Can a superhero break the comic-book curse for Visual Effects Oscar?

Superheroes have been a staple of the summer movie season for more than a decade, but no comic book movie has won Best Visual Effects since “Spider-Man 2” in 2004, surprising because this is one of the few Oscar categories friendly to blockbusters. To date it’s the only such film to win the race competitively; before that “Superman” won a Special Achievement Award for its effects in 1978.

A slew of caped — and non-caped — crusaders are in the running this year. Every film featuring Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man has been nominated thus far: “Iron Man” (2008), “Iron Man 2” (2010), and “The Avengers” (2012). The streak could continue this year with “Iron Man 3.”

Fellow Avenger Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is featured in “Thor: The Dark World,” but the Norse god’s previous starring vehicle failed to receive a nod in this race in 2011.

“300” director Zack Snyder rebooted Superman this year with Henry Cavill in the lead role in “Man of Steel.” The last film featuring the seminal DC Comics character, “Superman Returns,” was nominated in 2006, but no Snyder film has been nominated in this race to date.

The Wolverine,” spun off from the “X-Men” franchise, is Hugh Jackman‘s fifth time playing the role, but none have been nominated at the Oscars.

However, all the superheroes in this race may face an uphill battle, because even though this category has been known to award blockbusters, voters have lately favored effects-driven films also contending for Best Picture. Nine of the last 13 Visual Effects Oscars have gone to a Best Picture nominee, including the last five in a row: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Avatar,” “Inception,” “Hugo,” and “Life of Pi.”

That could be good news for “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron‘s technologically audacious thriller about astronauts stranded in Earth’s orbit; “Rush,” Ron Howard‘s action-packed racing drama; or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Ben Stiller‘s fantasy comedy. All three films are possible contenders for Best Picture.

Peter Jackson‘s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” could also be a contender. All three of his “Lord of the Rings” films won this category, and the first part of his “Hobbit” trilogy, “An Unexpected Journey,” was nominated in 2012.

Battling robots have also done well in this category in recent years, with “Real Steel” and two “Transformers” films earning nominations, not to mention the previous “Iron Man” movies. This year, Guillermo Del Toro pits giant robots against sea monsters in “Pacific Rim.”

Review the top contenders and make your predictions below:

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