Star Wars Fake News
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Entertainment

Inside the 'Star Wars' Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years

It's January 31, 1997, and you just walked out of Star Wars: Special Edition. The unadulterated joy coursing through your veins of seeing this classic blockbuster back on the big screen has completely compromised all capacity for critical thought. The Force is with you yet again. It's with everyone. And this euphoric moment is but the prelude to the not-so-far-far-away glory of a brand-new chapter set to arrive in 1999. It is the greatest time in history to be a Star Wars fan.

Even better, this is the future, and you are one of 70 million people on the planet privileged with access to the World Wide Web. So you get that dial-up modem crooning in the key of 28.8 kbit/s, and within minutes, are scouring the net for every existing scrap of Star Wars: Episode I news. Hyperspace to 4 in the morning: you've been hunting down details for hours, and what you've gleaned from the prominent rumor aggregators, the web 1.0 successors to Starlog, Fantastic Films, Cinefantastique, and other 1980s fan mags, has only left you starved for more. That's when you discover a lone, confident voice cutting through the clueless din of fanboy speculation. He claims to own a copy of the Episode I treatment; he swears he has a direct line to George Lucas; and apparently, he has clearance from Lucasfilms to post just anything he pleased on his Tripod-hosted website, "Dark Side Prequel Rumors." This guy knows everything.

His name was SuperShadow, and years later, it would be painfully apparent that he knew nothing, save for how to hoodwink Star Wars fans drunk on the promise of Episode I. Not everyone would believe him, but enough people bought into the ruse to make SuperShadow the phantom menace of movie news webmasters, and Lucasfilm itself, for a solid decade. Relentlessly inventive, SuperShadow told his readers precisely what they wanted to hear from his place next to Emperor George's throne. When the majority of the online community screamed bullshit, he "brought out" Lucas for a series of interviews, like Woody Allen fetching Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall. In character as someone in the know, SuperShadow would spend long days online conducting proto-AMAs with his adoring fans who, over the years, began to communicate in the same busted-robotic syntax as their favorite movie-news manufacturer.

Today, SuperShadow's 1+1=anything-but-2 microcosm is pervasive across all subjects and disciplines. He was an early purveyor of "FAKE NEWS," hooking naïve Star Wars fans with his illusory access to the Great Creator of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. He took advantage of Lucas's secretive process to become a Jedi Harold Hill, selling lightsabers to true believers. But to what end? Twenty years after stumbling across his exploits in LucasLand as a reader of (and soon-to-be contributor to) Ain’t It Cool News, I'm still trying to make sense of the mad-sad ambition and maniacal diligence that SuperShadow poured into this doomed undertaking. Be it the product of delusion or sheer hucksterism, this was someone's broken life's work.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
20th Century Fox

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today's post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain't It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona's Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories -- like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus -- gained real traction in 1998.

SuperShadow made his mark in the climate of confusion that preceded the release of Star Wars: Episode I– The Phantom Menace. Though much of "Dark Side Prequel Rumors" has disappeared from the web, several pages of the site -- black text slapped against a hideous banana yellow background -- remain. The earliest news item, dated December 23, 1993, states "Episode I is set 37-and-a-half years prior to Episode 4 (Source: Greg Brady, Roc-em Soc-em Robots, Chad.)" It's vintage SuperShadow, a demonstrably false fact (The Phantom Menace takes place 32 years before A New Hope) culled from the insider knowledge of a random source. In this case, the eldest Brady son, pugilistic toy robots, and a good chunk of Central Africa.

"This guy doesn't want you to know who he is, and he certainly doesn't want to put his name behind anything he says."

Judging from that same page of updates, SuperShadow's online activity increased once principal photography began on Episode I in June 1997. By September, "Dark Side Prequel Rumors" fired off near-daily updates that mixed verified StarWars.com news with rumors that were no more outlandish than anything popping up on his competition's sites. There was some successful guesswork (SuperShadow predicted that Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn died in Episode I), but for the most part, the blogger paired catnip phrases with "what if?" possibilities, cannily playing to fans' most unrealistic hopes and dreams for Episode I (“Liam Neeson’s performance is Oscar worthy”). One pseudonymously-sourced item suggested that graphically violent R-rated cuts of the prequels were being prepped for home video. Fans are still waiting for them.

