Contrary to what you might think, Star Wars rumors didn't begin with the Internet — they've been a crucial part of the series' fandom since the very beginning. Back in those days, though, information traveled slowly, and without daily news items, set leaks, or drone photos (one wonders what Carter Era fans would have made of that phrase), fans were left to theorize about the future of the saga on their own, relying on what scant "official" resources were available at the time. Such speculations would be published in essay form, often in fanzines, but occasionally in glossier, professional publications sold at bookstores and newsstands.
One of the oddest, yet strangely predictive examples of the form appeared in Fantastic Films #20, published in December 1980. Credited to one Bill Hays, the piece speculates not only about Revenge of the Jedi, then more than two years and a title change in the future, but also the prequel and sequel trilogies covering the origins of Darth Vader and the ultimate destinies of Luke, Han, and Leia that Lucas had revealed around the time of Empire Strikes Back's release. To make his case, Hays gathers clues from the two existing movies, as well as earlier drafts of Lucas's scripts, the Del Rey novels, THX-1138, The Bible, Tolkien, the Arthurian mythos, and Asimov's Foundation. It's a dizzying, often bizarre read, with digressions into science, religion, mythology, and history, yet bits of it stand out as strangely accurate in regards to the franchise's future.
Hays accurately predicted that Episode I, which he believed would be titled The Clone Wars and would come out some time in 1986, would center on the first meeting between Obi-Wan and the future Darth Vader. His description of the scene anticipates some of what ended up on the screen:
The story opens with young Obi-wan [sic] pushing his way through a crowded, far-off city, when he senses a tremor in the Force. He follows it to a slave boy surrounded by an angry crowd...
Recognizing the boy's Force potential, and believing him to be the son of a Jedi, Obi-Wan intervenes against the crowd, who were going to execute him for using his nascent powers against his master. He purchases the boy and takes him to his spaceship, where he introduces him to the pilot, identified as "Skywalker." Skywalker is, in fact, Luke's real father, a Jedi Knight who travels under cover as a spice smuggler... and Vader is his clone.
Okay, it's not quite Phantom Menace, but the story elements are similar: an older Jedi (Kenobi, not Qui-Gon) finds a young slave boy with Force powers, and frees him with the aim of training him to use his abilities. Eventually, Vader is driven to revenge against the people who murdered his foster parents, not unlike Anakin's massacre of the Tuskens who tortured his mother in Attack of the Clones, an act of violence that precipitates his eventual fall to the Dark Side. But then, Hays' story gets kinda odd.
Turns out everybody's a damn clone, not just Vader. If you've ever wondered where the old "OB-1" meme got its start, look no further:
OB-1 is a clone designation. Using it would have attracted attention, and one of the Emperor's bounty hunters. Obi-wan was the first clone of a man of the initials O.B. — but who?
The answer, simply, is Star Wars Jesus.
Drawing parallels between the fall of the Galactic Republic, and the fall of the Roman Republic, Hays suggests that this "O.B." was a spiritual leader and visionary who promoted a message of compassion, selflessness, and nonviolence, rejecting worldly goods and excitement in favor of inner peace and understanding, and founded a religious order — the Jedi Knights, as opposed to Earth's Christianity — as a means of promulgating those beliefs and teachings.
Obi-wan is one thousand generations removed from the first Jedi, who would have been the Jesus of the Star Wars universe. The first Jedi would have been a scientist rather than a religious fanatic, who would have realized that his ability to perform miracles was something less than divinity that could be passed on through the DNA helix.
This leads Hays to suspect a more direct link between Star Wars' history and our own:
Better yet, tell me what Jedi stands for. In Latin, the plural of Jesus would be Jesi, but that's too obvious. If the early Christians cloned Jesus to preserve his unique DNA, they might have built the Jesus Eugenics Development Institute. It provided a home for the galaxy's greatest minds, robot as well as human. No mere human brain can comprehend the complexity of a DNA molecule. That task remains for computers, and artificial minds such as Artoo's, that unobtrusive observer from the JED Institute.
Lucas says that Star Wars is really the robots' story... Is it possible the Jedi Knights were cloned from an artificial gene created by robots, to give mankind the religious leaders it wanted?
At first glance, this sounds insane. But think about it: Anakin's virgin birth, the messianic prophecy of the Chosen One, the scientific rationalization of the Force as powered by midi-chlorians, the fact that the droids are present at virtually every significant moment in Anakin and Luke's adult lives in the OT and the prequels. The more I contemplated it, the more it started to make a bizarre sort of logic. Maybe, just maybe, Hays tapped into a transcendent mythopoeic cosmic unconsciousness that bridged space, time, and mind between 1980 and 1994, when Lucas started writing Episode I. Or perhaps, more prosaically, at some point during those fourteen years, a tattered copy of Fantastic Films #20 found its way into one of the bathrooms at Skywalker Ranch, and began its own inevitable hero's journey into legend and infamy... As Hays perceptively observes, "One thing you can say about George Lucas, is that he never throws an idea away."
The whole article is here. (Sorry, the Thundarr the Barbarian article is not included in the .pdf, but you can find it here.) I've left out a lot of the plot details, such as the true identities of Luke's mother and the Emperor so you can find them out for yourselves. There's even some speculation about the storylines for the sequel trilogy, which Hays imagined taking place 20 years after Jedi, that sound weirdly plausible even in today's post-prequel era. I can't find Bill Hays anywhere online; he seems to have vanished into some sort of pre-digital print Singularity. But I can't shake the suspicion that we need his insights now, more than ever before. I wanna know what "O.B." stands for! (My guess: "Old B.O.B." from Disney's The Black Hole, who sacrificed his corporeal existence — just like his human descendant Obi-Wan on the Death Star! — so that the crew of the Palomino could escape into another galaxy, thus bringing about the creation of the droid-run JED— er, Jedi Order. And which galaxy was that? That's right, you read that here first, folks. You laugh, but who owns Star Wars now?)
Help me, Bill Hays, you're my only hope...