I do think that J. Michael Straczynski is basically correct that, given the nature of storytelling in comics, that “the perception that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan is both absolutely understandable and deeply flawed…Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But I don’t hear Alan or anyone else suggesting that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should have been allowed to write Superman.” And given the buzz about a Watchmen prequel movie, some prequel comics were probably inevitable. Given both of those things, and that I’m essentially reconciled to the idea that we’re going to have more of these stories that I see as essentially finished, I think the real problem with this project is that it’s focusing on the earlier lives of the characters we came to know in the initial story arc.
It’s not just that we know them fairly well already, and what the new books would be filling in is psychology and peripheral adventures rather than character details. It’s that I think it would be much more interesting to tell this backstory through structure rather than through characters, looking at a government that first institutionalized superheroes and then banished them to quiet retirements with the Kane Act. This is one of the reasons the Agent Colson moments and continuity in the Avengers movies and peripheral material have been so much fun. These are supposed to be projects that are reasonably thoughtful about what it would be like to have superheroed people in our midst, and folks like Colson, or regular liaisons to the Watchmen are so useful: they’re a way in to the idea not of having powers, but of reconciling yourself to people having powers around you that you don’t have access to and that you hope won’t be turned against you.
Watchmen told us something about ourselves or who we could have been: the forgiveness of Nixon, the decisive victory rather than the slow dissolution in the Cold War, the continuation of a high crime rate, the hypercorporatization of our country and our culture. Fleshing out the Comedian’s role as a sanctioned superhero, and the decisions that lead to his assassination of President Kennedy or his role in Vietnam, would be more interesting than explaining why Nite Owl is depressed because it’s about us, not about them.