My dueling counterpart Anders Bylund wants you to believe that Marvel (NYSE:MVL) can continue to leverage its famous superhero characters into a perpetual money-printing machine. Nice theory, but let's look at the real value of one of the most successful movie franchises in history, Star Wars:

Release Year

Movie

Worldwide Gross

1977

A New Hope

$797,900,000

1980

The Empire Strikes Back

$534,200,000

1983

Return of the Jedi

$572,700,000

16-year Gap

   

1999

The Phantom Menace

$924,288,297

2002

Attack of the Clones

$656,695,615

2005

Revenge of the Sith

$848,470,577

Source: AOL.

If you take a look at those numbers, what should pop out immediately is that the original film of each "trilogy" performed the best overall. The key lesson from Star Wars is that a producer can only push a successful franchise so far before it exhausts its fan base. And yes, the revival numbers are great, but the 16-year gap can be quite painful for any investor waiting for that potential.

Even Disney (NYSE:DIS) realizes this problem. How often do you see commercials indicating that one or another of its classics is available only "for a limited time," after which it will be put back in its vault for several years? Disney's a smart company. It knows the risks of overexposing its characters -- namely, losing a once-strong franchise.

Looking at Marvel, I already see X-Men done with its third iteration, Spider-Man finished its third, and Hulk in the process of its second. Those are some pretty big names, and they probably won't have anywhere near the near-term future earning power as they had in the recent past. Throw in some heavy leverage to support the moviemaking business, and Marvel's risk/reward tradeoff no longer looks so sweet, once you peel back the covers.

You're not done with the Duel yet! Go back and read the other entries, sound off in CAPS, and then vote for the winner!

Marvel and Disney are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor Chuck Saletta did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article, but he sure did own a whole bunch of all their products. The Fool's disclosure policy knows that with great power comes great responsibility (and hopefully, greater cash flows).