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Paranatural is a weird, humorous Web Comic made by Zack Morrison a.k.a. Midnighttelevision.
It stars a sarcastic preteen 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 over the top facial expressions, making mundane actions seem more awesome than they should be, indulging in wordplay and making fun of anime tropes, and the fact that almost everyone in Mayview is crazy in one way or another.
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.
This comic shows examples of the following tropes:
- 555: When Stephen looks at the lost dog board in Chapter 6, all of the phone numbers start with 555.
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: According to Collin, when the mysterious new Student Council President was elected, the Student Council (along with the Vice Principal) began passing a large number of rules in order to send kids to detention for minor infractions. The principal is too timid to challenge this, and most of the student body doesn't have enough power to fight the large number of Council members. The only resistance faction with enough clout to do so is run by a leader who's Only in It For the Money. None of this affects the main plot for now.
- Academy of Adventure: Mysterious clubs: check. Weird teachers: check. Paranormal activity that'd detonate a PKE meter: check.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Max pulls this sometimes. One example is when he's talking to Suzy in Chapter 3:
I possess a plethora of popularity prerequisites.
- Adjusting Your Glasses: Mr. Spender combines this with Scary Shiny Glasses in order to throw light shurikens at an opponent.
- Adult Child: Max's father. His lifelong dream was to own a convenience store, and he spends multiple hours messing with the sliding doors of his new home.
- Affectionate Parody: Paranatural loves to parody anime and kid's adventure tropes. It also straddles the line between making fun of the common elements of both and playing them straight. An example of the tropes being played straight is when Forge explains his motivations to Spender during their fight.
- During the more serious moments, Deconstructive Parody comes into play. Lucifer's lectures to Spender are one example.
- Alliterative Title: Chapter 2 (Max and the Midnight Visitor) and Chapter 5 (The Activity Club and the Insidious Infiltrator) are partial examples.
- Alt Text: Shows up on most pages, but not all. The missing alt texts are due to the comic's move from SmackJeeves, and alt text is reliably shown on every page after Chapter 1, Page 24.
- Animal Battle Aura: Chapter 5 has a subversion: Max sees Jeff and Cody with a dragon and a tiger behind them respectively, but the next panel reveals that they're just spirits messing around on the court.
- Animesque: The comic enjoys parodying anime tropes. Isaac's character (spiky, ridiculous hair, desire to do good things but has a temper, tendency to overreact or attempt to be dramatic etc.) is especially notable.
- The Hitball game in Chapter 5 is one big love letter to sports anime tropes, while also lampooning them.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Reasons a person can become a spectral (according to Isaac) include a near-death experience, prolonged exposure to supernatural phenomena, or a diet that's obnoxiously high in citrus.
- Art Evolution: After about ten strips, the art becomes fully coloured.
- Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Spirits have a habit of winding up in an object related to their powers:
- Eightfold, a paper-controlling spirit, is housed in a thick book. Possibly Justified since she keeps herself in a Tool on purpose to continue working with Isabel.
- Muse, an ink-manipulating spirit, is housed in a paintbrush.
- A spirit with the power to erase things winds up in a pencil eraser.
- Awesome McCoolname: Mr Starchman seems to think this of Max. Of course, he's completely and utterly insane, so it's not really worth much...
- Badass Abnormal: Implied with Isaac, who can see ghosts but hasn't been shown to have a tool or any other spectral powers.
- Batter Up: Max's tool is a metal baseball bat.
- Be Yourself: Ed gives this advice to Johnny after the latter reveals his insecurity about how others see him. Johnny takes this to mean he should keep bullying people, because that's what he truly loves doing.
- Bizarrchitecture: The Activity Consortium's Dream Base has a corkscrew-shape, flying elevators, and multiple multicolored floors as far as the eye can see. There are also multiple doors coating the walls, each having different sizes and shapes. As this is a location in a dream world, it's justified.
- Blinding Bangs: Jeff's poofy afro covers half his face.
- Blood Knight: Ed and Isabella both love fighting spirits, but Izzy loves it to a downright scary degree.
"We flipped a coin to see who'd risk going in! (creepy grin) I lost."
- Bond One-Liner: Ed in Chapter 2:
"Welp! I guess you could say he's... dead."
- Breathless Non-Sequitur: Mr. Garcia delivers one of these.
- Broken Masquerade:
- Johnny fakes being unconscious after hitting a rock, and witnesses Isaac shooting lightning as a result.
- In Chapter 4, Johnny's whole gang spot the Activity Club members (and Agent Day) "floating" (riding the Ghost Train) past them.
- Cap: A Damage Cap variety occurs in Chapter 5, when Max gets hit for 9999 damage by a ball.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: All of the chapter titles are structured in this manner.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: PJ frequently sports these.
Mr. Spender: Black spectral energy?! That's....fairly common.
- Color-Coded Characters: The spectral kids tend to wear clothes that match their spectral energy. In addition, the panels sometimes tint the characters in their respective colors, such as the last panel on this page.
- Color-Coded Wizardry: Similar to Color-Coded Characters, each spectral has a specific color of energy they create and can manipulate (Ed has green, Isabel has red, Isaac has blue, Mr. Spender has yellow, and Max has black). Spirits and their spectral have to have matching or close-to-matching colors in order to be able to work together, or else the spirit can't use the spectral's energy to reform itself and the spectral can't use the spirit's powers. If the spirit and spectral are close enough in color, they can have some relationship with each other, although it's said to be "no fun for anyone involved".
