly saving him: Him hearing out how friends have each others' backs, two times Max feels he's being followed, and twice he aids Max without him finding him, finally culminating in here, with all the prior events shown
  • 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, and 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. Johnny has absolutely no problem being cordial to Max and also with beating him up for no given reason.
  • Fun T-Shirt: So many of them. So many. (Isaac's "CLOTHING" t-shirt was even available as merch for a while.)
  • Funny Background Event:
  • 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. In Chapter 5, Johnny, Ollie and R.J. harass Jeff, and later Johnny and R.J. interrogate Ed.
  • Genre-Busting: An Urban Fantasy high-school Dramedy with a gratuitous amount of Anime tropes, Kricfalusi faces, and Chekhov's Armory. See also, Wrong Genre Savvy below.
  • 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
  • Ghost Train: Chapter 4 is named "The Activity Club and the Ghost Train." It features... members of the activity club going for a ride on the eponymous Ghost Train.
  • 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+
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger:
  • Go Out with a Smile: There was something similar to this. While the character in question didn't die, as Eightfold is falling into the underground where she'll be trapped indefinitely, she smiles at a distraught Isabel and attempts to say she feels the same, just as their mental connection is severed by distance.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
  • 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.
  • Halloween Cosplay: Noncanon examples. Zack posted these on their Twitter page:
  • Has Two Thumbs and...: Max does this in the background, but uses his pointer finger instead of his thumbs. He silently corrects himself in the next two panels.
  • Hidden Eyes:
    • Spender gets a shadow over his eyes as he lies to avoid Zarei's inquiry, with lampshading from the alt text that he could have made the shadow with his own powers for theatrics' sake.
    • Zarei after reading some messages from Spender.
    • Cody has a shadow over his eyes after meeting Jeff again after hitball, but quickly covers it with a smile.
  • Human Resources: Specifically averted in the alt-text for this bonus page.
    "the HR department of the activity consortium has a disappointingly standard function considering the immense horror potential of the phrase Human Resources"
  • Hurricane of Puns: The comments section and, occasionally, the alt text.
    • Literally this whole page from Doorman to Isaac, who is possessed by a storm spirit.
      Doorman: I have heard its rumblings time and again since we first met... Deep anger storms inside you.
      Isaac: ...You really like using weather metaphors with me, huh?
      Doorman: Yes, you're right.
      Beat rain.
  • Hypocritical Humor
    Isabel's Grandpa: Arrogant girl! How could an immaculate and majestic being such as myself produce a descendant with such a flaw?!
    • The being possessing Jeff has no problem using innocent dogs and children as hosts but is shocked at the Vice Principal's behavior:
    "Jeff": Wait, you mean you didn't know I'm— Do you stalk and capture NORMAL students...?!
  • 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.
  • In Medias Res: Chapter 5 opens with the activity club bursting into the teacher's lounge at lunch. It then cuts back to morning and proceeds from there.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: In chapter 5, Johnny mistakes Jeff for Isaac and tries to bully him to get information about the Activity Club. When he finds out Jeff doesn't know, he says, "what a waste of good violence." During the Hitball game, when Jeff is possessed by Hijack and giving Johnny a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, he says these words right back.
  • 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:
    Max: Isaac, I sphinx you should calm down.
    Isaac: Max.
    Max: I'm just saying, you seem a riddle bit mad.
    Isaac: Max.
    Johnny: What are you? An out-of-work doctor? Have some patients!
    Ollie: Johnny I just lost a lot of respect for you.
  • 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..."
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others:
    Black market greens include jive chives, radesques, and drug carrots
    • Isaac lists some causes of people turning into spectrals:
    "A near death experience, prolonged exposure to supernatural phenomena, a diet obnoxiously high in citrus..."
  • Literal Metaphor: When confronted by two formidable opponents in a game of Hitball, Max thinks to himself there are two monsters on the opposite side of a field, a tiger and a dragon. Then a fish spirit descends from the ceiling and yells at a phantom tiger and a phantom dragon that were literally walking across the field during the Hitball game.
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Hitball was created to get around the dodgeball ban. It's almost exactly like dodgeball.
    • During hitball, a background character is covered in duct tape, sticking balls thrown at her to her. She's not out because the balls haven't hit the ground, and balls that hit those balls technically don't hit her at all.
    • This trope is the bane of the Vice Principal's existence when it comes to school rules, even when it isn't intentional. Such loopholes do not last very long around her. See also Obvious Rule Patch.
  • 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.
  • Magnetism Manipulation: Max's weapon is a baseball bat which acts as a giant mentally controlled magnet.
  • 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.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: By Doorman of all characters
  • 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 of 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.
