The Hamsters are 3'6" tall, 30 pounds, and anthropomorphic. It has often been remarked upon, in-universe, that they look nothing like hamsters, no matter which artist is drawing them.
The original team consists of Jackie, Bruce, Chuck, and Clint. Jackie has a spot around his left eye, Bruce has a spot around his right eye, Chuck has no spots, and Clint wears sunglasses and a mohawk.
The second team consists of Steven, Rock, Arnold, Lucy, and Jean-Claude.
In 1977, NASA launches a probe containing four hamsters to destroy a mysterious mass of radioactive cosmic Jello that was nearing Earth. Exposure to the substance mutates and anthropomorphizes the hamsters. Their vessel later crashes down near a Tibetan monastery, where they are adopted by the monks, trained in the martial arts, and named after famous martial arts and action-movie actors (Clint Eastwood, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Chuck Norris).
After eight years of training, their teacher, Master Lock, sends them into the outside world (so they could deliver a package to his brother in San Francisco). They become stuck in a snowstorm, and eventually run into a drug dealer in his car. They beat him up and steal his car. Clint gets hopped up on his cocaine, and they find a stash of $312,077.12 in his glove box, which they take with them.
They get on a plane to the U.S., but it is hijacked by the P.L.O., or Pot Luck Organization, a group of terrorists including a nun with a gun, a guy with a scuba suit, a guy in a hockey goalie uniform, a barbarian, and a kid. After a pitched battle, the Hamster win. When they land, the Hamsters are regarded as heroes, and are rewarded by the airline company with another $50,000. However Chuck donates the whole reward to the Humane Society.
They hire a taxi to drive them from New York to San Francisco, but decide to sleep in a New York hotel for the night. The driver, Myron, finds a bottom-dollar place for them. Some street thugs try to steal his taxi, but Myron and Clint stop them. Later, Myron, Jackie, Clint, and Bruce go out to a club, while Chuck stays in bed.
At the club, Clint electrocutes Jackie to help him "loosen up." They leave and see a series of action movies, which brainwashes them into going on a destructive binge. They buy tons of military-grade weapons and start shooting up anyone they think is unAmerican or immoral, including a porn shop, some drug dealers, and a pet shop. They are soon being chased by the police.
Seeing a giant woman who seemed to be taking off her clothes, they blow her up with plastique. This woman turns out to be the Statue of Liberty. They run away, but are caught by the police.
Meanwhile, Chuck is attacked by a pack of 10'-tall cockroaches in the hotel. He makes quick work of them, squishing them into pulp. Myron returns and explains what kind of trouble the others are in.
Jackie, Bruce, and Clint cause problems throughout their sentencing and processing into prison. They get in a food fight in the cafeteria where they fight scores of prisoners. They would have lost, except the artist and writer agreed to erase some of their foes. Meanwhile Chuck shows up with their money so he can buy their way out. However, the others break out of prison before he arrives. They give Myron $40,000 for his help and leave town.
They buy an RV, or Rodent Vehicle, to travel in. The Naive Inter-dimensional Commando Koalas get in a brief scrape with the Hamsters inside the RV, but the Hamsters eventually knock them out and go on their way.
They end up in a mall, playing games in an arcade. They get in a fight with a bully and beat him. A professional wrestling promoter, Vincent DeLuxe, sees the fight and hires them to be a new tag team. He puts them in training, and has them do the talk show circuit: they soon become famous, even though they are the under dogs in their upcoming fight. Their opponents are the current world champions, the Mighty Midgets. Unbeknownst to the Hamsters, DeLuxe had paid the Midgets to take a fall, and bet on the Hamsters, so he stands to make millions off the fight.
However, the Midgets' flight is cancelled, and they can't get to the fight, so DeLuxe has to hire four new wrestlers to fight the Hamsters. These four are all huge, and extremely tough. DeLuxe also forgets to tell them to lose. The Hamsters are in a tight spot, but manage to beat their new opponents anyway. They confront DeLuxe about the match afterwards, and he gives them each $5 million dollars as a pay-off.
