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Circus of Crime

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Circus of Crime
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceThe Incredible Hulk #3 (Sept. 1962)
In-story information
Base(s)New York
The Clown
Bruto the Strongman
Human Cannonball
The Great Gambonnos
Princess Python
Live Wire

The Circus of Crime is the name of several supervillain organizations appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The villains have battled Hulk, Spider-Man, and Kid Colt.

The original group included the Ringmaster, Blackwing, the Clown, Fire-Eater, the Great Gambinos, Human Cannonball, Live Wire, Rajah, Bruto the Strongman and Teena the Fat Lady.[1]

Publication history[edit]

The Circus of Crime first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #3 (Sept. 1962)[2] and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Previously, Captain America Comics #5 (Aug. 1941) had featured a villain called The Ringmaster of Death leading a circus of criminals created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. This group was retroactively established to have been a predecessor to the Circus of Crime.

The Ringmaster's circus returned in The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (Sept. 1964) and #22 (March 1965), to battle Spider-Man.[3]

Kid Colt, Outlaw #106 (Sept. 1962) featured a different, even older Circus of Crime active in the Old West. Another Circus of Crime with different members appeared in Kid Colt, Outlaw #127.

Fictional team biography[edit]

Old West[edit]

There were two organizations in the Old West who dubbed themselves the Circus of Crime. Both teams fought against Kid Colt.[4][5][6][7]

World War II[edit]

Originally a spy organization employed by the Nazis during World War II, Tiboldt's Circus was a traveling circus led by Fritz Tiboldt, the Ringmaster, and he and his performers would use their special skills and talents to rob their audiences. He was sent to America to murder US Government officials using the cover of his circus activities. Tiboldt and his gang fell afoul of Captain America and were deported back to Germany, where Fritz Tiboldt and his wife were subsequently murdered by their former employers.[8]

Present day[edit]

The current Circus of Crime first came to the authorities' attention when they carried out a series of robberies of small towns using the Ringmaster's skill in hypnotism to mesmerize entire towns.[9]

Regrettably for the Circus, Rick Jones was one of the victims of their capers, and his involvement led to the involvement of the Hulk, as Rick briefly had telepathic control over the Hulk. He resisted the Ringmaster's hypnotism when the Ringmaster tried to bill him as 'The Monster of the Age', leading to the Circus' arrest.[2][10] After a brief stretch in prison, the Circus visited New York City, where they battled both Spider-Man and Daredevil.[11][12] The Ringmaster was briefly able to hypnotise Spider-Man. The Circus' core members later briefly operated as the Masters of Menace, a name thought up by Princess Python, after being released from prison and throwing the Ringmaster off the team, replacing him with the Clown. They were again captured by Spider-Man.[13][14]

The Circus of Crime established themselves as recurrent antagonists in several Marvel Comics series, where they briefly attempted to recruit Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch into their ranks when the Avengers had been disbanded.[15] The Ringmaster later hypnotized Thor into assisting with one of the Circus' schemes while the Thunder God was stripped of most of his powers except his strength.[16][17][18] Battling the Avengers again, they attempted to sabotage the Wasp and Yellowjacket's wedding.[19][20] Other encounters pitted them against Daredevil[21] and Power Man.[22][23] They later fought Power Pack[24] and Generation X.[25]

Initially depicted as credible villains, the Circus of Crime's members were gradually used by writers as comic foils, and were once defeated by Howard the Duck.[26][27][28] They were featured as antagonists in the first issue of the Sensational She-Hulk series, in which writer John Byrne regularly used minor or forgotten characters for parodic purposes.[29]

The Ringmaster's new iteration of the group known as Cirque Du Nuit later surfaces, acting as enemies of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop. Around this time, they have new members such as a female archer named Fifi and an unnamed protege of the Swordsman.[30]

During the "Opening Salvo" part of the Secret Empire storyline, the Circus of Crime members the Ringmaster, the Clown III, Fire-Eater, the Great Gambonnos, Strongman, and Teena the Fat Lady appear as members of the Army of Evil.[31]


19th century members[edit]

This team briefly forced Kid Colt to assist them until he exposed them.

