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The best soundbar you can buy (and 8 alternatives)

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***Original post published on Digital Trends***

The speakers in flat-panel TVs today are far better than they were in years past, but for all that’s been done to improve TV audio systems, they still pale in comparison to even the most basic soundbar you can buy. Soundbars are the sleekest, least-obtrusive way to get sound that’s as impactful as the premium picture on your TV. The best soundbars today offer minimalist style, dynamic power, and audio streaming from your phone with no need to carve out room for a receiver or tower speakers. There are a variety of wireless connection options, especially for Wi-Fi bars, and multiple ways to play all your favorite music, movies, and TV shows. Below are our current favorite soundbars that will ramp up your sound without cramping your style. Looking for a TV to go along with your newfangled soundbar? Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the best TVs available.

Our pick

Samsung HW-K950

Samsung HW-K950

Why you should buy it: You’ll get impressively powerful Dolby Atmos surround sound in a simple package.

Samsung HW-K950 Dolby Atmos
The Samsung HW-K950 is a low-profile, yet powerful way to harness excellent Dolby Atmos immersion.

Who’s it for: Those who want the thrill of true Dolby Atmos without remodeling the living room.

How much will it cost: $1,200

Why we picked the Samsung HW-K950:

There are many reasons we like the HW-K950 so well. It offers nothing less than heart-pounding, pupil dilating aural thrills. It’s also extremely easy to setup, requiring simple HDMI connection. But the major reason we picked this bar is for how well it handles virtual Dolby Atmos sound. Experiencing the surround sound of the HW-K950 is nothing short of entrancing. While there are some minor misgivings about the mid range sound, the HK-K950 does both subtlety and bombast equally well. Whispers, wind, and softer effects come across clear, while massive, booming bass-driven effects are downright chest-rattling. It also comes with wireless satellite speakers (though they must be plugged into an outlet for power), for true surround sound immersion. If there’s one thing about the HW-K950 that we aren’t keen on (apart from the high price), it’s the lack of DTS:X decoding. DTS:X just so happens to be the default Blu-Ray sound format. What this means is any DTS:X audio must be digitally faked, diminishing the experience. This isn’t surprising considering Samsung has gone with DTS’ competitor, Dolby, but it’s noteworthy. Regardless, Samsung’s HW-K950 sound bar offers a thrilling Atmos experience that really must be heard to appreciate. If you’ve got to have real Atmos surround sound in a small package — and you don’t mind dumping authentic DTS:X — the HW-K950 is a killer choice.

Our full review

The best soundbar for looks and sound

Bose Soundtouch 300

Bose SoundTouch 300 review on stand

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: Not only does the Soundtouch 300 sound great, it’s one of the best looking soundbars, too.

The best soundbar for looks and sound
Bose Soundtouch 300 and Acoustimass 300
A soundbar with sleek aesthetics to match its excellent sound.

Who’s it for: Those who want a high-end soundbar with pleasing aesthetics.

How much will it cost: $700

Why we picked the Bose Soundtouch 300:

The Bose Soundtouch 300 can pump out impressively powerful sound, especially in the low-end range thanks to the included subwoofer, yet keeps dialog clear and intelligible. You’ll also find that the soundstage is wide and immersive, and thanks to Dolby Atmos support, the Soundtouch 300 will get you a state-of-the art surround setup. In the interest of fairness, however, it’s worth pointing out doesn’t perform too well as a purely music listening solution. Luckily, though, there are other recommendations on this list that can easily fill that gap. That said, for cinematic sound, the Soundtouch 300 is a great choice. If that all sounds like the qualities of a large, beefy device, you’ll be surprised to learn that the Soundtouch 300 is surprisingly svelt. While not a mini soundbar by any means, it nonetheless sports an unobtrusive profile, at about 38.5 inches wide, 2.25 inches tall, and 4.25 inches deep. You shouldn’t have trouble fitting this under a TV. Furthermore, while the overall design is tasteful and simple, the build quality is of note. The soundbar features a smooth and perforated metal grille, black glass top face, with minimal branding decals and recognizable yet simple icons with accompanied LEDs as an on-bar interface.

