This is Foggy Ruins of TIme, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).
Today, based on a suggestion from reader Bob H., I figure we should take another look at the bizarre story of when Marvel got into trouble for using Amy Grant’s likeness for a girlfriend of Doctor Strange on the cover of an issue of “Doctor Strange” (something I featured as a comic book legend years ago).
So “Doctor Strange” #15 came out in early 1990 by Roy and Dann Thomas and artist Jackson Guice, who also did the cover of the issue. The comic was part of a vampire storyline and it involved Doctor Strange’s former girlfriend, Morgana Blessing, getting back into Doc’s life.
So the cover features Guice’s depiction of Morgana.
Here’s the problem, Morgana looks just like Amy Grant from Amy Grant’s Greatest Hits album from 1986, “The Collection”…
Amy Grant’s management team, Mike Blanton and Dan Harrell, contacted Marvel that they were going to file a complaint about the cover. It was not a copyright issue, as they did not have the copyright. It belonged to the popular photographer, Mark Tucker (check out his website here), who took the photo for the album cover.
The complaint, filed by Blanton and Harrell in federal court in Tennessee, was related more to the fear that it would appear that Grant was authorizing the use of her likeness, and was therefore condoning the comic book, which would affect her standing in the Christian music community. Reading from the complaint:
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. Therefore, an association of Amy Grant or her likeness [with Doctor Strange]…is likely to cause irreparable injury to Grant’s reputation and good will
A US District Court sealed an out-of-court settlement between Grant and Marvel in early 1991, with a consent decree that Marvel did not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.
Grant later became more of a pop singer than a Christian music singer anyways, so I suppose it wasn’t as big of a deal after a while.
If anyone has a suggestion for a future installment of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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