  • Medium Blending: This page puts live action actor heads over the drawn characters in a speech bubble.
  • Metaphorgotten: Spender's attempt to explain why ghosts can't use tools gets... a little off-track.
  • Missing Mom: Max's mother died sometime before the story began.
  • 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?"
    • Hijack!Jeff has just thrown a Hitball so hard that it puts a hole in concrete. Everyone on the field and looks in shock at the impossible throw as each panel cuts to a different person, only for Cody to end the reaction panels by happily complimenting Jeff on his throw. Lampshaded by everyone else, who yell at Cody for not keeping with the tone of the moment.
  • 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:
    • Defied by Johnny. When confronted with a fence:
      Ollie: Here, Johnny, get on my shoulders and climb—
    • The Alt Text continues the joke:
      Ollie: Well. how about I just like, throw you over-
    • In a more traditional example, Ed hangs his clothes on ink lines and writes himself notes in midair. According to The Rant on the next page, this only works because those clothes are possessed. He also drew himself a new face when it got erased by a spirit (and immediately regretted it).
    • Francisco's dojo uses tools possessed by minor spirits as targets for practicing spectral energy attacks, because the spirits make them tangible to spectral energy.
    • Agent Day is blind, and gets her spirit to read things for her, like restaurant menus.
  • Nerd Glasses: Max's dad wears half-moon glasses.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Agent Savage jumped the gun and killed the Ghost Train, thus trapping every single spirit and spectral in Mayview for a while given the Ghost Train's size and slight color incompatibility with Mina, which cause it to heal slower than normal.
  • 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, possibly 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 sphinx 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.
    • It's hinted that multiple characters do this in order to conceal the whole spectral business. Ed exaggerates his eccentricities, and Dimitri plays the idiot to screw up Suzy's attempts at recording an Activity Club conversation.
    Ed: Peeps won't deduce the whole spirit ghost secret spectral superpowers thing from a bit of weird behavior. They'll just think yer crazy! And if ya really own it, they might even like you! Ha ha!
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Vice Principal excretes these like bodily fluids. See also Loophole Abuse.
  • 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".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Chapter 4, page 82:
    Max: [to Isabel] Why is your lack of unsettling battle grin so unsettling?
  • 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.
    • This page originally had the Unsound Effect GENUINE DISTRESS from Mr. Spender and Isaac in the hypothetical situation where Max loses his head.
    • 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 they wanted to play that moment straight.
    • Jeff's full name, revealed on chapter 5, page 49, was changed from Jeffrey to Jeffavorite.
    • After Isaac was revealed to be thirteen, one of his lines here was changed from "the strength and reflexes of a 12 year old child?!" to "the strength and reflexes of a small child?!"
    • This page originally had Max wearing pants instead of shorts, and Spender holding a walkie-talkie instead of a cellphone.
  • 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).
    • We've yet to learn what Hijack is, because he's some kind of artificial spirit creation that doesn't interact with spectral energy like everything else does.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Dave seems to be a vampire.
  • Painting the Medium:
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Vice Principal's Normal Kid disguise, which consists of attaching a dummy body to her nose and wearing a camouflage tarp.
  • Perspective Magic: One Consortium agent's tool has the power to squeeze things from a distance, as if they were small instead of just far away.
  • 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.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Spender keeping vital information from Isaac (or his spirit) could be headed towards disaster since it's giving him (and his spirit) a huge inferiority complex.
    • Dr. Zarei's spirit Patchworm wants to avert this, or at least head off some potentially unnecessary plotting:
      Dr. Zarei: If Mayview's chosen Richard Spender and his toddler squad as the epicenter of its latest conspiracy, I'll want as many friendly eyes in their midst as I can get.
      Patchworm: you don't need to spy on him, Mina
      talk to him
      he is still your friend
  • 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.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: There's a wallpaper available for download which shows the main characters in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Ed is shown with a gas mask.
  • Powers via Possession: Mediums.
  • 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.
    • Chapter five establishes Johnny's friend Ollie as the son of Coach Oop, making him Ollie Oop.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes:
  • Rainbow Speak:
  • Rapid Fire Interrupting: This page.
  • Reality Ensues: The comic makes frequent use of this for humor's sake. In other words, Rule of Cool is sometimes trumped by Rule of Funny.
    • Brought up by Max when Johnny threatens him:
      Johnny: Here's a headline fer that news chick: "Nerd Drug Into Alley, Reveals Secrets, Innards"
      Max: NOT A CHANCE!! The past tense of "drag" is "dragged" and the editor will probably catch that, so—
    • Spender talks to the club dramatically while facing the window, but they can't hear him very well because he's facing away from them.
    • Spender jumps from a roof to the ground, then immediately falls over because a landing from that height is rough on the ankles.
