Marvel Enterprises (NYSE:MVL), vendor of superheroes, flexed its financial muscle yesterday, announcing that it had taken $169 million in cash (from its secret underground vault?) and repaid all its debt. Even so, the No.1 publisher of comic books said it expects to end 2004 with $200 million in the bank. Stunning!

Our own David Gardner has twice played the good guy and recommended Marvel in his Motley Fool Stock Advisor. Both recommendations have produced Hulk-like triple-digit percentage gains. Good times may yet lie ahead.

When all was said and done,Spider-Man captured $822 million in its web. If Spider-Man 2, due for release by Sony (NYSE:SNE) on June 30, can excite audiences again, movie magic will bathe Marvel in cash.

You just can't beat a multimovie franchise. Sony will release Spider-Man 3 in 2007. Other studios have sequels for X-Men, Blade, The Hulk, and The Punisher in the pipeline. As the volume of movies grows -- Marvel has four scheduled for 2004 and five for 2005 -- so will the profit potential.

Look no further than Lions Gate Entertainment (AMEX:LGF) to see the synergistic (you won't find that word in a comic book) relationship that can arise between Marvel and a movie studio. Upcoming movies include Man-Thing, The Punisher 2, Black Widow, and Iron Fist. Next, the partners will produce eight made-for-DVD animated features -- a market currently dominated by Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS).

Expect to see Marvel characters on live-action television, too. The future's so bright, superheroes are going to have to wear shades.

Seven Marvel character-branded video games are scheduled for release through Dec. 2005. Two of the licensees -- Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) -- are also Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Coincidence? Not likely. When you have the potential to deliver superhero results, you partner with the best.

Of course, as movie revenues boom, so do toy sales. Why own Mattel (NYSE:MAT), which has to make, market, and distribute toys, when Marvel just sits back and collects those royalties? Talk about superior operating margins. Meanwhile, booming movie revenues trickle right down to comic book sales. It's synergy.

License a character, then rake in the royalties -- that's the Marvel model. The results are enough to make Peter Parker take his eyes off Mary Jane Watson. Operating margins clock in at 47%. How about a return on equity and a return on assets of 44% and 29%, respectively? Profit margins are 26%. Now, that's a Fantastic Four -- oh, and that movie arrives from Fox (NYSE:FOX) in July 2005.

And yet, the stock trades at a reasonable 15 times earnings and is down 20% from its 52-week high. At an enterprise value roughly 11 times free cash flow, Marvel is a money machine. If David Gardner is listening, debt-free Marvel is a true marvel -- and might just deserve a third recommendation.

Looking for the next superhero? Let Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner work for you with a subscription to Motley Fool Stock Advisor .

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty owns stock in Marvel and Walt Disney.