He's a cultural icon up there with Santa, Jesus and Dracula. People might know about him, but they'll know who he is. His movies and comics will generally make some money, but that doesn't mean they have a good chance of being universally praised or even, well liked.
Dracula is a great example comparison, it's not a series that makes money just because people know who the character is. There's a difference between saying everybody knows who it is, and everybody cares, and people who defend superman seem to enjoy confusing the two.
DC characters are only better known in the West due to having a head start. Marvel characters have been fundamentally constructed to be more amenable to being a part of great storytelling.