The state of Dio-Stories in 2012 – Where are we and what happened?

I will say first of all, this is a direct response to the excellent write up by zedhatch (Toxie’s Universe on Twitter) over at The Terror Drome where he analyzes where Dio-Stories were in the fandom several years ago, where they are now, and exactly what happened along the way.

Zed has been doing dio-stories for a very long time, and has some good insight and experience on the subject, but I figure, considering what my own situation is and has been that I would write a companion piece to respond to some of this points and possibly bring up some of my own.

Click the Read the Rest of the Story link below for the full article, and thanks to Zed and The Terror Drome for speaking about this.  It’s a subject that is obviously near and dear to my heart, and something I’ve been struggling with for a few years, so I love having the opportunity to read (and respond) about it.

Where are we with Dio-Stories?

That’s a very good question…before we can explore where we were, we have to explore where we are.  The Dio-Story art form as a whole is a lot less prevalent these days, and I think Zed brought up some great reasons why in his Terror Drome article, most of which I think are fairly accurate.  In 2012, the Dio-Story form of story telling seems to be much smaller in scope (though definitely still present!) while many folks have focused a lot more attention on customizing, diorama building, and other ways to express their joy with the hobby.

That’s not to say Dio-Stories are dead.  Far from it.  In fact, Nas has his great dio-story still going over on his website, and I’ve seen a number of offerings on HissTank.com and in other arenas.  There are still people doing it, but it seems to be somewhat smaller in scope, and not gaining nearly as much traction as it used to.

Where was the Dio-Story?

It seems like so long ago that Dio-Stories were nearly everywhere.  Tim rocked the G.I. Joe fandom with Iconoclasts, and I ran with many ideas myself, kick-started by what Tim did.  Violentfix and Wowboy nearly redefined the way Dio-Stories are conceived with their incredible sets, amazing production values, and expansive camera set ups to capture the action.

Many, many others have done fantastic work including Spin Doctor, Capolan, W.O. Leroy from HissTank and Self-Modifier with his really great G.I. Joe vs. Transformers series, not to mention Zed himself at Toxie’s Universe.  Over on JoeDios.com a plethora of dioramas and dio-stories have been produced over the years.

It seemed like everywhere you went a number of years ago, there was a Dio-Story.  Someone else capturing their angle on the G.I. Joe universe.  It was really cool.

So what happened?

The million dollar question, and one that Zed answered fairly well over on The Terror Drome, but I have my own thoughts as well.

A lot of what Zed talks about  points back to money in some form or another, and that is a really good point of discussion when it comes to Dio-Story success.  There is no way around it, if you want to make a successful Dio-Story, you need to be prepared to invest some money.  Set building, figure buying, camera equipment…none of this stuff is cheap, and that can be a huge hurdle.  Sure, if you’re fortunate, you can make do with your backyard, or even an awesome set piece from your place of employment, but if you want to do a consistent long-running Dio-Story, you’ll really have to invest some time and money into set building and background design.

Speaking of set building, Zed brings up another terrific point in that regard, pointing out the fact that in some cases there was such a focus on building the set or setting the stage, that sometimes not only did that take too much attention away from the story, but it created a sense of “better than the Joneses” among Dio-Story authors, who felt like if they couldn’t maintain the same level of excellence with set building as one of their peers, perhaps they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.  I will admit I’ve suffered from this myself from time to time as I took pictures in my backyard with grass that was way too long while looking over and seeing very professionally made diorama backdrops framing some awesome dio-stories, and it can sometimes be discouraging.

But I think while cost and set design is a big part of the fading dio-story art, I think there are a few larger issues as well.  First and foremost, I think it’s the G.I. Joe universe.  When the Dio-Story fad kicked off in the early 2000′s, there was no ongoing G.I. Joe mythology.  No comics, no cartoons, nothing.  Well, at this point over the past 10 – 12 years there have been countless “reboots” and comic universes that have come and gone, and in a way, perhaps that has impacted the creativity of the dio-story artists?  With so many other stories being told, perhaps potential dio-story writers don’t feel that burn to weave their own stories?

But in my mind, the most important piece of the whole dio-story puzzle is very simple…  it’s just time.  I think time is the one real unifying principle when it comes to all of the former dio-story artists that I know and I’ve spoken with.  I can say that this is definitely my issue.  While money obviously plays a role, I think I could find a way to afford building (or commissioning) the set building, but it all comes down to having the time to use it.  When I first started my dio-stories, I was married but had no kids, a pretty standard 40 hour a week job, and more free time than I knew what to do with.  Now I’ve got two kids, a closer to 60 hour per week job, and I’m working on my Master’s Degree.  This doesn’t leave much free time, and I’ve been hearing this from many other former dio-story creators as well.

Let’s face it, we’re all pretty close to the same age, so chances are we were all in similar family situations 10 years ago, and  chances are good we’re going through the same family and life evolutions now as we get closer to 40.