In late 1997, Ain't It Cool News founder Harry Knowles became the buzz-making bane of Hollywood's existence with a flurry of test-screening reviews, but SuperShadow flew under the radar as a persistent self-promoter who dropped hyped-up links to his site in AOL chat rooms and message boards. Some people bought in. After all, if some guy from Austin, Texas could gain access to the innermost secrets of studio filmmaking, who was to say another guy flying under an alias didn't have the goods on the next Star Wars?

Angry Anakin
20th Century Fox

Jason Ward, editor-in-chief of the popular fansite MakingStarWars.net, was just one of many young Force fanatics to drop in on SuperShadow's "Dark Side Prequel Rumors" in anticipation of Episode I. Like many before and after him, it was a legit item that hooked him. "SuperShadow did have actual scoops," recalls Ward, who remembers the site running a leaked layout of the podrace sets from The Phantom Menace. Whether the scoop was original or SuperShadow purloined the leaks from another site didn't matter; it was legit enough at the time and verified in the rearview mirror.

The surge of Episode I news created an ethical dilemma for movie-site bloggers. They were now journalists -- and whether they knew it or not, how they proceeded from here would influence the standards adopted by the next wave of internet newswriters. With all the fuzzy truths flying around, webmasters felt compelled to scrutinize their rumor stories more than ever before, knowing that the readers would eventually see the movie and judge them on accuracy. This didn't faze SuperShadow, who invited his readers to submit not only scoops, but blind dart-throwing theories based almost exclusively on their knowledge of the original trilogy. Wild speculation was encouraged and published with impunity. For example: “Owen [Lars, from the original Star Wars] will be in the new movies. He is Obi-wan's brother, and he has to be in at least five minutes at the end when he tells Obi-Wan he will take care of Luke.”

Ward was one of those readers who joined in the fun. "[SuperShadow] was actually pretty open at the time," he says. "If you sent him an email, he would actually correspond with you. He was pretty nice." A high school student in the late 1990s, Ward corresponded with SuperShadow once a week. When he informed the webmaster that he'd been asked to compose a short piece for his creative writing class, SuperShadow viewed this as an opportunity to get Ward writing free content for his site. "I was like, 'Yeah, that's a great idea,'" he laughs. Purporting to come from the official Star Wars fan hotline (1-800-TRUE-FAN), the essay ran through a string of bogus George Lucas quotes about the cast ("On Jake Lloyd... 'He’s bouncy, cheerful, everything you could want. He’s sort of a young Luke Skywalker.'"), and confronted the absurdity of 8-year-old Anakin piloting a starfighter, which for some fans, was one of the more worrying sights glimpsed in the first teaser. The resulting story, published to the site on September 14, 1998, was written entirely in SuperShadow-ese.

Though contributing to one of his favorite sites thrilled Ward, he was alarmed by SuperShadow's lack of gratitude: "He just slapped it right up. He never even responded to say, 'I put it up' or 'Your stuff's live.' It would just be live on a random page. It was strange." Ward soon realized this was just the way SuperShadow operated. "If you wrote in to him, and you had a conversation with him, he would sometimes just pull whatever you wrote and put it into his updates. It was early internet, the Wild West, so I don't know if he was being unethical on purpose."

SuperShadow continued to flood the zone with fabrications, claiming everything from Boba Fett allegedly sitting out Episode I to the names and purposes of the new characters, but the ramp up to The Phantom Menace turned the webmaster into an ornery presence. The tone of his updates had taken a sharp turn from hopeful to condescending. Readers noticed that his rumor accuracy average had fallen well below the Mendoza Line. Publishing one correct scoop while posting dozens of hilariously false tidbits (“It is rumored that young Kenobi pilots the Falcon in the prequel, but what if Palpatine owns the Falcon instead?”) was insufficient. He needed greater legitimacy -- or what passed for it in this community in the late 1990s. His strategy: email successful movie news websites until they aggregated one of his counterfeit coups. In August 1998, his dubious scoop -- sourced to an unnamed friend in exhibition -- warning of a 50% price hike on theater tickets for Episode Ifound its way onto Ain't It Cool News, where it provoked both panic and ridicule in the article's talkback.

