I think with Superman, WB/DC always want to tear him down. Make him a na´ve idiot with no perspective on anything or any real concept of what his job really entails, make him a crybaby who's too afraid to make hard decisions and is willing to turn tail and quit in the event that he has to, make him a bumbler who can be easily manhandled by Batman, make him a victim who can be endlessly abused and mistreated by the people he loves (*cough* Lois Lane *cough*), make him a hothead who goes a rampage/goes bad the minute something goes wrong (any AU story where Lois dies)...basically, I think they're afraid to write Superman as a mature, seasoned hero who knows when and where to get his hands dirty, who knows how to get the job done, who has the smarts and self-respect to take care of himself, and ultimately is a man worthy of icon status. I've often thought that Superman is, or at least should be, the superhero equivalent of Jim Kirk (minus the skirt-chasing, natch), and he's consistently at his best when he is written as such.
I'd say the Fleischer cartoons, The Dini-Timm series (pre-JUSTICE LEAGUE), the George Reeves TV show, Matt Wagner's TRINITY...the incarnations where Superman had his sense of honor, but also wasn't a pushover. Heroic, but with some grit in there. I do like KINGDOM COME, and consider it one of the better AU stories. And there are some episodes of the '60s Filmation series that I really like a lot.
I have mixed feelings about "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way" and its animated counterpart. I like the Elite as characters, but I think it plays too much into the "killing is always bad no matter what" mindset. I agree that abuse of power and using superpowers as an excuse to kill indiscriminately is something Superman should oppose, but even Superman should know and accept that there are times where lethal force is literally the only way to save innocent lives in immediate danger. I think stories where it's presented as implausibly black and white ring hollow and make Superman look na´ve. So for me, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.
I think there is room for Superman to be an inspirational figure of a sort, but he also has to have a harder, tougher side to him. He has to be someone who can throw down and take care of business. Swinging to one side or the other to the exclusion of all else is where the character's suffered the most.