The flashback montage continues from Part One! And we’re finding out all kinds of interesting things about the past, like Charlotte used to have a fringe. Or, in the common tongue, “bangs”.

And here’s Charlotte’s parents again! We haven’t seen them in a while.

Here’s another little detail for long-time readers: aboard the submarine, 22-year-old Amy and Charlotte, approximately two years before the timeline of the comic. So you can see they’re sporting their hairstyles and character designs from their first appearance, only rendered in the current art style.

Happy New Year everyone! How’ve you been? Things have been a little chaotic over the past six or seven months. First the day job was busy all summer and then in October my wife and I had a beautiful daughter! A daughter with what I suspect is a genius-level intellect and resting Judi Dench face. She has a shrewd stare that makes you feel like she can see through to the very core of you and the chubbiest cheeks any baby has ever had.

Alas, she’s spent most of her life since mid October with some cold or other, which means my wife and I and our son have suffered the same fate. The constant onslaught has not been helped by my pulling a few all-nighters close to tight deadlines in order to post comics on time, this despite the fact that I’m too old and too… two people’s dad… to be pulling them. Yeah, not the best way to recover from a cold or sleep deprivation. I’ve spent most of November and December as a shambling mucus zombie.

It was in one of these fugue states that I put my drawing tablet down on a surface that turned out to be less than stable, as I soon found out when it slid onto the floor and broke. It was my own stupid fault. Luckily, I had a back-up, my pride and joy from six Christmases ago, the Wacom Cintiq 20UX. She is large and cumbersome in every way that the Cintiq 13HD was small and portable. She weighs about as much as a great dane and is about as warm and comfortable on my lap. When I have a bad cold, which is all the time, she feels like she’s trying to grind my shins into my ankles via my knees like a mortar and pestle. I still love her, she is every bit as much my pride and joy as she was when first we met and returning to her was like welcoming home an old friend. But she’s a particular sort of lady. You’ve got to learn her ways. Some things she’ll do, some things she won’t. She’ll let you draw your comic on her beautiful 20 inch surface sure enough. But will she let you draw a straight line in one go across her screen without making it sort of jagged and zig-zaggy and janky? No sir, no she will not. You got to take your time with her, draw that line a little bit at a time and slow, real slow. Will she fit in your car so you can take her to visit the in-laws? No sir. She’s not the kind of lady you take home to mom and dad.

I do not want to create the false impression that my now-deceased Wacom Cintiq 13HD was without idiosyncrasies. The cable connecting the tablet to the laptop which was all-in-one HDMI cable, power source and USB stayed connected to the tablet about as comfortably as your feet to the floor of a cinema, which is to say: intermittently, sometimes for short periods of time and sometimes for longer, never permanently and always with a strong desire to become unattached again at the earliest opportunity.

With the tablet on my lap, if I touched the wire it disconnected. If I touched something near the wire it disconnected. If I sneezed it disconnected. If somebody touched my foot it disconnected. Sometimes it would just spontaneously disconnect for no reason because life is an adventure.

Here’s the thing, your screen winking on and off while you’re trying to draw is bad enough, but remember my laptop’s graphics card and Windows and Photoshop, they collectively interpreted these wire mishaps as me deliberately installing and uninstalling hardware, which meant the driver powering the tablet kept going haywire. As my laptop got older, the problems worsened. When it got to the point that Photoshop would crash when the wire came out, taking unsaved work with it. So, I would get paranoid about losing the comic and compulsively save literally every couple of minutes…

… only sometimes the tablet would crash the laptop so badly that it would just blue-screen itself to death, at which point if I had been in the act of saving (which was likely) at that point the save would become corrupt and then the entire comic would be lost.

A couple of times I had to start again from scratch. This comic page for example, was drawn and inked twice. It was excruciating.

On the lucky days I’d just lose eight hours of work or so.

Yeah so 21UX is a stubborn but faithful friend who has a few quirks you need to work around but she always shows up on time. The 13HD is a passionate and fiery mistress who would burn your house down on a whim.

So as we reflect back on the last couple of weeks and months perhaps it’s no surprise that the comics have taken a long time to finish, or that your humble cartoonist has found himself apologising on Twitter for lateness and uploading his .png files on the day the comic is due instead of the week before or even night before, perhaps in the morning or afternoon depending on your time zone. It’s always 4:30 am somewhere, eh?

Perhaps it’s also no surprise that my side-projects and other creative outlets have received no attention and gathered dust at the back of my mind.

Well, new year, new me. I’m going to save up for a new computer that doesn’t spectacularly crash like a car driven by dogs. And me and my trusty 21UX are going to work ahead on the comics this month and February and if we have time work on some other cool things until I can afford a new Wacom tablet.

I hope cool things and creative fulfilment and Wacom tablets and chubby-cheeked babies lie in your future too, or whatever the equivalent amount of happiness and good luck would be for your life. Here’s to 2019 being the best year yet!