Long read - Story of how I lost a DWJ commission and so much more.
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Hi, my name is Mike.  I'm a semi-serious comic fan with a small collection of graded comics and original art.  I’d like to share a story of a dream commission and the many things I did to ruin it.  I’ll do my best to present the facts first and comment after.  I welcome any of your comments or feedback.  

On March 15th, 2018 I paid for a commission through Felix Comic Art for a Daniel Warren Johnson piece.  I’ve admired DWJ’s art for about a two years, loved Extremity and was able to get a convention sketch from him at NYCC 2017.  He is such a cool dude and his commissions have always impressed me so I thought I’d pull the trigger and get one with plans to frame it and display it proudly.  His commission list was opened and closed on the same day, advertised for a C2E2 pick up.  Ill be honest, financially I could not afford the $??? (Ill keep the number confidential) asking price.  My job and personal financial situation is not what it once was, but I did it anyway.  I decided to sell some old comics in order to offset the cost.  I sold a large batch of old Spidey key issues that had just been sitting in a box, collecting dust and could use a better home.  I had already paid for the commission but was able to sell just over 1k in comics to pay for the commission and have a bit extra for a rainy day.

My initial idea was to just have Daniel draw a monster of his choice but then I thought how cool would it be to get a character I like fighting the monsters.  Instead of a comic character I decided to request Harry Potter fighting a dragon.  Cool idea, right?  I email Felix requesting Daniel draw the scene from the Twi-Wizard Cup (Dragon, Harry, Golden Egg, Stadium with a crowd, maybe the Hogwarts castle in the background, etc).  The commission was for one character and I was pushing it with making all these requests, and Felix responded saying just that.  Since I had seen plenty of DWJ commissions with secondary characters, background, etc and I wanted to get my moneys worth I didn’t think I was in the wrong to request particular details but I see now I might have been.  After sharing a couple emails that same day I was told DWJ could do something similar to my request but that all the details might not be included.  

Ok, great!  I’m getting an awesome Harry Potter commission from DWJ that I can’t wait to frame!  I stalked social media the weekend of C2E2 waiting to get a glimpse of my commission.  I wasn’t attending the show but since Felix allows you to do a mail order, and I assumed all the pieces would be completed prior to the show, I figured I’d be seeing it on Felix’s Instagram account.  I love watching the IG art shows from Felix during convention weekends and was super excited to see mine… but I didn’t.  In fact, weeks went by and I didn’t see it.  I debated messaging Daniel but part of me thought the longer I waiting maybe it would be a better commission.  I debated messaging Felix but I knew he was taking a break from social media, email, conventions etc.  Part of me also thought that if I messaged either Daniel or Felix my piece might get rushed and I didn’t want that.  

Fast Forward to June 15th, 3 months after I had paid for my commission I thought I would be getting a week or two after C2E2 at the latest.  I spoke with a couple friends of mine about the situation, told them I thought I had waiting to long and they agreed.  They more than agreed, they actually fueled the fire a bit (something I regret I allowed to effect my thought process).  So, I sat down to write an email to Felix or whoever it was that was doing Felix’s emails since he had stepped aside for a bit.  I was a bit of a jerk in the email, here are the highlights; I asked for a upgrade in art size and quality (11x17, cover quality) because of my wait time/bad experience and mentioned I had heard about horror stories of people not getting their commissions, some on his podcast, and was upset that it happening to me.  I’ll note that in the email I mistakenly said I’d waiting 4 months (March, April, May and June) but it had actually only been 3 (March 15th to June 15th).  My mind set was this… and I'm being honest here, I wanted my commission.  I was bummed it was taking so long and I thought there was a possibility I had slipped through the cracks and been forgotten.  Whether there was a mistake or not I had thought I had waited too long and if I could guilt either Felix, his staff or Daniel into doing a bit extra because I had waited so long, even better.

I typed the email and debated mutiltple times whether to send it.  I was actually at a play and before it started I shared with the friend I was with the situation and they again fueled my fire a bit and told me to send it.  So i did.  90 minuted later the play is at intermission and I have a missed call from Felix, a nicely written email response and a Paypal refund.  In the voicemail Felix requested I call him.  In the email Felix explained that they took as many commission as possible, maybe too many because DWJ was still working on them.  He said that my art would be included with the next batch he got from Daniel and would be shipped right away.  There was a 20 minute difference between when I received his email and when I got a paypal email informing me of my refund.  I know now that Felix had time to think about my email and things I said and decided to refund me.  I know this because we spoke about it.

