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WARNING - Some of the things discussed in this article may be spoilers for what happens later this season on The Flash.
I thought that I would be writing about another DC hero that never really caught my fancy this week, but man, did I luck out. Maybe one day we’ll discuss who Doctor Light is in the comics, but thanks to the writers of The Flash deciding to change the identity of the good doctor, I get to write about one of my favorite characters in comics, Linda Park. The funny thing is, as I’m writing this, I’m finding it hard to explain what makes Linda such a great character.
First, to be totally clear upfront so I don’t have to insert junk all over the place, any mentions to Flash in this article are not about Barry Allen, but Wally West. Wally was the third Flash, and we’ll be writing about him soon enough. All you need to know about him for this article is that he was Flash. Now, how about we get to talking about Linda…
Linda Park was created by William Messner-Loeb, one of the longest running Flash writers. Messner-Loebs’ run on Flash is not often talked about, but in my opinion, his run on the character is still the best. Messner-Loebs put a lot of focus on the supporting cast of Flash, expanding the cast of characters throughout his run. Of the characters he introduced, Linda is the only one to regularly show up after Messner-Loebs left the book.
Linda’s first appearance in Flash comics was rather nonchalant. She appears in a little over a single page, mainly giving Captain Cold a hard time during an interview. Yes, you guessed it, Linda Park was a reporter, following in the footsteps of Iris West and Lois Lane. Unlike those characters, however, William Messner-Loebs had never planned to have Linda be a love interest for Flash. For Messner-Loebs, Linda would be used as a friendly rival to Wally, a reporter who wanted the scoops and was willing to go to any length to get them. As it is, the next time we see Linda, she has gone undercover to investigate a cult, the Celestial Enlightenment Ranch. Flash had become a member of the cult after the cult leader, Lila McGrath, was able to make Flash’s dead father appear to him (his dad wasn’t dead. Wally’s dad was a HUGE ass. Can’t wait to tell you all about Rudy!). Linda had recently been hired by Keystone City’s channel 4 news (KFMB) as the newest anchor for the 11 o’clock news. One of the things that really made me love the William Messner-Loebs run on Flashwas that he was willing to take the time to use a page to show us how much Linda hates the makeup process that her employers are making her go through...
This page, with art by Greg LaRocque, tells us so much about who Linda is - someone who wants to make a difference, but isn’t sure she’s going about it the right way. This would be a long-term concern for Linda in the comics.
While investigating the cult, Linda came to find that she had become the host of an 800-year-old Irish bard named Seamus O’Relkig. Channeling Seamus, Linda was able to show Flash that Lila was full of crap. It was while helping Flash deal with the cult that he and Linda became friends. Flash was, during this period of the comic, pretty naive. I mean, he just got taken in by a cult, clearly the guy was easily led. Linda would become a close friend for Wally, someone he found he could count on to keep him from making mistakes or trusting people too much. Linda, in turn, would use her friendship with Flash to further her career.
Wally and Linda started spending a lot of time together, and they took on Dr. Alchemy together, once more with the help of Seamus the Irish ghost.
It was then that one of Flash’s more interesting baddies (one I hope they’ll use on the show someday), Kilg%re came back around.
Kilg%re, an electro-mechano-organic lifeform from a distant planet (that it destroyed) who everyone thought was dead, was actually hiding out in an artificial intelligence project at Central City University. When the time was right, Kilg%re started inhabiting the humans working on the project, a change of form for an alien robot thing that had previously wanted to wipe humanity out. Flash and Linda took on Kilg%re, and once more Seamus the Irish ghost seemed to save the day, until Flash figured out that Seamus was actually Kilg%re! Good work Flash!
Kilg%re left Linda and the others it had taken over, leaving something for Flash, a gift of some sort (one we will discuss in the future!). Linda was fake Irish ghost-free. She also decided that she needed a bit of a break from the craziness that was the life of Flash. Linda began to distance herself from Wally. Over the next two years of the book, Linda would only show up twice, once when Vandal Savage (again, someone I hope I get to write about soon) kidnapped everyone close to Flash hoping to lure him into a trap, and then again at Wally’s mom’s wedding.