Old West (1870s) members[edit]

World War II members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

In other media[edit]


  • The Circus of Crime appears in "The Incredible Hulk" portion of The Marvel Super Heroes.
  • The Circus of Crime appears in the Spider-Man episode "Carnival of Crime".[45]
  • The Circus of Crime appears in The Avengers: United They Stand episode "Comes a Swordsman".[46]
  • The Circus of Crime appears in the Avengers Assemble episode "Crime and Circuses".[47] The members featured are Ringmaster, Strongman, the Great Gambonnos, Human Cannonball, and Trickshot. Hawkeye and Princess Python are both depicted as former members of the group.

Video games[edit]


  1. Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. pp. 388–389. ISBN 0-8160-1356-X. Search this book on
  2. 2.0 2.1 DeFalco, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1960s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 88. ISBN 978-0756641238. The Incredible Hulk #3 featured the first Marvel Age appearance of the all-new Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Search this book on
  3. Cowsill, Alan; Manning, Matthew K. (2012). Spider-Man Chronicle: Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. DK Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 978-0756692360. Search this book on
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Lee, Stan (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "The Kid Joins the Circus! / The Last Performance" Kid Colt Outlaw #106 (Sept. 1962)
  5. Christiansen, Jeff (April 4, 2005). "Circus of Crime (Kid Colt foes)". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Thomas, Roy; Skeates, Steve (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "Iron Mask and His Circus of Crime" Kid Colt Outlaw #127 (March 1966)
  7. Christiansen, Jeff (November 19, 2002). "Iron Mask". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Simon, Joe; Kirby, Jack (w), Simon, Joe; Kirby, Jack (p), Simon, Joe (i). "The Ringmaster of Death" Captain America Comics #5 (Aug. 1941)
  9. DeFalco, Tom; Sanderson, Peter; Brevoort, Tom; Teitelbaum, Michael; Wallace, Daniel; Darling, Andrew; Forbeck, Matt; Cowsill, Alan; Bray, Adam (2019). The Marvel Encyclopedia. DK Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-4654-7890-0. Search this book on
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Ayers, Dick (i). "The Ringmaster" The Incredible Hulk #3 (Sept. 1962)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lee, Stan (w), Ditko, Steve (p), Ditko, Steve (i). "Duel with Daredevil" The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (Sept. 1964)
  12. Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1960s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 26. ISBN 978-0756692360. In this issue, the Man Without Fear first clashed with a hypnotized Spidey; then helped him take on the former Hulk adversaries the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Search this book on
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lee, Stan (w), Ditko, Steve (p), Ditko, Steve (i). "The Clown and His Masters of Menace!" The Amazing Spider-Man #22 (March 1965)
  14. Manning "1960s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 28: "New recruit Princess Python staged a coup that saw established member the Clown become leader of the troupe."
  15. Lee, Stan (w), Heck, Don (p), Wood, Wally (i). "The Road Back" The Avengers #22 (Nov. 1965)
  16. Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "Abandoned on Earth!" Thor #145 (Oct. 1967)
  17. Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "-- If the Thunder Be Gone!" Thor #146 (Nov. 1967)