Our full review

The best virtual surround soundbar

Yamaha YSP-5600

Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar

Why you should buy it: The Yamaha YSP-5600 is a big, powerful virtual soundbar that is well-equipped to give your home theater jaw-dropping 3D sound immersion.

The best virtual surround soundbar
Yamaha YSP-5600
The Yamaha YSP-5600 is a beefy soundbar that could replace your virtual surround sound set up.

Who’s it for: Those who want top notch virtual surround sound for both DTS and Dolby Atmos, and don’t want to clutter the house with a bunch of speakers and wires.

How much will it cost: $1,600

Why we picked the Yamaha YSP-5600:

A hulking presence that stands over 8 inches tall, the Yamaha Sound Projector 5600 (YSP-5600) isn’t your average soundbar — and it isn’t supposed to be. Loaded into this behemoth are 44 beam drivers, including a 12-pack of them pointed right at the ceiling to deliver the sense of height required by Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technologies. The system is flush with inputs including four HDMI ins and an ARC-enabled HDMI out, one Coax and two Optical digital inputs, infrared in/out, RCA analog input, and a subwoofer out. Most importantly, though, Yamaha has loaded some truly brilliant sound performance into its magic box. The beam drivers use your walls to bounce sound at the listening position for strikingly realistic surround sound immersion. If you’re looking for a singular home sound solution without the need for all those extra wires, speakers, and mess, the 5600 is an enticing way to go big for your home theater. If you can get it rigged up right, Yamaha’s YSP-5600 is the simplest way to plunge into the ear-opening world of 3D surround sound.

Our full review

The best minimalist soundbar

Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+

best sound bars any budget samsung soundbar sideangle3 800x533 c

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: The Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+ delivers big sound in a bar-only setup — no sub required.

Samsung HW‑MS650-ZA
One of the few soundbar-only packages that can pull off great cinematic sound.

Who’s it for: those who want the simplest possible setup.

How much will it cost: $430

Why we picked the Samsung HW-MS650 Sound +: While soundbars in general are simpler and smaller than a multi-speaker configuration, they generally involve multiple components. Whether that be a dedicated subwoofer or the rarer extra satellite speakers, soundbar setups are rarely just a soundbar, which can be frustrating for those who want the least intrusive package. Luckily, Samsung’s HW-MS650 Sound+ is exactly that — a sleek soundbar that doesn’t need extra components, but still packs auditory oomph to enhance your home theater. That design simplicity also extends to the minimalist remote, which is simple and intuitive to use, and the Smart Sound EQ system, which is one of the few push-button DSP features we think really does enhance the sound performance across formats and genres. There are tradeoffs for the MS650’s simplicity, such as diminished bass performance when compared to models with dedicated subs, and a lack of ability to fine-tune as much as we’d like due to the remote’s sparse controls. However, the HW-MS650 Sound+ is the perfect bar for those who want great sound from a simple setup, and no futzing about with remotes or peripherals.

Our full review

The best soundbar for music

Pioneer SP-SB23W

Pioneer SP-SB23W

Why you should buy it: The Pioneer SP-SB23W is quick to setup, and provides a warm, organic, and detailed sound signature.

The best soundbar for music
Pioneer SP-SB23W
A soundbar designed for top quality music playback and gorgeous dialogue reproduction.

Who’s it for: Those looking for gorgeous sound for music and movies, without breaking the bank.

How much will it cost: $400

Why we picked the Pioneer SP-SB23W:

One of the best products of Pioneer’s collaboration with its former Chief Design Engineer Andrew Jones is this potent and musical soundbar. The SP-SB23W is a fantastic sound — err, “speaker”— bar, founded on a six pack of individually amplified drivers and a very capable wireless subwoofer. The stubby, yet high-riding bar rests in a handsome MDF cabinet lined with wood grain ripples, complementing the cubed subwoofer with a smart design. The cabinet helps the system integrate beautifully with a host of content, producing a smooth and natural sound signature built on creamy mids, musical bass, and richly-drawn dialog. The system sets up in minutes, including analog, digital optical, and Bluetooth connection. This baby is getting up there in years, and doesn’t have fancy new features like the latest high-performance Bluetooth codecs, Wi-Fi connection, ARC, or other more modern features we expect from the latest soundbars. If you’re not mounting it, the tall design might get in the way of your TV’s IR sensor, too. So why is the SP-SB23W still occupying an honored slot on our list? The same reason it’s still being stocked on shelves four years after its debut: It really does sound that good.

