Circus appeared to be a man while in civilian clothes, and an older teen/early-twenties girl while in costume.
Circus' costume, makeup and color scheme were different every time they went out, but the theme was always more or less the same. On one occasion, they wore a costume and makeup of red and gold. Another, Circus wore clown makeup and a jester’s cap, with a teal and orange skintight costume complete with coattails, and bells jangled from the tips of their cap, their coattails, their gloves and boots.
Circus was described as a "genderfluid cross-dresser" by the author. This made it impossible for Tattletale to determine whether they were "a guy posing as a girl when in costume or a girl who poses as a guy when in plainclothes", because both suppositions are essentially correct.
Circus' identity was further complicated by their trigger event, a multitrigger that involved facets linked to male and female personalities. As a result Circus can reflect slightly different body language and skillsets between their Civilian and Cape identities. This might best be described as an 'alter ego' and is not a particular secondary power but simply a result of Circus' deeper connection to their passenger.
Circus was one of the more successful solo villains around Brockton Bay, working as a thief. Their powers made them both quick and versatile enough to win or slip away if they crossed paths with a hero. At some point, they were offered a position on the Undersiders and vehemently refused, although they were willing to work for Coil alongside his other agents.
In exchange for a great deal of money, Circus agreed to leave Brockton Bay, and never work under the same costumed identity again.
Circus' power granted them superhuman reflexes, balance and coordination, enhanced aim, spatial sense, minor pyrokinesis, and an extra-dimensional storage space, which they used to store a variety of items, potentially including disguises. They were considered a "grab-bag cape" give their wide spread of minor but related powers.
Circus' aiming skills are sufficient to hit a horsefly out of the air by spitting, place throwing knives only in nonlethal areas, and hit their targets without line-of-sight.
Circus is highly practiced at effecting a quick change into costume aided by their pocket space, and has general skills in escamotage.
Circus habitually carries a large, colorfully painted sledgehammer, colored streamers trailing from it, which they could make disappear after each hit, and reappear in a raised position or while spinning to speed up assaults. They wielded throwing-knives, which benefited from their enhanced aim. Further they carry road torches and and slimier for a base from which to summon massive fire-balls with their power.
Circus itself brings to mind the travelling entertainment shows that operated from the late 1800s to the early 2000s. Its original usage referred to the gladiatorial shows that the Roman empire is known for. The abstract name choice works for covering the wide spectrum of powers a multi-trigger like Circus has.
Copies of Circus made by Echidna are called Carnie's, mirroring how Circus's name is used to describe travelling shows.
↑ 1.01.11.2Circus is best described as a genderfluid cross-dresser and both of Tattletale’s suppositions are thus correct, which is why her power can’t give her a definitive answer. In being unsure and not knowing, Tattletale was probably closer in labeling Circus than anyone Circus has met. Circus is pleased on a level (being someone that defies/plays with their own gender identity to the point that it confounds someone like Tattletale), and thus takes it as something of a compliment.
Tattletale uses the word ‘poser’ because Circus -is- posing (or crossdressing). In a number of the snippets I wrote about Circus (and with Circus as a main character), Circus veers between being male and female and switching to the other gender (or being ambiguous) to confound attempts at figuring out the secret identity. This casual mention is something of a nod to the snippets (and not the first or last in the story). - Comment by Wildbow on Monarch 16.10
↑The 'few dozen' is too many, a throwaway line that didn't work as I built the setting. You could say there's maybe two dozen unaffiliated capes who could interfere, if you include New Wave's members, Über, Leet, Circus, Trainwreck, Parian, etc, and a number of others who might've scrammed around the time of Arc 8, but yeah. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 6.06.1Circus' hammerspace can hold onto a set of civilian clothes. They go looking for an older teen/early-twenties girl, sweeping the building floor by floor, letting citizens evacuate as each floor gets cleared, and a young man walks free, no sweat. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑The man who had opened the door for us inclined his head in the direction we were to go. We traversed the metal walkway, and passed more of Coil’s soldiers. I saw one squad of six below us was gearing up, pulling on masks and checking their guns. Five seconds later, we passed Circus on the walkway, in a costume and makeup of red and gold. Oblivious to us or our passing, she was leaning against a wall by a stack of cardboard boxes, standing intimately close to a young soldier with close-cropped red hair and an ugly scar running down one side of his neck. -
Excerpt from Buzz 7.11
↑ 9.09.1Circus isn't trans. Circus is just a complicated identity, and gender is a notable factor in that. Things got complicated further because the multitrigger involved facets which linked to male personalities and female personalities and Circus could tap into that to legitimately confound questions of identity.
In weaverdice terms, Circus has the 'alter ego' power perk. Multiple personalities except not quite. She can reflect slightly different body language and skillsets between Civilian and Cape identities, and even one approach to cape identity and another. Mild comparisons can be drawn to Sy shifting mindsets in Twig. Not nearly so dramatic, not a secondary power, just a facet of Circus' particular breadth and depth.
Tattletale doesn't ask questions in the same sense Contessa does. She just picks up on the noise and sometimes does so with a particular focus in mind. So she looked at this individual through the lens of who it was and their relation to Coil, Über and Leet, and connected to Circus, and other details about the confounding identity and the interplay formed around that central tether. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑Circus – A cat burglar, she sports an array of powers including enhanced balance and coordination, a pocket dimension she can use to deposit items and limited pyrokinesis. - Cast (spoiler free)
↑ 11.011.1Circus (Missing) – A burglar with a varied powerset. Has enhanced balance, spatial sense, a mild pyrokinesis requiring existing flame to work with and the ability to insert or withdraw objects from thin air. Disappeared after working with Coil. - Cast (in depth)
↑ 12.012.1I was looking at it the wrong way. Circus. She had been part of the plan from the beginning, and he’d hired her for an explicit reason. Her powers included her personal pocket dimension for storing items. I couldn’t think of how that might be used. She had minor pyrokinesis, but that didn’t apply here, either. She also had an enhanced sense of balance and enhanced coordination.
The balance wasn’t a major thing here. But the coordination? The way she’d been able to casually target Piggot as she tossed the throwing knives over one shoulder? If I had to guess, Circus’ knives had only killed the people Coil wanted dead. The others would have been hit in nonvital areas. Her enhanced hand-eye coordination would have given her the accuracy needed to ensure the knives hit where she wanted them to hit. - Excerpt from Monarch 16.9
↑Mr. Calle answered for Glenn. “Attempted murder. Bit of a loose cannon, but not so loose they’d stick him in the Birdcage. Shacked up with Circus for a while, but it didn’t take. Relationship-wise or as a partnership. They stood to lose more than they could ever gain if he got loose again, so they made it a secure facility. He hasn’t escaped.” - Excerpt from Cockroaches 28.6
↑“A few of the multi-triggers I’m aware of tend to have more… I’m not sure what the word is. Esoteric or abstract names. The one villain in my town was Circus. The solution to a disparate set of powers is to just create something more out there that has its own identity, and then fit your powers to match, instead of trying to fit your identity to a random set of powers.” - Shade 4.2