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Very little is known about Johns's origins. William AKA "William the Conqueror" and the "Blue-Eyed Devil" was trained in the Marine Military Police (MMP), became a mercenary during the Wailing Wars and was paid to track down soldiers who deserted. Additionally, at some point in his career he was the squad leader on the slums of Sol Lucia and caused a large (and costly) amount of damage to Butcher Bay Correctional Facility. After the war ended, he started hunting down escaped prisoners. His favorite weapon was the futuristic five shot pistol-grip 12-gauge shotgun. His military discharge was clean, even though military psychological evaluation portrayed him an obsessive-compulsive with addictive tendencies.
He worked as a marshal in the private-sector, specializing in high-risk felons. He had a perfect record: he had been hired to capture 17 convicts, and had tracked each one down. Johns' perfect record gave him a well-deserved reputation as one of the best mercenaries, and this brought him to the attention of many potential customers, such as the warden of Slam City. When Richard B. Riddick escaped from Slam City, killing four personnel in the process, Johns was almost immediately hired to track Riddick down.
Johns was a member of the mercenary Lupus Guild.
Johns started hunting Riddick almost immediately after he escaped from Slam City.
Riddick was his most difficult target yet, and his obsessive-compulsive personality showed through during his constant struggles to find Riddick and his common rantings about how he had to keep his record perfect.
After many encounters, Riddick and Johns developed a grudging respect for one another.
Through unknown means, he managed to capture Riddick and brought him to Butcher Bay Correctional Facility. Hoxie, the warden of Butcher Bay, did not want to pay Johns at all because of the damage Johns had done to Butcher Bay Correctional Facility earlier in his career. Johns stayed to negotiate a settlement with Hoxie. Later, Riddick and Jagger Valance planned to escape on Johns' ship and Jagger nearly killed Johns, but wounded Riddick instead. Due to the intervention of Butcher Bay's guards, Johns was saved, Jagger was killed, and Riddick was re-captured. At this point Hoxie decided not to pay Johns at all, so Johns helped Riddick successfully escape from Butcher Bay on his ship, and planned to bring Riddick another prison.
Soon afterward, Riddick stabbed him and left him for dead with the blade in his back. Johns survived and most of the blade was surgically removed, but part of it couldn't be taken out because it was too close to his spine. It left a noticeable scar and Johns started taking morphine for the pain as he continued the hunt for Riddick. His addictive tendencies began to play against him, and he soon became addicted to the morphine. He decided that after catching Riddick, he would drop him off at Tangiers Penal Colony. In his own words, "It's home of some of the highest running bounties and some pretty fine spice noodles."
Days later, he chased Riddick to the outskirts of a brothel on Aquila Major, but Riddick got the jump on him first. On another occasion, he injured his ankle while chasing the convict and had to take a week off to get right. At around that time, he started getting addicted to the morphine and kept small syringes of the drug in some of his shotgun shells. He wasn't the only one going after Riddick. His primary rival was a young and cocky Merc named Dresden who was later killed by Riddick on Lupus 5, sliced down the spine.
Johns eventually caught up with Riddick and, determined to get him, blasted one child to get Riddick's attention, giving Johns the advantage leading to the convict's capture. With his transport out of commission, Johns posed as a law enforcement marshal and he and his captive caught a ride with a long-range passenger transport called the Hunter Gratzner.
On the Hunter-GratznerEdit
Twenty-two weeks later, while passing through an identified binary solar system, fragments from a rogue comet punctured the hull of the Hunter-Gratzner killing its captain and causing the ship to crash-land on a planet-like moon designated as M6-117. Johns awoke and ejected himself from his cryotube just as the ship crashed. He barely managed to hang on as the ship's rear half ripped away during the crash. Most of the 40+ passengers aboard perished in the crash, but both Johns and Riddick survived, along with the ship's docking pilot, a wealthy antique dealer, two bushwackers, a child traveling alone, and a Muslim group, Imam Abu al-Walid as well as a group of children, Suleiman, Hassan, and Ali on a hajj. He and the rest of the crew witnessed the slow death of Greg Owens, the ship's navigator. Though Johns had a large supply of morphine, he did not spare any for Owens.
Johns dug himself out of the rubble to find Riddick's cryo unit empty and his pistol gone from his holster. He went down into the ship's cargo unit where he found his gun partially hidden. Riddick suddenly attacked him from above and tries to strangle Johns with his leg irons. Johns reacted quickly, drawing his baton and hitting Riddick repeatedly until the girder that Riddick was hanging on collapsed, causing both men to fall to the ground. Johns recovered first and was about to attack again, but hesitated, seeing that Riddick was still stunned from the fall. While Riddick was stunned, Johns handcuffed Riddick to a steel girder, then went out and familiarized himself with their alien surroundings which he regarded as "interesting." He later told Fry about how Riddick escaped from Slam City and "made a helluva good run before I [Johns] finally tracked his ass down." Fry asked him if he was really that dangerous. Johns replied, "Only around humans."
Riddick soon escaped, and the survivors got weapons together. Johns armed himself with his pistol grip shotgun (his primary weapon of choice) and gave Zeke, one of the bushwackers, his pistol (his sidearm that he never uses) as he, Fry, and the Muslims head in the direction of the blue sun to look for water. Johns suspected Riddick was stalking them, and searched the hillside for the escaped convict. Fry encountered him staring off into the distance through his scope and Johns told her he saw trees through it. But upon investigation, it was discovered that the "trees" were actually giant bones of long-extinct mammals in a communal graveyard. As the survivors moved through the boneyard, Johns continued his search for Riddick.
