If you've been to your local multiplex lately, you've probably caught the latest trailer for Spider-Man 2. It's got "can't miss" written all over it. What? You haven't seen it?

Peter Parker and his love interest Mary Jane Watson are having a cozy lunch at a street-side restaurant when she asks him if he loves her. "I," actor Tobey Maguire says, followed by a perfect dramatic pause, "don't." She asks for a kiss to make sure. As he nervously moves in to comply, he sees a reflection of a car barreling its way through the restaurant window. He pulls her out of harm's way and into a series of daring action sequences.

While you can never judge a movie by its trailer, betting that Sony (NYSE:SNE) will own the summer is about as safe a bet as any. After the original Spider-Man grossed $821.7 million in ticket sales worldwide, the only one sitting prettier than Sony in all this is Marvel (NYSE:MVL).

Still reaping royalties from its licensed characters like Spidey, Marvel is flexing its ever-bulging bargaining muscles in a content-starved Hollywood, and its earnings have skyrocketed since its roster of comic book heroes took to celluloid.

So, it was welcome to see Marvel and Sony confirm that they are planning for Spider-Man 3. While the film is two or three summers away, the franchise has been Marvel's star. One has to wonder how wide the company's distribution network will be by then. Marvel franchises X-Men and Blade have already proven themselves as worthy sequels. Maybe Hulk didn't live up to expectations, but investors now have Fox's (NYSE:FOX) Fantastic Four to look forward to next year.

Content matters. Marvel knows it. The stock is up more than 530% since David Gardner highlighted it in the July 2002 issue of Motley Fool Stock Advisor. It was a great call, but it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. The original Spidey flick had been a box office smash two months earlier, and the pipeline was brimming with superhero reinforcements. The fact that the market is often slow to recognize success is why so many Stock Advisor picks have fared so well.

As for Marvel, it is looking to earn about $1.30 a share this year. That's lower than earlier guidance, which once called for the company to make as much as $1.48 a share in 2004, but everything is lining up for more prosperous years down the line. After all, everybody loves to wait for the action-packed sequels.

Are you already lining up for the July 2, 2004, debut of Spider-Man 2 or do you have other plans? What about The Punisher next month or Man-Thing later this year? Which Marvel character would you tap for Hollywood stardom next? All this and more -- in the Marvel discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that most sequels fail to live up to the original, though he thought X-Men 2 was far better than X-Men. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.