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’07 looks to be a banner year for Marvel, with bof-office smashdom for SPIDER-MAN 3 as sure a thing as is possible in the wild land of Hollywood; FF2, while bemoaned by purists, looks to have a solid audience base, as well. Ghost Rider looks…problematic, but at least nic Cage is happy.

Motley Fool has been a steady supporter of Marvel’s stocks over its highly successful run over the last five or sic years. However in a much linked piece, analyst Tim Beyers suggests that Marvel’s move in ’08 to self-financed films may be problematic:

First, the good: The facility is self-contained. Movie revenues would be used to pay down debt. Therefore, a profitable hit would pay for itself while preserving Marvel’s relatively clean balance sheet.

Now, the bad: If Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk (or both) flop, then the facility could keep piling up interest as Marvel waits for a billion-dollar blockbuster to come to the rescue. That would be an unprecedented string of bad luck for mighty Marvel. But it’s at least worth mentioning, because spending will ramp up during 2007.

Go back to the Q3 press release. Therein, Marvel said that it plans to “commence principal photography” for Iron Man in the first quarter. Filming for the Hulk sequel will begin before the end of the year.

If some investors are nervous about these and other planned films, it’s because there’s no way to tell whether a fickle public will embrace lesser-known heroes. I may think Iron Man is cool, but he isn’t exactly a household name the way Spider-Man is.

Marvel would indeed need to have a very bad run of luck. Aside from the disastrous ELEKTRA, even dubious achievements like PUNISHER and DAREDEVIL have been earners. Over the next year it will be interesting to see how Marvel attempts to sell a hero like IRON MAN to an unfamiliar public. The first FF movie succeeded because Fox was able to sell it as an unobjectionable family friendly action movie. As Hollywood becomes less and less secure in its ability to market films, Marvel’s strong track record may become more and more valuable.