John came to Salem not knowing who he was. He simply was "The Pawn." The Pawn, after unraveling the bandages from his extensive plastic surgery, came up with the name John Black. He took a job in hospital security and found a friend in Dr. Marlena Evans. Marlena tried to help John Black regain his memory through hypnosis. Some people speculated that he could actually be Stefano, who had the money and means to create a drastic physical transformation if he wanted one. When Marlena got a peek at John's tattoo, she was shocked. It was a phoenix, and she thought he could indeed be Stefano as others suspected. Later, after seeing before and after surgery photos, Marlena realized that he could be her presumed dead husband Roman. Although John couldn't remember his past, he knew he loved Marlena and believed she was his wife. Later that year, Marlena and "Roman" renewed their wedding vows. Shortly before Christmas in 1986, Marlena was presumed dead. In 1988 Roman got involved with Diana Colville but it ended when it was discovered that Diana had accidentally shot "Roman." She was so overwhelmed with guilt that she left town.
In 1990 while trying to help exonerate Kayla of the murder of Marina Toscano, "Roman" met and got close to Isabella Toscano. It was eventually revealed that Isabella was the one who had killed her sister, Marina, and not Kayla. "Roman" was forced to arrest Isabella, who was later cleared of all charges due to self-defense. Later that year, it was determined that Isabella was the daughter of "Roman's" long-time nemesis, Victor Kiriakis. In 1992 Roman's presumed dead wife Marlena returned after a five-year absence, while the real Roman escaped his jungle prison. "Roman" and Roman ran into each other in Mexico while searching for Marlena's former captor. In the end, it was determined that "Roman" was actually Forrest Alamain. John had been brainwashed by Stefano DiMera to think he was Roman Brady; he then decided to use the name John Black permanently.
The truth about John being Forrest Alamain came out when John burst in on his 'brother' Lawrence, who was about to seduce Carrie Brady. Later, with his life back on track, or so it seemed, John and Isabella (who was very pregnant) were married after she gave birth to their son Brady Black in the church. When the happy couple returned from their honeymoon, they found that Isabella had inoperable pancreatic cancer. She died later that year in John's arms.
After his wife's death, John began an affair with Marlena. Marlena's daughter, Sami, caught them in their affair. Marlena gave birth to Isabella "Belle" Black after it was discovered that John, not Roman, fathered the little girl. John soon fell for Kristen Blake, but when it was discovered that she was Stefano's adoptive daughter, Stefano tried to kill John to stop Kristen from being with him.
In 1994 John arrived at Maison Blanche, a DiMera family house, when Stefano sent him puzzle pieces of the estate. Stefano then locked John in the dungeon and began brainwashing him again. John was able to escape when Celeste released gas into the dungeon and set fire to the mansion.
It was then discovered that John had been a priest, and Kristen broke off their relationship at hearing that. Soon after, a mysterious man named Gabe began visiting John, and John soon learned that Gabe was an angel. Then Fr. John Black had to perform an exorcism on Marlena to save her soul. After that, John was released from his priestly vows and he and Kristen renewed their romance, even though he knew he still had strong feelings for Marlena.
During an extended trip to Aremid, John was tried and convicted of Tony's murder and was sentenced to the gas chamber. The gas had already started to rise when Tony's journal was found, which exonerated John, because Tony had actually killed himself. But John's luck did not turn good after that. Stefano captured John, who was looking for a kidnapped Marlena in Paris, and sentenced John to die by the guillotine. Once again he was saved at the last second, this time by his aunt, Vivian Alamain.
After that, John and Kristen had a baby. Although she lost the baby in Paris, she faked her pregnancy and had her look-alike, Susan, gave birth, and took the child to pass off as John's. Marlena discovered a letter Kristen had been hiding in which John stated how much he loved Marlena. John believed he was married to Kristen, although it was Susan who participated in the ceremony, and was raising Susan's child, unbeknownst to him. John believed that John Jr. was his and Kristen's baby.
In summer 1997, John found out about Kristen's lies at his wedding to Susan. Of course, he didn't know it was Susan at the time. After the wedding, Marlena and John went to the penthouse where they declared their undying love for each other and made passionate love. Then Roman returned the day of John and Marlena's wedding. He had an incurable disease, which he had gotten as a result of nuclear war. Marlena felt very guilty because her affair with John in 1993 had caused Roman to leave Salem and take the risky mission. Stefano said he had the cure, so he took Kristen, John, and Hope to the jungle somewhere. There they found the cure for Roman.