From that day forward, Ain't It Cool kept its guard up, but SuperShadow continued to lob fake news items at the editors. One of his favorite people to pester was West Coast editor Drew McWeeny (who wrote under the handle "Professor Moriarty"). "It was early on," says McWeeny. "We were one of the guys breaking actual stories about Star Wars. But having a copy of the script early for Episode I, and being in a position where we'd seen big chunks of stuff early, we knew what we were reporting on." SuperShadow's dogged persistence finally found McWeeny's last nerve, when he pitched a story on a character that did not exist in the script. "I went directly to him. I tried to email or contact him. And I have never dealt with anybody who hid harder. He did not want to be found. That should've been a huge giveaway for anyone who was dealing with him. This guy doesn't want you to know who he is, and he certainly doesn't want to put his name behind anything he says."

When major movie news sites shut down his bogus scoops, SuperShadow spammed their comments and message boards with links to "Dark Side Prequel Rumors." He was joined in his efforts by numerous fans... who sounded exactly like SuperShadow. Like this comment from “Anonymous Lucasfilm Source,” posted to an Ain't It Cool talkback in early 1998, SuperShadow would also scold fans for buying into Lucasfilm-verified facts:

By the way some of you use names like Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul, it appears that some of you either believe these names are legit or use them cause those are the only names made available so far . . . but let me tell you why those names are not the true names for the characters in the prequels . . . For each scene where certain character name(s) and planet name(s) were spoken on camera, George took at least 3 takes using different names for each take. One name is the real one and the other two are disinformation. If a name is spoken by a creature that either doesn't move its mouth (i.e., droids) or CG (computer generated) "synthetic beings" then the real names will be dubbed in by George in the editing room . . . George also did this with pivotal dialogue that was spoken . . . So these names were linked to the official Star Wars site as a joke and to make everyone think maybe there is something to them after all. Remember http://www.blueharvest.com/ was acquired by Lucasfilm as a domain name and use to link to the official site and as we all know Blue Harvest was the 'code name' used for RoTJ . . . 

There was Lucasfilm and there was SuperShadow's Lucasfilm, a bubble in which his anonymous insiders could explain away each debunked rumor as subterfuge. As the scoops inevitably crashed and burned with increasing frequency throughout 1998, SuperShadow finally sealed his bubble shut with an audacious new gambit.

Yoda
20th Century Fox

On September 8, 1998, SuperShadow published an interview with George Lucas -- the one that existed in his parallel universe. The Q&A was brief: 17 questions answered in terse fashion by a Lucas, who confessed to being too busy to read fan sites, while at the same time granting an exclusive interview to a fan site. He brushed off "unofficial Episode I news" on the internet as "amusing," described the making of the new film as "the most pleasant time I have ever had associated with a film production" and confirmed SuperShadow's assertion that Lucasfilm was attempting to "mask and obscure" crucial moments in the film to guard against leaks. These allegedly dialed-in webmasters knew nothing of Lucas' work.

This is where most rational adults would check out, but for those who'd bought into SuperShadow's fantasy (particularly kids like Ward), letting go proved difficult. Visiting "Dark Side Prequel Rumors" was a part of their daily online routine; they enjoyed the participatory element of the site and had hoped to see this journey through to the opening of Episode I in May 1999. Besides, what if all of the information leaked to the public thus far really was a masterfully orchestrated ruse by Lucasfilm? Occam's razor was against it, but the high school kid in Arkansas or the video store clerk in New Jersey had no concrete reason to trust Ain't It Cool News, which nailed some scoops and misfired on plenty of others, over SuperShadow.

Their faith in SuperShadow was tested immediately on September 28, 1998, when StarWars.com revealed that Episode I would not be titled Ways of the Force, as SuperShadow had repeatedly claimed, but, rather, The Phantom Menace. While other websites lit up with derision and bewilderment over the pulpy title, SuperShadow went straight to Lucas for an explanation, and, shockingly, got answers that supported his version of the truth. When asked if this title might be subject to change à la Return of the Jedi (famously mellowed out from Revenge of the Jedi), the faux-Lucas said, "The fans have been eager for a title and I knew at some point I would have to title Episode 1, but that doesn't mean I can't change it. The entire film still remains subject to certain changes until its release." And just like that, SuperShadow had cover for his non-stop deceit all the way to opening day.

