Saturday, October 20, 2018

Big Top Of Crime!


I recently watched an outstanding two-part American Experience documentary about the development and history of the circus and it was enlightening in a host of ways. A lot of the details I did not know, but what struck me most was the way in which the circus was once upon a time in an America where entertainment was a relative rarity one of the most important events in the life of a community and a youngster. We are awash in diversions in the modern day, but once that was not so. And so today I want to take a brief gander at the Circus of Crime.


The fascination with the "Big Top" goes a long to explaining why the circus was the center of so many characters and stories in the early days of comics. Not only is it a colorful place but it was a center for the imagination.


The first "Circus of Crime" appeared in the pages of Captain America Comics #10 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon and the Ringmaster and his loathsome lot were Nazi spies.


Skip forward a few decades and Jack Kirby and his new partner Stan Lee brought the Circus of Crime back.


The Ringmaster, with his hypnotic top hat was the center of attention with the other circus members being rather non-distinct. That wouldn't last.


When the Circus reappeared in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #16 to do combat with Spidey and the brand new hero Daredevil, they had a more refined identity.


So much so that when the Circus reappeared to battle Spidey again in issue #22, the Ringmaster had been ousted and the Clown was in charge of the nefarious bunch.


The Ringmaster for his lot boxed above his weight when he took on Thor in the pages of the Thunder God's comic book.  He is back in charge at t his point in time.


My first actual look at the Circus of Crime was in the pages of Marvel Tales, one of those important comics in a young fan's experience, one which was in my case read and read until it fell into fragments.


The Circus of Crime showed up again to crash the wedding of Yellowjacket and the Wasp in the pages of The Avengers #60.


Later Princess Python in a meager attempt to establish a solo crime career takes on the Avenger Iron Man in the fiftieth issue of his comic book.


The Circus of Crime fell to the wayside as more cosmic and world-beating villains appeared on the Marvel landscape. Also it seems the importance of the circus in the daily lives of us all was diminishing to the point to where a "Circus of Crime" was quaint.


Becoming part of the cavalcade of absurd villains in the pages of Howard the Duck pretty much says it all. It's hard to recover your rep as a serious contender when you've battled the infamous fowl.

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6 comments:

  1. Recollect that the Circus characters (in particular, the "Clown") got a little of that old menace back toward the end of the first Ghost Rider series.

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    1. They did try to make the Clown a bit more murderous and less absurd,but he's of a different era.

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  2. Loved that Thor comic with the Ringmaster and the Circus. First saw the story in a 1960s UK comic called Smash!, I now have the original UK edition, plus Masterworks and Omnibus reprints.

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    1. Part of me misses the days when Thor fought such villains. He seemed to go cosmic after a while and never went back to his roots. Makes sense but I miss it.

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    2. Oops, that should have read the original US edition, not UK.

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    3. Yeah, I preferred Thor on Earth - the Asgard stuff got kind of boring after a short while.

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