They brought the cure back just in time to interrupt Roman's wedding to Marlena. Not long after that, Kristen was found dead in the pool. John felt very guilty. He blamed himself. As it turned out, the woman who was dead in the pool was Penelope, the fourth Banks triplet given up for adoption. Kristen was shipped off to the evil kingdom where Susan had been forced to stay. No one in Salem knew this.
John then decided to continue with his search for his past. So, he went to Lugano, Switzerland, where he was a priest. He discovered that he might be connected to Princess Gina, who the presumed dead Hope impersonated for four years after the REAL Princess Gina died. His relationship with Greta, Gina's daughter, who was also Swamp Girl, had affected his relationship with Marlena.
John and Marlena were married on July 5, 1999, and went on their honeymoon in Hawaii. The happiness lasted only briefly as Gina got hold of John and turned him back to evil John. While evil John, he slept with Gina numerous times. Stefano found them, tossed him overboard, and left him for dead. Marlena found him washing up on the beach and he was saved. He had no memory of his time as evil John, but it soon became obvious once Hope turned up pregnant and John was believed to be the father. Luckily for John, his relationship with Marlena was strong enough to weather that storm, and when it was discovered that Bo was really the father, everyone was relieved, although John did feel just a bit sad.
When John's friends in Salem began being killed off by the Salem Stalker, John was determined to find the killer. He ignored all the evidence that pointed toward Marlena as the killer, and was convinced that his half-brother Tony was behind it all. He was devastated when Marlena was arrested and then later gunned down by the police on top of the Salem police station. He soon became convinced that there was something more going on, and ended up on the island of Melaswen, where he was reunited with all his lost friends, and his beloved Doc. John managed to survive the escape from the island only to be devastated anew as he learned Marlena was again presumed deceased. He was also severely injured in the rescue, and was secretly stealing pain medication (as well as obtaining it through other illegal means) to keep the pain at bay.
John began getting over his addiction and moving on with Kate Roberts when a miracle happened, and both Roman and Marlena returned from the dead. Although John had recently proposed to Kate, they broke off the engagement to return to their newly returned spouses. After returning to Salem, Marlena discovered she was pregnant, and the timing made it impossible for it to be John's baby. Unfortunately, Marlena fell down the stairs one day while listening to John and Roman argue about her and lost the baby. She awoke with a condition known as hysterical amnesia. Lexie called in the world's top specialist on amnesia, Dr. Alex North, who came to town to try to help Marlena regain her memory. It wasn't long before Alex revealed that he had a connection to Marlena that no one ever suspected--he was her long-lost and presumed dead first husband! That meant that all of her subsequent marriages were invalid, as she and Alex had never divorced. She was torn between John and Alex, but ultimately chose to honor her commitments to her first husband.
John eventually proved that Alex was a fraud, and he fell over a cliff to his death. While researching the DiMeras in Italy, John and Marlena were married in a beautiful ceremony, but didn't have long to enjoy themselves--John was shot by E.J. Wells, and fell into a coma. He was later kidnapped from the hospital and his kidney stolen. John was just beginning to take his life back when he was the victim of a hit and run. With his family surrounding him, John "passed away."
In January of 2008, viewers discovered that John was actually alive and living in Stefano's basement. Stefano somehow acquired John's body and had Dr. Rolf erase his memories (which were stored on a disc) and program John to be an assassin. Stefano wanted John to kill Colleen Brady, who had recently emerged and was trying to stop Stefano from hurting the Brady family. In an attempt to win favor with Sami, E.J. told Marlena that John was alive and in the basement. Marlena, Bo, and Hope rescued John and started on the path toward regaining his memories.
In February of 2008, John accompanied the Bradys to Ireland, where John learned that he was the love child of Coleen Brady and Santo DiMera. While hiding in seclusion in Argentina, Colleen Brady gave birth to a son and named him "Ryan." She was too poor to support a child, so he stayed at an orphanage. Eventually, he was adopted by the Alamain family.
John's new blood relation to the DiMera family earned him control of the DiMera mansion when Stefano went into a coma. Marlena's attempts to get John to remember his "old self" failed and John started embracing his "new" personality. He continued to date Marlena, but he also started a relationship with Ava Vitali. He started a feud with the Kiriakis empire in an attempt to make the DiMera shipping line profitable again. He even bribed a customs official, Paul Hollingsworth, to delay the Kiriakis ships.
