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

The course syllabus also included the graphic novels ShowaShigeru Mizuki’s manga series about growing up in Japan before World War II, and Such a Lovely Little War, about Marcelino Truong’s experience as a child in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

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

Registration for the online course opened shortly after news emerged and made international headlines that Maus was banned by a Tennessee school board for its depiction of nudity and use of swear words.

Within two days of Mullaney’s course registration opening, over 200 students from across the world signed up.

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

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

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

Mullaney said he hopes he can teach Global History Through Graphic Novels to Stanford students again this fall.

For Stanford scholars interested in learning more about the intersection of graphic novels and scholarship, there is a newly established working group through the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages, Comics, More than Words.