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CBR TV: Creator Lee David Zlotoff on the Enduring Importance of “MacGyver”

“MacGyver” creator Lee David Zlotoff stopped by the CBR TV studios to discuss the upcoming Image Comics series based on the character, co-written with Tony Lee and featuring art by Will Sliney and Ciaran Lucas. But first, Zlotoff talked about the original television series, what it means to himself and the fans, the character’s unexpected longevity and impact on pop culture, the various other projects in play, from movies to a Broadway musical and more, and the fact that Zlotoff always — always — carries a Swiss army knife with him.

Our extensive, 20-minute interview, explaining the importance of “MacGyver,” the fact that the name has become a verb and a noun and a quick tease of Zlotoff’s next comic book project, to be announced at New York Comic Con 2012, can be viewed below.

On creating a pop culture touchstone: “I can’t pretend that when I created ‘MacGyver’ I ever intended that it was going to turn into what it turned into. It’s become a sort of global mammoth at this point. So I look at it the way one would look at, you know, having a child that grows up and does something sort of brilliant. You can say, ‘Boy, I’m really proud that’s my kid, but — I didn’t do it!’ The truth is, an enormous amount is owed to the writers, the producers, the directors, Richard Dean Anderson, for sort of creating the living, breathing character that I put on the page to start with.”

On always carrying a Swiss army knife and duct tape with him: “I know people make fun of it, but listen — when you’re in a situation, it really works! It really helps to have tools!”

On how “MacGyver” came to comics: “We were looking at the world of publishing… and suddenly I get this call from these people [Tony Lee and original artist Becky Cloonan] who really are huge ‘MacGyver’ fans who would love to do it as a comic book. I don’t know much about the world of comics, I read them as a kid… but the fact is, certainly in the last decade, if not more, comic books have simply exploded in terms of both the kind of content they do, the artistic styles that you can do now, the ways in which you can approach stories… And so, when Tony Lee approached me and said, ‘I’m a die hard “MacGyver” fan — I would give my eyeteeth if we could do a comic book,’ I said, ‘Why not? Let’s try it!’”

On continuity between the television show, the comic, the upcoming musical and more: “Some of the collective backstory will obviously be more or less the same, but the idea is not to [make it so] everything has to interlock like LEGO pieces with everything else.”

On the timeless qualities of MacGyver and why the character is perfect for the twenty-first century: “I’m a father, and at this point I’m a grandfather, and I spend lot of time looking at the world and its circumstances, and I look at the current century as a critical century in the history of mankind. By that I mean, given the strain on food, water, energy, waste management with seven and a half billion people on the planet — we’re starting to kind of buckle at the edges a little bit. So, I think if we get this century right, civilization has a great future. I think if we screw up this century, I think there may still be some humans scratching around, but I think civilization as we know it is not gonna have a future. It occurred to me both because fans really love this character, and because he’s been so globally embraced, that MacGyver was in some ways, the perfect character for this century. Why? Because, he avoids conflict; he doesn’t pick up a weapon and go to war — that’s not his first impulse.”

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