My Foolish colleague Chuck has his work cut out for him today. How do you attack a few thousand superheroes and expect to see another sunrise? But it's a Duel, so someone had to take the bearish side in this Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL) debate. Alas, poor Chuck! I knew him, Horatio.

Thin is in ...
Today, Marvel is a lean, mean fighting machine. The company makes a mint off licensing its 5,000-character portfolio to companies like Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX), General Mills (NASDAQ:GIS), and General Electric's (NYSE:GE) Universal Studios. Most of the Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Fantastic Four merchandise in your kids' toy chests and cereal packs represents a chunk of risk-free pure profit for Marvel. The licensee has to bear the costs of manufacturing and marketing, as well as the risk of weak demand and unsellable inventory.

It's an asset-light strategy that gives Marvel the fattest profit margins in the branded entertainment industry, ahead of stalwarts like Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE:WWE). In fact, it's a bit too light. That's where the company's metamorphosis into a full-fledged movie studio comes in.

... but fatter is better
We've been over the innovative financing deal for Marvel's upcoming slate of in-house movie productions many times before. It's still worth mentioning that the company has put up intangible intellectual property as collateral for the funds. If Ant-Man bombs out at the box office, despite Marvel having complete creative control over its diminutive daredevil, that's a tough break -- but still a risk worth taking. Marvel will only lose the movie rights to sequels of a failed first effort.

There's always a chance that first America, then the world, will embrace insect-themed adventurer Hank Pym, provided the story is strong enough. (I'm looking at you, Daredevil!) That could lead to enriching results for everyone involved -- particularly Marvel.

Tthere are more established characters on deck, too. But seriously, do you really think a well-made Iron Man or Captain America film could fail to connect with audiences? I don't think so. If you thought the last Hulk effort was a failure, just remember that it brought in $245 million in global box office receipts, not including the windfall from DVDs, lunch boxes, and green breakfast cereals. The names alone will bring enough fans to make these properties profitable.

Swing into action!
And did I mention that the stock is cheap? One of the most recognizable brand names in the world can be yours today for less than 19 times trailing earnings. DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) goes for 30 times earnings on the "strength" of weaker margins, a smaller character gallery, and less-ambitious future plans.

Today, Marvel is light on its feet, dancing around the competition is a storm of incoming dollar bills. Tomorrow, it'll be a heavyweight that can afford to make its own rules and get better deals from its partners. This company has settled for second billing for way too long. It's time to see Marvel's name in lights. Coming soon to a theater near you -- and available today at a deep discount from your friendly neighborhood stockbroker.

Further Foolishness:

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, Disney, and Dreamworks Animation are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks -- but that's not all. Take a free 30-day trial and find a few other Stock Advisor surprises in the Marvel mix.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Disney shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure promises not to reveal your secret identity.