Our full review

The best budget soundbar

Vizio SB3621

best sound bars any budget vizio sb3621 life

Why you should buy it: The Vizio SB3621 provides good sound at a crazy-low price.

The best budget soundbar
Vizio SB3621
An affordable soundbar with performance that rivals much pricier models.

Who’s it for: The budget home theater buyer looking for solid performance and minimalist design.

How much will it cost: $150-180

Why we picked the Vizio SB3621:

Vizio’s SB3621 soundbar boasts performance and features that rival other models that cost two or three times as much. It can decode basic DTS and Dolby formats, and offers easy connection for your components via Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux in, USB, coaxial, and optical digital inputs. There is also a wireless subwoofer included — something you often don’t get with a soundbar under the $200 price point. Not everything is gravy here, of course, namely Vizio’s convoluted display on the side, which consists of a row of lights that change to indicate … well, something, but it can be difficult to discern what exactly. At just $150, though, that’s not an issue that should detract from the overall experience. Most importantly, you simply won’t find a better performing soundbar at this price point, period.

The best mini sound bar

Polk Magnifi Mini

Polk Audio Magnifi Mini soundbar review

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: Small, sleek, and simple, this Mighty Mouse soundbar harbors a powerhouse of great sound within.

Polk Audio MagniFi Mini
Small size, a minimalist aesthetic, and affordability make the Polk Magnifi Mini a fantastic entry-level bar.

Who’s it for: Those who need something small and demure, or newcomers to the soundbar market who don’t want to spend a mint.

How much will it cost: $300

Why we picked the Polk Magnifi Mini:

No, really, this little guy is a soundbar. Despite its tiny frame and minimalist design, the Polk Magnifi Mini is a fully capable soundbar that won’t crowd your TV stand or your living room. Due to the size and angle of its six drivers, the Magnifi Mini produces a much bigger soundstage than its appearance would imply. We’re big fans of the included sub on this unit, too. Despite its lightweight design, it handles bass-heavy moments with power and musicality. All this isn’t to say that this bar is a viable alternative to a fully capable 5.1 surround system — in fact, despite Polk claiming the Magnifi can deliver 5.1 surround, the experience is much closer to a 3.1 setup. In addition, the midrange isn’t quite as clear or present as we’d like in quieter moments. However, don’t let these caveats turn you off to the Magnifi Mini — it’s an impressive piece of tiny tech that barely hits your wallet.

Our full review

The best no-fuss soundbar

Sonos Playbar

 sons playbar back

Why you should buy it: The Sonos Playbar features and performance grow through firmware updates.

The best no-fuss soundbar
Sonos Playbar
A great looking soundbar with simple setup, multiroom audio functionality, and more.

Who’s it for: Users who want simple setup, multiroom functionality, and great sound.

How much will it cost: $700

Why we picked the Sonos Playbar:

The Sonos Playbar might be a few years old, but it’s still one of the most well-rounded soundbars we’ve come across. It has an expansive sound field with big, loud sound output and minimal distortion. The bar also sets up easily, and includes several wireless features, including Wi-Fi setup, wireless music streaming from apps on smart devices, and can be controlled via a smartphone app instead of relying on a dedicated remote. The bar will also auto-update its firmware over Wi-Fi, which will keep it up to date and enable updated features and functionality. There is one major setback to the Playbar’s design, and that’s its inputs — or lack thereof. There is just a single digital input on the Playbar and no analog inputs, which limits its functionality. While this is unfortunate, since the Playbar sounds so good, if you’re comfortable with the single input, you’ll find a lot to love here. Plus, there is the silver lining that a single input reduces the installation time and number of cables needed, thereby streamlining your setup.

