Printed in James Joyce Quarterly, Summer/Fall 1993. Vol.30/31, Issue 4, Pg.739
The following is an excerpt from a very long article. It's the only portion of the article that mentions Calvin and Hobbes:
In his cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson illustrates how through advertising objects are generalized into signs of recognition signifying the reciprocation of status among people. Captivated by the "great copy" of an advertisement for bubble gum, Calvin worries that his own status is inadequate to the advertised commodity - "Gosh, am I cool enough to chew Hyperbubble? Maybe I'm not!" - until he determines that the commodity itself confers status ("Maybe if you chew Hyperbubble, you become cool!") or at least the semblance of status, which amounts to the same thing: "Or maybe if you chew it, everyone assumes you're cool, so it doesn't matter if you are or not!" (See figure 1).
Tellingly, what confirms for Calvin his consumer wisdom is less the anticipated purchase of Hyperbubble - devoutly though it is wished - than the consummated purchase of the magazine advertising it. Hobbes calls attention to how advertising constructs needs, how it speaks to us, but his blase response to Calvin's eagerness to buy - and in buying to elevate his social standing - reveals that he also recognizes, unlike Calvin, that needs can never be satisfied through appropriate objects. Rather, objects respond to the logic of desire, where they serve as an unconscious field of signification.