1833 - Abin Sur is born on planet Ungara.
1847 - 14-year-old Abin Sur begins his study of history.
1859 - 26-year-old Abin Sur becomes a history teacher.
1864 - 31-year-old Abin Sur is recruited into the Green Lantern Corp by Starkor. He trains alongside Apros.
1882 - 49-year-old Abin Sur tracks the killer of his mentor Starkor to Earth, hiding among the humans in the old west.
1925 - 92-year-old Abin Sur helps train Green Lantern recruit Saarek.
51 years ago - Abin Sur serves on the frontline of the Manhunter War.
43 years ago - Abin Sur is recognized for saving hundreds of millions of lives during the Manhunter War as it comes to an end. He returns to sector 2814.
39 years ago - Abin Sur marries Munni Joh.
31 years ago - Abin Sur recovers the Psycho-Magnetron, a powerful weapon built by ailen warmongers. Not wanting to reveal it's existance by securing it on Oa, he choses instead to store it on his own vessel.
26 years ago - Abin Sur's wife Munni Joh is possessed by the Star Saphire. She dies rather than succum, and Abin secures it in his vessel.
19 years ago - Abin Sur's son Amon Sur is caught working as a smuggler. He refuses to help his son and insists that he pay for his crimes, sending him to Citadel prison.
18 years ago - Abin Sur attemps to capture Legion, but is forced to crash on Earth. He dies of his injuries, but before succuming his ring selects Hal Jordan as his sucessor. He give Hal his blessing with his dying breath.
While you really only ever see Abin Sur in flashbacks, he still casts a broad shadow over the history of the Green Lantern Corp and is in fact probably one of the better known representatives of the broader Corp. His importance in the story of Hal Jordan is huge, since he's the catalyst of his entire heroic journey, but he also stands out as sometone all the other Green Lanterns have strong feelings about, which has always been a great way to set up how they feel about his replacement. What seems like a very basic story device (pink-skinned alien crash lands, grants hero his call-to-adventure) has wound up giving us a very complex character in his own right.
Abin Sur's Comic History
Abin Sur appeared for the very first time in the same comic that introduced The Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, 1959's Showcase #22. Within the pages of that story, he was essentially a plot device; he was the alien cop that crashlanded on Earth and bequeathed his ring and heroic destiny to Hal. Whatever else has been done to the story of the Green Lantern Corp and to both their past and future, this one element has, at least until now, remained constant. Abin Sur's death holds the same degree of comic book permanance as the death of Batman's parents or Spider-Man's Uncle Ben; it's necessary for the main character to function.
Of course, that doesn't mean Abin's story prior to his death hasn't evolved over the years. We've gone on to learn that he had a vibrant history as the Green Lantern serving the sector of our home planet, even having adventures in the Old West. The Green Lantern Corp has a vast and ever-expanding history and he played a major role in it, both as the friend and mentor to Sinestro and as an elder statesman within the Corp in his own right. Later stories even featured the development of his home life; We've learned that his sister was the wife of Sinestro, and we've discovered that he has a son, Amon Sur, who would go on to be a villain and member of the Sinestro Corp.
Our Abin Sur Story
While the main thing Abin has to do to make sure our Green Lantern story works properly is to die at the proper time, He actually gives us a really unique opportunity to make several stories work more efficently. In addition to the traditional story elements associated with him like his connection to Sinestro and his adventures on Earth in the 1880's, We also took advantage of the fact that Abin actually had his own starship and that it actually crashed on earth during Hal Jordan's origin story.
This allows us the opportunity to explain the existance of several broader character ideas. If we imagine that Abin maintained his ship as part of his patrol of his sector, and that he had several dangerous entities or weapons contained inside, then it crashing on Earth opens up a pandora's box of potential threats for the new Green Lantern of Earth to have to resolve. More than once, we've used this as a way to make certain Green Lantern villains work.
Also, since we're using his son Amon as one of Sinestro's lieutenants, it became necessary for us to establish that Abin himself was actually responsible for Amon's original imprisonment. It sets up Abin's portrayal as an unwavering bastion of the ideas of interstellar justice (even at the expense of his own family loyalty), but also beautifully establishes the groundwork for Amon's eventual betrayal of his dad's legacy.