The wedding of Mary West, mother of the Flash, to Ernesto Varni, an Italian secret agent who’s real name is Rudolph Valentino, was bittersweet for us readers of Flash - it was William Messner-Loebs last story on the book. He ended his run by helping the next writer, Mark Waid, get a jump on everything. Waid didn’t like Wally’s girlfriend, so Messner-Loebs broke them up. Waid wanted to have Wally and Linda become an item, so Messner-Loebs ended his last issue with the hint that they would get together.
And get together they did! Mark Waid wasted little time in having Linda and Wally become an item. For their first date, and in a move that certainly seems like a terrible first date, Wally and Linda went on a cruise. To make matters worse, a mind-controlled Aquaman tried to sink the cruise ship.
Still, Wally and Linda wanted to give it another go. On their next date, they attended a charity event, during which Flash was transported into the future to fight in a revolution. The third date went better: no one tried to kill them or send them into the future. Instead, Linda decided to move to Midway City, unless Wally could talk her into staying. He did.
Linda quit her talk show job to get back to doing real stories. There was also a problem looming for Linda as she found herself surrounded by superheroes. When Wally invited some old friends over for dinner, they were Nightwing and Starfire. When Wally’s ex came to town, she was the sometimes superhero sometimes supervillain Magenta. Every holiday get-together included Max Mercury, Impulse, Jay Garrick and other speedsters. It seemed like everyone in Linda’s life spent their time saving lives, and for a woman who wanted to be a hero in her own right, Linda often felt like she wasn’t good enough.
Then came Kobra.
We’ve mentioned Kobra before, but just to catch you up, Kobra is a terrorist organization that exists in the DC Universe. Their leader, who goes by the name Kobra because ego, believed that he was destined to lead the world through the Kali Yuga. Kobra had set up shop in Keystone City, using a vast underground base originally built by Flash baddie The Turtle, to tap into the natural resources of the area and power his army. Linda, following a few leads, came to find out Kobra’s plan, making her priority number one for Kobra. The forces of Kobra came down on Linda, and in return, just about every speedster in the DCU came to Keystone to help Wally show these goofs why you don’t mess with Flash’s girl.
It was during the battle with Kobra that Wally was forced to go faster than the speed of light. In doing so, Wally started to turn into energy himself, something he hid from most everyone. When Kobra fired a laser cannon at Linda, Wally had no choice but to once again pass the speed of light to save her. Wally vanished in a flash of light, right in front of Linda.
With Flash gone, Kobra was able to take down the remaining speedsters in his way. It seemed like no one would be able to save Keystone City. Lucky for us all, Wally came back pretty quick, but not before Linda took on Kobra herself
When Wally did come back, he destroyed Kobra’s machines and save the world. Wally had entered the Speed Force, something few others had ever done, and became the first person to ever escape it. How did he escape? He ran back to Linda.
The relationship of Wally and Linda would form the overall story of Mark Waid’s run as writer of Flash. Linda would be Wally’s compass from then on, always leading him to doing the right things, always helping him find his way. Linda made Wally a better hero, and with her he gained someone he could count on for the first time since Iris and Barry died. Wally and Linda were a team through and through. Her investigative knowhow helped Wally save the day on many an occasion, and lucky for us, Mark Waid wasn’t a hack, so Linda wasn’t just the damsel in distress for Flash to come and save. The Kobra incident was the only time Linda got in over her head. That isn’t to say it was the only time Linda ever got caught up in trouble, though. More than anyone, Linda would pay the price for Wally West’s identity as Flash being known to the world.
On their wedding day, an old Flash rival, Abra Kadabra, pulled Linda out of the timestream, making it as if she never existed. During the battle with Cobalt Blue (spoken about in a previous entry), Wally entered the Speed Force, but this time he did not come out. Without Linda to guide him home, Wally was lost forever.
In Wally’s place came a new Flash.
