Published January 28, 2022

Hawkeye: A Brief History of the Circus of Crime

Get ready for a spectacular show of daring—and dastardly—feats!

As Kate Bishop is about to experience firsthand in HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #4, things often aren’t what they seem in the Marvel Universe. Like the Resort Chapiteau. Rather than being just an ordinary, run of the mill ultra-luxurious getaway for the rich and famous, this vacation destination is actually being run by a nefarious group known as the Circus of Crime. But who exactly are these shady ne’er-do-wells? Let’s take a look at their storied history of infamous deeds.

The Circus of Crime is pretty aptly named, given that they’re a literal traveling circus usually led by Maynard Tiboldt, a.k.a. the Ringmaster. The Tiboldts are an Austrian family, and they’ve managed the Circus for generations. But, as we might suspect, it’s not all acrobats and cotton candy with these folks. The Tiboldts use their special skills and powers to rob their audiences.

First appearing in 1962’s THE INCREDIBLE HULK #3, the Circus took a major turn for the worse in the 1930s when Fritz Tiboldt, the manager and ringmaster at the time, became active in the Nazi Party. During World War II, the Nazis told Fritz to take the Circus to the United States as a front so he and his talented performers could murder prominent American government officials. Ultimately, Fritz and his accomplices were arrested by Captain America. Later, Fritz and Lola were murdered by Nazis who had escaped capture in vengeance for their cooperation with the Allies.

Nonetheless, the Circus continued on and became a recurring thorn in the side of quite a few of our favorite heroes. They even tried to recruit Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch in 1965’s THE AVENGERS #22.

After the death of Fritz and Lola, Maynard Tiboldt, Fritz’s son, took over as the Ringmaster. But the Circus had a hard time competing with the spectacle of larger American circuses, and let’s just say Maynard took that pretty personally. He blamed Americans both for not giving the Circus its due and for his father’s capture. It was then that he hatched his plan to turn the Circus into a robbery operation. While some of the performers quit, refusing to turn to a life of crime, quite a few of them stayed on.

Over the years, they’ve had some pretty notable clashes with a wide range of heroes, like Spider-Man and Daredevil in 1964’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16. And they fought Matt Murdock again in 1975’s DAREDEVIL #118. During SECRET EMPIRE, they joined the Army of Evil. They’ve hypnotized Thor and Devil Dinosaur, and they’ve encountered everyone from Howard the Duck to the Hulk.

In fact, this won’t be Kate’s first run-in with the Circus. In HAWKEYE (2012) #2, The Circus, going by the name Cirque Du Nuit, butted heads with Kate and Clint Barton in New York. They were putting on a show at a hotel and Maynard tried to use his mind control abilities to rob the spectators, but Kate and Clint intervened. They whipped out some nifty glasses that made them immune to the Ringmaster’s abilities and escaped on the very boat the Circus was using to abscond with the loot—which was clever, but also made it look like Kate and Clint were the thieves. Those two really have a way of getting themselves tangled up in shenanigans, don’t they?

HAWKEYE (2012) #2

It’s true that the Circus may not be the most fearsome group of villains in the Marvel Universe. We’re not dealing with Thanos or Galactus here. But they’re scrappy, and the Ringmaster has decades of experience with ripping people off and hatching underhanded schemes. So when Kate finds herself up against these criminals yet again, she’s going to have plenty of frustrating nonsense to deal with.

To find out how Kate handles this wily band of thieves, check out HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #4, hitting shelves on February 9.


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