I've invested over 20 years of my life and countless thousands of dollars into the DC Universe, experienced some pretty high highs, and some pretty awful lows. On their respected competition side, I spent about 2 years investing into the Marvel Universe (from 1991 - 1993) and then opted out altogether for a half decade (Busiek/Ross' Marvels the only exception in that time).
Up until 2007, I was still quite invested in the goings-on around the DCU, but then there was Countdown, which made me realize being so immersed wasn't yielding the thrill it once did, and, in fact, the more I tried to immerse myself the more frustrated I became. I think, more than anything, it was DC's hype machine, led by Dan DiDio, that has put me off. It seems like everything under his leadership has become an event worth noting, even if really it is just a status quo story. Most works (music, movies, theater, comics...) can't live up to extensive hype, and the stronger the hype gets, the harder it is for the material to maintain its luster. Acclamation from reviewers and critics after the fact is one thing, but tooting ones own horn over and over again long before the material is available just leads to a numb ringing in the audience's ears. I checked in on the DC panel write-ups from the NYCC and it was just that... the text equivalent of a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeee". Redundancy. Same old, same old.
I manage to ignore Marvel's hype. I manage to ignore most of Marvel's product quite frankly. I dive into titles that seem interesting or are getting good reviews, but more often then not, I read Marvel books in trade after they've been well vetted by my Thor's Comic Column colleagues or other trusted sources around the web. Recent runs of books like The Incredible Hercules, Nova, Captain America, The Immortal Iron Fist and Thunderbolts have all proved highly favourable reads, and most have managed to side-step getting too bogged down in larger-universe continuity (when they do touch on it, they seem to do well in keeping it contained within the context of the title).
I can't seem to do the same with DC. I can't let go of the larger picture. I can't leave behind the weird emotional connections to characters to leave it to others to tell me what's good and what's not. I'm not sure if it's me or that DC can't isolate itself from its continuity in order to just let a story run free. Even some really great stories, like the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" by Johns and Frank in Action Comics builds itself upon stories past. It would seem Final Crisis was a treatise on the constraints editorial and expectations fans have placed on the DCUniverse, and the end result was an obtuse resolution, huge in symbolism, but whether it has any real impact in how stories are told remains to be seen. Governing from the NYCC DC panel reports, it's seems status quo looms large.
I highly enjoyed Final Crisis, but I guess I had hoped for a new DC Universe, something distinctly, identifiably different, something daring out of the end of it, but all I see is a new event in the Black Lanterns and Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman vacating the scene, yet again (like they didn't just do that in 2006 and for a third of the 1990s). So, I'm giving up, because at this stage in my fandom, I don't want to care so much for the larger picture, I just want a good story. I need to put some distance between myself and the half-dozen Crises that have bewildered and confounded. I need to just seek out books to enjoy, books that have a creative vision that are allowed to fulfil that vision without having to impose itself beyond it's confines of control or placate those imposing on it (even Blue Beetle couldn't escape the "Sinestro Corps War" or "Countdown").
I'm looking at the solicitations for the next two weeks and I have only one monthly title from the big two: X-Factor #40, and it would seem, looking over April solicits that I'm completely bereft of any ongoing DC titles on my pull list. I think I'll need to keep it that way for a while.
The larger universe of DC and Marvel and others have their own unique joys, but when it really comes down to it, the comics that have most excited me over the past two or three years haven't come from the big two: Jonathan Hickman's Nightly News, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's The Damned, James Turner's Rex Libris, Brian Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim, each bringing something new to the medium, something unique. Given the nature of the industry and economy, it's going to be more difficult to find the different, but I think I need to make more of an effort to do so else I abandon completely this medium I've enjoyed, nay loved for so long.