Ages ago, the feathered god Quetzalcoatl, the god of light, created a mask of power. This mask was passed down from generation to generation, overseen by the Brotherhood of Q. The Brotherhood had kept the mask safe, and had trained countless generations of warriors to don the mask, all in advance for the day when the shadow god Tezcatlipoca would return to the world. As the ages progressed, the Brotherhood of Q expanded beyond Mexico, building hidden bases of operations around the globe. They also evolved, morphing from the Brotherhood of Q to the Q Gang to the Q Group, to finally the Q Foundation.
As the age of the shadow god came near, a warrior was sent to Vanity City, in the United States, where they felt the battle would take place. They sent one of their best warriors, Emilio. However, Emilio fell in love with an American woman whose last name was Rodman, and had a child. Since this was contrary to their wishes, the Q Foundation needed Emilio replaced. They sent Emilio’s second-in-command to Vanity City to kill Emilio. The second was successful, and killed Emilio, but was maimed in the process. With Emilio gone, the Q Foundation prepared his son to take his place.
Meanwhile, the Q Foundation had extended its influence in the United States by soliciting funding from major financial players. It had approached Dr. Thomas Wayne, who refused support. However, one influential businessman did buy in: Lex Luthor. Luthor began extensively funding the Q Foundation. Unlike other members of the Q Foundation, Luthor did not believe in the shadow god’s return; rather, Luthor wanted a super-hero in his own pocket financially, should the need ever arise.
Emilio’s son, Uno, was next in line for the mantle. Uno was given his own second-in-command, a woman, and began extensive training. When Uno was ready, he was sent from the Q Foundation training facility in Mexico to Vanity City, a city whose occult architecture was created by Clarence Vale, a worshiper of the shadow. Uno was to await the coming of the shadow god, but in the meantime is mission was to adopt the mantle of a super-hero and to create a secret identity.
Aztek: The Ultimate Man was the brainchild of writers Mark Millar and Grant Morrison and artist N. Steven Harris. Aztek was designed to be a new hero of the DC universe. Launched in his own ongoing series, Aztek was written as a hero whose big picture mission meant he took unusual solutions to solving the small problems.
Throughout its run, Aztek: The Ultimate Man had counted Millar and Morrison as its writers, and Harris and Keith Champagne as its artists. Famous DC cover artist Steve Lightle lent his pen to the majority of covers of the series. While Aztek: The Ultimate Man was a critical success (it was rated one of the top 10 books of 1996 by Wizard Magazine), it was not a commercial one, and Aztek: The Ultimate Man was cancelled after ten issues. With its cancellation imminent, Aztek creator Morrison brought Aztek into one of the other comics he penned at the time: JLA. The final issue of Aztek has the titular hero joining the Justice League.
Aztek served as a member of Morrison's JLA, both as an active member and as a reservist for a number of years. During Morrison's last story arc writing the JLA, World War III, Morrison brought Aztek back to finish off the character's story arc. Aztek gave his life trying to stop Mageddon in Morrison's last JLA issue, JLA #41.
Key Story Arcs
Uno arrived in Vanity City, and quickly made a name for himself as the city’s hero, with the city paper dubbing him Aztek. The city’s former hero, Bloodtype, was a ruthless killer. When Bloodtype brutally gunned down super-villain Piper, Aztek tried to stop him. Unfortunately, the entire building exploded, causing Bloodtype’s death. With Bloodtype dead, Vanity City P.D. Chief Perrier welcomed Aztek as the city’s official protector. As the hero of Vanity City, Aztek fought a shapeshifter named Synth, a technological supplier named Fixit, and Bloodtype’s deranged ex-wife Death-Doll. He also teamed up with Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, who welcomed him to the super-hero community.
As a secret identity, Aztek took the identity of the murdered Piper. Becoming Dr. Curt Falconer, Aztek falsified his identity as a doctor at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. There, he worked under supervisor Julia Frostick, and worked with Dr. Wally Moseley and Nurse Joy Page, whom he dated once. Frostick became suspicious about Falconer’s identity, though, when her fiancé revealed he was not the real Curt Falconer.
Aztek’s life changed drastically with the appearance of the Lizard King. The Lizard King was the new identity of Aztek’s father’s second-in-command. The Lizard King had a dream about the shadow god, and decided that Aztek could not face him. The Lizard King captured and killed Joy Page in order to capture Aztek and take the mask. Aztek gave the Lizard King the mask, thinking it would save Joy. However, Joy was already dead, and donning the mask killed the Lizard King. Still, Aztek now knew about his father’s cause of death.
After the Lizard King’s reveal, Aztek in turn revealed his true identity to Julia Frostick. Aztek began to have feelings for Julia, as he continued to defend Vanity City. Aztek teamed up with Batman against the Joker, who used both his Joker Venom and Fixit’s mind-manipulating robotic crickets to cause chaos in Vanity City. Aztek also traveled to Metropolis, where he defeated the Parasite.
The Justice League
Shortly after the Justice League reformed around the “magnificent seven,” they offered a membership drive for a new member. Aztek was one of the numerous heroes that applied for membership, at the suggestion of Kyle Rayner. While under consideration, the android Amazo traveled to Vanity City, seeking his creator Professor Ivo at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Aztek arrived to stop Amazo, and found himself facing the powers of the original Justice League. Aztek held his own until the Justice League arrived, and proved himself in the eyes of the League. Aztek was accepted, becoming the third recruit of this new League.
Aztek fought alongside the Justice League for a very short time. In addition to the defeat of Amazo, Aztek and the Justice League fought alongside Zauriel against Asmodel, Neron, and their attempt to overthrow heaven. He also helped defend Fort Knox against the threat of Metallo.
