Chninkel

What comic books did you read as a kid? Me? I grew up reading Thorgal and Funky Koval and Chninkel. These graphic novels were way above my maturity level, and I would be oblivious to their more complex nuances, but I loved them nevertheless. I would giggle at the strong sexual contents, and would marvel at the complexity of the sf or fantasy worlds they depicted. Every few years I would pick up these books and re-read them and each time I did it, I would understand them better and find something that I missed on the previous reading.

Sadly, I no longer have any copies of Funky Koval and Thorgal. They got borrowed and not returned, or still slowly rot at the bottom of a book case at my mom’s house, and ocean away from my current location. Fortunately I kept a copy of Chninkel and I was able to re-read it once again some time ago – this time around as a grown ass man. And you know what?

Chninkel - The Cover

Chninkel - The Cover

It’s still pretty damn good. Violent, bloody, full of explicit sexuality, irreverent, dirty but also rather clever, imaginative, funny and well written. I’d highly recommend it to all comic enthusiasts, and manga lovers who are willing to venture out and check out European comic scene. Sadly, up until now I could never find an English version of the book.

In the last few weeks however I begun to see it pop up everywhere. Apparently a scanlation group Manga-Sketchbook has released an unofficial English translation very recently. And since the internet is a great machine for caching and copying data the book has been replicated on dozens of different websites.

Chninkel - The 3 Armies

Chninkel - The 3 Armies

If you are interested in reading it, I recommend the copy at Manga Volume. You can read it right in your browser with a clean, and easy to use interface. If that’s down there is a similar online copy at FindManga.com, AnumeA, Manga Gamestotal and AnyManga.com.

If you hate these online readers you can always download all 10 chapters from Reality Lapse here. The whole thing is broken down into 10 zip files which makes it a bit inconvenient but that’s what we have for now.

Chninkel - J'On meets the elders

Chninkel - J'On meets the elders

I scanned through the scanlation and it seems faithful to the original, but the translation seems a bit shaky in places. Granted, I only read a Polish translation myself (the book was originally written in French). Still, the English version of J’On (the main character) looses a of his dry, sarcastic wit. Still, Manga Sketchbook folks did an amazing job either way. Translating fiction is extremely difficult – and despite popular belief it has nothing to do with fluency in a given language. It requires a lyrical soul, strong literary intuition and a way with words in the destination language. A translator has to not only faithfully convert messages between two languages. She has to be able to replace un-translatable local idioms to equivalent ones, be able to carry over the puns, wordplay and innuendos of the original without losing the overall message and much more. Translating a graphic novel is a herculean task, and anyone attempting to do it in their free time should be given props.

The story takes place in a fantasy world of Daar ravaged by a centuries long war waged between armies of the three immortal rulers of the realm. No one even remembers the reason for the war, or how it started. It is simply a fact of life that the armies of the immortals must battle every time Daar’s two suns meet in the sky. Like clockwork their armies roll out, and engage in ritualized mindless slaughter. There are no goals, no objectives, no strategy – just three armies clashing at a battlefield and fighting until no one is left standing.

Kolds - the evil Dwarfs

Kolds - the evil Dwarfs

After one of such battles, J’On – a sole survivor left to die on a battlefield has a vision. A creator of the universe appears to him (taking a form suspiciously similar to the Monolith from Clarke’s Space Odyssey) and tasks him with ending the war. If he fails to do it the world will be destroyed.

The only problem is that J’On is a Chninkel – member of a diminutive slave race, and as such he has no say in the grand politics of the warring nations. His people are used as cheap labor, cannon flooder and often as living foot stools. Member of the higher races would quicker kill a Chninkel than to listen to his advice. How could someone as J’On bring about peace on a world that knew only war for centuries? Why would a creator deity choose such an unlikely creature to be his prophet?

J'On and the Immortals

J'On and the Immortals

The answer is simple – a creator of billions of worlds has no time or patience to look for a better candidate. J’On was around, and thus he got the job. Being a slave is irrelevant, because in the eyes of the creator all living things are equal.

