John Montroll has spent decades creating original origami patterns and publishing books so that others can learn from his experiments. I actually own a few of them, and have used them to practice my skills at paper-folding. When I found out that he’d partnered with DC Comics to produce DC Super Heroes Origami, I knew I just had to try my hand at the contents.
There are a total of 46 projects in DC Super Heroes Origami: 6 easy, 16 medium, and 24 difficult (with a corresponding rating of 1, 2, or 3 stars). The projects are broken into four sections: The Batman Collection, The Superman Collection, The Wonder Woman Collection, and The Justice League Collection. I appreciated the wide-ranging representation of characters; Green Lantern Hal Jordan seems like an obvious choice, but lesser-known characters like B’dg (a squirrel-like Green Lantern), Kanga, and The Atom also appear. Within those sections are patterns and directions to make all kinds of items, foes, heroes, mounts/vehicles, and heroes; the Riddler’s Cane, Superman’s trusty sidekick Krypto, and Hawkgirl’s mace are all options. Wonder Woman’s invisible jet seemed like an opportunity for a bit of fun on Montroll’s part — invisible paper, invisible directions, etc. — but readers can breathe easy: the actual design and directions are provided!
Character designs appear to be from Bruce Timm’s work in the DC universe, meaning that everything is fun, stylish, and very colorful. And whether you’re new to the DC Justice League and its members, or a longtime fan, I think you’ll appreciate the brief paragraph of character or item information which accompanies each design. Montroll keeps the tone light, punny, and full of trivia, which perfectly matches Timm’s art style and overall light-hearted theme of the book.
The Princess of the Amazons doesn’t stand for mundane footwear. As a warrior she needs the best possible gear. … Her red and white Amazonian “kicks” give her incredible traction.
The directions for folding each project aren’t as helpful as I’d like them to be — it’s not always obvious which corner or side of the paper is supposed to go at the top of a design, which can cause problems when you’re trying to make something like a person or an object with an intended top and bottom. An arrow is provided on the “back” of each page, to be pointed away from the folder for orientation purposes, but you’re never told whether it should point directly away from you, to your left, or to your right. And once you’ve begun folding and the arrow is hidden, it’s no longer helpful. Even with certain color patterns printed on the front and back of the page, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re making mistakes until it’s too late.
Moreover, DC Super Heroes Origami is not a book for beginners or children. Many designs require precision and an abundance of patience. The projects range in difficulty from easy to moderate to hard and there are more 3-star designs than 1- or 2-stars combined. Only two sheets of paper are provided for each project, so I would recommend starting with the easiest designs and practicing on your own origami paper or 8” squares of notebook paper, then working up to the more complicated designs — and even then, you may need a fair amount of practice. “Remember, Bruce Wayne didn’t become Batman in one day,” Montroll cautions, and rightly so. I’m fairly decent at origami, and the 3-star projects were nearly impossible for me to complete. I felt as successful as a 10-year-old Bruce Wayne facing down a fully Venom-infused Bane, which is to say, beaten to a pulp in a filthy Gotham alley. The good news is that my failures didn’t sour me on the book, but rather, encouraged me to keep practicing so that I can someday return to the challenging designs with expectations of success.
Some of the projects are easily repeatable, whether you’re using the provided paper or not: The Penguin’s umbrella, Wonder Woman’s tiara-star or bracelets, the lightning-bolt-shaped symbols for The Flash or Shazam, among others, would look equally fine with either the book’s paper or origami paper of your choice. The character figures — Batman, Lex Luthor, Hawkgirl, B’dg, etc. — are only reproducible with the specially printed paper, though industrious crafters could use blank paper and draw their own superhero(ine) features. I hope that, at some point, refills of the paper become available so that people can return to these projects without having to purchase multiple copies of the book.
A few technical notes about DC Super Hero Orgami itself: a spiral binding, to allow the book to lie completely flat while you fold, would have been a nice touch. The special paper is a little difficult to tear out without ripping the pages, and the perforations may require tidying up with scissors so that crisp, square folds can be achieved. Montroll provides detailed instructions with regards to fold-types (valley, mountain, squash, etc.) at the beginning of the book, and I would recommend placing a bookmark or sticky note in this section for quick reference while folding.
All in all, I’m glad that I gave DC Super Heroes Origami a chance, and I’ll absolutely be coming back to it whenever I have a few spare minutes and extra paper on hand. I’d love to see more books in this spirit, perhaps featuring characters from the Marvel Comics universe, or even other DC Comics characters. Recommended, but with some caveats.