While taking a break with Fry, he asked her what Owens meant about "not touching the handle." Fry admitted to him that she's not their captain and that she tried to jettison the entire passenger compartment in order to save herself. Johns responded with a grin, saying, "I guess I'm more glad to be here than I thought." Soon, they arrived at an abandoned Geological Outpost T2 and found their way out, an abandoned skiff.
The dangerous and nocturnal creatures (Bioraptors) of M6-117 stealthily captured and killed Zeke, and Riddick took off running shortly afterward. Johns intercepted him and Shazza (Zeke's wife) knocked him out in fury. They imprisoned him by chaining him up to part of the ship, and Riddick taunted the other survivors by insisting that he wasn't the one they needed to worry about. Johns was adamant that Riddick was simply trying to frighten the survivors with his talk of the creatures that "got" Zeke.
The DealEditAfter the discovery of the carnivorous aliens in the caves, Johns decided to strike a deal with Riddick. He told Riddick, "You work without chains, without bit, and without shivs. You do what I say when I say it." Riddick was initially skeptical and recommended that Johns kill him instead of risking him getting "shiv-happy on his wanna-be ass." In response, Johns drew his shotgun and fired, just barely missing Riddick's head and destroying the chain restraining him. Johns then remarked, "I want you to remember this moment. The way it could've gone and didn't." As he offered Riddick his goggles, Riddick grabbed them and Johns's shotgun with lightning speed and holds Johns at gunpoint. With Riddick ready to kill him, Johns tried to remain calm and asked him if they have a deal. Riddick contemplated for a second then replied, "I want you to remember this moment."
Later on, the crew took the fuel cells from the crash ship to the skiff and realized that they needed five cells total to power the ship. Meanwhile, Abu al-Walid and the Muslim children got the Water Reticulation Unit working and while the crew celebrated, they realized one of the Muslim kids, Ali, was missing. Johns blasted the lock on the Coring Room and they investigated, finding that Ali was ripped apart by small, bat-like aliens that fled underground by way of a mine shaft. They discovered the aliens are phobic of light and that light damages them. Fry found an orrery that revealed that the planet experiences a long eclipse every 22 years that allows the creatures to feed, and that the last eclipse occurred at the same time of year 22 years ago.
While Fry was frantic to get the remaining cells, Johns downplayed the situation saying that they do not know when the eclipse will occur so there is no reason to worry. He told Fry the "quick and ugly version" of how Riddick escaped. Soon after, he vomited outside the skiff, a side effect from the morphine. Riddick, who was shaving his head with a blade nearby, told Johns it is a bad sign when he shakes like that in this heat. Riddick soon reveals to Fry that Johns is not a cop, but a merc, and that's why Johns would not kill Riddick: He wants to collect the bounty on Riddick.
As Johns injected himself with more morphine, Fry confronted, furious because he let Owens die a painful death even though he had lots of morphine. Johns said Owens was already dead and that his brain just had not caught onto that fact. Fry left in a rage. As soon as she left, she found that the eclipse had started. Everybody got aboard the sandcat and drove back to the crash ship to get more fuel cells. But they were too late, as the sun was totally eclipsed and they are forced to flee into the crashed ship.
After a brief encounter with the aliens in the cargo bay and the death of one of the Muslim kids (Hassan), the survivors discussed a plan to get more light and the remaining cells and to hike back to the skiff with Riddick leading them with his eyesight. Johns shot and killed an alien and discovered that the light badly burns the creatures.
On the way, when Paris dropped an unignited flare and Jack was about to pick it up, the aliens attacked and Paris fled, causing the survivors' main lighting system to break and shut down. Paris then gets eaten, and the rest of the crew relies on flares and lit Spirit bottles for light. Johns started walking with Riddick and he proposed a plan to kill Jack and drag her body between forty and fifty feet behind them to ward off the creatures. When Riddick stopped and stared at him, disgusted, Johns asked, "It's not too big a job for you, is it?" Riddick replied, "I'm just wondering if we don't need a bigger piece of bait."
- "You shouldn't have taken the chains off, Johns! You were one brave fuck before. You were Billy Badass. The chains, the gauge, the badge... Told you to ghost me"
- —Riddick's last words to Johns
Riddick and Johns then engaged each other. Johns tried to draw his shotgun, but Riddick blocked him. Johns hyper-extended Riddick's elbow but it was only a minor setback as the convict quickly popped it back in. As they squared off, Riddick drew a knife - with Johns doing the same. Riddick knocked his blade out of his hand and said, "One rule: Stay in the light." Johns tackled Riddick with the knife he had drawn, but was unable to overpower him. Riddick taunted him with the words "Remember that moment?" and injured Johns, abandoning him to the natives.
Riddick faded into the darkness as Johns regained his composure, shotgun ready, to fend off an attack from a Bio-Raptor. Another of the deadly aliens charged him and John pulled the trigger to no effect, as he had accidentally loaded his shotgun with some of the morphine shells he depended on. Riddick silently watched from the shadows as the alien impaled Johns and then decapitated him.
Shortly after escaping the planet, Riddick posed as Johns over radio when the skiff, also carrying Jack and Abu al-Walid, was captured by the merc ship Kublai Khan. However, this attempt failed when the captain of the ship, Antonia Chillingsworth, and her second-in-command, Junner, used voice identification to verify that it was Riddick's voice. Five years after Johns' death, when Riddick resurfaced, Riddick was only suspected as Johns' "probable killer", as there were no real witnesses to Johns' death aside from Riddick.
Behind the scenes Edit
William J. Johns first appeared in 2000 in Pitch Black, portrayed by actor Cole Hauser, who also lent his voice and likeness to the character in the video game Escape From Butcher Bay. During the events of the 2013 sequel Riddick, a character named Boss Johns reveals he is the father of William J. Johns. Boss Johns was portrayed by actor Matthew Nable.
- William J. Johns is misnamed as William H. Johns in Into Pitch Black.