The series confused many, as Hobbes himself was not born until 1588 - some 40 years after the show last aired. This seeming anachronism was explained by the fact that only Calvin could see Hobbes - leading to debate over if Hobbes was real or merely a figment of Calvin's imagination.
John Calvinpsychic detective who can see into the future because everything is "predestined by God." He nominally attempts to solve mysteries, but usually ends up being sidetracked by getting into fights with Catholics or Arminians, whom he eventually always challenges to a game of Calvinball. His strict adherence to predestination meant that he would give up pretty easily in everything he was doing, and simply say that God predestined him to give up and it was out of his control. This allowed Calvin to generally be a lazy douche. While he was typically a devout Christian, when he was angry Calvin would occasionally threaten God that he would become an atheist (see right). God had no comment.
In contrast to Calvin, Hobbes is far more cynical about human nature. The two would get into philosophical debates and crack big cases together. Interestingly, whenever someone other than Calvin looked at Hobbes, they simply saw a stuffed tiger. When Calvin got sidetracked, Hobbes would remind him that they should go back to solving their mystery - usually via some clever method of investigation that involved tossing water balloons at Calvin's neighbor, Susie, from their tree house.
"Calvin and Hobbes" was set in contemporary 16th Century Europe, where a number of zany things were constantly going on, including the Protestant Reformation, the return of explorers from the New World, and the unsightly release of several Queen Elizabeth sex tapes.
In each episode, individuals would get into some sort of trouble, and having nowhere else to turn would call for the assistance of Calvin (and Hobbes) to help them. The two would travel in their red wagon looking for clues, which would always end up crashing somewhere and leaving them to use their own wits to get their way out of trouble. More often than not, they would be able to get their selves out of trouble or solve a mystery by using the magical power that is the cardboard box. Notable usages include:
- Episode 4: Calvin and Hobbes turn a cardboard box into a time machine and save Anne Boleyn from the axe.
- Episode 22: The two modify a cardboard box to turn into a duplicator, so that Calvin can create clones of himself to fight his arch nemesis and the series’ main villain, the Pope.
- Episode 31: A cardboard box becomes a transmogrifier, which transforms swarms of people into "Calvinists."
- Episode 44: The cardboard box is used to sneak Solid Snake past his enemies.
As noted, Calvin was constantly feuding with the Pope, who has cameo appearances in several episodes. Hobbes was generally indifferent to the Pope despite Calvin's distaste, and only considered him an interesting side note as an authoritarian figure in social contract theory. Other running gags in the series included:
- Calvin constantly avoiding baths (although honestly, this was pretty common in the 1500s)
- Fighting Dinosaurs, which at the time lived in Tilbury.
- Tormenting Susie Derkins, a nearby landlord with properties adjoined to Calvin's.
- Playing Calvinball.
- Episode 7: The Five Solas Calvin learns the secret that salvation is attained purely through divine grace, whilst Hobbes explores his sexual fetish for Tuna.
- Episode 9: Nasty, Brutish and Short Calvin builds a snowman but Hobbes kicks it to pieces while screaming that without a strong monarch, all of human life would reduce to warfare, owing to the mechanistic and selfish nature of man himself - through a tannoy.
- Episode 18: Leviathan The duo learn that a giant sea monster has been eating ships, and the two race to transmogrify it.
- Episode 26: The Hugonauts Calvin turns into Spaceman Spiff and leads a gang of space explorers, all coincidently named "Hugo."
- Episode 30: On the Citizen Hobbes sets out to found a society based on the natural condition of mankind, but Calvin ruins it when the entire civilization is burned down following a game of Calvinball against Jacobus Arminius.
- Episode 38: Doppelgangers! People that look just like Calvin and Hobbes show up (they are actually played by Calvin and Hobbes themselves). Come on, you know every series has this episode. And the episode where they switch bodies. And the one where the guy accidentally winds up with two dates at once and has to switch back between them. And the one where they get trapped and reminisce on past episodes. And the one where one of the characters pretends to be sick to get out of doing something, and winds up learning some valuable life lesson. And the one where the good guys get their name sullied and become on the wrong side of the law, and they have to fight to prove their innocence. And the one where...
- Episode 46: G.R.O.S.S Calvin and Hobbes form G.R.O.S.S (Get RefOrmed, Slimy churcheS), an organization dedicated to Protestant reform. However, they never actually do anything as they spend the whole episode giving themselves titles and awards.
- Episode 50: The Noodle Incident The famous lost episode, of which the last copy was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, which was caused by improper distribution of a particular s'mores ingredient (notably fire). To this day, nobody knows what the Noodle Incident was about, though some contemporary records refer to the episode as "friggin hilarious."
Calvin and Hobbes became the top rated series of its time quickly and inspired several knock off shows, such as "Luther and Locke," and "Aquinas and Descartes." The fad faded over time though, and the series was cancelled. However, re-runs of the program would remain popular in syndication for many years, and the show has a following from a new generation around the time that Hobbes was actually alive.After the show's initial run, Calvin became a spokesman for Cabriolet Horse-Drawn Carriages in a successful advertising campaign in where he urinated on carriages made by competing companies. The ads became so well known that Calvin's earlier work was mostly forgotten and he became solely known for urinating on carriages. Over the years, the association has continued and a caricature of Calvin is depicted doing the same on modern motor vehicle decals. These decals can be seen mainly on pickup trucks in the United States South.