In the summer of 2008, the DiMera/Kiriakis feud reached new heights. After John bribed the customs official, Phillip paid the same official to plant cocaine on John's ships. The police found the drugs and arrested John Black DiMera. Frustrated with being caught in the middle, Paul set John's warehouse, where the police were storing the drug evidence, on fire. John tried to get Paul to turn on Phillip for planting the drugs and the fire, but Paul refused. A few days later, Paul's unconscious body was thrown into the river. The police believed that Paul was dead and investigated his murder. In reality, John's men fished out Paul's body and revived him. Paul agreed to help John frame Philip for the "murder."
Phillip paid someone to break into the DiMera mansion and steal "the disc" that contained all of John's memories. Phillip couldn't break the encryption on the disc, but he did learn that they were brainwaves. He gave the disc to Marlena. Marlena, eager to get the "old John" back, asked John to see what was on the disc. Ava, eager to keep the "new John," protested. John eventually destroyed the lab and broke the disc that Marlena gave him.
During the summer of 2008, John ran into trouble. His girlfriend, Ava, jumped bail and left town. His plot to frame Philip was in trouble when Paul escaped from the DiMera mansion. Stefano woke up from his coma--anxious to challenge John for the head of the DiMera empire. And, Marlena filed for divorce.
John decided to focus on Marlena and getting her back in his life. He gave up claim to the DiMera empire and moved out of the mansion. Marlena was impressed, but not enough to stop the divorce proceedings. Then, John began to have severe headaches and seizures. Kayla and Marlena discovered some serious brain damage that needed more tests to determine a treatment pattern. John refused to go back to the hospital for more tests. Because he refused, Marlena continued with the divorce. Nothing seemed to trigger John's memories of his past life, not even a visit from his son, Brady.
Marlena and Brady finally convinced John to enter into therapy. He started session with Dr. Charlotte Taylor, the daughter of Marlena's former mentor, Dr. Kenneth Taylor. Charlotte was determined to get John's memories back.
At first Charlotte started with "Talk Therapy," but, when that didn't seem progressive enough, she then suggested hypnotherapy in early 2009. John was skeptical at first, but decided to try it. Unfortunately, after only one session, Charlotte informed him that he had remembered nothing while under hypnosis and that proceeding would be a waste of time. This crushed John as he saw it as his last hope at remembering his past. He quit therapy and walked out of her office. Charlotte, however, was keeping a dark secret from John - he was actually beginning to remember his past while under hypnosis!
Later, John mentioned his doomed fate to both Marlena and Brady. Both his ex-wife and his son became suspicious of Charlotte's intentions with John, knowing that giving up after only one session was ridiculous. Meanwhile, Charlotte approached John with another course of action. She wanted John to leave Salem with her and start a new life. Charlotte claimed that no one in town would ever accept his new personality so it was best for him to start fresh without Marlena or his family and friends. John didn't take her up on her offer, stating that he wouldn't go anywhere without "Blondie." He had also become suspicious of Charlotte's motives and those suspicions were heightened when Kayla also expressed her concerns about the "good" Dr. Taylor.
Meanwhile, Brady, who was also leery of Charlotte, showed up at the pub with a surprise for John. Brady had broken into Charlotte's office and e-mailed Marlena a copy of John's hypnotherapy session. On the recording John was stunned to find out the session had been successful after all. He was remembering his past!
John quickly figured out that Charlotte's lie must have stemmed from a personal grudge against him or Marlena. He quickly sprang into action and called Marlena to warn her about Charlotte. Unfortunately, Charlotte was already at Marlena's penthouse and, right as John was voicing his concerns, their call was disconnected as Charlotte yanked the phone cord out of the wall! He rushed over to the penthouse where he would meet his fate.
Upon bursting through the door to save Marlena, John was stabbed in the back by Charlotte who was wielding a hypodermic needle filled with a dose of muscle relaxant large enough to kill someone. John told Marlena "she was safe now," then collapsed. Fortunately, Marlena immediately began CPR. Bo, Hope, and Brady showed up soon after and helped as well. As Bo assisted Marlena with saving John, Hope arrested Charlotte. Coincidentally, they discovered that John was merely a random pawn in Charlotte's game as she was really after Marlena for hurting her several years before.
John was rushed to the hospital where Kayla determined he had suffered a stroke because of the large injection of relaxants. As John drifted in and out of consciousness Marlena and Brady stood by his side. When Kayla suggested that Marlena talk about the past with John as that often helps stroke victims, John shocked Marlena by uttering the words she had waited over a year to hear. John weakly proclaimed, "I remember …I remember all of it, Doc, especially you."
