In the course, Mullaney combined graphic novels with archival material and historical essays to examine modern world history from the 18th to the 21st century.

The course program also included graphic novels ShowaShigeru Mizuki’s manga series about growing up in Japan before World War II, and Such a beautiful little war, about Marcelino Truong’s childhood experience in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

More recently, Mullaney offered to teach a variation of the Stanford course to the public, free to high school and college students, this summer.

Registration for the online course opened shortly after the information was published and made international headlines. Maus was banned by a Tennessee school board for its depiction of nudity and use of profanity.

Within two days of registration opening for Mullaney’s courses, more than 200 students from around the world signed up.

Mullaney thinks there is a “fundamental misunderstanding” about what young people can deal with when it comes to negotiating complex themes and topics – whether it’s structural racism or the Holocaust. They just need guidance, which he hopes, as a teacher, can provide.

“I think high school students or even younger, if they have the scaffolding they need – it’s the job of educators to give them – they can handle the structural inequalities, the darkness and the horrors of the life,” he said.

Mullaney noted that many teens are already exposed to many of these difficult issues through popular media. “But they do it on their own and find out for themselves – it’s not a good idea,” he said.

Mullaney said he hopes he can teach World history through graphic novels to Stanford students this fall.

For Stanford scholars interested in learning more about the intersection of graphic novels and scholarship, there is a newly created task force through the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, Comics, more than words.