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lots of kids and adults alike are a little weird, but Ed and Max's dad take the cake.
- Combining Mecha/Fusion Dance: Parodied with Johnny and pals' "friendship fusion".
- Deadpan Snarker: Max of course, due to his below mentioned status as only sane man. According to him one of his super powers is "The ability to conjure an impenetrable wall of cynicism."
- Defeat Means Friendship:
- Johnny uses this trope quite a bit, regardless of the victor:
- Johnny seems less hostile towards Max after kicking his butt, and later confesses that he wants to be friends with the new kid.
- After Ed defeats Johnny and RJ in combat, Johnny declares Ed his friend, saying "the best friendships really are forged through fights violence".
- When Johnny encounters Jeff after the latter tried to pummel him in Hitball, he breaks his restraints in order to high-five him.
- Lefty gets on better terms with Max after he defeats him.
- Johnny uses this trope quite a bit, regardless of the victor:
- Expy: Max's dad is a dead ringer for Kamon Nandaba, minus the glasses.
- Extracurricular Enthusiast: Suzy, bravely straddling the line between "intrepid student journalist" and "domestic terrorist."
- 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 of P Js eyes. Holy crap.
- The Faceless: R.J.'s face is almost always hidden in the shadow of their hood. The only times this is averted are in a flashback sequence (where their face is visible) and when their hood gets knocked off by a passing car.
- Boss Leader's face is completely covered in bandages due to her spirit's power to control dreams.
- 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.
- Friendly Enemy: Johnny and Max have something like this going on.
- Genki Girl: Suzy. Comes complete with bipolar mood swings and taking her work for the school news paper very seriously.
- Genre Savvy: Isabel initially refuses to come to Max's house to take care of a very creepy but not yet aggressive spirit. Max accuses her of being a skeptical slasher movie cop.
- Improbable Weapon User: The "tools" used by the activity club to fight monsters include such things as paintbrushes and books.
- Invisible to Normals: Few people can see the supernatural creatures. The power of some tools (Ed's ink, for example) can only be seen by spectrals as well.
- 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.
- Little Miss Snarker: Isabel's casual sarcasm is at its most noticeable when she's arguing with her grandpa, but she throws a few quips at Isaac and Max here and there.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name:
- A lot of spirits tend to have a name that ties in with their power.
- Lucifer is a spirit that controls light.
- Forge is able to heat and reshape metal.
- Muse can utilize ink to create structures.
- Gorf is a backwards ("reflected") version of "Frog".
- Isabel's last name is Guerra, the Spanish word for "war". It fits her battle-prone tendencies.
- A lot of spirits tend to have a name that ties in with their power.
- Medium Awareness:
- Missing Mom: Max's mother died a few years before he moved to Mayview.
- Nice Hat: Max's cap.
- Noodle Incident: Something regarding mister Garcia and a pizza.
- Oh Crap: Max has shown over the top versions of this expression a few times.
- Only Sane Man: Max.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: "Ghosts" are dead people; "spirits" were never alive and run the gamut of weirdness. All ghosts (it's as-of-yet unclear if the same applies to spirits) have a special power that is fully subject to the Superpower Lottery (one ghost can only conjure pretty glowing butterflies). Other ghost-related terminology includes "poltergeist" (a ghost that can manipulate physical objects) and "shade" (the indistinct, shadowy blobs that people see when their sixth sense is first awakened).
- Paper Master: Isabel's spirit, Eightfold, has this power and lets Isabel use it by extension.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Ed delivers quite a nice one at the end of chapter 2, page 21, but it shrivels in comparison to his death threat in the following page. Don't believe? Compare them.
- Punny Name: PJ, a pajama-clad ghost living in Max's house. Although he would like you to know that his nickname was PJ before he died in his pajamas.
- Ollie is revealed to be the son of Coach Oop in Chapter 5, making his name Ollie Oop.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: According to the cast page, Cody is this. Indeed, he's one of the few named characters without any strange quirks.
A friendly kid in Max’s grade. His most abnormal trait seems to be his tolerance for his friends’ abnormality.
- Scenery Porn: The town is very pretty and bright. It's even prettier when it's dark (and crowded with ghosts).
- Shaping Your Attacks: As demonstrated by Isabel's grandpa, spectral energy can be shaped into whatever form the user wishes with enough concentration.
- During Isabel's training match, her opponent makes a wolf head out of her spectral energy and uses it to hold Isabel's arm.
- Sinister Scythe: One application of Ed's powers.
- The Starscream: Isaac is a cheerfully benign one towards Mr. Spender.
"I will dance on your grave, sir."
- Some Kind of Force Field: The barrier surrounding Mayview normally isn't visible, but if spirits or spectrals try to touch it, it ripples and makes noise.
- Sunglasses At Night: Mr. Spender always wears sunglasses, as they're his tool.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Mayview is full of crazy people and haunted by supernatural creatures.
- Transformation of the Possessed: Occurs to both Tools and Mediums- as the spirit residing in them gains strength, the possessed person/object takes on more attributes of the spirit. Isaac, for example, has spiky hair due to King C.
- Webcomic Time: As of Chapter 2 Page 12, Paranatural has been running for 8 months, meanwhile only around 32 hours have actually passed within the comic itself.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The "Super Max Speed-Changing Cool Technique", the soup can throw, and other things.
- X Meets Y: Eerie Indiana crossed with Codename: Kids Next Door.