All of that being said, I don’t think the Dio-Story is dead.  Not at all.  I’ve seen many offerings from many different sources, and some very nice stuff at that.  Not only that, but I’m still working towards getting Darkness Falls online, and while it feels like I’ve been saying that for years, I think this time I really mean it.

Maybe.

Again, thanks to Zed for bringing the topic up, it’s always fun to talk about it.  It seems like these days I don’t see as much interest in the Dio-Story phenomenon, so it would be very interesting to know if folks are still looking for that type of thing, or if most fans have moved on to other things.

  • chuckdawg1999

    Don’t forget Ages 25 and Up. Numbers has had to take a sebatical due to computer issues but the back log of work he has done is impressive. Even dipping into stop motion animation.

  • GigaMach

    Nice. The points he makes def. give me pause, especially in regards to “uniformity of plots”. It’s encouraging at the same time, though. I think the dio is a great way for us to enjoy the hobby and contribute to the enjoyment of it for others. For myself, I started mine as an experiment – could I lay out a readable, engaging comic-like story – and it grew into a story I wanted to tell and see to completion. Updating and money concerns are, for sure, my biggest issues. And since my set so far HAS been a hand-me-down, I hope that the ideas I have moving forward can kind of “play in the same park” as what I started with…but I think it’ll work out just fine.

    Again, thanks for the kind words, and thanks for the link. A good read on both fronts – your commentary, and the original article.

    -Nas

  • Renegade

    I also feel like the desire that people have to create some elaborate sets are slowing down a lot of the budding dio makers. That’s one thing that Hasbro, heck, most of the companies ignore. I remember when I shot my first dio in 2006 I used a star wars bunker, some Joes, Cobras, a blue bed sheet for water, and on top of it all, made it a silent issue! Everything was kept at a bare minmum! LOL. But sometimes when you start comparing the sets between your own work and the others, also due to how much this is also a visual artform as well as script writing – the most eye catching dios are talked about first. Also those with a consistent presence.

    For some period I felt the same way. Then personal issues slowed things down. I wasn’t able to collect the newest 25th figures, set building wasn’t in the schedule, and the presence overall wasn’t there anymore. But, hey, I’m back into it and just having fun out there. I think story telling is an important function in the human experience, and storytelling is what the guys should focus on! That’s all that it should be about. I’m still into set building for the dios, but having fun and telling stories is the key piece. I started my dio back up recently, and I suggest you all to come along and enjoy it too!

    http://returntothekillingfields.blogspot.com/

    Hawk, hope to see you back making some dios soon! Even if they are shorts, they were always fun to read! I was reading the back issues of yours and the original “Warfare I and Warfare II” series on anglefire recently, and they were just fun to check out. I like how everyone has their own vision of these stories and different characters they like to write about. :)

  • Stalker

    Unemployed at the end of 2005, I stumbled upon these (now-classic) web dios and decided I must share my joe-verse! I kept buying Joes, finally posted my first issue, and felt like I was on my way. But life intervened, I got a job, then a child, then another… I got through two issues barely.

    Not sad, though! I got my own fix through the Marvel reprints, “25th Ann,” “Renegades,” “Resolute,” and “Rise of Cobra.” Also joecustoms, joedios, and the joe community kept the brand vibrant for me through the years.

    In the meantime I have grown my Joe collection with my dio-vision in mind. My great wish is to finish 10 “issues” in my immediate future. The fandom losing “Retaliation” has put everything back on the front burner for me, and I have been eagerly building sets over the past 3 months.

    Make my dios G.I.Joes!

  • zedhatch

    That’s exactly why I avoided naming names in the original article, I know I would leave someone out LOL.

  • zedhatch

    Thanks for the mention. I had that thought kicking around for about a year now.
    I know I mentioned to Doug (AKA Snake on the old JC board) about it at one point and he was the one that mentioned the similarities of stories.
    Money I thought of in the indirect sense, ie sets and webspace. Time, now that was one that never got brought up with the few people I spoke with. I kind of think about it now as maybe thier thoughts were “If there’s a will, there’s a way” but who knows, I do plan to follow up with some that I spoke with though to see if they even considered time a factor.
    Anyway glad everyone enjoyed and hope everyone enjoys the upcoming profile on 1990: the unsung year of GI Joe (Whenever Jason gets time to post it LOL).

  • snakeeater

    This was a great article. I used to do quite a few dio-stories from 2006-2010

    http://snakeeater.synthasite.com/

    It was great reading others’ work, and I was especially inspired by Violentfix’s Operation Rapier story. They were fun to do, a way to combine story-telling, toy collecting, photography, and web site design all in one hobby. Around 2009 I started getting a little burnt out in it and slowed down, but I was determined to finish my Invaders story (I did). The main reason I haven’t done anything in a few years is mainly a lack of time. I still have stories I’d like to tell, and think about doing them, but have a hard time finding the time to do it.