Rob Arts has been a source of inspiration for GIJoe.nl since the early 2000s. This has only become stronger with the launch of the new website. The man behind the magazine is certainly no stranger in GI Joe country, but this interview answers questions that give us an even better picture of a passionate fan who, it looks like, will always remain a fan. In the picture above we can See Rob play with some of his first G.I. Joe toys in the late 80's. A Dutch version of this interview can be read here.
Do you want to tell us something about yourself?
I am Rob Arts, 44 years old, living in the Nijmegen area and I have an 8 year old son named Lee.
Besides being a lover of old plastic, there is more that shapes me. I have been active as a professional graffiti artist for about 20 years now, by making decorations walls and giving graffiti workshops. Despite the fact that I really enjoy my profession, I am thinking of entering education as a Dutch language teacher. Besides collecting this old plastic, I like to read non-fiction, summarized about geopolitics.
I am also a great lover of martial arts. I like to read about this, I like to watch videos and I prefer to put it into practice myself. From an early age I have always done Shaolin Kempo, but currently I mainly do jiu-jitsu, judo and kickfit. To keep the muscles in shape I also do body pump. I am very diverse in terms of music. I listen from classical to rap and from reggae to hardcore house. So the genre doesn't really matter to me, because good music is good music. However, every moment has its own genre of music which is appropriate. And we have a sweetheart of a dog. It's a bull terrier and her name is Ninja. That name was made up by my, at the time, 3-year-old son! Ha ha ha ha.
I think this creates a picture pretty well of who I am.
Clear story. And your son is called Lee. May I ask why you chose that name? This is not so common in the Netherlands.
That's certainly allowed, it's even a nice question!
We found it very difficult to find a name that we agreed on together. Now his grandfather is called Leo. And one day his mother came home with the story that she might have a nice name: Lee, a variation on the name Leo. Now, as can be seen from my story above, there are three elements that play a major role in my life: Graffiti, Martial Arts and G.I. Joe.
When his mother suggested the name Lee, three references immediately went through my mind... Graffiti: 'Lee' is a pioneer and legend from New York. Martial Arts: The Legend Bruce Lee. G.I. Joe: Marvel legend Stan Lee.
So I heard the name and boom, boom, boom, I made a three connections and was immediately sold. And said, "All right, we're clear. But are you sure? " I thought the name was so cool, and a good fit for both of us as a parent, but I couldn't imagine that this process of searching for a name had suddenly been solved. But it was, and Lee became his name.
He loves to play with G.I. Joe. The plastic was of course made for that, so he plays with the figures and vehicles he wants, whether this is from 2003 or 1986, it does not matter to him. And I really love to watch: my son playing with my toys from the past. Can it get any better?!
I have to make a small comment here... The vintage figures may be played with, but after playing the figures neatly go back into the bags, so that the overview on 'the collection' is preserved, because that is where my heart lies... So the 'collecting' is somewhat fed.
Son Lee, with the impressive Pit Mobile Headquarters, from the more recent G.I. Joe, the Rise of Cobra.
You say you also like classical music. That is a good thing, because I like that too. What is your favorite classical composition?
Without a doubt Rimsky-Korsakov with the Sheherazade. This includes everything for me, from soft and tiny to grand and theatrical. The story of A Thousand and One Nights is perfectly portrayed in music, you form the images yourself when listening to the tones. In the fourth part you just feel a gigantic ship entering a port, and in the story this is true. Truly beautiful, I feel this piece from head to toe.
How old were you when you started collecting G.I. Joe?
In that respect, I was there right at the beginning when G.I. Joe was available in stores in the Netherlands. That was in 1987, when I was 10 years old.
What was your first action figure, and what was your first vehicle?
At what age did G.I. Joe's collection end?
That never really ended. It is a process of coming and going. Sometimes I am very fanatic for a while, but after that it disappears into the background due to circumstances and other things claim my attention. But it is never really gone. I also don't expect this to ever happen, especially since we can expect a movie from Snake Eyes in October and my son is already eager to see this in the cinema with his birthday party. So if the virus is really passed on, it will 'just' continue until I'm old and exhausted.
Of course the gaps are sometimes quite long, like in my puberty, but I've always kept everything stored. But in those days everything was really dusting away behind a shot. I still liked the toys, but I had outgrown to play with it.
When at some point after my school days I went to work full-time, so I made money, and discovered that you could have the plastic toys sent from all over the world to my house via Ebay, then the real collecting started. Everything was for sale, including the items that had not previously been for sale in the Netherlands. Therefore, to protect myself, I decided to sell and trade my other toys for GI Joe. The idea was that I would not lose myself and piles of of He-Man or Star Wars would have been sent from the US, because that would not have been pretty for my wallet. By focusing on one line, G.I. Joe, I should be able to keep things in control and have an overview, and it was also possible to get a complete collection. Boy was I completely wrong about that part. I never thought G.I. Joe would continue to be produced all these years and I have therefore abandoned the idea of getting a complete collection...
What is your all-time favorite actionfigure, and which vehicle?
