Writer Grant Morrison relaunched the Justice League in 1997 as a promised “Big Guns” team with a “Big Seven” line-up in the form of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter. The basic concept was the League was made up of the biggest, best, iconic, and most recognizable heroes from the DC stable, and certainly the Big Seven represented that, particularly as this was the same line-up that was used in the very first appearance of the Justice League of America. Morrison, the rare comics writer from the other side of the Atlantic from that period to actually express fondness for Silver Age heroes, did a lot of stories that acted as “tributes” to old League adventures, which meant other heroes soon joined his League. The idea was, of course, these would still be the recognizable iconic heroes in the DC stable who would obviously deserve League membership.
And then he put Aztek the Ultimate Man on the team.
Now, if we want to be fair, and we do, Aztek was hardly the first character Morrison put on the team outside the Big Seven, and he wouldn’t be the last. Aztek is a bit more unique in that he was a co-creation of Morrison and writer Mark Millar. Aztek did have his own, short-lived solo series, so putting him on the League would make some sense as a means to draw attention to the character. Since that was the original purpose of the JLA back in the Silver Age as opposed to being an all-star showcase, Morrison was following that tradition as well. Heck, Aztek wasn’t even the first character Morrison created that ended up on the JLA if we consider Zauriel’s first team-up an audition before he formally joined later. There were also spots given to a character Morrison created called Tomorrow Woman, and another for then-Green Arrow Connor Hawke before Aztek showed up.
But the others were slightly more justifiable. Connor was taking the Green Arrow slot on the team line-up. Tomorrow Woman was an android built to infiltrate the League before betraying her builders and sacrificing her own life, basically doing the sort of stories the Red Tornado used to appear in all the time. She lasted all of one issue. Heck, Zauriel was being somewhat groomed for the traditional Hawkman spot on the League roster. Aztek just showed up. I actually remember being a little PO’d about that. Who the heck was this guy?
Well, his real name apparently was Uno. No, he wasn’t a card game. He was raised by the mysterious Q Society to be the modern day champion of the Aztec god Quetzacoatl to face off against the forces of another Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca. The armor he was given allows him to access various fourth dimensional energies to do…well, lots of things. X-ray vision, flight, density control, superstrength. You name the power, he could probably do it. Upon completing his training, he assumed the identity of one Dr. Curt Falconer and settled in the United States.
So, what did Aztek do during his time with the League? As I can recall, not much. He was around for a six-part storyline called the Rock of Ages where he was shaken to his core to learn Lex Luthor was one of the benefactors of the Q Society, and his whole life might have been based on a lie. I hate when that happens. That storyline featured some time travel that showed a future Aztek in the form of a black woman, but I don’t think she ever even gave out a name.
After that, Azrek quit the team. He came back for Morrison’s final arc where the rogue anti-sun Mageddon was coming to Earth because, apparently, that cosmic-powered whateveritwas was the thing he really was training to defeat his whole life. After losing his sight, he became the second of the promised two Leaguers to die fighting the monster despite the fact he hadn’t been seen in a couple years, and unlike Zauriel (the other Leaguer to die), he didn’t have a “Come Back To Life Free” card in his pocket.
So, short-lived solo series, two brief appearances in Morrison’s JLA run, and that’s more or less it. What was up with that?
As it is, now I see somewhat what Morrison and Millar might have been trying to do: create a new iconic DC hero. That’s not an easy task. Iconic DC heroes seem to just happen. Much of it comes from throwing crap at the metaphorical wall and seeing what sticks. This wouldn’t be the first time. Booster Gold was an initial post-Crisis attempt at creating a new DC icon complete with League membership, and it is a little weird reading DC books from that era referring to Booster as a big deal instead of, you know, the Booster Gold fans recognize today…and Booster is still around and somewhat visible. About the best Aztek has ever gotten since his short run was a few appearances, mostly in the background though sometimes front and center with a line or two, in the animated Justice League Unlimited.
But Aztek never got an episode of that series to show off and get the spotlight even then. But do you know who did?
Maybe it pays to be Booster Gold…