29 years ago - Ronnie Raymond is born.
11 years ago - 18-year-old Ronnie starts college with an academic 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.
That, actually, might be the main reason that he never really achieved a huge amount of prominence. 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. The character faded into relative obscurity until his 'death', when the matrix was taking over by Jason Rusch.
One of the hardest parts of telling Ronnie Raymond's story is figuring out what his civilian life looks like. He's always been depicted as a jock with little time for learning, specifically to contrast him against Professor Stein, but what does a character like that grow up to be? Obviously, being a superhero gives him a sense of purpose, so we can find a way for him to use his natural talents to help people. Being a community center athletic director seemed just the right role.