Now driving across the country, Jackie brings them to a stop at a toy store after seeing an ad. He ends up among a mob of parents trying to get Flower Garden Folk dolls (a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids). It is a nationwide craze. After some arguments, Jackie and Clint both get some. However, the dolls are defective, and start to turn radioactive and evil, attacking everyone in sight. The Hamsters fight off their dolls, then go to the place where they were made to confront their maker, Xavier Snobberts. They break in, only to find a horde of more dolls. They fight through them and rescue Snobberts. Eventually the infestation is ended, although it later turned out that Snobberts himself is a doll.
As they drive through Kansas, Clint reads a warped version of a fairy tale to Jackie. Jackie then dreams that they visit a parody of the Oz and Star Wars universes before waking up.
Still driving their RV, they stop at a convenience store in the boondocks to get some beer. It is closed, so Bruce and Clint break in, and are confronted by the owners at gunpoint. Jackie goes off on his own, thinking he was a World War I flying ace (a la Snoopy). Chuck is asleep. The owners are racist and think the hamsters were black.
The owners turn Clint, Chuck, and Bruce over to the cops, but they are waylaid by the C.C.C., or Coo Clucks Clan, a religious/racist cult who worship Colonel Sanders and dress up like chickens. They prepare to cook the hamsters over a cauldron.
Meanwhile Jackie runs into the Heap, who helps him find the others (although they destroy the RV on the way). With the help of the Heap, they quickly route the C.C.C. and escape.
They have many other adventures, including a revival of the P.L.O. They are released from jail and attack the Hamsters in a parody of Disney World. The Hamsters have trouble defeating them this time, but are aided by Captain Tree and Bush Boy.
The Hamsters take a vacation in Miami, where they run into a toe-sucking monster. The Hamsters retreat in one of Bruce's Ferraris, and eventually end up falling into a whirlpool while battling the Toe-Jam Monster. The whirlpool sucks then down into the lair of the villain Infidel Castro. Clint, Jackie, and Chuck each face individual challenges, but are eventually reunited. However, they find Bruce too late--Castro kills Bruce with a harpoon.
Castro leaves the others in the base. They retrieve his body from the sea, and check him out on the base's medical equipment: there is no heartbeat. The other brothers leave the room to mourn...but meanwhile, a strange creature breaks out of a pod and does something to Bruce's body, seemingly restoring his heartbeat. It then locks the door and apparently starts the base's self-destruct mechanism. The Hamsters try to retrieve Bruce's body but the dooris locked, and they are forced to leave it behind. They find some sea sleds and shoot out just before the base explodes.
Unfortunately, the explosion knocks them all out, and they are separated by the currents. Jackie wakes up on a deserted island in the Bermuda Triangle. Jackie is found by a Russian trawler, and Clint is found by a Mafia party ship. The original series ends here, with the Hamsters separated, seemingly never to be reunited.
The continuity of the early ARBBH stories is confusing, because soon after ARBBH 1, they also launched a 3-D series and a miniseries about Clint, which were published simultaneously with the next few issues of the main title. They also had an appearance in Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas. The correct sequence for reading these first few issues is:
ARBBH 3-D #1
Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas #1
ARBBH 3-D #2
ARBBH 3-D #3
The Clint miniseries does not fit directly into the chronology of the other stories, and takes place back at the monastery (perhaps before ARBBH #1).
The Hamsters briefly returned in the one-shot ARBBH Massacre the Japanese Invasion, all completely healthy and fine, with no explanation.
Second Team, and the New Version of the First Team
The 2008 series introduced many changes to the original concept of the Hamsters. It added a new team, and also changed a lot of the events and backstory for the first team.
The new team, comprised of Jean-Claude, Arnold, Rock, Steven, and Lucy, came from an alternative dimension. It turns out that the Infidel Castro episode of the original Hamsters' series took place in this alternative dimension, and when the original Hamsters can back, they brought the new team with them. It should be noted that the generic quality retcon is played somewhat as a joke, and the story even presents an alternative explanation for it, with Bruce saying at one point that the Infidel Castro story was actually just a dream.
