Iron Maiden: Eddie, from the zombie mascot to the cult figure

(AFP) – The Rolling Stones have their tongue hanging out in the logo, Iron Maiden has Eddie, his mascot: new album from the veteran heavy metal group with an animated clip dedicated to this iconic zombie, with a thousand lives between video games and comics.

“Eddie, it’s an integral part of the group, it’s an absolutely brilliant marketing stunt, few groups manage to be associated with a graphic universe and there yes, that’s what partly explains their longevity, it’s one of the rare metal groups that the general public can quote “, dissects AFP Ben Barbaud, boss of Hellfest, a French metal festival with an international aura.

Eddie appeared on the cover from the band’s first album in 1980 and quickly made headlines in the English press amid scandal. For the single “Sanctuary”, we see Eddie, knife in hand, above the recumbent body of Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister at the time. The tabloids are having a blast with the “Iron Lady” (Thatcher’s nickname) against the “Iron Maiden” (translation of Iron Maiden).

Iron Maiden has plenty of ideas: for the next single, “Women in Uniform” a few months later, Thatcher, machine gun in hand, waits for revenge on a street corner Eddie, still so emaciated but hugging two groupies .

– “Vietnamese tank” –
Derek Riggs, historical English illustrator of the British group’s covers, explains in his first interviews that in an era without internet, he had “called the press office of Margaret Thatcher” to obtain a portrait of her, without of course revealing the purpose of his approach.

But where does this character with the skull come from? Shaggy at first, trepanned skull later, more or less covered with skin, he appeared over the pockets as a British infantryman, a pharaoh or in a padded cell.

Riggs, in old grainy TV shows, explains that it was initially “an idea for a punk album” that never saw the light of day and that he was inspired “by a photo of a skull on a Vietnamese tank “.

Riggs was contacted at the time by the group’s management, who saw the illustrator’s posters and was looking for a strong visual identity for Iron Maiden. The story is launched and lasts for 17 albums, 100 million records sold and 2,000 concerts in 63 countries.

– “Appreciated by purists” –
“For the record, I discovered their pockets when I was 7-8 years old, remembers Ben Barbaud. I was camping in Collioure, south of Perpignan, an older friend, a big die-hard fan, me. played the stuff, I wasn’t in it, but I was extremely taken aback by all the covers. In 2014, Hellfest hosted Iron Maiden, escorted by beautiful visuals signed by a French designer, Hervé Monjeaud.

Because the group has entrusted over the years its creature with multiple feathers. For the latest album “Senjutsu” (to be released this Friday), Eddie appears as a samurai, helmet and sword in hand, drawn by Englishman Mark Wilkinson. Eddie even starred in the scouting animated clip “The Writing On The Wall”.

“All the imagery is the same since the 1980s and it is appreciated by the purists, they did not deviate for a single moment, it created a great feeling of belonging among the fans”, adds Ben Barbaud.

On stage, Eddie is always present in the decoration, and a puppet in his effigy sometimes comes to fight with the frontman of the group Bruce Dickinson. His face even adorns the group’s plane. But the attraction for this metal ghoul goes beyond the sole circle of fans, since Eddie has also found his extension in video games or comics. And even airplane models, in reference to a cover where he piloted a Spitfire, a Royal Air Force plane during the Second World War.