The Circus of Crime is a traveling band of circus performers, usually led by Maynard Tiboldt, better known as the Ringmaster, who use their special skills to rob their audiences.
The Circus of Crime was originally Tiboldt's Circus, a small Austrian travel circus managed for generations by members of the Tiboldt family. In the 1930s Fritz Tiboldt, then managed and ringmaster of the circus, became active in Nazi party activities. After World War II began, he was asked by German intelligence to take his circus to America, supposedly just to give performances in major cities, but actually in order to use the talents of the Nazi sympathizers among his performers to murder high government officials. However, Tiboldt, who came to be known as the "Ringmaster Of Death," was captured by Captain America, and both Tiboldt and the members of his circus who had aided him in his subversive activities ported.
Fritz Tiboldt and his wife Lola continued to manage Tiboldt's Circus after the war. Eventually Fritz and Lola Tiboldt were murdered by Nazis who had escaped capture in vengeance for their cooperation with the Allies. Fritz's son, Maynard Tiboldt, thereupon succeeded him as leader and ringmaster of the circus, and decided to move it to America, far from the scene of Hitler's rise to power and his par death.
But once in America, Tiboldt's Circus proved incapable of competing successfully with larger with larger American circuses. Blaming Americans not only for ignoring his circus, but also for his father's humiliating capture in America years before, Tiboldt decided to turn to crime. If Americans would not enrich him and his performers willingly, they would be forced to do so. Tiboldt outlined his plans to the members of his troupe, a number of whom had accompanied him from Europe, and others of whom had joined the troupe after it came to America. A good percentage of the troupe quit, refusing to turn to a life of crime. However, a surprising number of the circus members eagerly agreed to join Tiboldt in his criminal endeavors, and they became the first members of what is known as the Circus of Crime.
The Circus of Crime usual modus operandi is the following. They will give a performance before a large audience. At some point the Ringmaster will use the powerful mind-control device concealed in his hat to put the audience into a trance. The Circus members then rob the audience, who remember nothing about the thefts when the Ringmaster releases them from the trance and the performance continues. The Circus of Crime performs under different names so that audience will not suspect that they are the Circus of Crime.
Over the years the membership of the Circus of Crime has varied, although there is a core group that has participated in most of its criminal ventures. The Ringmaster and his accomplices have been imprisoned by the law numerous times, but rarely for long, given the difficulties of proving the charges against them, since their victims usually have no memory of being robbed by them. Occasionally the Circus of Crime has operated without the Ringmaster, either because he is in prison, or because some have become dissatisfied with his leadership. However, he has always returned a leader.