Emboldened by his unfettered access to Lucasfilm, SuperShadow began hosting his own Q&As, responding directly to reader speculation (presumably because, in his mind, he knew what Lucas knew). The format was odd -- reprinting the salient portion of reader questions and providing answers in bold type, all in the same block of text -- but effective. Most were innocuous, likely sent by kids, and filled with vague enough commentary that they wouldn't qualify as lies. But they weren't truths either. Like this direct quote from a March 24, 1999 Q&A, the run-on info-dumping would be SuperShadow's trademark form of communication with his followers until the very end.

I would like to see some Han Solo backround. A sub plot about how Han met Chewbacca, how he got into trouble with Jaba and more on his early relationship with Lando. I saw Jaba in the TPM trailor#2, so I asume there will be something about Han Solo in this trilogy. What do you know about any of this? (Source: Partisan) (SuperShadow: We don't get to see Han, Lando and Chewie until Ep. 3 at the earliest.)

In the days leading up to the release of The Phantom Menace, SuperShadow veered away from speculation, and, like every other avid Star Wars fan, surrendered to the euphoria. If SuperShadow was just a young fabulist with way too much time on his hands, as many suspected, perhaps an actual, new Star Wars movie would puncture his bubble and put an end to this fraudulent enterprise. Episode I hit theaters on May 19, 1999, and shortly after, SuperShadow flooded his site with legitimate news coverage of the film's worldwide box office performance, and a positive review. The updates looked like the end.

They were not. On June 7, 1999, SuperShadow boldly posted what he claimed were spy-obtained "excerpts" from George Lucas's first draft of Episode II. It was a summary of the first seven pages. Page 4 read:

Queen Amidala contacts Anakin and inquires of him about his mission to Tatooine. Anakin responds that he will soon return to Naboo, but has run into some problems . . . Anakin arrives alone at the dangerous enclave of Mitor the Hutt, who now owns Shmi. Mitor refuses to release Shmi and Anakin watches as Mitor has his minions mistreat Shmi. As the most powerful Jedi, Anakin is sent into a tremendous hate-filled rage and destroys everyone. He then leaves Tatooine with his mother for Naboo.

Then came a rumor that Leonardo DiCaprio was in talks to play Anakin. SuperShadow wasn't going anywhere. In the months and years to come, he would double down again and again on his connections to Lucasfilm. When access wasn't enough, he would become George Lucas's best friend and most trusted collaborator. This was SuperShadow 2.0, and he was going to have a much bigger impact on Episode II and III. He was also about to get outed.

Jedi Police
20th Century Fox

In September 1999, SuperShadow migrated from Tripod to SuperShadow.com, where he began building out a sprawling fantasy world wherein he is George Lucas's most valued creative consultant. Still engaging in Q&As with his readers (that would never change), the primary draw of the new site -- for those either unaware of his pre-Episode I chicanery or perversely entertained by his stories -- were his "official" treatments for Star Wars: Episode II. In November 1999, he claimed to have two of these plot outlines in his possession, "Version 1.0" and "Version 2.0," both of which would bear little to no relation to 2002's Attack of the Clones. The first version, Crusaders of the Force, mirrored Lucas's movie in that Anakin sought to free his enslaved mother (it also concluded with Anakin and Pademé getting married). The second version, Rise of the Empire, was incoherent fan fiction centered on Supreme Chancellor Palpatine's video game-like quest to hunt down ancient Jedi relics with the help of his new second-in-command, Darth Rage, a character who rooted himself in fandom enough to linger even to this day.

To his critics, the persistent deluge of fake news promoted SuperShadow from harmless obsessive to genuine nuisance, and the burning question shifted from "What's wrong with this guy?" to "Who is this guy?" The internet could solve the latter; using a domain search in March 2004, forum sleuths revealed that SuperShadow.com was registered to one Mickey Suttle. The name was promptly circulated around every Star Wars message board in existence, and pop-up web pages, like the still-hanging-on Angelfire site called "About the REAL SuperShadow," managed by Steven Alldis (founder of TheStarWarsRP.com) and co-maintained thereafter by Brandon Rhea (fan-fiction author and current manager of content production at FANDOM), were created to dig up more information on Suttle. (Thrillist reached out to Suttle on multiple occasions for comment, but did not receive a response.)