Our full review

The best flexible soundbar

LG SH7B

LG SH7B

Why you should buy it: The LG SH7B offers flexible control and setup options.

The best flexible soundbar
This soundbar offers excellent sound, easy fine-tuning, and a wide array of wireless playback options.

Who’s it for: Users who want finite control over their settings, Wi-Fi connection, and good sound at a nice price.

How much will it cost: $300-$500

Why we picked the LG SH7B:

Most soundbars are great for cinematic sound, but only a select few are great for music, too. The LG SH7B, which was developed by LG in partnership with Samsung, is one of them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg here. The LG SH7B supports a myriad of connection types including HDMI, digital optical, 3.5mm, and Bluetooth, so you can get great sound from your media off just about any device you may own. The included Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections also enable connection to your home network for music streaming, and for easy linking with other LG wireless speakers to create a multiroom sound setup using LG’s MusicFlow system using the MusicFlow app. Another welcome feature is the ability to manipulate the subwoofer, treble, and bass levels with the included remote for easy EQ fine-tuning.

LG SH7B product page

How we test

After giving a soundbar a thorough break-in period, we put it through a rigorous testing process that includes playing all relevant sources of content, including the latest Blu-rays with the highest resolution codecs from the likes of Dolby and DTS, as well as audio straight from a TV via HDMI and/or Optical Toslink output, including streaming services, broadcast TV, and audio apps. When relevant, we test wireless connections for stability and audio quality. We also place a high degree of importance on the musicality of any speaker, so plenty of music is played to gauge its finer performance aspects. Finally, we compare each soundbar with others at, above, and below its price/features class, and with similarly priced alternative sound solutions.

***This post originally published on Digital Trends***

Digital Trends is a leading consumer technology publisher helping people navigate an increasingly digital world. With easy-to-understand product reviews, entertaining news and videos, Digital Trends serves more than 30 million unique visitors each month. Digital Trends reaches 90 million tech influencers through their own media network, and its syndicate partners include Yahoo!, FOX News and more than 200 broadcast news stations. Digital Trends is headquartered in Portland, OR with offices in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago.

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These scientists beat the bookies — until the online casino shut them down

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Why it matters to you

There’s no sure thing in gambling, online or otherwise, and if you find a way to game the system, you’ll eventually get caught.

It’s nearly impossible to win money betting on sports, and that’s by design. Whether it’s online or at a casino, the bookmakers who set the betting odds for sports gambling have an array of statistical tools at their disposal to ensure the numbers are always in their favor. But they also have to account for the human factor, and this is where a team of scientists came up with a way to use the bookies’ own calculations against them.

Researcher Lisandro Kaunitz of the University of Tokyo and a few of his friends from around the world devised a mathematical system that let them consistently make money betting on soccer games online. The MIT Technology Review has all the details on the system they used, but to understand it, you have to know how sports betting actually works.

When bookmakers set the odds on a particular match, they use historical data and sophisticated analysis to predict the most likely outcome, and then set the odds of a win, loss, or draw accordingly. Certain teams are more popular than others, of course, and tend to draw more betting action, especially on big events like the Super Bowl. As a result, the oddsmakers may adjust the betting line by a few points one way or the other to compensate for this bias.

Kaunitz and colleagues devised a system that consistently identified betting opportunities that favored them rather than the house. They tracked odds offered by online betting companies on soccer matches and calculated the average odds to discover any outliers. Then they analyzed whether a bet on the outlier matches would favor them or not.

To test their system, they analyzed the results of 479,440 soccer games played between 2005 and 2015. This simulation delivered a return of 3.5 percent. “For an imaginary stake of $50 per bet, this corresponds to an equivalent profit of $98,865 across 56,435 bets,” they said. A random simulation yielded a return of  negative 3.2 percent, or a loss of $93,000.

“At this point we decided to place bets with real money,” Kaunitz said. Over a five-month period, their 256 different $50 bets paid off 47.2 percent of the time, and they made a profit of $957.50, an impressive return of 8.5 percent.

