The early '60s was a great time for techno-utopian visions like the flying car and the jetpack. But it was also a time of tremendous dread for Americans. Many people were worried about the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union and whether they should be building a home fallout shelter. Occasionally these two mindsets — the shiny optimistic '60s and the dark pessimistic '60s — would come together in glorious fashion.
The December 9, 1962 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Sunday comic strip "Closer Than We Think" represented a perfect mash-up of these ideas. In the event of any horrific disaster, the streets would be strewn with abandoned cars and public transportation would be at a standstill. But the sleek, futuristic "walking machine" of tomorrow would come to the rescue — able to easily navigate impossibly crowded streets in any city that may be reduced to a hellish post-apocalyptic wasteland.
From the comic strip:
A computer thinks like a man. Now being planned is a machine which would walk like a man. General Electric Co. has a government contract to build one. The walking machine would be used in disaster areas, over rough terrain or on routes which call for travel over both land and water. An operator in a control dome will be geared to the 12-foot legs of the mechanism so his movements forward, sideways or backwards would be repeated by the machine. Giant models, such as the ones depicted here might include facilities for emergency treatment of victims trapped in buildings after a disaster.
Radebaugh's strip never explicitly mentions the threat of nuclear war. But with the ruined city and abandoned cars that were pictured — coupled with increased tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the time — it was absolutely clear what was going on to people reading the newspaper on that Sunday in December of 1962.