For Rhea, taking down SuperShadow was personal. "I was all of 15 years old and I believed the 'news' stories he was posting," he says. "Why would someone just make a news site where everything is made up? I [remember] going to school and talking to classmates about the plot outlines for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX that he had on his site. I remember thinking what I was doing was really important and, if SuperShadow got shut down, I would be recognized by George Lucas."

The "Stop SuperShadow" campaign (backed by a petition with over 5,000 signatures) did not deter Suttle. In May 2000, he rebranded the site "Mickey Suttle's SuperShadow.com", posted a photo of himself (that was immediately identified as an old Ray Park headshot), and bounced back with a two-part George Lucas interview conducted at Skywalker Ranch, the filmmaker's headquarters in Marin County, California. The Q&A was an adoring work of fan fiction through which Lucas confirmed Suttle's speculation about everything from Episodes II and III to his personal life.

Ever since the launch of the new site, the latter subject had become a source of keen interest for SuperShadow. For months, Suttle had insisted that the then-single Lucas was living the online geek dream by dating model Cindy Margolis, aka "The Most Downloaded Woman on the Internet," even though at the time she had been married since 1998. As evidenced by this amusing exchange, Suttle did his research before writing the interview.

Suttle: To shift gears a little, why didn't you ever re-marry after divorcing from Marcia [Lou Griffin]?
Lucas: I've come close to re-marrying a couple of times, but things didn't work out.
Suttle: Are you referring to Linda Ronstadt and Cindy Margolis?
Lucas: Yes.
Suttle: Do you still see Cindy?
Lucas: No, I haven't seen her in a while. We talk on the phone every few months. She's doing well. She got married.
Suttle: Why didn't you marry her?
Lucas: She wanted kids and I'm just too old to start a new family.
Suttle: Do you think you will ever settle down again?
Lucas: No, it's not in the cards.
Suttle: Do most of the women you date turn out to be supermodels?
Lucas: It works out that way. Those just happen to be the kind of women I meet.

This romantic fan fiction got Suttle into very real trouble in 2003 when Australian blogger Nikita of kitta.net learned that pictures of her appeared on SuperShadow.com without her permission, claiming to be photographic evidence of the webmaster's new "hot girlfriend," Amber Castlerose. After Nikita blogged to confirm that she was not, in fact, dating SuperShadow, Suttle announced that he had broken up with Amber, callously bragging, "Amber kissed the side of the curb (if you know what I mean. Hahaha.)" Within days of this heartbreak, according to Nikita's continued documentation of the incident, Suttle revealed that he had a new "hot girlfriend."

Suttle crossed another line with his critics when he attempted monetize his stories with a "premium area" that was only accessible after PayPal donations. In June 2002, several weeks after the release of Attack of the Clones, SuperShadow introduced his pay plan: for $7, readers would have lifetime access to his top-shelf taradiddle. That December, he raised the price to $8.50. By February, there were three packages: one year at $8.50, two years at $14, and the lifetime membership now marked up at $29.99. On June 11, 2003, Suttle scrapped the tiered packages, and went back to a single rate: $9.97 for lifetime membership. Before the end of the month, and without explanation, SuperShadow.com scrapped the premium area altogether.

It’s unclear when and how Lucasfilm threatened legal action against Suttle, although to date, an October 2006 statement from Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo, published in Star Wars Insider 90, remains the company's official line on SuperShadow "[SuperShadow.com] and the person who runs it have absolutely no relationship with Lucasfilm or George Lucas," Hidalgo said. "The person who runs it has never met nor talked to George Lucas. So-called information, 'scoops,' and interviews on the site are complete fabrications. Lucasfilm has taken action against the site several times when it has attempted to solicit fans' money under false pretenses." (Hidalgo and multiple Lucasfilm representatives contacted for this story declined to comment).

