You’ve probably heard the expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and if that’s the case then Linda Park might be one of the strongest women in the DC Universe. While most people know her as Wally West’s wife (try saying that three times fast), Linda Park is so much more than that. Since her introduction in 1989’s The Flash #28, Linda has been a dynamic character with compelling subplots and many memorable moments. With AAPI Heritage Month now upon us, let’s take a closer look at Linda and explore some of the trials that have made her a stronger character.
When readers first met Linda Park, she was a television reporter. Now, we know what you’re thinking—another superhero love interest who works as a journalist. Heck, she wouldn’t even be the first Flash love interest to hold that occupation. However, Linda Park has had to deal with job-related challenges that reporters like Iris West, Lois Lane and Vicki Vale never faced. As an Asian-American television personality, Linda faced pressure from her producers to downplay her heritage.
In 1990’s The Flash #36, Linda was told she had to lighten her skin tone, play down her heritage and try to “seem exotic, without being foreign.” The producer then told her she would be replaced if she didn’t cooperate. Let’s not mince words here—her producer was being a disgusting racist. When the Flash battles someone like Captain Cold, they could simply punch the villain and he’s arrested by the end of the story. Fighting against workplace discrimination isn’t that simple. These were the tricky things Linda had to navigate, which the comic’s namesake never had to experience.
How did Linda respond? She ignored her producer and never stop being herself. In fact, by the end of that storyline, Linda’s reporting helped take down a cult. Linda was a damn good reporter, and she wasn’t about to compromise any part of her heritage to help her career. The message we were left with was that Linda had nothing to prove and she wasn’t going to let a racist producer define her.
Changing Career Fields
What’s scarier than facing down the Legion of Doom? Changing your career as an adult. Linda may have been a good journalist, but in The Flash: Iron Heights #1, she began to see her profession in a new light. As the Flash’s wife, she had advanced knowledge of various dangers threatening the world and was torn between her duty as a journalist to report and her instincts to kill some potential stories in order to prevent a citywide panic. This caused some conflict in her marriage, and at the end, Linda decided to walk away from journalism.
Starting over is hard for many reasons, especially if you were successful in your chosen field, but Linda has never backed down from a challenge. Not only did she choose to switch careers, but she chose one of the most difficult professions imaginable. In 2001’s The Flash #178, Linda enrolled in medical school, and began studying to become a pediatrician. She told family and friends that she wanted to help sick and needy children around the world and this would be the best way to do it. Medical school was not easy, and Linda had to deal with grueling study sessions, her superhero husband interrupting her classes, mountains of homework, and an unforgiving schedule. As if that wasn’t enough, Linda did all this while she was pregnant!
After she miscarried her twins, medical school became too heartbreaking for Linda, and she made the decision to drop out in 2003’s The Flash #205. However, she was later given a chance to complete her medical training and even surpass the knowledge of her pediatric teachers. After some reality warping, Linda’s pregnancy was restored and she gave birth to twin children named Jai and Iris. When Wally, Linda and their twins were transported to an alien world (more on that in a bit), the couple learned their children needed special medical care due to their unique speedster metabolism.
In 2008’s The Flash #236, Linda appealed to the alien council to let her study all of their medical and technological secrets. Such things were forbidden on their world, but Linda Park can be very convincing. She once again threw herself into her studies and gained enough medical knowledge to save her children. Going through medical school on Earth is hard enough, imagine what it must have been like to do it on an alien world with technology that you’ve never seen before. Either way, this was another trial that Linda passed with flying colors.
Many people associate being the love interest of a superhero with getting kidnapped or crying by the window as you wait for your significant other. But Linda Park is no damsel-in-distress and has always been the master of her own destiny. One of the best examples of this could be found in Infinite Crisis #4. During a battle with Superboy-Prime, the Speed Force began to lose its stability and Flash found himself being pulled into somewhere unknown. Before fading away, Wally appeared before Linda to say goodbye.
Most other superhero spouses would’ve had a tearful goodbye, but Linda was not going to lose her husband. She told Wally that wherever he was being pulled to, they would all go together as a family. Linda embraced her husband, pulling her twins and her into the unknown void together. This moment speaks volumes about who Linda Park is. She isn’t going to sit on the sidelines while her husband fights for his life in the unknown. For her, marriage is a partnership, and that means she’s along for the ride, for better or for worse. The Wests wound up on the planet Savoth, where they grew stronger as a family before returning to Earth.
Unpacking Linda Park
These are only a few of the many trials Linda Park has endured over the years. Linda has embraced and overcome every challenge that has been thrown her way, and always comes out stronger. She may not patrol the streets in a scarlet super-suit like her husband or children, but she has led a life full of accomplishments, and is one of the most dynamic characters in the Flash mythos. It’s not hard to see why Wally West fell in love with her. Linda’s story is far from over, and as a fan I can’t wait to see how she’ll conquer all the trials that lay ahead.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.