William Lorenz, Jr. may not be a name you immediately recognize; however, Lorenz’s alter-ego has brought him increasingly into the spotlight as Buffalo’s Best Batman. Ever since Lorenz earned this moniker in a contest it’s stuck, but what stands out more than just the name is Lorenz’s charity work and community service. We caught up with Lorenz to discuss his charity efforts, his book all about his origins as Buffalo’s Best Batmans, and his philosophy on causeplay.
“I’ve always loved Batman ever since I was a child,” Lorenz remarked. “I ended up getting into karate and then just other martial arts from there, which kind of coordinated with the whole idea around Batman that he is a human being and, aside from having money, he was able to train himself physically and mentally to be the best crime fighter he could be. That always stuck with me. That idea of trying to make yourself the best you can be and wanting to help your community.”
This idea of service to one’s community stayed with him, and was a part of Lorenz’s life even before he won acclaim for wearing the cowl and earning his moniker.
Lorenz recalled, “I was the community service coordinator for my fraternity, so I certainly always wanted to give back as much as I could. There’s a story I tell a lot from high school I believe. I was dropping off clothes to a Goodwill truck and I had a Batman T-Shirt on and the person there that was collecting the donations, he said, thank you, Batman. That stuck with me.”
Lorenz’s love of Batman and service continued alongside each other, as he took a Halloween costume and turned it into a source of joy and entertainment for his dojo.
Lorenz said, “I used to put on these skits for my karate dojo for the students there. So eventually we did a Batman themed one, and I still had a modified Batman Halloween costume of sorts.”
Lorenz fortunately kept this costume around, as it’s the one that ultimately led to his win in the local contest.
Lorenz commented, “This first one is what I call my homemade one. The armor itself was really paintball armor, and then just my karate gee pants. It had been sitting in storage for three years. [Then] one of my old college professors emailed me. The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library were running a contest to find Buffalo’s Best Batman. It was for the 75th anniversary of Batman. [My professor said] ‘This is a no-brainer. You’ll win this’. And I did win.”
Lorenz’s appearances and causeplay began to increase thereafter as his ‘Buffalo’s Best Batman’ moniker continued to put him in the spotlight.
“So much happened with Buffalo’s Best Batman and me and the charity work so quickly,” Lorenz recalled. “I put on a self-defense demonstration at a small convention and one of the individuals there saw it and recommended me to our minor league baseball team when they were looking for someone to help with the superhero. ‘I think this guy could be of some value to this event.’ And that’s how I kind of got my foot in the door there. It wasn’t something I reached out to them to say, I wanna do this. It was, ‘Hey, we know you’re Buffalo’s Best Batman. We saw you. You have this martial arts background, so maybe you could help put on the show for us?’ [So] within the first year I was performing in front of over 13,000 people at our minor league baseball stadium. I did a full martial arts flight out there, wrote a script, and started their whole superhero night promotion.”
Lorenz was able to use the attention that was then focused on him to build out a network beyond just his own charity efforts as Buffalo’s Best Batman.
Lorenz said, “I was able to start a network for charity costume characters here in Buffalo, which then exploded. So many people wanted to join it.”
There came a point though where Lorenz was unsure of what more he could do in his role as Buffalo’s Best Batman, and for a time starting in 2015 he hung up his cape for what at the time seemed to be an indefinite period of retirement.
“I received a proclamation from the city of Buffalo even, which was wonderful,” Lorenz recalled. “So I was content [in retirement] and then somebody reached out to me and said they were at an event and their daughter did not see the real Batman there. They saw a Batman, but it wasn’t me. They just knew because I had that homemade costume, it was not the real Batman. That struck a chord with me. I didn’t even really comprehend. People were looking for me still. This was a couple months later and I thought maybe I still have this in my life and try to balance it with being an attorney. I think it was seven months maybe that I was quiet and I didn’t do anything, but I came back in June 2016 and it’s been nonstop ever since.”
Lorenz has always understood the importance of Batman as a symbol, and his own symbol as Buffalo’s Best Batman in his community, and as such he’s always approached his causeplay with great intentionality.
Lorenz stated, “After I became Buffalo’s Best Batman, I needed the ‘why’ when I’m gonna be dressing up. [I need to know] what is this for? In two days, we have the Nickel City Comic Convention in Buffalo. I’m an attraction there, [and] I’m not receiving any appearance fee for it. I was supposed to appear for them in 2020, and then the pandemic hit so there were no conventions. The ‘why’ is that this is the first significant pop culture convention in Buffalo in four years, and it’s important to me to be there and to help in any way I can so that this event can continue for years and generate revenue for Buffalo.”
Lorenz explained further how this approach may set him apart from others, who he believes do great work with causeplay, but perhaps just have a different outlook.
“There are cosplayers, and I have so much respect for them, and they’re out every weekend at sometimes three or four events dressed up running from here to there,” Lorenz said. “And that’s great and we need more people that can do that and want to do that. It just so happens with the way I’ve kind of protected the Buffalo’s Best Batman character, when there is an event I’m doing it can sometimes bring more attention than if I’m out every weekend at five or six events. It’s just a different philosophy, but we’re all aiming toward the same goal, which is to help our community.”
Lorenz responded when asked what inspired the book, “I’ve always enjoyed writing and I thought it would be a great challenge one day to write a book. I didn’t know it was going to be about Batman and cosplay, but it was something on my bucket list to do. And there came a point in 2018 I was looking again at what’s the next chapter for Buffalo’s Best Batman, and I thought enough has happened and people are starting to come around asking ‘how did you get into this’? And I certainly had a lot to say as you can tell. Attorneys we love to talk. So I thought, ” ‘why don’t I start writing and see what I make out of this?’”
Being out on the convention circuit promoting his book only made it all the more clear what impact Lorenz has had as Buffalo’s Best Batman, and why it was important to share his origin story.
“I [went] to a lot of conventions in 2019 selling my book. And at the conventions, I had a couple people come up and say you’ve inspired me to want to do this. And you know that’s a huge responsibility in some ways hearing that.”
When asked what advice Lorenz would give anyone following in his footsteps, he replied “My answer varies depending on they want to get into cosplay or causeplay, but what I tell people is whatever character you’re gonna portray, you have to try to make it accurate to whomever you’re trying to be. If it’s Batman or Superman [for instance] then you have to think about those factors that go into it. So again [its] the why. If your goal is to make the costume to go to the convention to show off more of the craftsmanship that’s great. If your goal is to visit children in hospitals who think I’m actually that character, then you have to think I need to look as accurate as I can be. Or if you’re at an event let’s say as Batman for example he is not known to drink, so I can’t be at an event chugging a beer because that’s disrespectful to Batman. You don’t want someone taking a picture of Batman downing a six pack. So it’s more complicated.”
Ultimately though whether you choose to causeplay, or just do good deeds in your community, Lorenz just encourages those wanting to help to just go out and do good in the world.
“People are often asking me, ‘Should I join a group or go out like you on my own?’ [I say] ‘Just start helping people. Maybe that means you’re wearing a costume, maybe it means you’re not, but find what works for you. If your goal is to become an attraction to generate more eyes on a charity [that’s] great. If it isn’t and you’re keeping it quiet and going to hospitals [to help, that’s] fantastic. We need more people just doing good.’”