3 Things We Learned About Ryan Stegman’s THE SCHLUB At C2E2 2024

Ryan Stegman loves body swap stories. His favorite? 17 Again.

It’s an extremely fitting factoid for anyone whose introduction to Stegman’s work was his run with writer Dan Slott on Superior Spider-Man, the infamous 2013-2014 story arc where a dying Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body for 34 issues.

But it’s also a detail that spawned Stegman’s Image Comics series The Schlub.


3 things we learned about Ryan Stegman’s The Schlub at C2E2 2024

The creator-owned collaboration with fellow writer Kenny Porter (Superboy, The Flash), artist Tyrell Cannon (Beef Bros), colorist Mike Spicer (Beta Ray Bill), and letterer John J. Hill (Harley Quinn) follows the story of what happens when failed dentist Roger Dalton swaps bodies with Cirrus, one of his world’s greatest superheroes.

To mark the occasion of The Schlub’s trade paperback release, Stegman, Porter, and Cannon held court during a Saturday panel at C2E2, discussing their experiences building out Roger and Cirrus’ world. Here are three things we learned.

What is this again?

The initial idea for The Schlub came to Stegman during a dinner at a comic convention in which he implored Joëlle Jones and her boyfriend at the time to watch 17 Again

“I don’t know what I like about [body swap stories] so much,” Stegman told attendees, but he really wanted to do a superhero book with that twist on it. At the time, he was finishing the Amazing Spider-Man/Venom crossover “Venom Inc,” and he had told Marvel he was going to go off to do a creator-owned series.

During this time, he said, he turned down a Mike Costa-written Venom miniseries that Mark Bagley ended up drawing, as well as Infinity Warps with Gerry Duggan. But then Marvel editor Devin Lewis pressed him to get on the phone with writer Donny Cates about working on a new Venom series with writer Donny Cates. As a result, The Schlub — initially titled “The Unbearable Roger Dalton,” or “TURD” — went on the backburner.

Not content to leave the already-written plot just sitting there, Stegman approached Porter and Cannon about completing it.

The general plot for the book, Stegman said, was that a Michael Scott type of guy who can’t get out of his own way and is hated by his family gets body-swapped with the most powerful being on the planet.

Stegman really doesn’t like dentists

The reason for why the character of Roger Dalton is a dentist is a simple one: In building a story around an unlikable character, Stegman gravitated toward the most unlikable profession that came to mind. After all, does anyone actually enjoy going to the dentist?

While Porter shared a dental horror story in which the dentist’s polishing tool exploded in his mouth and sprayed paste everywhere, the root of Stegman’s problem with dentists runs much deeper. 

“They’ve definitely tried to ruin my life multiple times,” Stegman told attendees. 

At age 27, he had his wisdom teeth removed after years of putting it off. But within days of having them removed, he began having recurring pain on one side of his mouth. Despite returning to the dentist who pulled the teeth, he was repeatedly told nothing seemed wrong.

After three months of pain and “being told that I was crazy,” he eventually went to a new dentist who told him he had a severe infection and that “you might lose that whole jaw.” That dentist sent him to a periodontist, who told him he needed massive surgery because his jaw was eroding from infection. “I’m losing bone in my jaw. I’m in pain all the time. This is like a 6-month ordeal,” Stegman said. “The entire process was just people messing up over and over and over.”

Thus, “I want this guy to be the worst guy in the world for The Schlub, so what would his profession be? Dentist, obviously,” Stegman said.

The ‘Marvel style’ approach shows — in the best ways

During phone conversations, the trio worked to flesh out a universe of characters built around a main character “who sucks,” Stegman said. This included Roger Dalton’s family, a “Justice-League-like” group, and more.

Much of this was done “Marvel style” — where the writer shares the plot with the artist, the artist expands the plot into a fully drawn story, and the writer fleshes out the dialogue and captions — to “let Tyrell flex,” Porter said. 

Cannon responded by joking that they were too lazy to write a “real” script, but conceded that the plots he received weren’t “just a block of text.” They described panels, but the plot wasn’t fully called out panel-for-panel like a full script.

As a result of the loose scripting approach, Cannon said he leaned into taking full advantage of the comic medium rather than laying panels out like a storyboard pitch for a show — and it shows through from the story’s opening splash page, in which the reader’s first view of Roger Dalton is from looking outward from inside of a patient’s mouth.

On each ensuing page, Cannon plays with Cirrus’ body language to convey that he’s a superhero being piloted by a normal dentist, and that Roger is a normal dentist being piloted by a superhero, and neither really knows what they’re doing.

Each issue introduces new characters and situations that the body-swapped duo must navigate.

But despite not being scripted as a pitch for a show, Stegman joked that if any producers want to make it a show, he’d love to talk because, “I’m really underwater here, guys.”

[Writer’s note: In the interest of full transparency, this panel was enough to make me seek out a copy of The Schlub trade paperback at Porter’s artist alley table, and it has not been disappointing. The story is paced well and does a good job of balancing dry humor and a lighthearted tone while fleshing out its characters and the world they inhabit. And even when splash pages aren’t making dynamic use of the medium, each page still pops thanks to Cannon and Spicer’s energetic art. I highly recommend checking this book out if you want a fun superhero story outside of the familiar names from the Big Two.]


Roger Riddell
Roger Riddell
Essentially Peter Parker with all the charm of Wolverine, he's a DC-based B2B journalist who occasionally writes about music and pop culture in his free time. His love for comics, metal, and videogames has also landed him gigs writing for the A.V. Club, Comic Book Resources, and Louisville Magazine. Keep him away from the whiskey, and don't ask him how much he hates the Spider-Man movies unless you're ready to hear about his overarching plot for a six-film series that would put the Dark Knight trilogy to shame.