In any case, this retcon provides both an origin for the new team, as well as explaining why Bruce is still alive. At the start of the story, the original Hamsters are split up, as they were at the end of the original series, but for a different reason. The original Hamsters all fell in love with Lucy, especially Clint. However, she had a relationship with Chuck. This affair broke the Hamsters up, and they separated for years. The new series starts decades in the future, just as the comic was published years after the original series.
History for both the New Team and the New Version of the Old Team
The new team is based in Chicago. They feel like second stringers, with the monks always making it clear that they are not as good as the new team.
While they are training, they receive a psychic message from the Dalai Momma, the head of their monastery. She warns them that the monastery is under attack, and begs them to return. After some arguments, the Hamsters get in their jet (a B2 Stealth bomber) and fly to the Himalayas.
They land, and are attacked by Genghis Khann and his army of Huns. Steven and Jean-Claude are killed. Rock and Arnold are either captured or killed. Lucy slips off the edge, and falls far down the mountain, landing on a Yeti who turns out to be friends with Master Lock, who now lives in exile. She convinces him that they need to do something. He agrees and contacts Jackie, and convinces him to come help. Jackie has been living in a hidden village underneath Mount Fuji. He has been training intensely, but is very lonely. Lucy and some of the (ninja-trained) Yeti go back up to the base and get their plane back so they can pick him up.
Meanwhile, it seems that Khann has healed or resurrected Rock, Arnold, and Jean-Claude, and brainwashed them so they are on his side. (Steven is not resurrected for some reason.) He shows them a huge computer bank under the monastery, which is tracking a cosmic cloud of radioactive Jell-o, just like the one that mutated the original hamsters. Then the brainwashed hamsters lead an army of Huns to attack Lock and his Yeti. They torture him to get the password to the computer system. This is mostly the end of the scenes for the members of the new team, except for Lucy; basically they are defeated very quickly, then turned to mindless slaves.
Jackie manages to find his brothers Bruce and Chuck. They've been living in Texas are are overweight and out of shape, but are glad to see him. Then they track down Clint.
Clint now lives a life almost opposite to the one he used to lead. It turns out that he has been living as an emasculated, down-trodden husband to a dominant human wife. He never stands up for himself, and seems to be in complete denial about his former life. The one hint as to his old self is that he now calls himself Harry Callahan, which was Clint Eastwood's name in Dirty Harry.
Finally, Jackie, Bruce, and Chuck come to talk with him, but he pretends he doesn't recognize them. He is so stuck in his new pathetic life that he can't bring himself to admit that it was ever different. Clint refuses to understand any of this and kicks them out. Clint's neighbor, Richard, sees the others and invites them in, but traps them in his basement, a la the Gimp in Pulp Fiction.
Lucy finally finds Clint and berates his wife, calling him a warrior and a legend. She punches Martha out, and Clint finally wakes up and admits who he really is. Clint goes into his closet and comes out wearing a centurion helmet with a mohawk-like bristle along the top, and carrying a revolver. He's back. They break into Richard's basement and save his brothers. Lucy and the brothers are excited and want to set off to save the monastery, but Clint says no--he wants to go back to his human family; as horrible as they might be, they need him, and he has chosen the responsibility to take care of them.
Without Clint, the others invade the monastery and are caught. Khann boasts about his plans, then kills them all (and Master Lock) by a shot to the head. Soon after, Khann takes over the world. The cosmic Jell-o turns out house an army of alien Hamsters, just like the ones on Earth. In this final major retcon, it seems that the Earth Hamsters are all really aliens too.
Ten years later, Clint reconsiders. He can't live with himself any more. He breaks into Khann's compound, killing many of the alien hamsters. Wearing his mohawked helmet once again, he kicks down Khann's door, only to find him a bored and bloated mess, watching TV and ready to give up. Clint demands Khann's time machine, so he can go back in time and save his brothers and kill Khann in the past. Khann points out that Clint is standing on it, and sends him back to the past. Nothing changes. Apparently Clint failed. Khann remains the ruler of the world, and the Hamsters are all dead (Jackie, Bruce, Chuck, Lucy, Steven), brainwashed slaves (Jean-Claude, Rock, Arnold), or missing in time (Clint).