Marvel’s been predicting a slow ’06 for some time, so it comes as no surprise that Q2 was down substantially from last year:

Comic book publisher Marvel Entertainment Inc. said Monday its second-quarter profit slumped 37 percent, weighed down by lower licensing sales, but beat Wall Street’s estimate.

The company also boosted its full-year earnings outlook.

Earnings dropped to $16.3 million, or 19 cents per share, from $25.8 million, or 24 cents per share, during the same period last year. This year’s results include a penny per share charge for a stock option expense.

On average, analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 11 cents per share.

Licensing, which was down substantially with no Spider-Man movie franchise tie-ins this year, was the main culprit in the slide. Publishing continued to hold its own, however:

Marvel’s Publishing Segment net sales increased $4.3 million or 21% from the year-ago period to $25.1 million, due to higher sales of trade paperbacks and hard cover books into the direct and book market channels. In addition, comic book sales into the direct and newsstand channels increased due to strong sales associated with Civil War, a high-profile special series that has tie-ins across many established comic book series. Publishing segment operating income in Q2 2006 was $10.4 million, an operating margin of 41%, compared to $7.9 million in operating income and an operating margin of 38% in the prior-year period. Operating margins increased versus 2005 due to increased sales of comic books and trade paperbacks without commensurate cost increases.

You can hear Marvel’s conference call with investors here.