And so, J’On becomes the unlikely hero and a messiah of his people. He sets out on a heroes journey, gathers followers, disciples, performs miracles (usually by accident or using magic, rather than the divine might he was supposedly granted) and pisses off all the immortals in the process.

Rosinski and Van Hamme take the Unlikely Hero trope and combine it with the Messianic Archetype. In fact, J’On’s story parallels that of another famous messiah quite closely. It is basically a story about a savior who was born to a bizarre fantasy world as a lowly slave, has no divine origin, no divine powers, no confidence and no inclination to be a messianic figure. What if the savior was just a cowardly, shifty, horny little guy who just wants to be left alone.

I highly recommend giving it a read. The black and white artwork is excellent, the world is captivating, imaginative and demented and the story is well written and executed flawlessly. Its’ a sweeping epic, broad in it’s scope but fast paced, interesting and clever. If you were ever curious about the European comic book scene, read Chninkel. It’s a classic!

Oh, and a word of warning: the book can be a bit raunchy in places. Some panels are definitely NSFW. I wouldn’t even say anything but after living in US for more than 10 years not I know some people can be a bit touchy in regards to any kind of nudity, even if it’s hand drawn. So, if you are more on the prudish side, or easily offended – handle with care. Otherwise dig in! It’s free, and I believe it is somewhat legal. To my knowledge the book was never released in English so the scanlation doesn’t infringe on anyone’s copyright yet. At least I don’t think so. Well… It’s a gray area.

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7 Responses to Chninkel

  1. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Desktop comic readers (they’re just basically apps that allow you to browse image files) usually have native zip handling capabilities. One such reader that I use is CDisplay.

    Thanks for recommending these! I need to read something different than just Naruto every week. :P

    (Hmm. Did I just admit to reading Naruto?)

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  2. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Well, the English translation doesn’t look very good to me. The title is already misleading. It should be “The Great Power of the Chninkel” and not the other way around. Otherwise, it does not make any sense.

    By the way, I read the Chninkel in French (my mother language) when I was 18 and I found it a very good book, but anything but funny. I found it an awfully sad and nasty little story. I loved it, mind you, but it left me with a bitter taste, if you see what I mean.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Mart:

    Yeah, there were several decent readers ones out there. I don’t remember which one I used but I did need one of those in the past. :)

    @ Alphast:

    As I said, the translation is a bit shaky. It is after all a fan made scanlation. It’s probably enough to get the point across but likely not enough for the little nuances.

    As for it being funny – I did find it amusing, but only on a recent reading. I read it multiple times, and in the past I did think it was very sad. But if you think about it, there is humor, albeit it’s very dark. It’s all in the absurdity of the situations the poor Chninkel gets himself into. I’ve seen it as a deconstruction of the messianic mythos and common tropes associated with it – especially those of the biblical kind.

    Not to mention that in the Polish version J’On had this witty, sarcastic streak – and a sort of Arthur Dent’-ish resignation about his situation. Which just shows you how a good or bad translation can make a huge difference in how a book is received by the readers.

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  4. martin UNITED STATES Safari Mac OS says:

    well buddy this might be your lucky day….
    your favorite Funky Koval is getting made into a movie :)

    here is their website: http://www.funkykovalmovie.com

    enjoy

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  5. martin UNITED STATES Safari Mac OS says:

    and here is a LINK to the comic online (it s in hungarian sorry) the quality of the images are very good. im not sure how they managed to scan them in. maybe they had them in digital format.
    enjoy!

    M.

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  6. Joe Dharma BELGIUM Google Chrome Windows says:

    The story is an allmost ripoff of Jim Henson’s the Dark Crystal. After seeing that movie I haven’t been able to enjoy this comic anymore. Meh.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Joe Dharma:

    Really? I read the comic first, then I saw the movie later and I never actually made the connection between them. They are distinctly different both in the themes and in execution. Chinkel is very dark and adult oriented – sex plays an important role in the story, the characters use strong language, and the violence and carnage is depicted very graphically. Dark Crystal is a Henson feature film oriented at kids.

    The main thing that connects these two is the theme of a reluctant, pint-sized savior but that is a very common fantasy trope.

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