|"Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold."|
|— Johnny's last words in The Outsiders, page 148|
"Johnny was smaller than the rest, with a slight build. He had big black eyes in a dark tanned face; his hair was jet-black and heavily greased and combed to the side, but it was so long that it fell in shaggy bangs across his forehead. He always had a nervous, suspicious look in his eyes." Johnny reminded Ponyboy of a little puppy that had been kicked too many times.
Johnny is very quiet, not getting in the way of the gang very often. This is a result of constantly being neglected by his mother and beaten by his alcoholic father. He is able to hold his own at a rumble, but distances himself from the running and common conflict of being a greaser as often as he can manage, this being because of the stigma that follows the greasers. He was nearly killed by a group of socs' one night when he was jumped while walking alone. Since that day the gang always made sure that they kept an eye on Johnny, knowing that they would be less vulnerable if they were at least in a group of two. However, this proves not to be the case when Johnny and Ponyboy are jumped one night after they ran away from their neighborhood. While he was in the hospital he mentions to Dallas that he thought that rumbles were pointless and that they don't amount to anything.
Johnny was jumped by Socs about four months before the book began and was severely injured. He had gotten a temple-to-cheek long gash scar by his eye, which he would have for the rest of his life. The gash was caused by the large rings worn by the Soc who grabbed him. Ever since that moment, he was extremely jumpy and always carried a switchblade in his back pocket.
He is first seen walking with Ponyboy from the movies. On the way to seeing Darry, they are jumped by some Socs and are saved by the rest of the gang. Later he goes to see another movie with Ponyboy and they meet two girls, Sherri (Also known as Cherry), and Marcia. He stops Dally from bullying them. He later meets the girls boy friends who take the girls away. On the way home they go the park, and fall asleep. Ponyboy wakes up, realizing that it's past his curfew, and rushed home. Johnny stay behind and later Ponyboy returns saying that Darry slapped him. Johnny comforts his friend then five Socs turn up. The same ones that had jumped Johnny during the summer. While they try to drown Pony boy, Johnny kills one with his switch blade. He is horrified afterwards.