But then down came the banhammer.

The online casinos would no longer accept their wagers, or would limit them to amounts as small as $1.25. “The sports betting industry has the freedom to publicize and offer odds to their clients, but those clients are expected to lose,” Kaunitz said. “If they are successful, they can be restricted from betting.”

One of the bookmakers used by the team told the New Scientist it’s the casino’s prerogative to restrict certain bets. “This can be for a number of reasons, including bonus abuse and taking proportionately more than their fair share of special offers and enhanced prices, which are designed for the many rather than a few,” said the spokesman.

What did they do with their winnings? Kaunitz and his wife splurged on a nice dinner in Tokyo. “We were excited, but it’s worth mentioning – you need to spend a lot of time to do it,” he said.

Editor’s Recommendations

***This post originally published on Digital Trends***

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Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma Quilt let us sleep warm and pack light

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If you ask a car person what they obsess over, it’s horsepower. For truck enthusiasts, they point to towing capacity. When you pose this same question to a hiker or backpacker, there’s no question the answer is pack weight. Hours are spent cutting excess strap lengths, meticulously weighing each item, and even trimming the length of a toothbrush handle, all to shave those precious ounces.

To put our own obsession over pack weight to the test, we decided to pack Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma Quilt for a trip through the woods. The ideal minimalist quilt when weight and simplicity are critical, it added a bit of a spring to our step and had us feeling as if we were walking in the clouds. After all, it was intently designed to decrease weight and space in a pack and to simplify a backpacker’s sleep system while keeping them warm — something we found it to accomplish with ease.

Carefully constructed

Specifically, the Enigma features a round sewn-closed foot box which provided more room for our feet while reducing dead air space that needs to be heated. With the foot box sewn closed, it required no fuss or adjustment and shedding the zipper shaved even more weight. This foot box should also prove to be perfect for cold weather trips, as it would help reduce drafts while maintaining maximum warmth.

Founded by avid backpacker, Tim Marshal, Enlightened Equipment specializes in creating custom-to-order ultralight equipment for anyone looking to spend time outdoors and who desires to experience it in the most comfortable way possible.

enlightened equipment enigma quilt review 9

“A few years after getting into hiking, I went on a quick overnight with some friends,” Marshal told Digital Trends. “They were both lightweight, bordering on ultralight, and gave me a hard time about my 30-pound load for a one-night outing. One of them gave me Ray Jardine’s book and after reading it I was sold. That year [2005], my family got me all the ‘Ray-Way‘ kits for Christmas and I spent the winter building Ray’s gear.”

Tim began making improvements to the actual kits and started developing his own unique designs, ultimately leading to what he makes today.

In the pack and on the trail

For our trip, we tested a six foot long Enigma with 850 down rated at 30 degrees. At first, we were skeptical — it’s not just light, it’s ultralight. At just 15.44 ounces and compressed in its stuff sack, the Enigma is not much larger than a softball, making it feel deceptively delicate. Herein sparked our doubts.

Due to the space-saving size, we were able to fit our entire sleep system, quilt, and sleep mat in the sleeping bag pocket of our backpack, in turn making extra room in the main compartment. This allowed us to make the decision to switch to a smaller pack, along with a combined saving of over 2 pounds in base pack weight. While on the trail, the hike was pleasant with a lighter, smaller pack and we were able to enjoy what may have been a more challenging 12-mile hike toting a heavier load.

Concerning our testing climate, our camp sat at just over 7,000 feet and the overnight temperatures hovered around roughly 35 degrees. Both nights we experienced a comfortable rest, though the quilt was a big difference for anyone used to a mummy bag. With the lack of a zipper and hood, the bag felt a bit drafty but not terribly cold. Packing up to head back out on the trail also made us really appreciate the Enigma’s size and weight all over again.

Placing the order

Even just visiting Enlightened Equipment’s website is like being a kid in a candy store. There are options to buy pre-constructed bags and quilts but the fun is in the fully customizable options. The Enigma uses DownTek-treated water repellant 850, 900, or 950 down, and temperature ratings can be custom selected from 50 to 0-degrees Fahrenheit. Length and width are also customly selected from short to extra-long, and slim to extra-wide.

