Cartoonist Elisha Lim
Cartoonist Elisha Lim

Cartoonist Elisha Lim shows us how the personal gets political.

Artists often express the political sentiments of their environment. For cartoonist Elisha Lim, the personal is political, and her work illustrates a more inclusive vision of community.

London-based Lim began creating an ode to butches while squatting in Berlin. The result was the 100 Butches comic series. “Each one of them is almost a love letter, in a way,” Lim says. The anarcho-feminist has fallen in love all over the world: as a teenager in Singapore, a tree planter in Australia, a teacher in Spain, a bike messenger in Toronto, a feminist squatter in Berlin and a witness to political unrest in Israel. Her comics reflect the many faces of admiration—ideologically and passionately.

An image of a butch dominates each panel and is accompanied by Lim’s handwritten description of her experience. One butch was Lim’s boss, another a stranger in a nightclub, and yet another a schoolgirl she knew from 10 years ago. “I haven’t known anything as direct and intimate! It’s also powerful for me because it kind of outs me to myself. I’m linking the dots between all of these moments in my life, and identifying my own history of admiring butches since childhood,” she says.

Lim calls the series a comic strip, but the panels read a range of emotions: Skinny, boyish Butch 15 feels rebel-cool, while naughty schoolgirl Butch 9 exudes adolescent, first-love innocence. Intimate and revealing a distinct rawness, 100 Butches chases the essence and variety of the word. For her readers, the strip both speaks to their own experiences as butches and taps into butch sex appeal. “Artistically speaking, you are terribly sexy,” says one fan on her Myspace page.

Vaguely reminiscent of Alison Bechdel’s portraits of the modern-day dyke, Lim’s work pushes mainstream stereotypes into a humbling encounter with the individual. “I hope to use it to confront causes that are inextricably joined to butch identity: gender, subversion, sexism, labour rights and poverty.”

As if breaking new ground as an artist weren’t enough, Lim is also a musician. Her band, Elisha and the One Hundred Sisters plays acoustic tunes that take an honest look at life, love and drag kings.