    • Isaac tries to use an air blast while dangling from the ground, but it ends up pushing him instead of who he was aiming at.
    • Ed tries to skate on a locker door, but skids to a stop because it doesn't have wheels.
  • "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.
    • Hijack gives one to Johnny about his aimless bullying.
    • Then, the day after, Spender's own spirit Lucifer turns a nasty one onto him after Spender brushes off Lucifer's instructions to get help from Zarei. A lot of bottled-up feelings come out.
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Done twice in quick succession, and lampshaded both times.
  • Retcon: One of the notes in the journalism club room states the name of the Vice Principal as DuMont. Zack later stated on Twitter that the character's name was changed to DuNacht.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Isaac's weather powers are shown when he keeps the papers away from him with wind.
    • Knowing what a Doctopus is, it explains why Johnny didn't feel anything after Max's scooter landed on his face.
    • The entirety of Chapter 5, following the two-fer reveal that Hijack a) was after Spender, and b) is working for Zarei.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: According to the cast page, Cody is this. Indeed, he's one of the few named characters without any particular quirks. Except for being the secret Student Council president and also possibly a vampire, that is.
    A friendly kid in Max’s grade. His most abnormal trait seems to be his tolerance for his friends’ abnormality.
  • Rivals Team Up: Max and Johnny versus Hijack!Jeff in Chapter 5.
  • 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.
    • The Vice Principal does it 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.
  • Serious Business: The Hitball match in Chapter 5 turns into this when Hijack decides that the best way to hack into the school records is to get his meat-puppet Jeff suspended for "Hitting someone really, REALLY HARD with a ball". There's an anime showdown of various kids with superpowers versus a reflex-sensitive expert with the power to make his meat-puppets super strong.
  • 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.
  • Ship Tease: Agent Day is more than a little "charmed" upon meeting Dr. Zarei, and the former looks like she's in heaven when she rides backseat on the latter's motorcycle.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Suzy fancies herself the most popular reporter in the school, but has often trouble finding stories for the school paper and frequently resorts to spying on the other clubs, stealing from the local Information Broker, and downright lying to turn out a measly pamphlet.
    Suzy: Collin, this story is golden.
    Colin: Yellow. You mean yellow.
    Suzy: Oh, hush. We're not being paid to tell the truth.
    Colin: We're not being paid at all! We are an unofficial middle school newspaper!
  • The Smurfette Principle: Isabelle, as far as main characters go.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: The Mayview barrier is barely perceptible most of the time, but touching it makes it ripple and go "zoop zoop zoop".
  • Sunglasses at Night: Mr. Spender again.
  • Super-Deformed: This page shows an overhead view of the school with all the students and staff in chibi form.
  • Super Speed: Spectrals with a spirit can use this by being pulled into their mind realm, which slows down the world around them.
  • Symbol Swearing: Referenced in the Alt Text of this page.
    Spender: 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
  • Synchronization: Spirits within tools are more than just chatty sidekicks, they can share their wielder's physical sense of pain.
  • Tele-Frag: A respawning pixelhound spawns around Isabel's hand. It kills the hound without doing damage to Isabel, who then uses this knowledge to defeat the hounds by making them repeatedly respawn inside each other, causing an infinite loop.
  • That Man Is Dead: Collin apologizes to Max for letting him get hit with the Golden Switch in dodgeball, only for Lisa to stop him, because since he's on the other team, he's as good as dead. Lisa then holds a disturbed Collin who attempts to get away.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Referenced by Isabel when Ed uses Super Speed at school.
  • This Cannot Be!:
    Johnny: The Friendship Fusion...defeated!? I-Imposs..
    • Cody when he gets hit in hitball.
  • Thunder Shock:
    • Cody in the middle panel of this page, when he realizes he lost sight of Max.
    • Max in the last panel of this page, when the other student reveals her knowledge of the activity club.
    • A bright zigzag passes behind Max and Zarei's heads as they look at their phones and receive some shocking news.
  • Toilet Humour: After Hijack stops possessing a dog to take a human host, the dog farts with some Bishie Sparkle and runs back home.
  • 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 and tools 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.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Unlike in almost all comics and cartoons, the entire cast actually wears different clothing each day. You can easily keep track of time by when they change.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Attempted and failed by Max who just ends hitting his head.
  • The Un-Reveal: "Wait, giant time-freezing snake? Oh! That's just..."
  • 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.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: Lucifer uses this as the reason why Spender and crew will eventually lose, along with a good dose of trash talking his optimism. If all his side is good for is licking wounds and letting their emotions get the better of them, then there's no way they can stop evil from eventually winning.
