Iron Maiden muscled their way into the ranks of the all-time metal greats on the strength of their music. But their image has also benefited from one of the most distinctive mascots in rock 'n' roll: Eddie, a.k.a. Eddie the Head, the wizened monster-like creature who's appeared on the cover of every Maiden record since their 1980 debut.

Eddie's creator, graphic artist Derek Riggs, handled the artwork for each Maiden album through 1990's 'A Prayer for the Dying,' but was largely relieved of his responsibilities starting with 1992's 'Fear of the Dark. From that point forward, a stable of different artists have put their own spin on Eddie. As manager Rod Smallwood told author Mick Wall in the book 'Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills, the Authorized Biography,' "We wanted to upgrade Eddie for the '90s. We wanted to take him from the sort of comic-book horror creature and turn him into something a bit more straightforward so that he became even more threatening."

Riggs disputed Smallwood's version of events in a revealing 2013 interview, saying, "The album covers -- my work -- was getting more attention than the music, and it upset their ego. So they were going around the world telling everybody that it was all their ideas and I was just a dumb monkey that painted it all. So this didn't go down very well. And then they said to me, 'Well, when are you going to come out with a good idea, because they're all our ideas,' and I was like, 'Oh, are they all your ideas? Then you tell me what to paint and I'll paint it,'" he recalled. "'Cause if you're working real f---ing hard to make these ideas, to make them continuous and make them cohesive the way they were -- but then some f---ing jackass can turn around and say something like that, it's a real f---ing slap in the face. It gets real old really f---ing quick. So, from then on my attitude was like, 'You tell me what to paint and I'll paint it, because I'm obviously not getting credit for thinking of these ideas.'"

Credit may not have been forthcoming from the band, but a vocal contingent of Maiden fans have always recognized Riggs' work. Now, a growing group of those fans have added their signatures to an online petition urging Iron Maiden to restore him -- and, by extension, Eddie -- to his rightful place. Saying that his "artwork and visual direction is second to none," the site argues, "Many fans view his artwork to be as influential as the music Iron Maiden produces. Things haven't been the same since he stopped being Iron Maiden's exclusive artist, so we plead with the band to bring him back for any future artwork needs."

Riggs doesn't seem to have commented on the petition publicly, but you can see signs of support at his Facebook page -- and as of this writing, the number of signatures is closing in on 1,000. If you miss the original Eddie, now's your chance to let your voice be heard.

More From Ultimate Classic Rock