Their happiness was short lived, however, as Kayla returned with John's latest test results. They concluded that John was paralyzed from the neck down and it could become permanent if he's not immediately transferred to a clinic in Lugano, Switzerland that specializes in cases like his. John tried to push Marlena away and begged her to start a new life without him, but she wouldn't budge. She was sticking by his side through thick and thin. John was thrilled by her love and dedication, yet had one request before they go - he wanted Marlena to marry him right there at his bedside before leaving Salem. Marlena said yes.
In a rather short, but sweet ceremony John and Marlena once again became husband and wife. John's old friend, Father Jansen, remarried them while Kayla, Roman and Brady all looked with bittersweet emotions as they were thrilled for the couple, but sad about the circumstances. Even Stefano, who had showed up when he heard the news about John, gave his half-brother and old advisories a nod of approval through the window before turning and walking away. When Father Jansen pronounced them man and wife, John told Marlena to "come here" and they kissed their first kiss as husband and wife. Once their lips parted, they shared one last longing glance into each other's eyes knowing it was the end of their time in Salem, but the beginning of their new life together.
In September 2011, John and Marlena returned to Salem for the dedication of the Horton Square. John's therapy had been a success and he was able to walk again. John and Marlena enjoyed catching up with their friends and family. But, during the party Rafe received a call and was told to arrest John on charged of corporate embezzlement and fraud. But, within a few weeks, Rafe and Carrie proved that evidence against John had been fabricated and John was released from jail in time to spend the holidays with his family.
Now a free man, John set about returning money to all of the people who had lost money in the embezzlement scheme. He decided to rebuild Basic Black. Brady offered to come work with him. John was thrilled and the father-son team started revitalizing Basic Black's fashion empire.
Around the same time, Bo and Hope were investigating a secret safe deposit box that Alice had. It turns out that the box contained two secrets- one about the DiMeras and one about the Hortons. The Horton secret was that John and Hope were still legally married from the days when Stefano had brainwashed the two of them. Thinking this was just a legal technicality to deal with, Bo, Hope, John, and Marlena headed to Alamainia to file for divorce.
But, thanks to some interference from Stefano, only John and Hope were allowed to go on the trip. Stefano followed them. While there, he had them drugged and held in prison until they agreed to go back under his mind control so that they could steal back a valuable piece of artwork.
But, John was able to resist the brainwashing. Shortly after, he was able to show Hope a picture of Bo and bring her out from under the brainwashing too. However, the two played along with the scheme long enough to steal the artwork and convince Stefano that they needed to leave the country. They barely made it out of the country.
When they returned, John reunited with Marlena and the two settled in for a nice life together. But a few short months later, John and Marlena's nemesis, Kristen arrived in Salem during the fall of 2012. Kristen kept saying that she wanted to make amends and that she had gone through a lot of therapy. John didn't believe her at first, but eventually he started to see that she had changed. Marlena never believed Kristen and as a result, Marlena and John drifted apart; and Kristen was able to set her plan into motion.
Kristen was out for revenge on John and Marlena. And she had decided to use John's son, Brady, to do it. She and Brady started dating and Kristen arranged for John to walk in on Kristen and Brady having sex on top of Brady's desk. John was furious. When he told Marlena, he was angry to learn that Marlena knew about Brady and Kristen but didn't tell John. This drove the wedge between John and Marlena even further. John moved out of the penthouse.
John set out on a mission to get Brady away from Kristen. His plan was to make Kristen think that he wanted her for himself. Many people, including Victor, warned John that this plan could cost him Marlena. But, John was determined. The night before Brady and Kristen were to be married, John came to Kristen's hotel room and started to seduce her. He sent a text to Brady to come to Kristen's room, but Brady never got the message. Instead, Kristen stopped everything, announced that she really did love Brady, and ran off to find Brady. A few weeks later, after Brady found out what happened, John confirmed to Brady that it was Kristen to stopped that night.
Still unable to work things out with Marlena and Brady, John travelled to Europe to look for answers. He kept in touch with people in Salem while he was gone.
While traveling, he discovered that he was not the child of Colleen Brady and Santo DiMera. Colleen was so desperate to find out what happened to her son that the people at the orphaniage lied to her and told her it was John. They just couldn't bring themselves to tell Colleen that her son had died. John was back to square one and had no idea who his biological parents were.