Written by Robin Maxwell
When Tor’s art department presented me with Mark Summers’s amazing cover art, I was a bit thrown. All earlier concepts had included Tarzan, and here he was nowhere to be found except in the subtitle. Yet my gut reaction to the image was overwhelmingly positive. “Yes!” I thought, this was the Jane I’d written—at least as she’d evolved during the course of the book, from a dignified, if tomboyish, Edwardian young lady into a woman who could survive in an African jungle, hunting, fighting, and brachiating through the liana. In short, a “fit mate” for Tarzan.
Here, staring out at me from my book cover, was a powerful, feline female who looked as though if anyone messed with her ape man she would snatch him bald. I liked that. In the next months, when things got hairy, as they always do in the run-up to publishing a book, I’d find myself gazing at the cover, and it would always cheer me up. I was proud that this was the image that would introduce the world to my novel. I started taking strenth from this rendition of Jane Porter. I was slowly being moved by her fierceness and fearlessness.
And it was a good thing, too, because 2012 is Tarzan’s 100th anniversary year, and through my close association with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, I was invited to be a panelist at San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve been a public speaker for fifteen years, but nothing I’d experienced could prepare me for what I knew this convention would be.
In prepping for it, I was suddenly using the cover image in myriad ways—postcards, book plates, and a large poster—to support my panel and a book signing at the Tor Books booth. Everywhere I looked, there was Jane staring back at me, compelling me to “woman-up” and face the mobs and strange creatures of the high-tech jungle in San Diego.
The sight of her everywhere buoyed me, excited me, made me consider crazy things. On a shopping expedition for my Comic-Con wardrobe I found myself eying a little tee-shirt dress in a quite beautiful leopard pattern. With Jane whispering in my ear, I grabbed it off the rack and took it home. My husband, Max, watched that night as I took the scissors to it, cutting out one arm and giving it a jagged, pelt-like hem. When I put it on with black pants and a stone necklace it looked kind of cool. But all my friends warned me – “Do not wear that thing to Comic-Con. You’ll look like an idiot!” They drowned out Jane’s voice…and I chickened out. However, I packed it up and brought it with me anyway.
I spent my first morning at SDCC2012 handing out postcards and signing book plates. A pretty young woman who’d taken a card from me strongly evoked the spirit of Jane and with a sudden burst of courage, I blurted out, “Would you put on a Jane outfit and help me promote my book?!”
My jungle instincts had proven true. Heidi Hilliker was not in costume when we met, but on Saturday she was going to transform herself into her favorite heroine, Wonder Woman. She was game to be Jane for an hour. In the ladies’ room, I whipped out the dress. She looked sensational in it! At the book signing she held up my poster proudly, attracting many admiring stares. I cursed myself for not being brave enough to wear the tog myself.
Once Comic-Con was behind us, the Fates provided me with one more chance to prove my strength and daring. Steve Brown, the publisher of a wonderful Southern California arts and entertainment magazine, The Sun Runner, was intrigued by Jane and the story of how—with the help of Max, a 35-year veteran yoga teacher, and much-beloved figure in our community—I had come to write it. Steve, a pretty out-there guy himself, suggested we pose as Tarzan and Jane for the cover of the “Desert Writers Issue” of his magazine.
Again, friends cautioned us against it. But this time the spirits of Jane and the ape man punched through and cried, “Go for it!” I fashioned Max a nifty little loincloth for his still incredible seventy-year-old body, and put on my outfit. At the 29 Palm Inn oasis, hiding the unfortunate parts of my anatomy with a giant palm frond, we took deep breaths and went native. Here’s the result.
From the Tor/Forge September newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from the September Tor/Forge newsletter:
- A Conversation with Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross
- Blood Sucking Lawyers (For Real) by Phillipa Bornikova
- Books, the Universe, and Cosmic Oddities by Linda Grimes
- The Clockwork Sky Sneak Peek by Madeleine Rosca
- Graphic Novel Sweepstakes