As clear-cut as “Legacy of the Beast” may seem- a title which means no less than the legacy of the band Iron Maiden, is still utterly confusing. If I say that I will talk about the “Legacy of the Beast” in this article, do I refer to the tour (European leg 2018 and North and South American leg upcoming this summer), the mobile game (Navigator, 2017) or even the graphic novel (Leon, Edington, West, 2017)? Actually, all of them. And their interrelation with each other, because all three of them are interlocked with each other and interact with each other. I will show in the following why the Legacy, meaning, all three together, has the potential to become a true legacy of the band because, as I will argue in the following, we are not so much talking about three different phenomena than rather one big phenomenon.
Things like this are very common, meaning different media being locked together to attract a larger target audience and make new media attractive to an already existing fandom. I mean things like Batman computer games (the Batman: Arkham series developed by Rocksteady Studios and WB Games Montréal) which tie in with the graphic novels, the TV series Gotham (2014 – 2019), and the diverse films etc. Expanding universes covering different media are numerous and a well-established marketing strategy.
The combination of graphic novels and computer games is not exotic. But, a tour? And, what is more, all of this stuff based on the corpus of a band? This expansion into different media is different, because in contrast to a comic book universe such as the one of Batman, as complex as it may be and as many reboots as it may have, the world of Iron Maiden does not have a coherent narrative in the first place. Whereas in the other cases a new story arch is added to an already existing universe, the developers of the media spawned by Iron Maiden had to create this universe first. And I say creating a fictional universe out of music albums is not an easy task.
Heavy Metal Turned into (Audio)Visual Media
Thus, this piece is the odd one out in my blog, because, here, I have to reverse my steps. When I normally look at how literature and culture have been turned into heavy metal songs, I now look at how these songs, in turn, have been turned into new artistic products: a game, a graphic novel, and, last but not least, a tour.
Part I The Game
The game is a very worthy legacy indeed, as Maiden lyrics, music, and visuals (the covers) form one coherent narrative. This is, in my yes, the most evolved form of a legacy a band could ever leave behind: all artwork woven together into one audiovisual artwork (the game) narrating one coherent story.
The ties to Maiden are numerous as they are creative. The main character is, of course, surprisingly enough, band mascot Eddie. But he is joined by characters who more often than not are taken from song titles, such as “the Clairvoyant” (“The Clairvoyant”, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988) or “the Wicker Man” (“The Wicker Man”, Brave New World, 2000). Some references are more subtle, like “the Maker”, a character mentioned in “The Clairvoyant”.
Even the gameplay is coined by Maiden vocabulary, e. g. characters need talismans (“The Talisman”, The Final Frontier, 2010) to protect themselves. “Satellite 15” (“Satellite 15…The Final Frontier”, The Final Frontier, 2010) drops loot daily. And that’s not the end of it. My favourite section is “Brave New World” (“Brave New World”, Brave New World, 2000), which is divided in several gardens, one of them is a quote from the song “Brave New World”. It is my favourite because it really looks like you are walking though the album cover. The album cover depicts a futuristic version of London, clearly marked as such by the Tower Bridge, Eddie forming an evil cloud ahead of it. In the dungeon, we enter the world of a threatened civilisation and we face such as futuristic opponents. The boss is a sight for sore eyes. Well, first time I saw him I didn’t want to look at him. And the toxic spiders…!!! But if you cast your eyes around while walking though this world, you may agree with me that it really does look like a close-up of the city depicted on the cover, well, a destroyed version of it. I won’t say more, check it out for yourself.
And then, the most important aspect: the music. That dungeon does, of course, play “Brave New World” in an endless ellipse while you play in it. Being permanently confronted with your favourite music is something which makes a game much more enjoyable. I own the one or other piece of gaming soundtracks, but this? This is perfection. A gaming soundtrack I do already own in the first place, and of course, something very beloved. It is mostly guitar solos which have been chosen, and for my money, the pieces were very well chosen. They mostly befit the level perfectly. Now I grin when I hear “The Man Who Would Be King” (The Final Frontier, 2010) because you hear that one quite often. It’s perfect for the purpose it was chosen for.
This makes of course for a curious mixture of expectation and break of this expectation. When I see a level placed in hell and a red winged fiend in it I know what music to expect etc. Just, that sometimes you get something entirely else. So, in a level placed in Ancient Egypt, where you expect “Powerslave” (Powerslave, 1984), you meet another character first who brings his own song with him. This break of expectation adds more fun to the whole project and shows how complex the world of Maiden can be – how well things mix and mingle.
I have observed one reference by now which does not go back to Maiden, but, British literature. One level is called “Heart of Darkness” which is also the title of a famous short story by Joseph Conrad, written in 1899. Adding a reference to British literature is, from my perspective (I am running a blog on literary references in the work of Maiden) just the thing to do. This is a continuation of the work of Maiden, meaning, adding a new element in the same style instead of a mere adaptation like using the Clairvoyant.
We even have scenarios which are more complicated. The following levels refer to “Where Eagles Dare” (“Where Eagles Dare”, Piece of Mind, 1983) by using it for a soundtrack and naming one level after it. The song is based on a film of the same name (1968). This film is set in snowy mountains and that is exactly what you see in these levels. You take some steps and think, at least I did and I know the film, “Well, I have seen that before”. I mean, I have also seen it during the tour. The stage set imitates the film just as well. Or does it imitate the game that imitates the film?
