You know Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL). The comic-book publisher has become a Hollywood powerhouse after its licensed characters inspired hit franchises with the X-Men and Spider-Man films. Even the somewhat obscure Blade property was good enough for a blockbuster trilogy, which led to a live-action television series that premiered on Spike TV last month.

Yes, you know Marvel. You may not be able to rattle off all of the company's 5,000 characters, but you're more than familiar with the company's superhero bent. Its characters come in various shapes and sizes, but most come in one color: multiplex gold.

You can file all of that away this week. I'm here to discuss the Marvel you don't see. The shares are trading essentially where they were a year ago. That's the kind of pause that may lead impatient investors to wonder if this amazing growth stock -- which David Gardner recommended in Stock Advisor four summers ago -- is superhero slop.

It's not. I'm here to show you why, but I'm not one to settle for conventional approaches this time. In Marvel fashion, I will reveal my secret identity in layers. But first, I'll take you several notches deep into my underground lair, to explore the common reasons why Marvel has had its fair share of detractors lately.

We've got some myths to debunk, so let's get going.

1. Superhero flicks are tired
After watching a few comic-book adaptations like Catwoman and Elektra bomb in their theatrical runs, even I was skeptical of the genre's future early last summer. I had interviewed Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings a few months earlier, someone with as good a pulse as anyone on movie-viewing trends, and he also figured that the format had run its course.

At that point, just two films -- Spider-Man 2 and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Batman Begins -- had broken the $100 million mark in domestic box office receipts over the last two years. My, what a difference a year can make. Since then, Marvel's Fantastic Four toppled that mark with ease, Marvel's X-Men: The Last Stand went on to top its two blockbuster predecessors, and Time Warner's Superman Returns has lapped that milestone in a matter of days.

So don't bury the superhero, my friend. Marvel's publishing business, an ideal gauge for the popularity of comic books among die-hard fans, inched higher last year and is moving higher still in 2006. How dare you assume that Marvel and its colorful genre were dead beneath the rubble? That's a rookie villain mistake.

2. Marvel's earnings are tanking
I realize that Marvel earned $1.10 per share in 2004 and $0.97 a stub last year, and is guiding analysts to expect earnings per share of $0.46 to $0.57 this year. It's not a pretty line chart, but it's also deceptive. Lumpy production schedules have a funny way of doing that to an entertainment empire with a licensing stronghold.

Things will improve dramatically next year, with Sony (NYSE:SNE) putting out both Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3 as News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) Fox unleashes its Fantastic Four sequel. Wall Street expects the company to earn $1.18 a share next year, and 2008 may be even more intriguing, as the company releases the first of its self-financed productions.

3. Marvel is taking on a lot of risk
Opening up a $525 million credit line to bankroll 10 in-house productions is risky, but it's less worrisome now that the genre is back on track. Movie studios like Sony and Fox have raked in huge sums from Marvel's creations, and one can only imagine what Marvel's top and bottom lines will look like if it's able to land another killer franchise.

Iron Man is first on the block. It will be released during the first weekend of May in 2008. If the timing sounds familiar, it's because it served Marvel well with the debuts of Spider-Man in 2002 and X-Men 2 in 2003. It's the same weekend that Sony is using to launch the "can't miss" Spider-Man 3 next year. It doesn't hurt that both Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage have expressed interest in the project. Cage is already starring in Marvel's next licensed release, Ghost Rider, set for February.

Still think that Marvel is taking on more than it can chew? I love companies that underpromise and overdeliver. Even as the company continues to inch its 2006 outlook higher, it has still beaten analyst estimates in 12 of the last 14 quarters.

Meanwhile, back in Beyers Land ...
I have no idea where Tim Beyers will come from with his bearish case. I'll be ready, just the same. How can you not like Marvel? In an era in which way too many companies are diluting investors, Marvel's been an aggressive buyer. The company had 114 million fully diluted shares in 2004 and 106 million in 2005, and now has less than 92 million fully diluted shares into which to divide its net profits.

That's cool. Marvel's cool. You can be cool, too. Just don't be chilling like a villain, my friend.

Marvel, Netflix, and Time Warner have all beenStock Advisorrecommendations.

Think you're done with the Duel? You're not! Go back and read the other three arguments, and then vote for a winner.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz spent his youth reading Mad and Cracked instead of the traditional comic books, but he appreciates the flicks aplenty. He does own shares in Netflix. The Fool has adisclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.