Star Wars
20th Century Fox

If Suttle was feeling under duress, he didn't show it on SuperShadow.com. If anything, his desire to convince someone, anyone, of his lush life as a Lucasfilm consultant remained undiminished. In 2005, Suttle answered a greater volume of fan questions than ever before, still roping in young, scoop-happy fans who were excited for Revenge of the Sith in May and, in theory, ignorant to his deceitful history

Popular vlogger "Justin H." of the "EckhartsLadder" YouTube channel, who turned 13 the same year, found himself hooked in much the same manner as Jason Ward and Brandon Rhea. "I remember that he predicted the sequence for the first trailer for Episode III scene by scene by scene," Justin recalls. "I remember seeing it with one of my friends for the first time, and knowing exactly what would happen." Unlike Ward, Justin didn't submit questions or comments to Suttle -- in this phase of his persona, SuperShadow boasted that he was too busy to answer reader email anyway -- but he didn't need to; on top of Revenge of the Sith, the site fed him bits about Indiana Jones 4 through 6 and Star Wars IX through XVIII: "So much of it was clearly fake. But then he'd get the occasional thing [correct]." The treasure hunt continued.

After the release of Revenge of the Sith, Suttle claimed that Lucas had entrusted him with the development and writing of the sequel trilogy and beyond. In the fall of 2005, he added a page detailing the "perks and benefits associated with SuperShadow's employment with Lucasfilm." It was a pretty sweet deal: $43,577 per month, a 2006 Lincoln Navigator, eight weeks paid vacation, a house, full health benefits, a secretary and a personal assistant, paid gym dues, "unlimited access to all Lucasfilm restaurants at no charge" and, best of all, "free use of the yacht and jet owned by Lucasfilm when the yacht and jet are not being used for official business." Whatever vicarious life he painted for his visitors, it worked; Suttle's small corner of the internet attracted tens of thousands visitors a month.

SuperShadow's dream world finally spun off axis with the inevitable: after Revenge of the Sith, there were no apparent plans for more Star Wars movies, which meant no immediate horizon to center his fantasies. Secondary obsessions with parapsychology, cryptozoology, extraterrestrials, Russian special military operations and Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy began creeping into his increasingly hostile daily updates. He tried to glom onto the success of Avatar and the "genius" of James Cameron, but his heart clearly wasn't in it. As the prequels' critical reputations continued to take a hit, Suttle defended them by waging a war against The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner, who, in his confusingly argued estimation, nearly ruined Lucas's career with the critically acclaimed sequel. The new SuperShadow seemed mildly perturbed with Lucas, too. From the Empire opprobrium:

For those of you who are new to Star Wars, I apologize for The Empire Strikes Back in advance. Not even Lucas is perfect although he would be perfect if Lucas had directed both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Lucas argues he didn't direct The Empire Strikes Back because filming A New Hope was the worst time of his entire life. Lucas also lamely claims he didn't have enough resources to micromanage all aspects of the sequels to A New Hope.

The first warning sign that SuperShadow.com was deteriorating for good came on August 4, 2009, when Suttle subtitled his daily update with the chorus lyrics from AC/DC's "Who Made Who?" These subtitles turned angrily cryptic a month later, seeming to lash out at fans (or perhaps himself) for being unworthy of Lucas's attention. "You can NEVER meet George Lucas." "Notice how George Lucas doesn't care what you think." "George Lucas doesn't realize you exist."

In late December 2010, Suttle tweaked the SuperShadow.com's layout for the first time since he abandoned the premium area in 2003. Though the site had become choked with ramblings on military geniuses, The Supreme Global Puppet Masters, Grammy Award-winning producer Mutt Lange and so on, the continuous diatribe was tidy. From a post on December 28, 2010:

SS.com Exclusive: CLICK HERE to view the legendary iconic legend SuperShadow critical film review of Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace. It all changed in May 1999. If you're lucky, then the god's a she.
I have the skills: black belt in Karate, I can handle a katana very well along with several other weapons, so I could use a single bladed or double bladed light saber. (SuperShadow: Alright. Fabulous to learn.)
I don't care if I get killed off and I know the Star Wars sequels (SuperShadow: Star Wars 7 8 9 also called Star Wars Episodes 7 8 9, the most anticipated movie trilogy in the history of cinema.) won't happen for 10 years or maybe not at all. Jonathan Boyd from Aiken, South Carolina. Remember my name, Master. 
I will serve you well. (SuperShadow: You will not be forgotten for you shall become an honored world icon. Of course, the greatest Human Being in the history of our civilization would originate from South Carolina in the United States of America. Who could this genius mastermind be? Hahaha with infinite glory.)
Evil Anakin
20th Century Fox

As the audience drifted away, Suttle kept posting. And posting. And posting. Even die-hard SuperShadow watchers might be surprised to learn that the site was still live and active on October 30, 2012, the day the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm and announced its intention to produce Episodes VII, VIII, and IX -- without Lucas relegated to the consultant role SuperShadow had once coveted for himself. Like that post-Special Edition high from 1997, it was a day of celebration for Star Wars fans all over the world. Except for Suttle; on a November 1, 2012 update titled "Hold on to the Future," SuperShadow sounded a sanguine note.

