Written by Mike Fichera and Sal Moscato / Art by Mike Fichera

The premise was to showcase how our professor would solve a mystery using the power of physics to save the day in place of guns and bullwhips. The challenge was how to write a story that could potentially reach a wide audience in our high school that could be both funny and not get us expelled. We had our hero, but who could be the bad guy? There were easy targets - our deans of discipline would be the obvious choice. But it was too obvious. So we went for the obscure and picked on the pizza man, poor Mr. Toth, with the thankless job serving us in the school kitchen, with his trademark square pizzas on Fridays. Who would've guessed he, and his hair-color-changing wife Brigit, were behind this caper's crimes - and could explain why our student population steadily declined from freshman to senior year? We meant no offense, Mr. Toth. You were just the unlikely suspect.

At Archbishop Molloy High School, "Espinoza Jones and the Temple of Smith" was my literary magnum opus. My buddy Sal Moscato got together with me at the start of summer vacation in 1986 after a year of physics with Mr. Fernando Espinoza, and conceived of a crazy story involving our teacher, classmates, faculty, administrators, and the folks working in the school cafeteria. Once the story was scripted, and a story board of each page was sketched out, I drew the comics at a rate of roughly a page day until school was back in session. The book was completed on October 4, 1986. I penciled the book, but didn't ink it. Rather, I used smelly design markers, which produced outstanding colors, but filled my room with noxious vapors. I was also unskilled at fighting the marker bleed, which caused many colors to leak across my linework. I've started to digitally clean up the colors, but that refurbishment work is going to take some time. I'm also planning to redo all my lettering digitally.

Joining "Espo" on his adventure were Sal, and two other buddies, Jack LaPinta and Terry Doocey. We packed in as many people as we could fit but it was tough not being able to get everybody in. The book did end up passing along through the school, from classmates up to the principal. We avoided detention, suspension, expulsion - so it looks like we managed to be inoffensive. I was really concerned about offending Mr. Espinoza. It was not meant to be lampooning him, but really honoring him in cartoon form. I had, and have, great respect for the man. He introduced me to engineering and Manhattan College, setting me up with a summer engineering try-out program which whetted my appetite for applied physics. Besides being a friendly teacher who shared his love of astronomy with us after school, he was also one of the first teachers I had who integrated faith into learning science. I will never forget his sharing about a paper he wrote during his education examining the intricacies of the human eye, revealing the genius of whomever designed the organ. And since no human intelligence designed itself, the hyper-intelligence of the divine creator stood revealed. We consider a car rather sophisticated, yet would never conceive of one designing and constructing itself. He presented a clear argument against aethism in the design and construction of the human eye - one example of many in the human body.

Fernando did enjoy the comic, and understood my intentions. He even graciously agreed to wear the jacket and fedora hat for a yearbook photo! I hope to release a digitally remastered version of the book one of these days, with crisp new colors and lettering. But for now, enjoy the original version.

Special thanks go out to Sal, the unsung hero in this effort. I got a lot of the spotlight as this book passed around, but Sal was with me in the trenches from the start with the plot, the concepts, and the writing. Thanks Sal!

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