29 years ago - Ronnie Raymond is born.
11 years ago - 18-year-old Ronnie starts college with an athletic scholarship.
10 years ago - 19-year-old Ronnie is caught in an accident with Professor Martin Stein & becomes the primary host of the Firestorm Matrix. Together, they join the Justice League as Firestorm. He befriends Lorraine Reilly.
9 years ago - 20-year-old Ronnie & Martin Stein battle Plastique. Their connection is ruptured, forcing them to reduce their time as Firestorm. The Justice League collapses.
7 years ago - 22-year-old Ronnie finishes college and becomes an athletic director at a community center.
2 years ago - 27-year-old Ronnie falls into a coma, & loses the matrix.
1 year ago - 28-year-old Ronnie is found by Jason Rusch, and comes out of his coma, becoming the new secondary host of the Matrix. Firestorm joins the new Justice League.
I can't imagine what the creative impetus was for Firestorm. Gerry Conway is an absolute legend, and his career is filled with examples of madcap innovation, but this one really does take the cake. From his look to his powers to the idea of a character with two composited secret identities, it's the sort of story you can only get in comics. However he came about, the resultant character was some sort of insane science experiment in awesomeness. He was almost immediately made a member of the Justice League, even became a character on the Super Friends. He was easily one of the most powerful players in the entire DC universe.
Ronnie's Comic History
Firestorm debuted originally in 1978 in his own comic by Gerry Conway. He was a wildly innovative character, but was canceled after only five issues in something called the DC Implosion, when DC cancelled over two dozen publications all at once. Conway was writing the Justice League at the time, so his new character made the transition over to DC's flagship team book.
There have been a number of different Firestorm series that have made the rounds over the years to further the story of Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein, but the character never really achieved the high level of prominence he had early in his career. In 2004 the character was more-or-less killed in the pages of Identity Crisis, and a new Firestorm debuted in his own series. Both Ronnie and Professor Stein played rolls in this new book, assisting the new Firestorm Jason Rusch, sometimes as mere supporting characters and sometimes actually sharing the role of Firestorm.
In the new 52, one of the earliest books was actually a reboot of Firestorm, now establishing that Ronnie and Jason were the two halves of the Firestorm Matrix from the very beginning. Leaving out the Professor from the original character is a mistake, but the idea of Jason and Ronnie sharing the matrix is a good fit for our modern version of the character.
Our Ronnie Story
Getting the story of Ronnie's heroic career correct is actually fairly easy. He became a superhero when he was pretty young (although we're making it college instead of high school, because it just works better in the larger scene of things), and served on the classic Satellite Era Justice League. He made only periodic appearances from there forward (presumably because it's actually kind of tricky to use a character this powerful), so we simply made his access to the Firestorm Matrix unstable. Later, when Professor Stein is killed, Ronnie is trapped in a coma until the new Firestorm, Jason Rusch, finds him, and Ronnie gets to become the supporting personality in this new version of the classic hero.
Because Ronnie was conceived as a teenage hero, it's always been a little tricky trying to depict him as he gets older. He's understood to be both an athlete and someone who is interested in helping people. We've chosen to depict this by making him a community center athletic director... a job where he can continue to live with a sense of purpose as a mentor and hero of a different sort.
Firestorm is one of those characters that really doesn't work anywhere but in comics. His powers and his look are so extravagant that it's actually kind of hard to wrap your head around them. He's SO powerful, and the narrative scope of having two characters with vastly different life experience must have made his stories almost impossible to write.
For our purposes, Ronnie is no longer the "main" person in the Firestorm Matrix. He is a veteran hero that bonds with the current hero, Jason Rusch, and gives him support and advice. This means that his look will mostly be in his civilian identity, where he works as a community center athletic director.
However... Ronnie's classic Firestorm look is one of those rare joys that you get when you bask in the madcap awesomeness of comics. It would be a real shame to COMPLETELY retire this classic costume. It is very easy to imagine a rare scenario when Jason is unable to be the main body in the Matrix, and in extreme cases Ronnie is still able to take on the role, if only for a limited about of time, with Jason in the support position. When this happens (and again, this needs to be VERY rare), we should be treated to the classic costume, billowing sleeves and all.
Looking forward, Ronnie is in an interesting position. He's part of the Firestorm Matrix along with Jason, and together Firestorm is a part of both the Justice League and the Watchtower, two of the biggest and most powerful active superhero teams, and in both cases they are among the most powerful members. As a member of the original Justice League, Ronnie is actually one of the most veteran heroes in both groups.
However, Ronnie himself is actually in more of a mentor position. For the first time in much of his story, he has a life of his own. While his further adventures, whether it's working with the Watchtower to fight off General Zod's forces or with the Justice League against the Legion of Doom, the really interested part of Ronnie's story will actually be seeing his life as a civilian take shape. In fact, I can absolutely imagine a scenario where one of the kids that he mentors actually gets some superpowers of his own. The story of Firestorm really lends itself to ides of mentorship and legacy, and this might someday be how the story is passed on.