Only SS could fast forward the arrival of Star Wars Episode 7 from 2021 to the Heavenly theatrical release date of the year 2015 ! ! ! You really are the best thing to ever happen to Star Wars ! ! ! (SuperShadow: Yeah, this is the ultimate October surprise. With Star Wars 7 as now official, this probably causes whoever George Lucas votes for on 6 November, early voting or absentee or however Lucas votes will determine the outcome of the national election for the United States President. So blame the results of the next election for U.S. President only on Lucas and Lucas alone. No more adventures for SS.)

Suttle staggered through another year of updating, but he seemed incapable of convincing even himself that he had a say in the future of Star Wars. The last archived update for SuperShadow.com is dated January 6, 2014. It's a rehash of old George Lucas facts. On February 7, 2014, the site was dead.

Today, the front page of the Tripod site that started it all, "Dark Side Prequel Rumors," is a blank white page bearing this message: "I, Mickey Suttle, am extremely sorry and very much apologize for the lies I told on SuperShadow.com for nearly 20 years. I am extremely sorry and apologize to those this offended. I am very, very sorry." This could very well be the last will and testament of Mickey Suttle. Or perhaps an impersonator repenting on behalf of a fallen rumor-slinger. It's hard to know. All attempts to contact Suttle and people who might've known him personally were met with silence.

Darth Vader
20th Century Fox

SuperShadow began his life online as a Star Wars fan with an overactive imagination. When stories saw traction, he wrote more. And more. When confronted or debunked, he sealed his website off to inconvenient facts, asserting that anything not officially announced by Lucasfilm was a "fan rumor" and, therefore, untrue. And when Lucasfilm's announcements -- and finished films -- contradicted his facts, he explained away his bogus, incident-crammed storylines (he could never bring himself to write an actual screenplay) as rough drafts. Thus infallible, he took to exalting his brilliance as "Legendary Iconic SuperShadow Ultra Infinite Mega Genius" on just about every page of the site. As he erratically states in one of several bios: "SS.com has by far the most daily visitors and is the most popular Star Wars web site of all time in history ever by a rapidly expanding margin." He was a one-man generator of fake news that propped up his mental acuity and sexual prowess with a much-beloved property.

There was never a good reason to take SuperShadow seriously as a news source. Once the jig was up (and once he realized he became persona non grata at websites), he could have faded into obscurity. But Suttle was ripe, low-hanging fruit. As anyone who hung around message boards and in movie website comments sections of the time knows, goofing on Suttle was the pre-social media equivalent of quote-tweeting Dinesh D'Souza, Tomi Lahren, or President Donald J. Trump. And the more Suttle was singled out for cheap-and-easy laughs, the more popular he became.

"Truth be told," says Rhea, "I think a lot of us, myself included, helped inflate his importance by being so gung-ho about disliking him."

The original Legendary Iconic SuperShadow Ultra Infinite Mega Genius is no more, but his form of relentless self-aggrandizement is a thriving way of life for tens of millions of Americans today. In the Star Wars microcosm, sounding off about the upcoming movies sans facts is now a lucrative cottage industry (particularly on YouTube); one only has to look around to see the same practices working on a larger scale. SuperShadow created a world in which he was always right about Star Wars, and he lived there happily, a fake-news publisher ahead of his time. (SuperShadow: Listen to Jeremy. He's a true genius and dates only the hottest women on the planet. He's may not be close, personal friends with George Lucas, but he does party with Mutt Lange.)

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Jeremy Smith is the author of George Clooney: Anatomy of an Actor and the forthcoming When It Was Cool: The Rise and Ruin of Online Entertainment Journalism, due out in the first quarter of 2018. He lives in Los Angeles near Bruce Dern.