The custom options don’t stop there as Enlightened offers 16 exterior and nine interior colors to choose from. These custom options do take time to deliver, as an average build and ship time for down filled products is roughly five to seven weeks — synthetic filled products even take two to four weeks.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Marshal added. “I think we lose more customers to time than any other brand or company out there making gear. We can’t grow fast enough, launch new products soon enough, or deliver products quick enough. Time is our biggest frustration.”

Our final verdict

If you’re planning on making the jump into ultra-light backpacking or are a minimalist hiker, this bag is a no-brainer. It’s extremely light, compact, and provides you the customizable options to design it to meet your specific demands.

During our test, the quilt performed as we would have expected in terms of thermal capability. What particularly blew us away was its weight and ability to dramatically save space in our kit. We did experience a snag on the outer shell of the quilt which caused a small tear, and without a readily identifiable culprit, there was a mild question about the abrasion resistance of the material used. Currently, the answer to this question seems to exist only after we’ve put in months of use.

For now, Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma Quilt is a great addition to any camping quiver and one we wouldn’t want to leave home without.

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***This post originally published on Digital Trends***

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The Walking Dead’ creator Robert Kirkman dishes deep on his next big project

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Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead comics, as well as the Outcast and Thief of Thieves comic books, has crafted a brand new adventure called Oblivion Song. His latest comic focuses on a very different post apocalyptic story line where zombies have been replaced by predatory aliens and the hero, Nathan Cole, is a scientist who wears a cool cape. The story involves a dimensional rift that occurred a decade prior to the storyline, killing 20,000 people. The cosmic event swapped out a 30 square mile piece of downtown Philadelphia with an alien world, trapping humans in an alien world, and unfriendly aliens on earth. Cole has the unique ability to travel between these two dimensions at will, which means he contends with both alien foes and survivalist humans – neither of which are fun to deal with.

His latest comic focuses on a very different post apocalyptic story.

Kirkman has been even busier than usual, of late. AMC brings Season 8 of The Walking Dead to the small screen on Oct. 22, while companion show Fear the Walking Dead continues to explore a storyline within the same universe. He’s also creator and star of a new six-part docu-series on AMC, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics, which premieres Nov. 12.

Season 2 of Kirkman’s third adapted series, Outcast, is set to premiere later this year on Cinemax, while his Thief of Thieves comic is also in development at AMC as a new show. Invincible, another Kirkman comic, is being adapted for the big screen by Seth Rogen at Universal Pictures, and his company, Skybound Entertainment, just signed a first-look deal to develop television projects for Amazon Studios.

In this exclusive interview, Kirkman talks about his inspiration for his newest comic book world, offers his take on why the comic book industry needs to change, and explains how the world’s most popular television show continues to evolve.

Digital Trends: What was the inspiration for Oblivion?

Robert Kirkman: Around ten years ago I read an article about how [legendary comic artist] Jack Kirby had never done a run on Batman, and how it would have been cool if he had brought his zany ideas and wackiness to a Batman book. It started making me think what would Jack Kirby’s Batman have been like?  What kind of Gotham City would he have created? And what kind of tools would Jack Kirby have given him? If you think about it, there would be crazy weapons that Jack Kirby would have given him in the ‘70s that he would be using now like the Batman canon. So I started thinking about this cool superhero idea with some crazy technology and gothic locations. And over the course of a decade it changed and morphed every year until it was completely unrecognizable from that. So I’d like to be able to say it wasn’t because of an article about Batman, but it really was.

And then another dimension popped into it about the complacency that we have as a society; how we can just ignore things no matter how bad they are. If you think about a big chunk of Philadelphia disappearing one day, and you fast forward ten years to where it’s like a thing in a museum that people talk about sometimes, but it’s not really that big a part of our lives; how weird is that? There’s just a lot going on in the story. And there’s a lot of inspiration from different places, and it kind of morphs into this madness.