This guy was moody and maybe a little too rough on the baddies. He refused to reveal his identity to the other speedsters. Jay Garrick didn’t trust him, and Jay always gave people the benefit of the doubt, so you know something was off with this guy.
I want to warn you now, things are about to get real weird and hard to follow. During this storyline, Mark Waid used something called Hypertime. It was basically all a way to explain away minor continuity issues*, but it also created a very convoluted story. Be ready….
Linda escaped from Kadabra herself, showing up in Keystone City directly in front of the Flash Museum. More to it, Wally was standing right there! What luck Linda had! Wally was so beyond excited to see Linda, whom he thought he had lost forever (see, I bet right now you’re a bit confused. Just wait for it). Before Wally and Linda can get out of the street, they are surrounded by cops demanding that Flash give up. Linda, confused as hell, looks closely at Wally and sees that his eyes are blue, not green. Wally always had green eyes. Before any of this can register for Linda, Wally is beating the crap out of the cops. Wally’s old pal Pied Piper shows up, and Wally beats him to death. Linda runs, escaping Wally. She runs right into a statue of herself, a memorial statue. Linda, the plaque on the statue says, died at the hands of Kobra. That’s right, Linda is in some alternate world. Here, she was killed by Kobra, sending Wally over the edge. Now, Flash kills or maims his enemies and is wanted by the police.
Meanwhile, in the regular timeline, the speedsters are tired of this new Dark Flash being a dick and they confront him. Dark Flash takes off his mask to reveal that he is an older, scarred Wally West!
Told you this would get confusing!
Old Wally tells the others that he was caught up in a time travel adventure (something pretty common for Flashes) and for him, it had been ten years since he was home. The others kinda buy it, but they’re not holding any welcome home parties yet.
At the same time, Linda finds herself at her gravestone, doing her best Marty McFly in alternate 1985 imitation.
Suddenly, there is a flash of light and Wally is standing there. Not the blue eyes asshole Wally, but good old green eyes! With Linda’s return from existing outside of time, Wally was able to once again find his way out of the Speed Force. Love conquers all!
Except for blue-eyed Wally, who also shows up. The two Wallys fight it out until Abra Kadabra shows up looking for the escaped Linda. The two Wallys then team up to fight Kadabra, with blue-eyed Wally getting really messed up in the battle, but not as messed up as green-eyed Wally and Linda, whom Kadabra blows up.
Blue-eyed Wally, near death, uses his speed to quicken the healing process, which also ages him… ten years! He then beats the crap out of Kadabra until Kadabra gets tired of being beat up and skips out to the original timeline. Blue eyes Wally, who prefers to go by Walter, promises to avenge the death of Wally and Linda. He makes himself a new costume and travels to the original timeline, appearing as… Dark Flash!
I want to be clear again, I know this is confusing, but it really reads well in the comics.
Anyway, with both Kadabra and Walter in the real timeline, things are back to… well, not normal, but they’re getting there. That is when Reverse Flash shows up to smack Kadabra around and show him how to beat Flashes right. Reverse Flash has a plan to defeat this new Dark Flash because, according to Reverse Flash, the only good Flash is a dead Flash. Kadabra, being quite into applause, tries to tell RF that he doesn’t need him, having defeated the last Flash by erasing Linda from the timestream. RF doesn’t believe him - since Linda was erased from the time stream, no one remember her existing. This begins to irk Kadabra, who really wants the credit he feels he deserves.
Pissed that no one believes him, Kadabra undoes his own plan and makes everyone remember Linda. At that moment, Reverse Flash takes off his mask to reveal that he is Wally West! Wally and Linda aren't dead - as Kadabra blew them up, Wally vibrated at a speed fast enough to pull them from the alternate reality. Wally and Linda were trapped in a limbo, beings of pure energy looking for their home dimension, seeing the infinite realities that exist in the Hypertime. Finally, Wally and Linda found the right timeline and Wally was able to return, but Linda was still stuck in limbo because of Kadabra’s “spell”. Wally had to get Kadabra to reverse the spell in order for Linda to come back. With Kadabra defeated, there was only one problem remaining: the presence of Dark Flash in the proper timeline was causing space and time to slowly collapse on themselves, the two timelines trying to merge in order to fix the problem, but there were too many inconsistencies to make it work.
