Hollywood's fondness for superhero flicks helped boost Marvel Enterprises ( MVL) to sharply higher earnings and revenue in the second quarter. The company also raised third-quarter guidance.

The New York-based comic-book company earned $32.8 million, or 42 cents a share, on $90.0 million in revenue in the second quarter, compared with earnings of $4.4 million, or 10 cents a share, on revenue of $71.0 million a year ago. The year-ago quarter had a $4.6 million impairment charge.

The latest quarter's earnings easily beat the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, which was 31 cents a share.

The vast majority of the earnings and revenue gain came from licensing agreements, which primarily reflected the granting of character rights to the movies and related merchandisers. Marvel's licensing revenue was $56.8 million in the latest quarter, up from $17.2 million last year, while publishing revenue was $19.5 million, up from $17.9 million a year ago.

"The first half of 2003 was a period of strong financial performance, marked by the successful release of three feature films and an expanding licensing business," the company said in a release. "In the second quarter, results benefited from continued momentum of licensed products based on our library of characters, particularly products based on The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man characters."

Marvel now expects to earn 25 cents to 30 cents a share in the third quarter and $1.26 to $1.31 a share for all of 2003. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been forecasting earnings of 16 cents a share in the third quarter and $1.15 for the full year.

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