While possessing the Philosopher’s Stone, Lex Luthor reorganized the Injustice League, and was able to divide and conquer the Justice League. Using his ties to the Q Foundation, Luthor accesses the information stored in Aztek’s helmet, including the access codes to the Justice League’s Watchtower. Luthor used the codes to teleport over twelve nuclear missiles into the core of the watchtower. Luthor offered Aztek a deal: turn traitor and come work for Luthor, heading a new Luthor-funded JLA from the ashes of the old team. Aztek refused, and used his helmet to download schematics of the missiles, disarming all twelve of them in under 4 minutes. While disarming the missiles, the rest of the Justice League defeated Luthor and his Injustice League.
Knowing that Luthor used Aztek as a pawn, Aztek resigned as an active member of the Justice League. However, Aztek remained on as a reservist. Aztek was called into action when Amazo defeated the core members of the League.
His Destiny Fulfilled
Aztek also joined the JLA reserves when the Earth became threatened by Mageddon, the sentient doomsday planet from beyond time. While sleeping in Vanity City, Aztek was awoken by voices from his helmet, warning him that “humanity’s twilight draws near,” just as the same time that his helmet transmitted a JLA alert. The voices in Aztek’s helmet told him that the shadow god was Mageddon. Aztek decided to stop Mageddon alone, with his suit sealing itself for space flight. Aztek assaulted Mageddon, and barely escaped with his life.
Aztek arrived at the JLA Embassy in America beaten and battered. Blinded, a barely conscious Aztek tried to tell the Leaguers assembled as much as he could about the threat:
I penetrated the dark god’s boiling shroud… surprised my suit could adapt for space travel… through raging thoughtstorms taller than continents… flying deep into labyrinthine mechanisms. Its brain is like a city, a world in flames. It cannot be argued with. It cannot be threatened. It will simply exterminate us. All of us. I saw one of its thoughts and was blinded in an instant. It’s rising up from beneath our solar system. All my life, the Q Foundation trained me for this, to face the dark god, Tezcatlipoca. And I failed.
As Mageddon arrived, it caused everyone on Earth to go crazy and assault each other. The Leaguers needed to split their efforts, preventing World War III on Earth while dealing with both Mageddon and the reformed Injustice League, controlled by Mageddon through Luthor. The League sent Superman and Orion to assault Mageddon, and Mageddon quickly defeated them, chaining Superman to its engine of despair.
With Superman and Orion down, Aztek once again went to fulfill his duty. Using his helmet’s onboard systems, he found a broken Orion floating in space, and healed him. The two then resumed the attack, using Orion’s Boom Tube to travel to the heart of Mageddon. With Martian Manhunter supplying a telepathic link to both Superman and Batman, the League tried to break Superman of his despair and to rip out Mageddon’s heart.
As Orion caused a distraction, Aztek landed next to Superman, telling him that he was their only chance. Aztek sacrificed himself, unleashing all the 4th dimensional energy in his suit in a explosion that hurt Mageddon. With Mageddon hurt, Aztek’s sacrifice roused Superman from Mageddon’s engine of despair. Superman began absorbing Mageddon’s dark heart, and managed to destroy the threat. Unfortunately, Aztek was vaporized in the explosion.
Powers and Abilities
Aztek dons the Mask of Warriors, a helmet created by Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent and the god of light. This mask has been handed down from warrior to warrior over the generations. As each warrior dies, his or her consciousness becomes one with the mask, merging consciousness with the wearer and guiding their thoughts. Aztek can call upon the experience of his predecessors in any situation.
In the modern era, the Q Foundation, keepers of the mask, transformed the mask into a helmet. Enhanced by occult design and utilizing a 4-dimensional power source, the helmet contains a variety of abilities. The helmet has enhanced audio and visual systems, including x-ray and infrared capabilities.
In addition to the helmet, Aztek has a variety of other abilities given to him by his armor. Aztek’s costume is a miracle of occult engineering. It can protect the wearer, increasing physical strength, and transfer full motor control over to the helmet if the wearer becomes unconscious. The armor can camouflage itself, turning it invisible or reducing the wearer’s molecular density. Aztek’s gauntlets contain energy blasters located in the palms, and launchers hidden in the wrist that can shoot wire nets, cables or mini-rockets. The armor’s chest piece is a power battery for the suit, which can also allow the venting of highly-destructive energy capable of destroying a city block. The battery must be recharged after venting. Aztek’s armor also contains a feathered cape, the symbol of Quetzalcoatl, which allows him to fly. The armor can also seal itself off, allowing Aztek to travel through space with it.
As a member of the Justice League, Aztek has connected his helmet to the League's Watchtower and its Monitor Womb. Aztek can download datafiles on any known superhuman through this link, and access this information through the helmet.
In an alternate future, where Darkseid conquered the Earth, an african-american woman took up the mantle, and the armored suit, of Aztek after Aztek and other heroes were killed 15 years ago. Calling herself Azteka, she joined a resistance cell consisting of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Atom, Green Arrow, Argent, and Amazo. When a time-traveling Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern arrived, they all joined forces to send the three Justice Leaguers back in time to prevent this future from happening. Azteka and Argent launched an assault on Darkseid's Zombie Factory, sacrificing their lives to destroy the Zombie Factory and cause a diversion necessary for the others to succeed.
Justice League Unlimited
In the DC Animated Universe, Aztek was a member of Superman's Justice League Unlimited.
He spoke on very rare occasions, and the actor wasn't credited. He has been voiced by Chris Cox or Corey Burton when a voice was needed. He appeared in the following episodes:
- The Greatest Story Never Told
- Dark Heart
- The Balance
- Question Authority
- Panic in the Sky
- Divided We Fall
- I Am Legion