Do you see TV or film potential for Oblivion Song given the success of The Walking Dead and Outcast?

I’m not just slumming it as a comic in the hopes that it will be made into a television show or movie.

The potential is always there. Just because of everything that’s gone on with me with Walking Dead and everything, people are always interested in what new things I have going on. So it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. When you write something for a comic book medium the pages don’t move, it’s all static images and there’s no sound. So there’s certain limitations. But I’ll be writing a scene and be like, “Oh, if this ever gets made into a movie or a television show we can actually do this with this scene.” So that’s something that I think about.

But I love the comic book medium, so I’m not like just slumming it as a comic in the hopes that it will be made as a television show or movie. I don’t really care if it ever gets made into a movie or a TV show. The comic is the thing I love. And the fact that that exists is enough for me, but there’s a very good chance that it will happen. We’ll see.

With The Walking Dead you deal with a lot of themes like hope and hopeless situations. What kind of themes will readers expect in Oblivion Song

I like to say this is an apocalypse adjacent story. There’s very much apocalyptic themes that are present in here with the dimension of Oblivion that people have been living in for ten years. It’s somewhat similar to The Walking Dead in that they’ve had to survive without resources and discover a new way of life. But we’re very much coming into their space after they’ve already established that, so it’s much different in that they’ve already put the processes together and we’re not watching that struggle over time.

As far as themes go, it’s not as dire as The Walking Dead is. It’s a very uplifting story to a certain extent because we’re focusing on one guy who is unwilling to give up on these people, who is continue to champion their cause despite the fact that the population at large has abandoned them to a certain extent. That is somewhat more hopeful than something like The Walking Dead.

What are the challenges of upping the ante in The Walking Dead TV series each season?

The comic book series is a real big help for us in that respect because as we’re upping the ante on the television show, we know the next four or five different levels that we can go to with the comic book series. So we have a road map, to a certain extent, mapping out the jumps and the things that we can do to keep people interested.

robert kirkman walking dead season 8

Anytime you set out to tell a story over the course of many, many years, you have to have things built in that are going to escalate things so that the audience can remain invested. That’s something that’s been very much a part of the process of doing the comic book series and that’s helping the longevity of the show.

How have you seen new technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality open up new opportunities for The Walking Dead franchise across gaming and storytelling in general?

We’re doing a lot of stuff behind-the-scenes with VR and AR.  It’s public that we’ve partnered with Skydance to work on a VR game for The Walking Dead and there’s just tremendous opportunity there because The Walking Dead is successful because it is so personal to people. The core of the story being about how someone survives in the apocalypse, how they deal with the loss of family members and how personal things are for the characters — and VR being a medium that puts you at the center of the story — lends itself very well. So we’re going to be able to explore a lot of themes in The Walking Dead because of that, and break some new ground and do some cool different things with VR because of that.

You have a new docu-series on AMC, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics. What are your thoughts on the current state of the comic book industry, given the wealth of mature content?

The industry has over-corrected to prove it’s not a medium for children.

Comic books are a medium just like anything else. You can do material that’s explicitly for children. You can do material that’s explicitly for all ages, and you can do things that are more mature. It’s just a storytelling medium more than anything else, so it’s up to the creator to treat the medium with respect and really dig into the character and the nuances of things and tell the stories that they want to tell.

I don’t think there’s any special trick to making a comic book appeal to an adult reader. If anything, the industry as it is right now has over-corrected since the ‘80s to try and prove that it’s not a medium for children. Now we find ourselves in a place where the majority of the readership is adult, and we’re striving to get back to being able to sell comics to kids, which is something that’s very important for the medium. So we’re at an interesting place with comics.

Do you see there being another swing in comics, TV, and film aimed at younger audiences?

If you look at the sales charts, the majority of what’s successful in comics does appeal to a mature audience. And for the future of every medium you need to be appealing to a younger generation so that you can continue to funnel in new readers that you know love experiencing that medium and want to continue experiencing it for years to come. I’m not going to preach doom and gloom or anything like that, but it is something that we’ll need to address moving forward.

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***This post originally published on Digital Trends***

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