With the actionfigures I go for Major Bludd (V1). I used to know him from the cartoons but he was not for sale in our country. He really was an evil villain with his eyepatch and militant with his helmet. His voice just made it all a bit grittier, hahaha. And as much as I wanted that figure, it was out of reach for me. When I made a school trip to London in grade 3 of secondary education, I searched like a maniac, because he was once available there, just like Duke, the Baroness and Cobra Commander with helmet. But unfortunately, by then none of them could be found. I now do have him and I noticed that he has a special place in my heart.
In terms of vehicles, I don't really have 1 favorite, there is a lot that I like. To list a top 10 would not even be appropriate. I think it is best to say that I just find the vehicles very cool.
What attracted / attracts you so much in the G.I. Joe toys?
The first reason I think is very simple, the battle between good and evil. This is a universal theme that is strongly expressed in the battle between GI Joe and Cobra. Classic! In addition, it is a fantasy world, away from reality. Whether I used to play with the toy or now when I dive into a comic, for a moment you don't think about anything else. So just empty your head, just like sports can do. I find that emptying your head is a crucial part of my life to keep balance in my sometimes busy and hectic real life.
What other toylines do you collect?
What I used to collect, or actually that's not the right word because I just played with it, was Star Wars, He-Man, Transformers and 1:72 plastic soldiers. My son plays with exactly this, with LEGO Ninjago and Mashers added.
Now I no longer have the vintage Star Wars and Transformers, but my son has built a new collection. But even though his new Millenium Falcon is beautiful, the vintage version still lures. So who knows who will fly into our house in the future.
I once gave the He-Man I had to Tommy, a friend. I collected G.I. Joe and he thought it would be fun to start a collection of his own. He bought a load of figures and vehicles, but it quickly disappeared in the attic. When my son was about 3 years old I showed him the cartoons of He-Man and She-Ra and he loved it! When I asked Tommy if he still had my old toys, he said he did, with a substantial addition. He thought it was great to give this (back) to Lee. This felt really nice, my own old toys back at home. And my son still likes to play with it to this day. When Marcel (administrator of GIJoe.nl) recently came to visit, Lee received Modulok as a gift from him. I think this has become his favorite figure. It is actually a combination of He-Man with the modern Mashers, and that turns out to be a golden combination.
Rob at an early age building the huge Mobile Command Center in the late 80's.
Are you also an avid collector of other G.I. Joe merchandise, such as comics?
If it just smells like G.I. Joe I find it interesting, but the house is not big enough and that wallet is not deep enough... So I have to pass on a lot. But if possible, I still enjoy buying the paper comics. This continues to attract me. I find it really magical to turn one page physically to arrive at the next and to see what the artist has magicly drawn up this time!
How old were you when you started collecting again? And why did it start to itch again?
As said, it has never really been completely gone, but if I had to mention a moment that it started to itch again, it was my introduction to the internet and specifically Ebay. Since I grew up in a small village, the whole world was suddenly open to me. That brought unprecedented possibilities with it, something that I cherish to this day.
Is there an action figure or vehicle you would love to have?
There is not one specific thing, there is still so much that I do not have but I do like. Actually, this is best summarized in that I would like to have the toys from 1982 - 1989 (American era) complete. You can also count in Action Force to this. No idea if this will ever happen, but I would really like to. I also love everything that came out after that time, such as the new 6 inch figures, and that would be welcome in the collection. But my core focus is really on the vintage years.
Of course I could have just said that I would like to have the USS Flagg, because well... That is the dream of every collector...
What is currently the showpiece in your collection?
There are many figures and vehicles that I love. But large is often also impressive. I think the Defiant Space Shuttle is at the top.
When did you find GIJoe.nl?
Pooh, then I have to dig deep into my memory... But that must have been somewhere in the early years of this millennium. I can still remember that the stuff I kept all those years, from folders to file cards, was a welcome addition to the website. I think it must have been 15+ years ago, but I wouldn't dare call an exact year.
What are you currently doing on behalf of GIJoe.nl?
I have both the forum and the magazine under my wings. The forum is not that much work. It is relatively quiet there and people are very friendly and helpful to each other. Most of the work there is in posting messages. Given that I also post things that I do not post in the magazine, it is definitely worth taking a look there.
The magazine is much more work, especially now that GI Joe is booming more than ever before. There is something new to report every day and reviews and other items from the past also deserve a place, so I could turn this into a full-time job. In addition, I do not just post it on the website, but I always read, listen and watch the messages myself. This is time consuming, but because of that I am always up to date on the developments in G.I. Joe land.
If you want to be up to date as well, you should check the magazine every day!
What would you like to do on the site in the future?
You never know what the future holds, but given my entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunity to do something with a webshop always lures. In that light and my creative background, I would like to have people who have nothing in common with G.I. Joe, but who are creative in their own way, make a design and then have it printed on clothing. A kind of exclusive GIJoe.nl clothing that could then be offered through the webshop. This is an idea that came to my mind last year, but it involves a lot of extra work. So whether this will ever come to fruition, time will tell...
Finally, do you have a special message for the readers of this interview?
Knowing is half the battle!