He was born at Side 3 in Universal Century 0056, and a third-generation descendant of Australian settlers. He lived well since he was the son of a politician. During a protest on Side 3 in U.C. 0071 over the seizure of property by the Zeon military, a 15-year-old Ridden tried to assist a man who was involved in the protest. Other soldiers started heckling Johnny until he was saved by a young Kycilia Zabi. Ridden enlisted in the Zeon military at the age of 22 and underwent basic training in U.C. 0078, just months before the outbreak of the war.
Ridden was assigned to the Mobile Assault Forces under Kycilia Zabi and made a name for himself in the Battle of Loum on January 15, 0079. Ridden destroyed three Salamis-class warships before an order to retreat was issued, and it was widely believed he would have rivaled Char Aznable's equally impressive mark of five had he remained on the battlefield longer. Johnny Ridden was then given a special two rank promotion to Lieutenant, since his previous rank was Ensign. Due to his exploits, and preferred color scheme of red and black, he was nicknamed 'Crimson Lightning'. Ridden scored most of his kills during the war with his customized MS-06R-2 Zaku II High Mobility Type. The unicorn emblazoned on the Zaku's elbow was a tribute to Kycilia, and it symbolized his feelings for her, as the legend of the creature stated that it only opened its heart to a pure-minded woman. Shortly before being assigned to the Chimera Corps, Ridden is promoted to Lieutenant Commander and is given perhaps his most famous and trademark mobile suit, the MS-06R-2 Zaku II High Mobility Type, of which he and only three other pilots have.
Even though he is assigned one of the first Gelgoogs, Ridden questions whether the new mobile suit design is enough to change the fate of Zeon. He is one of the few aware that the Zeon forces are short on experienced pilots.
In October, Ridden was assigned to the elite Chimera Corps and upgraded to the MS-14B Gelgoog High Mobility Type. At the Battle of A Baoa Qu on December 31, 0079, Ridden was overwhelmed by the Earth Federation's onslaught. With time running out for the beleaguered base, he fought desperately to protect Kycilia's escape via a Zanzibar warship, unaware that she had already been assassinated by Aznable. Ridden was officially listed as missing in action following the battle, but was assumed dead and promoted posthumously (in the last cutscene of the Ridden Ace mode in Encounters in Space, it shows a floating crimson Gelgoog head). It has been recorded that after his final battle, he shot down a staggering one hundred eighty-five enemies in all, for the entire war. It was said that Johnny Ridden was so feared at the battle of A Baoa Qu that a full rank promotion was offered to anyone who was able to shoot the ace down.
Appearance In Other Series
Ridden was thought to have survived A Baoa Qu, in Gundam Evolve 9, one of the three MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam units, the MSZ-006-P2/3C Zeta Gundam P2/3C Type, was designed to be piloted by Johnny Ridden, but since Johnny is missing, it was instead piloted by Yurii Ajissah. According to MS Graphica, Ridden had to undergo Newtype conditioning to pilot the machine, however, he falls into sequelae from drug administration meant to increase his Newtype potential and was forced to retire before the sortie. He returned as the freelance mercenary "Lightning" in U.C. 0097. Another of those Zeta units was hinted at being piloted by Shin Matsunaga under the code-name Grey Wolf.
Ridden was later confirmed to have survived the Battle of A Baoa Qu. According to the Japanese manga 『MSV戦記 ジョニー・ライデン』"Mobile suit Gundam - MSV Chronicle "Johnny Ridden" by Yuuichi Hasegawa (長谷川裕一), Ridden survived through the fierce battle of A Baoa Qu although his MS-14B High Mobility Gelgoog was badly damaged by the FA-78-1 Gundam Full Armor Type's overwhelming firepower. With the aid of a comrade, he reached a Dolos-class carrier where he was reunited with his Zaku II R2, which was modified by a mechanic and nicknamed the "Full Bullet Zaku". He then successfully destroyed the FA-78-1 and left the battlefield after knowing the fact that Kycilia Zabi couldn't make it. After the end of the One Year War, between U.C. 0080-0082, Johnny Ridden devoted his time into the after-war reconstruction of the Earth using the name "Johnny Depp "(ジョニー・デップ). In order to stop the ambitions of Dr.Q, being invited by Shin Matsunaga, Ridden got on his Zaku and fought again. After defeating Dr. Q, Johnny Ridden returned to Side 3 and lived happily with his new lover.
The newly published manga "MSV-R:The Return of Johnny Ridden" also serves as solid proof of Johnny Ridden's survival through U.C. 0079 and to the year U.C. 0090. Presumably, Ridden lost his memories of being an ace pilot (due to oxygen deprivation) and took the name of Led Wayline and joined the Federation. He worked for the Federation Survey Service, collecting information of Mobile Suits from both the Federation and the Zeon forces used during the One Year War. The FSS is also looking for information, ironically on Johnny Ridden, who had gone missing since the end of the OYW.
- Ridden's nickname was originally said to be the Red Blitz, from an RB that was found on the model kit of his customized Gelgoog by Bandai. In recent games and material, he is clearly stated as being the Crimson Lightning.
- Ridden's Gelgoog is known to not carry a shield so that its maneuverability is slightly better than that of a normal Gelgoog.
- Despite his success as a pilot, Ridden is often overshadowed by the more famous Aznable, and sometimes it is jokingly said that his Zaku is more famous than he is. In fact, in the PlayStation 2 version of the strategy game Gihren's Greed, he has the following conversation with fellow ace Shin Matsunaga:
- Ridden: "Hey, I've heard of you. The White Wolf, right? Nice to meet you."
- Matsunaga: "Oh, this is a pleasure. I didn't expect to meet with the famous Red Comet."
- Ridden: "! I'm not the Red Comet; I'm the Crimson Lightning!"
- Matsunaga: "Oh, I'm terribly sorry. Then, I'm counting on your support, Crimson Lightning Char Aznable."
- Ridden: "... Forget it..."
- Matsunaga: "Hm? What's wrong, Char?"
- The Data Gundam book installments also lists Johnny Ridden as commander of the Mars Zeon forces that appear in U.C. 0120 as told in the story of the manga series Mobile Suit Gundam F90, although Johnny himself never appears in the manga.
- In the video game Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space, Johnny Ridden's last Ace Pilot mission does not involve him fighting the Full Armor Gundam, but instead several enemies including Philip Hughes in his RGM-79GS GM Command Space Type. The Full Armor Gundam instead fights Shin Matsunaga's MS-14Jg Gelgoog Jäger.
- In the Series, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, the bar on the Federation base in South America is called the "Johnny Ridden." The name of the bar can be seen on a sign inside the building on the wall beside the bar itself.