  • 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.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Hijack can make anyone he controls super-strong by using his spirit strings to unleash their true potential, but if they're grappled then his spirit strings are pinched and he can control but can't buff.note 
  • Webcomic Time: The webcomic started May 1st 2011. January 20th, 2015 marks the 4th day Max has been in town.
  • Weird Currency: The students use Starchman Stars (which Mr. Starchman hands out for class participation) to barter among each other. Lisa, especially, bleeds every last star from her customers at the student store.
  • Welcome Episode: Chapter 1.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: One of the themes of the comic is extremists using good intentions to justify evil deeds... even if the deeds have nothing to do with their good intentions.
    • Spender is a lesser example of this theme. His goals are still unclear, but he discusses killing one of his coworkers to keep things hidden, and Isabel's grandfather claims that one day someone more heroic than him is going to end up killing him. Spender's boss knows he's obviously up to something, but also knows that not everything he is hiding is important. She jokes that she doesn't even know his middle name.
      Boss Leader: I suspect he keeps secrets from me more out of habit at this point.
    • Forge is a powerful fire spirit who did many terrible things when he was younger in pursuit of the greater good. While he claims to have changed, and has come to Mayview to serve "the angel" since her moral compass is far more reliable than his own, he still hasn't learned his lesson. He scratches a near-mortal wound in the Ghost Train merely as a distraction, and then blames Spender when this action puts Spender's kids in danger.
    • Hijack is a spirit who can puppeteer human bodies. He takes control of Jeff partly because he needs to get inside the teacher's lounge, but also because he feels bad that Jeff was bullied and wants to give him some vengeance. Except then he attacks Max (in order to get in trouble and get sent to the teacher's lounge), despite Max having done absolutely nothing wrong. Max calls him out on this, saying he's just another bully. Isabel says something similar.
      Isabel: He has fun hurting people, so his evil heart tells him it's for a good cause.
    • It's implied the Consortium's rivals the Cousinhood imagine themselves to be monster hunters destroying dangerous creatures and people to save the world when they might be killing innocents out of prejudice.
  • 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.
    • Chapter four has several more Wham Pages. We find out there's a barrier around Mayview that will complicate Max's plans to find his mom. Isabel loses her tool and dear friend Eightfold. There are three Bait-and-Switch moments where Max nearly dies. We find out Spender is possessed by a great evil, and it nearly escapes. Johnny and his gang see the Activity Club floating in mid-air. Johnny is possessed by Forge. And then the ghost train dies, making it impossible to pass the barrier.
    • Pages 229-235 of Chapter 5 were released as a single big update, and for good reason. It is revealed that Mr. Spender has been controlled by Hijack since he encountered Jeff at the principal's office and Hijack was sent in by Dr. Zarei to find out what Spender is hiding from her.
  • Wham Line:
    • Chapter 1, page 32, after Max yells at Suzy to slow down because he's stuck in a crowd.
      Suzy: Huh? Crowd? ...But this hallway's practically empty.
    • Chapter four, page 146:
      Dr. Zarei: You just trapped us all inside Mayview.
    • Subversion in Chapter 5.
      Girl: because the real secret i know... is the word before "activity".
      the extraterrestrial activity club!
    • Later in chapter 5:
      Dave: [to Cody] Very well. It's your school… Mr. President.
  • 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.
      Doorman: You refer to me by my function ...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.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: At first. Mayview and Boxborough were at least known to be in the same state, given how Suzy talks about Baxborough. Then Max's inspiration for stunt-jumping was revealed to be a public-access TV show set in Neo-Pittsburgh, supposedly putting both in Pennsylvania.
  • Who's on First?: In the background here, Ed and Isaac spend a bit of time confused about Jim. And the gym.
  • Wild Take: Lots thereof. The comic is rife with exaggerated expressions, now an integral part of its style.
  • 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.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Combined with Genre Savvy at the same time. The webcomic does an excellent job of having every minor side character as the protagonist of their own story, but the genres vary wildly.
    • Max is the protagonist of a silly webcomic.
    • Isaac is a shonen anime.
    • Isabelle is a wuxia flick.
    • Cody's in a less overtly fantastical anime than Isaac.
    • Collin's in a workplace comedy.
    • Spender's in one of those TV shows about everyone lying and scheming and keeping secrets from each other.
    • Mr. Starchman is the host of an edutainment TV series.
    • Stephen hosts a radio show about History Channel-esque conspiracies.
    • Boss Leader does prank videos.
    • Max's Dad is the protagonist of a comedy sitcom.
    • Susie is in a teen focused Disney sitcom based around the School Newspaper, as written by one of their edgier guys.
    • Violet is in a teen drama on the CW, possibly involving love triangles both real and imagined.
  • 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.