Girl Genius
Girl Genius

Master Payne is head of Master Payne's Circus of Adventure and possibly Sparky self-professed evil (or is that good?) magician. According to the print novel Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, his rarely-used first name is Hieronymus. He is married to Countess Marie (to whom he often wisely defers as issuer of the last word), a member of the International Brotherhood of Evil Magicians, and protective of his circus family as its pseudo-patriarch. He is responsible and deeply aware of the long-term difficulties of hiding a troupe of minor sparks in Europa. He is a captivating ringmaster in his star-spangled longcoat, and knows how to manipulate an audience with his flashy brand of illusion. He has a superstitious (or perhaps just highly intuitive) side, seriously observing and relying on Moxana's mysterious games. He is also superb at quickly assessing talent when he sees it .

In the Comic[]

Agatha first encounters him when he realizes she is on the run from Castle Wulfenbach, where he firmly rejects the idea of such a fugitive traveling with the circus. However, following Agatha's helping destroy a monstrous clank that attacks the circus, he is also responsible for keeping Agatha with the circus and disguising her from Bang Dupree and Gilgamesh Wulfenbach when they appear at the circus searching for her. Clearly, he is quick at devising a good subterfuge, paying off his karmic (if not monetary) debts and respecting honorable risk-takers when he meets them. However, Master Payne is not one for foolish bravery ; he knows that despite his troupe being Sparky, they are still actors and not trained to handle real combat like Zeetha or the Jägermonsters. After (heroically and/or foolishly} stealing one of the Baron's airships to rescue Agatha and faced with the horrible prospect of disbanding his beloved circus/family, Master Payne accepts Ardsley Wooster's offer to take the Circus of Adventure to England, where he and it are now located.

His name, despite being a homophone for pain, may be a reference to a pane of glass, as would be used to create a mirror, appropriate for a man who uses "smoke and mirrors" to hide things.

As seen in the portrait above (and explicitly pointed out in the novel, Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess,[1]), the sigil he wears on his chest/neck, which normally identifies the wearer's house or faction, is blank.

He plays the Gaffophone, or rather, again according to the print novels, a "petite Gaffophone". Which is a wise move, as subjecting the people of Europa to the original version would probably result in Baron Wulfenbach ordering an airstrike on the Circus.


In this scene , Abner refers to Master Payne's actions as "such a great act". Countess Marie replies "Act?" It is unclear whether they are referring to Master Payne's intimidating speech, or his apparent growth to giant size, with attendant blue flames. If the latter, it may imply that his "stage magic" may be something far, far more. Note that at no time does anyone refer to Master Payne as a Spark, nor do we see him using technology more involved than a cart. But In The Works, Master Payne is labeled (uniquely) Circus Magician The Works: Circus Magician. The rules of The Works specify that the description for each character is to be taken literally. And the Foglios tend towards being pretty darn literal. His powers may, possibly, be rather more than an illusion.

With the revelation from the England arc about second breakthroughs, it could be speculated that he had undergone one in the past, but is currently laying low for some reason.

The Works[]

In The Works, Master Payne is labeled (uniquely) Circus Magician.

The instructions are the same as those of Dr. Hugo Glassvitch.

Outside world[]

Art imitates life. Just like magic itself, Master Payne is very real. See him in full sparky regalia[2] assisting the Professors Foglio with one of their popular radio plays. See also his own site here[3] for information on how to hire him for your own great dissemblances.[4]

Paynes Magykes[]

See the thimble rigger rig thimbles!

Master Paynes Circus of Adventure[]

Still Amazing after Fifty Years


  1. Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, page 34: "At his throat was a family sigil badge, which, strikingly, was completely blank."
  2. Girl Genius Radio Theatre - Norwescon 2008(archive copy) Flickr photoset by Kevin Standlee
  3. That would be magical, but actually, he now mostly uses Facebook.
  4. Er, assemblages.