Action Comics 23. Debut of Luthor, who in those days had hair. So yeah.
And yeah it was Metropolis 900 miles. Which, if Metropolis is in Delaware (as in the late 80s Atlas of the DC Universe, my personal reference work for DCU locales), puts the podunk diner in about....East Saint Louis. Make of that what you will.
I really like Metropolis 900 miles a lot. Along with 'the unauthorised biography', it was one of the first Luthor stories I ever read and it informs my view of the character greatly, and buttresses later versions of him (mostly the Azzarello/Morrison-All-Star versions): he views us as ants. Weapons in the war against Superman. The defender of humanity, champion of the downtrodden stuff is a bunch of PR bunk. Deep down, he just hates Superman. I like to think he doesn't even really remember why--it's all been going on so long and he's become so irrational that nothing but RAGE! matters.
I guess I always saw Luthor as Bruce Wayne--if Bruce Wayne had given up earlier or at all. Their wars look similar already: human proxies, disposable weapons and income thrown at ridiculous problems, urban warfare, just how insane and one-sided their ideologies are, and how they'd sooner die than surrender in the face of their nameless, formless foe (more on that later
And YES! Go read Jack Kirby's New Gods. Nownownow. I collected them over this past X-mas in softcover (vols 1-4, 1 begins with the very first Kirby issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen
, and vol 4 ends with The Hunger Dogs!
, an editorially-truncated post-Soviet (inquire within as to what I mean about this!) narrative about the whole universe that shows Darkseid and Orion duking it out for...well, most of the marbles. There are hardcovers out there but they start at 50 america-bucks (and, having come out in 2008, are somewhat hard to find for reasonable cash output). Softcovers start at 29.99 IIRC and are printed on hefty paper, so they'll stand up.
The real gems, though, are the forewords (by Morrison, Walt Simonson, some guy I didn't know, and Paul Levitz) and the afterwords in each volume by Mark Evanier. Plus, sketch material!
Go buy them now, Ari. You won't be sorry