Walter West had to leave in order to save all of space and time, though he didn’t know how to get home. As Wally and Linda finally had their long overdue wedding, Walter West ran as fast as he could, breaking through the Hypertime wall. When we last saw him, he was on an Earth where superheroes only existed in comics. A few issues later, Mark Waid would leave Flash as well.
Wally and Linda would have children, twins, whom they would name Jai and Iris - their birth wasn't all that easy, but I’m going to save that story for Wally’s entry. During the DC series Infinite Crisis the speedsters would try to pull an evil Superboy into the Speed Force. As they began to enter the Speed Force, Wally was able, for a moment, to appear to Linda and the kids. Linda grabbed onto Wally, and the entire West Clan was pulled into the Speed Force, seemingly gone forever.
The new Flash, Bart Allen, didn’t go over well with fans, so Wally, Linda and the kids came back a little over a year later, thanks to some help from the Justice League and Legion of Super Heroes. With their return to the comics, Mark Waid returned to writing Flash.
For a little bit, Wally and the kids, who had aged some 11 years before Wally was able to help them control their speed powers well enough to stop aging (something Wally learned to do with Barry’s grandson Bart - discussed previously) became a crime fighting family, with Linda working as the eyes and ears of the team, monitoring everything from home. Mark Waid left the book, and quit working for DC, over some differences in opinion.
Then Barry came back, pushing the West family to the side. Wally, Linda and the kids rarely showed up for the next year or so.
Since Flashpoint and the start of New 52, Linda has not shown up.
I already told you that Linda was one of my favorite characters in comics, but I find it hard to explain why. Across multiple writers, starting with William Messner-Loebs, through Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, Linda was never treated as a secondary character. She was as important to the legacy of Flash as Barry, Wally and Iris. To me, Flash works best when he is done as a blue collar hero, and Linda really added to that aspect. She was a huge hockey fan, and a major supporter of the Central City Combines (something she had in common with Captain Cold). She, more than Wally, connected with the people of Keystone/Central. She kept Wally grounded, which was no easy task.
Moving on to the live action version of Linda Park, I think Malese Jow has done a great job, but I wasn’t a big fan of Linda being a sports reporter in season one - while she was certainly a sports nerd in the comics, to me it took away Linda’s best characteristic, her need to help others. That is why I liked that in the latest episode, we see Linda refusing to write about a football player unless she can write that he is an asshole who beats his wife. That instantly made me love this version of the character.
As for Linda being Doctor Light on Earth-2, I’m not in love with it. In the comics… well, we’ll discuss Doctor Light next week. In the meantime, it does kind of flow with an idea I have that deals with the identity of Zoom. I think that some of what we’ll see this season on The Flash will come from the whole Walter West/Dark Flash thing. I feel like Zoom will be revealed to be the Earth-2 Barry who wasn’t raised by Joe West after the death of his mother. However he grew up made Earth-2 Barry evil. I hope that isn’t the case because it seems too obvious, and after the obviousness of Wells being Reverse Flash in season one, I would really like the show to be a step or two ahead of me this time.
*Hypertime was created by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison. The idea behind it was to have something existing in the comics that made everything canon, so that no reader would feel slighted if a story they liked was wiped out for continuity reasons.
Unlike Waid’s creation of the Speed Force, Hypertime never really caught on with other writers at DC. Some writers, like Jay Faerber, claim that their attempts to use Hypertime in stories were rejected by DC editorial. In 2005, DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio stated that Hypertime would no longer be used. This is funny to me because around five years later, DiDio would claim that the new DC rule was that every story counted - everything was in continuity. If only DC had a name for this that the writers of the comics could use to explain away any problems!
In last week’s comments, someone brought up that I was kind of a dick not to include credits for the various artists whose work I use in these articles. I agree, and I want to start rectifying that, so from now on, each one of these will end with the names of the artists used.