I mentioned I had a missed call from Felix.  Well I called him back during intermission and from the start of the conversation I immediately realized just how much I F@cked up.  I’ll say this, I did not include my phone number on the email.  Felix had it from a conversation we had more than a year prior.  We had shared private messages on Instagram, Twitter and talked on the phone at length.  He had given me his personal time many times before but I did not take the time to message him to check on my commission.  I instead sent him an email being a jerk.  Felix was pissed and was not in the mode to deal with me but he still gave me 15 minutes of his Friday night to talk to me and express just exactly how I was wrong.  He expressed his frustration with my communication methods and said there was no way for him to read my mind and know that I was not happy.  He also said that he felt that I was trying to extort a larger, cover quality piece.  He explained that many times throughout the years when I had written him or messaged him he had always responded, including the email and call tonight.  He challenged me on my “horror story” comment saying waiting a couple months is nothing, he has waiting 10 years before.  He said, “We are done.” in regards to this commission and that he really felt how I treated the situation was wrong.  Lastly he challenged me to share this story on the CGC boards and see if I had waited too long, if he was in the wrong, etc.    

So here we are... but before you hit reply I want to be clear as to why I am sharing this story.  I realized almost immediately when talking to Felix that I was 10,000% wrong.  My mentality and approach to the situation, what I said in the email, so much of it was wrong.  Sure, I paid for a commission that I expected to receive months ago but all I had to do was reach out for an update.  I was acting cocky and entitled.  I knew Felix was going through some stuff that had lead to him stepping aside from social media and, although I hope its not true, I think a very small part of me was trying to take advantage of that, which is so F%&$ck up.  I’m so ashamed of how I acted, its out of character and not like me at all. 

Let this be a lesson.  The customer is not always right.  Do not think that you will always get your way.  Acting immature and juvenile will get you no where.  I was very wrong in my approach and thought that complaining would get me somewhere and instead it got me the exact opposite.  I sold a bunch a key Spider-man comics to fund a commission from one of my favorite artist that I will not be getting now, and for good reason.  I ruined a relationship with an art dealer who reps so many artists I respect and collect, hindering my chances of getting any more art from them.  He will most likely share my email with DWJ and others, effecting my relationship with them.  But the worst of it, I ruined a professional friendship with one of the best guys in the business.  

So to recap… instead of coming to the CGC boards to argue my side of things I am coming to CGC to offer a public apology.  I was rude, unprofessional and childish and I'd like to apologize to Felix, Daniel and the whole Felix Comic Art team. 

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I have more to say, but I think I'll just say that I'm glad you know the error of your ways. 

Malvin 

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An apology is one thing. How do you plan to fix it going forward? Let's consider some specific suggestions of mine:

1. You didn't know what you wanted, and then pushed the boundries of the commission parameters of a busy artist. In my view, you are likely to get a better quality product if you minimize the extraneous detailing or step up to the plate and pay more. Time is money, and you were essentially asking for something for free.

2. I like to get a rough idea of when an artist expects to be done with a piece at the time of commissioning--not a firm deadline, just something general. If the general time period expires, send a note and remind him. If he needs more time, fine (unless it's like some of those nutso stories of artists waiting years to finish). Good, high quality dealers like Felix won't fail a customer.

3. Artists and dealers are professionals engaged in a commercial transaction. Try to bring the level of emotion to the transaction as though you were buying a new toaster. Stay enthusiastic, as you should, but don't badger people.

4. People ought not buy what they cannot afford. It makes people a little crazy and warps their judgment. Bluntly, I don't think you wanted to sell those comics, and that tainted your behavior.

 5. Never burn your bridges even if you aren't 100% happy with what you received. Odd's are, excess enthusiasm leads to excessive expectations. A good artist (and rep) will do their best, and that's all you really have a right to expect. 

 

 

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Whatever the case, have to give you props for manning up. But perhaps you should apologise to Felix personally. End of the day, this hobby is built on relationships. 

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Three months is not a bad wait time for a piece to get done. There are a lot of items to factor in. If the piece is not detailed, and is very plain, then three months is a bit much. While I do not have much time on the boards, I have a decent amount of experience.

Things to consider:

1. The artist (abilities, details given to pieces)

2. Artists's obligations.  When the big boys call up and want panels for publishing, commissions are normally put on pause or halted.

