Doctor Strange Once Got Sued By A Christian Singer
You read that right—in 1990, a Christian music artist sued Marvel because she said Doctor Strange readers might connect her with witchcraft. We'd like you to take that in for a second and consider how this nutty singer was surely deluded and was laughed out of court. Then, we'd like to inform you that she was actually in the right, which was why she won her case.
The singer was Amy Grant, who's just about the most mainstream Christian music artist of all time. Even if you don't own any of her 20 albums or are too young/too cool to remember when she crossed over into the pop charts, you likely still recognize some of her most famous songs:
In March 1990, issue 15 of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme came out. This featured Morbius, Dracula, and a recurring character named Morgana Blessing. Morgana was sometimes a love interest to Strange, and sometimes a vampire's minion. Amy Grant's lawyers claimed that Marvel used her face when depicting Morgana Blessing.
You might well be skeptical of that. Here's the first picture that came up when we searched for "Morgana Blessing." it's fairly generic.
Here's the specific image that Amy Grant said Marvel copied. It's the cover of her compilation album, The Collection.
Okay, now let's look at the cover of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #15.
Well, damn. They did copy her image. They practically traced it, while somehow making her face much more prominent than it was on her actual album. Suddenly, if seems like Grant definitely had a case, for straight-up copyright infringement.
Only, no, she didn't. Though it was her album, she didn't own the copyright to that photo, and nor did her record label. The original photographer, Mark Tucker, did, so possibly he could have sued—but we're not too sure of even that, since the law gives a lot of latitude when it comes to transformative art.
Either way, Amy Grant found other grounds for her suit. They had copied her likeness, which she unquestionably owns, and she stood to lose from this. This was a story of the occult, featuring vampires and spells and voodoo. Said Grant, "Many fans of Christian music consider interest in witchcraft and the occult to be antithetical to their Christian beliefs and to the message of Christian music in general," which meant if they thought she'd teamed up with Marvel, they might stop buying her music.
You don't need to believe witches are real to buy that argument. Marvel agreed to a settlement, pulling the comic issue without officially admitting wrongdoing. Many issues of the original comic remain, but you also might run into the following alternate cover. Rather than Morgana's image, it contains a lot of ... uh, let's just call it "negative space."