Part II The Graphic Novel
The graphic novel more or less recounts the story of the game, just adding some details here and there. At least this was my first impression. But, at some points it diverges largely from the plot-line of the game. Some of the battles of the game have been changed a more elaborate story, a decision which makes sense considering the change of media. Whereas you can have a thousand battles in a game, simply because that is what a game is there for, you have to limit the number of battles in a graphic novel if you want to avoid shallowness. So, the graphic novel must be seen as an own narrative, and an own piece of art.
Graphically, it is very close to the game and the characters look exactly identical. Just that in the game they look a bit more nicely.
As a side-note I must say that I enjoy the game more in general. One simple reason is that it allows me to actively interact with Eddie’s world; it gives me my favourite music in addition; as mentioned I like the artwork of the characters better and, given the complexity the fictional universe of a game has I find it more alluring. The world of the game is much larger because it offers e. g. dungeons, narrative levels, and a multitude of characters. This crazy set of characters is priceless. You could never have so many characters in a graphic novel without ruining it. Abundance of characters is the luxury of this game. I mean, actually, we are given so many characters that the game has a specific feature to get rid of them…all Maidenish, of course. I don’t want to say that the graphic novel is a mere add-on to the game, because it isn’t. But in my world a graphic novel would always loose against a game (sorry “Arkham Asylum: a Serious House on a Serious Earth” (1989)). And, considering that it does feature the music, the game is much more Maiden to me than the graphic novel could ever be.
Coming back to my main point, I think we can agree that although the graphic novel is not an add-on to the game, it is linked closely to the game as the characters are the same, graphically and literary.
Part III The Tour
Well, here I am a bit at a loss. I know that the concert itself is supposed to tell a story, too, but I was never able to piece that together. What is more, I fail to connect this supposed story to Eddie’s world of the game and the graphic novel.
The repetition of visuals, however, is extremely impressive. The famous church windows making up the logo of the European leg can be found in the arena of the game. When you change into the “Past” mode, they change into part of the logo of the American leg, the spitfire having crushed through the rosette window. The soundtrack is “Revelations” (Piece of Mind, 1983) – the song we hear when we see the church windows on stage for the first time. This is the most perfect melting point of game and tour.
As I have shown all three elements, game, graphic novel, and tour are interlinked with each other but stay individual. You do not need one to understand the other, although I think they are much more enjoyable when you see the numerous interrelations between all of them. As always, you are given a choice, you can simply enjoy them for what they are, or dig deeper to see the underlaying connections. And this is, as I try to show in this blog, the true nature, the very backbone of the work of Maiden. It always gives you a choice how you want to deal with it. You can just turn up your speakers or you can do what I do, trace back the origins of the songs. You can just play the game or you can compare it to the graphic novel. etc. etc. etc. Catching the backbone of an artistic corpus is a pretty good way to create a legacy. But, what is more, all three legacies reflect the many facets of the band’s work. The sheer vastness and diversity shows best what the true legacy of a band so focused on other fictional works must be like. And the fact that they all have the same characteristics, being individual and yet interlinked, multi-facetted and diverse, embodying what I call the essence of the band (the freedom of choice how you deal with it) makes it one, big legacy. And, yes, I am aware that “The Legacy” (A Matter of Life and Death, 2006) is a songtitle, too – if that is not a prime example of “staying in character” I don’t know what is.
- Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. Navigator Games, 2017
- Leon, Llexi, Erdington, Ian, and Kevin West. Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. Heavy Metal, 2018.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios, 2009.
- Batman: Arkham City. Rocksteady Studios, 2011.
- Batman: Arkham Origins. WB Games Montréal, 2013.
- Batman: Arkham Knight. Rocksteady Studios, 2015.
- Gotham. Primrose Hill Productions, DC Entertainment et al., 2014-2019.
- Harris, Steve. “The Clairvoyant”. Iron Maiden. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. EMI, 1988.
- Smith, Adrian, Harris, Steve, and Bruce Dickinson. “The Wicker Man”. Iron Maiden. Brave New World. EMI, 2000.
- Harris, Steve. “The Talisman”. Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier. EMI, 2010.
- Smith, Adrian, Harris, Smith. “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier”. Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier. EMI, 2010.
- Murray, Dave, Harris, Steve, and Bruce Dickinson. “Brave New World”. Brave New World. EMI, 2000.
- Murray, Dave, Harris, Steve. “The Man Who Would Be King”. Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier. EMI, 2010.
- Dickinson, Bruce. “Powerslave”. Iron Maiden. Powerslave. EMI, 1984.
- Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Short Stories. Ware: Wordsworth Classics.
- Harris, Steve. “Where Eagles Dare”. Iron Maiden. Piece of Mind. EMI,1983.
- Where Eagles Dare. Hutton, Brian G. (dir.). Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, 1968.
- Morrison, Grant, McKean, Dave. Arkham Asylum: a Serious House on a Serious Earth. DC Comics, 1989.
- Dickinson, Bruce. “Revelations”. Iron Maiden. Piece of Mind, EMI, 1983.
- Gers, Jannick, Harris, Steve. “The Legacy”. Iron Maiden. A Matter of Life and Death. EMI, 2006.