3. Conventions and other commission requests.  If the artists travels for conventions, you may as well count the weeks surrounding the convention a wash. Your piece might be worked on to strike interest for more commissions at the CON, but more likely, it will be left safely at the artist's studio/home.

4. Life.  Life happens. These men/women have a livelihood to keep and progress. Often with families as well. Your piece my be paid for in advance, but variables occur, and sometimes that means your piece has to be put to the side.

 

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Sounds like you were in the wrong for a couple things but ultimately what date was it supposed to be done?

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Mike, thanks for sharing. I appreciate that you shared your experience and owned up to your behavior. That couldn't have been easy.

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Commissions can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the hobby. Polite communication about expectations is essential for a good outcome. Know what you want and communicate it clearly and know that once you pull the trigger what you asked for is what you'll likely get. 

From my experience commissions are something that requires patience. The longest I've had to wait is a year. In that year the artist offered to upgrade my piece and let me know they'd refund in full at any point if I got tired of waiting. I spent time in that year getting to know them better via email and bought a few published pages. To me it's all win and fuels my interest in the artists work and in getting another commission.

I've also had folks I've had to badger some. But it's never been anything stronger than 'Just checking in to see where things are at with my commission'. Artists are humans and are more willing to help you get what you want if you're nice to them.

So to recap:

            Know what you want and and ask for what you want up front. 

            Let the artist offer upgrades, don't demand them.

            Patience patience patience.

            Disappointment is avoided by clear, polite communication to clear up details on delays and expectations. Build bridges don't burn them.

            Know your budget and stay there. Build a war chest over time if you need to. Mosts artists in the industry aren't going anywhere if they have a rep and an ongoing title.

This is all my opinion your mileage may vary.

           

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I've learned over time that commissions are not my reason for being, and I think part of that is the 'pay and pray' nature of it - things are quite out of your control once you submit your request or idea. I guess a lot of people may not deal well with that.

 

I've only commissioned a single item through Felix, but I don't have any real harsh complaints about that experience when looking back on it. My only real frustration throughout was that I never heard anything about what was going on with my commission without having to be the one to reach out and initiate a conversation - even after the original expected completion date came and went. I have a pretty good idea that if Felix spent time updating everyone with a commission in process on the status of said commission, then he probably wouldn't have time to do much else, but I do think it is fair to suggest if some idea of a completion date is given during the commissioning process, it doesn't seem to be asking too much to expect an update if it looks like that isn't going to happen.

 

Overall, the more I think about it, the shape of your commission experience was quite similar to mine with regards to the potential to pick up at a con, the expected completion date passing by with no notice, and the eventual email for inquiry. Where we differ is that it never even occurred to me to ask for more, I just wanted what had originally been worked out to be delivered. Looking back on my experience, I probably bothered Felix about it via email more than was truly necessary (sorry about that if you happen to read this Felix), but that was because, unbeknownst to him, I was in the process of selling a house / moving while all of this was going on and I was very hopeful the commission would wrap up and be delivered prior to all of that happening. 

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One reason I don’t do commissions. I have seen some wonderful commissions. But I am unlikely to go down that road. 

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It takes a very patient individual to want to be an art rep and be responsible for commissions. 

Edited by TeddieMercede

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As with all things in life, clear communication is paramount to a successful relationship. Whether it be a marriage or a business agreement.

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Wisdom comes from experience. The OP has paid a price in his inexperience, but IMO has done much to pay it forward in posting this thread, in an apparent attempt to be open and honest in the mistakes that they made.

To me that speaks volumes about integrity and an ability to make amends with what tools are available to do so. By making this public, perhaps it serves its best purpose as a cautionary commission tale for the inexperienced.

Ive been on the non-communicative end of many deals repeatedly in life. In fact, I’m in the middle of one now with someone in India over some custom dyed silk. But it took having thousands of dollars in several multiple undelivered comic related commissions back around 2000 or so (think about those numbers) that put me off of comic commissions.

Several of those took place over years. My worst delivered commission experience took me something like 5 or6 years to get sorted. Then on the undelivered side where I have many, the one I tried to see through to the end was the one that when it hit the 10 year mark, I just totally wrote it off as never going to happen and I stopped trying. Hundreds of excuses later. After 10 years of its almost done, or it’s next, or I just need to put it in the mail, or it’s a painting now, or I’m in a divorce, or I’m moving, or I’m taking my kid to college... It’ll be great, etc.

Oftentimes the excuses came in an order that makes one believe it had never been started. Like ready to mail, followed by I’m working on that one next, etc.