  18. Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "The Wrath of Odin!" Thor #147 (Dec. 1967)
  19. Thomas, Roy (w), Buscema, John (p), Esposito, Mike (i). "Till Death Do Us Part" The Avengers #60 (Jan. 1969)
  20. Manning "1960s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 46: "This bizarre wedding tale saw...the Circus of Crime serving as the prerequisite wedding crashers."
  21. 21.0 21.1 Conway, Gerry (w), Heck, Don (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "Circus Spelled Sideways Is Death!" Daredevil #118 (Feb. 1975)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Isabella, Tony (w), Tuska, George (p), Hunt, Dave (i). "Among Us Walks... Black Goliath!" Power Man #24 (April 1975)
  23. Isabella, Tony; Mantlo, Bill (w), Wilson, Ron (p), Kida, Fred (i). "Crime and Circuses" Power Man #25 (June 1975)
  24. Higgins, Michael; Kruchkow, Seth (w), Morgan, Tom (p), Morgan, Tom (i). "At the Circus!" Power Pack #59 (Oct. 1990)
  25. DeFalco, Tom (w), Buckingham, Mark (p), Vey, Al; Holdredge, Jon; Hanna, Scott (i). "A Day At The Circus!" Generation X #32 (Nov. 1997)
  26. 26.0 26.1 Gerber, Steve (w), Colan, Gene (p), Janson, Klaus (i). "Getting Smooth!" Howard the Duck #25 (June 1978)
  27. Gerber, Steve (w), Colan, Gene (p), Janson, Klaus (i). "Repercussions...!" Howard the Duck #26 (July 1978)
  28. Gerber, Steve (w), Colan, Gene (p), Janson, Klaus (i). "Circus Maximus" Howard the Duck #27 (Sept. 1978)
  29. Byrne, John (w), Byrne, John (p), Wiacek, Bob (i). "Second Chance" The Sensational She-Hulk #1 (May 1989)
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Fraction, Matt (w), Aja, David (p), Aja, David (i). "Vagabond Code" Hawkeye v4, #2 (Nov. 2012)
  31. Spencer, Nick (w), Libranda, Kevin; Çınar, Yıldıray; Malin, Jon (p), Libranda, Kevin; Çınar, Yıldıray; Malin, Jon (i). "Steven, my dear" Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 (June 2017)
  32. Lee, Stan (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "Iron Mask!" Kid Colt Outlaw 110 (May 1963)
  33. Lee, Stan (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "The Unbeatable Mr. Brown!" Kid Colt Outlaw #112 (Sept. 1963)
  34. Lee, Stan (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "Dr. Danger and the Invisible Gunman" Kid Colt Outlaw #116 (May 1964)
  35. Lee, Stan (w), Keller, Jack (p), Keller, Jack (i). "The Fearsome Fat Man!" Kid Colt Outlaw #117 (July 1964)
  36. Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Ayers, Dick (i). "Beware!! The Terrible Totem!!" Rawhide Kid #22 (June 1961)
  37. Lee, Stan (w), Ayers, Dick (p), Ayers, Dick (i). "The Amazing Mr. Hurricane!" Two-Gun Kid #70 (July 1964)
  38. Lee, Stan (w), Ayers, Dick (p), Ayers, Dick (i). "The Rattler Strikes" Rawhide Kid #37 (Dec. 1963)
  39. Lee, Stan (w), Ayers, Dick (p), Ayers, Dick (i). "Revenge of the Red Raven" Rawhide Kid #38 (Feb. 1964)
  40. Englehart, Steve (w), Giffen, Keith; McCarron, Owen (p), McCarron, Owen (i). "Escape!" Super-Villain Team-Up #8 (Oct. 1976)
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  43. Mantlo, Bill (w), Buscema, Sal (p), Sinnott, Joe (i). "Dragon-Night!" The Incredible Hulk v2, #292 (February 1984)
  44. Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Everett, Bill (i). "Ulik Unleashed!" Thor #173 (Feb. 1970)
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  46. Loy, John and Lewald, Eric (writers); Myrick, Ron (director) (November 27, 1999). "Comes a Swordsman". The Avengers: United They Stand. Season 1. Episode 4. Fox Kids.
  47. Wolff, Danielle (writer); Eldred, Tim (director) (May 11, 2014). "Crime and Circuses". Avengers Assemble. Season 1. Episode 24. Disney XD.

External links[edit]

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