He was created by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, and debuted in 1996, at the tail end of The Dark Age of Comic Books — against which he stands as a reaction. Aztek is The Cape: brightly dressed, noble to a fault, the kind of superhero who will happily take the time to search for a lost pet or fly halfway across the country to persuade a sick child's favourite celebrity to come and visit.note By way of contrast, Aztek: The Ultimate Man drops him into the kind of violent, crime-ridden urban setting one would expect to see a Nineties Antihero striding through. (It does, in fact, have a Nineties Antihero striding through it — up until halfway through issue 1, when he gets blown up by one of his many enemies.) Much trope-juggling ensues.
Uno was raised by a secret society to be the Champion of Quetzalcoatl and defend the world from the prophesied return of Tezcatlipoca; to this end he has been equipped with Charles Atlas Superpowers and a nifty white-and-gold supersuit. In the first issue of Aztek: The Ultimate Man, having finished his training, he arrives in Vanity City to await the fulfillment of the next part of the prophecy; after witnessing the explosive death of the city's official superhero, he adopts the identity of a man who was a collateral casualty of the explosion, and decides that superheroing would be a worthwhile use of his abilities while he's waiting for his true purpose to come knocking. In the second issue, the new hero is invited to become the city's new official superhero, and is dubbed "Aztek" by the media.
The series has a developing subplot about who really pulls the strings in the Q Society, and how they intend for Aztek to spend the waiting time.
Aztek: The Ultimate Man lasted only ten issues before being wiped out in The Great Comics Crash of 1996, but by then Aztek had already been established as a serious enough player to be invited into the Justice League of America, and his story continued in the JLA's own series (which, not entirely coincidentally, was being written at the time by Aztek's co-creator Grant Morrison). In the pages of Justice League of America, Morrison finished out the string-pulling subplot, and ultimately had Aztek, the JLA, and every other superpowered person on Earth unite against a world-threatening menace which was identified as the fulfillment of the Tezcatlipoca prophecy.
Years later, Steve Orlando continued Aztek's story by creating a new version of the character named Nayeli Constant in Justice League of America. Nayeli became Aztek after the helmet crashed into her apartment, updating her on everything that occurred with Uno and motivating her to move to Vanity City to finish his work. She later teams up with Wonder Woman so they can stop Tezcatlipoca from making a return (a nod to how Wonder Woman twice fought the god in the Pre-Crisis continuity Wonder Woman).
Aztek's adventures provide examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Only the major plot arc was continued into JLA; somewhere up to half a dozen subsidiary arcs dropped out of sight when Aztek: The Ultimate Man was canceled (although they weren't completely aborted; the implication was that they still played out off-panel). The final issue of Aztek takes the time to explicitly Sequel Hook every one of them, in what might charitably be considered a reminder that Aztek's story wasn't ending just because the series was (or, less charitably, as an annoying tease).
- Ancient Tradition: The Q Society
- Arc Welding: In a late issue, it's retroactively announced that many of the events of the series to that point were set up by the Q Society's backer to turn Aztek's life down a particular path. This is not entirely plausible in the details.
- The Cape
- Charles Atlas Superpower
- Clark Kenting: Subverted. When Aztek reveals his dual identity to the female lead Dr. Julia Frostick, she tells him she'd already figured it out, and points out that he doesn't change his voice or body language at all. Apparently, the only reason more people haven't figured it out is that most of the people who've met Curt Falconer haven't met Aztek, and vice versa.
- Clothes Make the Superman
- Continuity Nod:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Q Society's main sponsor is Lex Luthor.
- Crossover: Several, including with Green Lantern and Batman, leading up to Aztek's induction into the JLA.
- Dark Age of Supernames: Bloodtype and Death-Doll.
- Dead Person Impersonation
- Disposable Love Interest: nurse Joy Page
- Distaff Counterpart: Subverted; in issue 8 there's a female training to be Aztek's "backup". She appears again in the Bad Future of JLA's "Rock of Ages" storyline.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: After being blinded by Mageddon and reviving Orion to continue fighting, Curt helped deal a mortal blow against Mageddon by detonating his suit inside the core to try to free Superman.
- Evil Running Good: In the present day, the Q Society is heavily dependent on financial support from a wealthy sponsor who is revealed partway through the run to be Lex Luthor. To be fair, he genuinely wants them to succeed in their task of saving the world from Tezcatlipoca, but until Tezcatlipoca shows up he intends to take full advantage of effectively owning his own superhero.
- Evil Versus Oblivion: The Q Society's main sponsor is Lex Luthor, who is no keener on seeing the world destroyed by Tezcatlipoca than any of its more altruistic members.
- FaceHeel Turn: Bloodtype and Death-Doll were both patriotically themed superheroes who initially came to Vanity looking to spread a little hope before they were in an accident that destroyed most of their bodies and their minds. They were later reconstructed by the CIA, though Bloodtype was still covered in bandages and Death-Doll thought she looked like a giant Barbie doll.
- Fully Absorbed Finale: After Aztek: The Ultimate Man was cut short, the main storyline was wrapped up in Justice League of America.
- God in Human Form: When Quetzalcoatl returns, he'll possess Aztek, who was trained to be his "vessel".
- Go Mad from the Revelation: The Lizard King, on realizing the "truth" about the Q Society.
- Hair Color Dissonance: It's unclear whether Uno has blond hair or light brown hair.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted, as it's the source of Aztek's power.