Commissioning can be an emotionally brutal experience. Anticipation, worry, even distress and anger. But one thing I tried to never do was burn bridges. Or make demands for “more” than I’d paid. Or even get accusatory.  Life happens. Things cause delays. And some creative types are sometimes the worst at communication. Doesn’t matter if it’s comic art, custom guitars, portrait paintings, etc. I could find a thousand such horror stories without scratching the surface.

Where the real rubber meets the road is who delivers, and what’s the quality of the final product? So many did pieces for me that were downright thrilling, that the delay was quickly forgotten.

The op mentioned knowing something of Felix’s step away from things, and even thinking it to be an advantage, and that is to me where this whole tale goes off the rails. Especially knowing Felix tries to push his artists if and when he feels like they underdeliver on a commission, on behalf of the commissioner. This is something I’ve never heard of another rep doing, but one I know Felix seems very much the “right” thing to do. By all reports DWJ seems to be in the overdeliver camp time and again.

Buying unseen is always a crapshoot, commissions are the ultimate expression of this. Art is less a product and more of a performance. And not every artist will hit a homer, or put on their best show every time. But you pay your money, and if you give them enough room, the best will often over deliver. 

Delivery times are most often the stickery wicket of the commission world. Often artists are overconfident in the times they give, and the worst of them do this intentionally. The rest just have a hard time guesstimating when they’ll be done because they are overly optimistic, or in their drive to make the piece the best they can, the extra effort throws off their time estimates.

Experience showed me over time that most will ultimately deliver a piece at or above the level of execution I paid for when they were behind. The others, the ones that really don’t care... no amount of prodding would quicken the pace or improve the results. So a simple reminder was the best I could do.

Hopefully as raw as all this is for the OP, I do agree you’ve contributed a bit of wisdom to the boards that hopefully people who haven’t been down this road can take to heart a bit.

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6 hours ago, AnkurJ said:

As with all things in life, clear communication is paramount to a successful relationship. Whether it be a marriage or a business agreement.

Clear communication is also a great steppingstone to a divorce ("No dear, I think your mother was right and you were wrong.")

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34 minutes ago, ESeffinga said:

Then on the undelivered side where I have many, the one I tried to see through to the end was the one that when it hit the 10 year mark, I just totally wrote it off as never going to happen and I stopped trying.

I'm sorrry to say this, but I think you have to take a share of the blame for this failure. Yes, some of the most creative artists can be the busiest, and they need the most time. But there comes a point where delay smacks of fraud: the artist was never going to get around to it.

If an artist is going on a 1-2 year mark, and he wasn't in the hospital or had some other horrible trauma, you should have given him a firm date and told him if he didn't meet it, you wanted your money back. Allow a little slippage (1-2 weeks), and demand your money back, in writing. And if you don't get it, you still have some options. One is to complain here or in some other forums. Another is to go to the website of the state where the artist is located, get a small claims court complaint form (I'm guessing the commission falls within that range), fill it in, send in a check and sue him. That should get a response. If not, the odds are high he will not go to court and you will get a default against him. Then send him the judgment and tell him to pay. That ought to take care of it. If not, you still have some options which depend on the circumstances. 

I will bend over pretty far for a person who I think is trying, but I won't take from anyone, no matter how "creative" and "brilliant" they are. 

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11 hours ago, SquareChaos said:

I've learned over time that commissions are not my reason for being, and I think part of that is the 'pay and pray' nature of it - things are quite out of your control once you submit your request or idea. I guess a lot of people may not deal well with that.

Especially when you've already sent money. Sorry, a refund after waiting that long doesn't fly with me as a resolution, if anything it's insulting. But then again, I formed this opinion around the one thing I haven't completely understood (and it could be part of the way the story was told) but how did it happen that he was expecting it for C2E2 and it didn't meet that deadline? Was it a misunderstanding? I think the rest devolves from an expectation of it not being ready when it said it would be ready, and to add insult, it then carried over for months.

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Seems to me there’s room for an enterprising art rep to spend some money on an attorney to develop a standard commission art contract. 

Also, if you are repping an artist, you are legally on the hook if the artist doesn’t deliver. If you use PayPal, for example, you can use their refund/fraud procedure if you feel like things are not getting done. 

I would never pay an artist with a cash or check. Only PayPal or a credit card, where you have a third party intermediary that can step in if you have a dispute. 

But, as I said, I don’t do commissions. 

Edited by PhilipB2k17

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