Sputnik: Where geeks gather

March 30, 2012 at 8:44 am (Articles / Interviews) (, , )

This is because Sputnik will be having its Moving Out Sale on Saturday. Although they’ll be moving out of Cubao Expo, here’s hoping they continue selling toys and comics somewhere else (preferably closer to where I live).

(This article was originally published in the Philippine Online Chronicles in January 2010, and features smart-sounding words like “eclectic” and “welcome boon”).

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Down in Cubao, a stone’s throw away from Gateway Mall and the Araneta Coliseum, is a little comic book and toy store called Sputnik. You can tell it apart from the other eclectic shops, novelty stores and art galleries in Cubao X (also called Cubao Expo or the Marikina Shoe Expo) by its exterior–a molten white façade sculpted in fiberglass by Leeroy New. This should tell you something about Sputnik–if you’re expecting your run-of-the-mill geek shop, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a place with actual character though, you need not look any further.

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For people who love comics, by people who love comics

As store manager Chez Fidelino says, comics are an “advocacy” for Sputnik’s owners, who include writer Ramon De Veyra and filmmaker Lyle Sacris who put Sputnik up back in 2007. The store’s name comes from the traditional Russian word meaning ‘travelling companion’.

“I can think of no better non-human travelling companions than our comics,” said Sacris.

“There’s a whole lot more to comics than superheroes,” De Veyra added. “Superheroes are just a genre. Like action, or comedy. And comics can be as varied as cinema.”

Although De Veyra grew too busy with other commitments to continue taking care of the store full-time, director Quark Henares stepped aboard in 2008 and artist Chris Costello in 2009.

All share a love of comics, and not just the mainstream DC and Marvel fare that can be found in any book shop in any mall in the country. Sputnik stands out with its impressive array of both local and foreign indie comics.

A quick glance around the shelves reveals copies of Roman Dirge’s Lenore, the Love and Rockets books by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez, and Apol Sta. Maria’s Alamat ng Panget. One can find Tony Millionaire’s Sock Monkey, the ghostly detective story Agnes Quill, and Gerry Alanguilan’s erotic piece Where Bold Stars Go to Die. These are titles you might have heard about from your comic-reading friends, but never actually seen.

There’s even a shelf dedicated to those photocopied and stapled indie pieces that aren’t usually found outside of comic or toy conventions. The fabled Nardong Tae can be found in that pile, along with Macoy’s Ang Mascot and Operasyon.

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Customer friendly

If you’ve never heard of the titles mentioned above, worry not– Sputnik is one of those places where “the owners actually know what they’re talking about.” If you don’t know what to read you can ask for a recommendation, and receive advice from people who haven’t just sifted through the literature, but have delved into it, and loved it.

On the other hand, if you already have a comic book in mind but can’t seem to find it elsewhere (say, that title you’ve seen reviewed by foreign comic blogs but have yet to appear in your local store), Sputnik can help. Fidelino points out that Sputnik deliberately makes it easier for their customers to get their books. Not only will they order the book for you, but they’ll reserve the copy and let you pay in instalments if you can’t pay for it up-front. They’re also willing to ship you your copy if you can’t personally go to the store.

Besides comics, Sputnik has a large variety of toys – their entire second floor is devoted to action figures, figurines and other collectibles, some of them from the personal collections of the owners. As with the comics, some of these toys are difficult to find elsewhere, or are sold at much higher prices. So if you’ve always wanted your own Tim Burton character doll, or mini Cthulhu, or a figure of one of the members of the local band Pedicab, Sputnik is the place to go. The store also offers books, music CDs and coming soon, their own line of t-shirts.

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The geeks gather

Ask the proprietors of Sputnik what really sets them apart from other comic book shops, and they’ll say Sputnik isn’t just a place to buy toys or comics– it’s a place to wallow in them, talk about them and make new friends. “You can hang out there,” Fidelino says, and true enough, even the owners make time to drop by.

More than being an establishment meant to generate profit, Sputnik is a place where geeks can feel at home and openly discuss things like Alan Moore’s idiosyncrasies or the quality of Todd McFarlane’s line of toys.

Even the store’s hours are tailored to fit its clientele. Go to Cubao X in the morning and you’re likely to find Sputnik closed (as with most other stores in Cubao X). Starting 4:00 until 10:00 at night from Mondays to Thursdays, anyone is welcome to peruse the store’s staggering collection. On Fridays and Saturdays, the store is open past midnight until around 2 in the morning, which are oftentimes the store’s busiest hours, says Fidelino.

This year, Sputnik will be hosting a variety of comics and toy-centred events, including signings by local artists and art exhibits. They are also planning a second store launch in 2010, three years after they first opened.

For the Philippine’s tiny, oftentimes maligned geek community, finding a place like that is a welcome boon.

(Photos by the author. Some rights reserved.)

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And here’s an update from March 2012.

Sputnik is important to me because that’s where I went with the very first paycheck I made back in 2009 to buy two volumes of the Vertigo series Lucifer. I don’t get to drop by as much as other people do, but I’ve found titles I haven’t been able to get elsewhere, like Jhonen Vasquez’s ‘Johnny The Homicidal Maniac’ and the Tony Millionaire ‘Sock Monkey’ books. It’s also with no small amount of ego bubbling that the comic I worked on with Mary Ranises, ‘The Girl Who Turned Into a Fish‘, has since wound up among them “photocopied and stapled indie pieces that aren’t usually found outside of comic or toy conventions”.

So, for real Sputnik, don’t disappear O_O.

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