- I Just Want to Be Loved: Heatstroke and Coldsnap loved each other but couldn't touch, so they stole money for a procedure that ended up turning them into Heatsnap.
- Last Words: "Tell them I did my duty."
- Legacy Character: Nayeli Constant, the new Aztek following Uno in the post-Rebirth universe.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Lampshaded and subverted in issue 2 with Kyle Rayner.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: "Luke, I Was Your Father's Backup"
- Mayincatec: Aztek's backstory and costume design. During the conference where Aztek gets his name, one person points out that his costume resembles Incan, but everyone else decides on Aztek because Inca doesn't sound cool.
- Missing Mom: Aztek's mother made a brief appearance in issue 10. She's is alive and well in the suburbs of Vanity.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: While waiting for Curt for their date, Joy gets bothered by a guy thinking she's "hustling".
- Mood-Swinger: Piper's daughter set up her kidnapping and is working for the mob. She apparently has no love for her father, but in the first issue she was there when her father died and walked away in tears. She ends up getting killed by her boyfriend Synch.
- Mood Whiplash: The comic switches between drama and humor.
- Mythology Gag: The seventh issue reveals that the Joker was using the Burroughs cut-up technique to commit crimes by flinging around words cut out of a magazine and committing crimes depending on what the words spell. Morrison had used the Burroughs technique in his first two Doom Patrol arcs.
- Nightmare Face: Heatsnap (they were once two people, Heatstroke and Coldsnap)
- Nineties Antihero: Parodied with Bloodtype, deconstructed with Death-Doll.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In issue 7, near the Bibbo vs. Ted Grant poster is another poster promoting K. Rielly The Album.
- No Social Skills: Aztek, who up to the start of the series has spent pretty much his entire life in the Q Society's secret lair. In one issue, it has to be explained to him that a restaurant menu is a set of options, not a description of the entire meal.
- Noodle Incident:
"It conjures up devilish faces or"''A boy named Juan may thwart a witch"
- The voices the Lizard King hears from Aztek's helmet.
- Whatever happened to Mr. America and Liberty Lass that turned them into Bloodtype and Death-Doll.
- The Not-Love Interest: Julia Frostick, the main female character, fits the role that would normally be the love interest, but already has a boyfriend and isn't interested in ditching him for Uno. The series sets up a couple of Ship Tease/Will They or Won't They? moments only to immediately subvert them.
- Oh, Crap!: Mrs. Rodman's reaction when her daughter-in-law mentions her husband dreaming about an "imaginary brother".
- The Order: The Q Society (also known as the Q Foundation and the Q Brotherhood).
- The Pawn
- Psycho Prototype: One of the villains Aztek fights, the Lizard King, turns out to be an earlier failed candidate for Champion of Quetzalcoatl.
- Remember the New Guy?: Mr. America and Liberty Lass, superheroes that were never mentioned in the DCU before until the first issue.
- Secret Keeper: Julia Frostick.
- Shapeshifter: Synch.
- Shout-Out: One of the questions asked in the superhero registration in issue 2 is: "Have you been bitten by anything radioactive?"
- Starter Villain: Piper, AKA the real Curtis Falconer, who is forced to commit a robbery to save his daughter and is killed in an explosion at the end of the first issue, but not before tasking Aztek with protecting his daughter.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Joy Page.
- Superhero Packing Heat: Bloodtype.
- Super Registration Act: Kind of. It's established in issue 2 that, although superheroes in general don't require registration, becoming a city's Official Superhero entails filling out a standard registration form with questions like "Do you have any archenemies we should know about?". Even then, it's explicitly noted that the questions relating to secret identity are optional. There's also registration forms for extraterrestrial superheroes and former supervillains, and another form for if they're interested in seeking a teenage sidekick.
- Tangled Family Tree: In addition to his mother, Aztek also has a brother named Lawrence (or half-brother if his mother's married, since her name is Mrs. Rodman). Lawrence is married and they have a baby. His wife mentions to his mother that he's been dreaming about an "imaginary brother"...
- Technical Pacifist: According to what he wrote in his registration, he was "taught to respect ALL life", and would kill as a "last resort."
- Tell Me About My Father: Uno wanted the Lizard King to tell him about what happened to his father. But the helmet killed him before he could say anything.
- Tragic Villain: Death-Doll, who is slightly more sympathetic than Bloodtype since we're able to learn their backstories through her.
- Unexplained Recovery: Death-Doll supposedly died at the end of the third issue, but would later show up in Wonder Woman when most of the male heroes and villains were turned into animals by Circe, leading the female villains to go on a rampage while the heroines need to stop them. However, given that she was already in an accident and rebuilt by the CIA, it's possibly she was salvaged again.
- Wretched Hive: Vanity City is explicitly described in one issue as being like Gotham City, only worse. It's hinted that the city's most influential architect deliberately included Alien Geometries in his work that cause mental instability, violent tendencies, etc. in the inhabitants. (This may have had something to do with the reason Aztek came to the city in the first place, but if so the series was canceled before the significance was revealed.) Alien geometries or not, it's certainly full of demonstrations of mental instability and violent tendencies, most dramatically with the city's former official hero Bloodtype and his girlfriend, both over-the-top Nineties Antiheroes... who were both Patriotic Fervor heroes before they came to Vanity.
- You Killed My Father: The Q Society killed Uno's father for falling in love with a woman. And tried to do in his backup when he refused to kill him, end up becoming the Lizard King as a result.