"Once Upon a Time...!": Darkseid stands in his throne room on Apokolips, admiring his own tyranny. Despite this, he is unsatisfied. DeSaad suggests that this is because the heroes of Earth still defy him. Darkseid believes that the people of Earth
- To some these puny creatures are legends, the stories of their greatness inspiring others to greatness as well! Perhaps the time has come to strike at the core of the problem -- to destroy the very concept of such legends! Then, perhaps, humanity will become more... compliant.
- — Darkseid
Appearing in "Once Upon a Time...!"
- Captain Marvel (First appearance)
- Cosmic Boy
- The Flash
- Justice League of America
- Batman (figurine)
- Doreen Day (Mentioned only)
- Green Lantern (figurine)
- Infinite Man (Mentioned only)
- Superman (figurine)
- Validus (Mentioned only)
- New York City
Synopsis for "Once Upon a Time...!"Darkseid stands in his throne room on Apokolips, admiring his own tyranny. Despite this, he is unsatisfied. DeSaad suggests that this is because the heroes of Earth still defy him. Darkseid believes that the people of Earth are inspired by their legends, and he must destroy these legends to make them more compliant. Doctor Bedlam and Glorious Godfrey are called in as his agents. They begin preparing Techno-Seeds for an attack that Darkseid calls "Operation: Humiliaton." Darkseid remarks that, when he is done, the only legend left on Earth will be his own.
Jenet Klyburn and Martin Stein are working on the Hudson Nuclear Facility run by S.T.A.R. Labs in New York City. The facility is struck by a Techno-Seed, which burrows deep into the heart of the generator. It absorbs all the power in the building, turning it into a giant living monster called Brimstone. Brimstone declares that he is a fallen angel and goes on a destructive rampage. Martin Stein calls on Ronnie Raymond at Vandermeer University, so they can combine as the superhero Firestorm. This disappoints Ronnie, who was in the shower before a date with Doreen Day. Firestorm's energy blasts have no effect, and his nuclear powers don't work, because the creature is living. Brimstone declares that he has come to rid the world of false gods, and Firestorm will be the first. Firestorm goes to find back-up.
Deadshot tries to rob a bank on Wall Street, but he is stopped by Wally West as The Flash. West is haunted when bystanders compare him to the previous Flash, his deceased mentor Barry Allen. Returning home to Titans Tower, Wally finds Changeling watching reporter Billy Batson on TV. The interview is a pundit named G. Gordon Godfrey, who is declaring that superheroes are a public menace. Wally tells Changeling that he is worried he cannot live up to the legend of The Flash. Despite this, he refuses to change his name, because he won't let the legend die.
There is a blackout at the WHIZ-TV station, and Billy Batson goes to investigate. Batson speaks the magic word "Shazam," and a bolt of magic lightning transforms him into the fully grown superhero Captain Marvel. It is revealed that Gordon Godfrey is actually Glorious Godfrey, and he engineered this. The studio is terrorized by a giant villain who calls himself Macro-Man. Captain Marvel attacks Macro-Man, but Macro-Man holds him in a powerful grip. To escape this grasp, Captain Marvel speaks the word "Shazam" to become Billy Batson again. The magical lightning bolt strikes Macro-Man, setting him on fire and killing him. Billy Batson is horrified to realize that he accidentally murdered someone.
In the Pentagon, Colonel Rick Flag is called in to see Amanda Waller of Task Force X. Flag had himself assigned to Task Force X, but he is shocked by Waller's plans for the program. Waller explains that she does not care about his feelings as long as he does his job. Flag tells her that no man on Earth could do the job better, and he has never allowed his personal feelings to get in the way of his duty. Waller tells him that Task Force X might be needed sooner than they thought.
Cosmic Boy has lunch in a 20th Century diner, on vacation from his home in the 30th Century. The diner is destroyed by Brimstone on his rampage. Cosmic Boy tries to battle Brimstone by using his magnetic powers to create a giant cage. This does not work, because Brimstone instantly evaporates metal on contact. Cosmic Boy is thrown to the ground. Firestorm finally arrives with help, having called in the Justice League of America. This group includes Elongated Man, Gypsy, Martian Manhunter, Steel, Vibe, and Vixen.
Macro-Man's lifeless body is found, and bystanders recognize Captain Marvel as the killer. This was a set-up, but Billy Batson believes his negligence was responsible for the death of another human being. Billy Batson decides that he must never become Captain Marvel again. Darkseid observes this and laughs, having destroyed his first legend.
- This is the first Post-Crisis appearance of Captain Marvel. DC Comics provided a Post-Crisis origin for Captain Marvel in the 1987 Shazam!: The New Beginning four-issue limited series, although with its connection with the Legends mini-series, it seems to present conflicting information about Billy's whereabouts, stating that he is working for KWHZ in San Francisco. His retold origin remained as a part of the official DC canon until 1996 when the The Power of Shazam! graphic novel retroactively provided him with an entirely different history.
- Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Compendium stated the events of Shazam!: The New Beginning took place on Earth-85, a depository for non-canon New Earth stories retroactively making The Power of Shazam! the formal history of New Earth Captain Marvel
- Cosmic Boy and his wife Night Girl are usually seen as member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century. They are in the 20th Century because they borrowed a Time Bubble from Circadia Senius at the Time Institute to go on vacation.
- Changeling mentions watching a "McLean Stevenson retrospective" as Wally West enters the rec room. For M*A*S*H fans, he is the actor who played Col. Henry Blake in the television series.
- The Flash mentions that he is no longer fast enough to outrace a bullet. However, he is still fast enough to swat them aside.
- Changeling suggests several new names for The Flash including Blue Bolt, Speed Demon, and Charlie Hustle.
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