Since 1980, when Eddie first appeared cradling a broken bottle and chasing down his prey through a darkened alleyway, Iron Maiden’s artwork has provoked a reaction one way or the other. He brutalised Margaret Thatcher for the cover of Sanctuary only for her to wreak her revenge on the cover of Women In Uniform. Bruce Dickinson was skewered, Eddie imprisoned, sent into space and even slaughtered, but like the band themselves, nothing, not even death, could temper his return. Here then are Eddie’s greatest hits, from back street butcher to Mayan warrior and most everything in-between.
Running Free (1980 – EMI, Iron Maiden)
Eddie looming out of the half-light (with his features deliberately hidden) to chase someone down to their violent doom set the template for the horrors that would follow this most iconic of band mascots. While the band’s musical and sporting heroes are writ large (or spray painted) on the alley wall behind him: Scorpions, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin and the Hammers.
Sanctuary (1980 – EMI)
Maiden’s second single bag put the proverbial cat among the pigeons with a murderous-looking Eddie crouching over a prone Margaret Thatcher (her face partially censored in some countries) wielding a bloody blade. It garnered the requisite reaction, The Daily Mirror publishing the uncensored artwork under the headline, ‘It’s murder! Maggie gets rock mugging’. Job done.
Run To The Hills (1982 – EMI, The Number Of The Beast)
The second of three Derek Riggs covers that depicted Old Nick in various states (half-mutating into Eddie for Purgatory, at war with the band’s mascot here in the bowels of Hell and finally beheaded and offered up by Eddie for the title track from The Number of the Beast). Notice Eddie’s weapon of choice, giving a nod to the song’s subject matter on arguably one of Maiden’s most enduring singles.
The Trooper (1983 – EMI, Piece Of Mind)
The inspiration behind a thousand bad tattoos (though you can hardly blame Eddie or Iron Maiden for that), the iconic image of a battle weary Eddie coming vengefully out of the mist of war was inspired (as was the song itself) by the ill-fated Charge Of The Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava.
Stranger In A Strange Land (1986 – EMI, Somewhere In Time)
An almost enigmatic Eddie graves the cover of Stranger… with a series of pop culture nods, including Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’, the suffocating interiors from Blade Runner and even a nod to the cantina scene in Star Wars. While the background clock is set at two minutes to midnight and the toppled card features the Grim Reaper who haunted The Trooper cover.
Hallowed Be Thy Name (1993 – EMI, A Real Dead One)
The live single recorded at Moscow’s Olympic Arena was the last to feature singer Bruce Dickinson until his return in 2000 for The Wicker Man. Released after the singer’s departure, the cover artwork pulled no punches with a devilish looking Eddie – from deep inside of a hellish inferno - making his point by skewering someone who looks very much like a mutilated Dickinson on a giant trident. Ouch.
Man On The Edge (1995 – EMI, The X Factor)
A darker period in Iron Maiden’s history – Bruce Dickinson’s departure, Steve Harris’ divorce – was reflected in an album and artwork drawn up, seemingly, in the long shadows. While this single used Michael Douglas’s nightmarish Falling Down movie as its starting point, the single sleeve was a graphic and fully realised depiction of Eddie’s brain being violently severed in half.
The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg (2006 – EMI Europe, A Matter Of Life And Death)
A classic Melvyn Grant illustration - Eddie in a windswept graveyard in the dead of night swinging a pickaxe to unearth the poor Breeg from his final resting place – was merely the starting point for a complex, on-line back story of the unfortunate Breeg and his lifetime of nightmares and a search for the paranormal and the unknown. Dizzying (fictional) history aside, the illustration made for a damn good cover while recalling something of Grant’s sleeve for the Fear Of The Dark album.
El Dorado (2010 – EMI, The Final Frontier)
The first and only single from the band’s fifteenth studio album came as a free download to preview their Final Frontier album and while the subject might have centred around the financial crash and crisis of 2007-08, the artwork, created by Anthony Dry, was, happily, a homage to the covers of the EC Comics (whose titles included The Crypt Of Terror, The Haunt Of Fear and Two-Fisted Tales, all of which might have passed for Maiden B-sides) made popular in the 1950s.
Speed Of Light (2015 – Parlophone, The Book Of Souls)
Echoing the latest album cover (with its original version of the Iron Maiden logo), but reworked in monochrome, Mark Wilkinson’s latest Eddie uses the story of the Mayan civilization (see Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto for a fictional depiction of them at their most bloodthirsty) and their belief in the soul living on after death, as its staring point. In essence, it is, as always, another unhinged Eddie coming in out of the dark.
Want to find out more about Maiden’s incredible The Book Of Souls? Then click below to read Metal Hammer’s world exclusive interview with the band.