Understanding Comics is undoubtedly the most notable, being among the pioneering efforts to critically analyze comics, and discussing such concepts as the Infinite Canvas. As such, its importance is hard to overstate.
He also created the Twenty-Four Hour Comic challenge and its rules, and co-wrote the Creator's Bill of Rights, a list of rights that all comic authors need to protect themselves from exploitation.
Works by McCloud with their own pages include:
Other works by McCloud include examples of:
- Apophenia Plot: In the webcomic The Right Number, a man calling his girlfriend for a date night accidentally types her phone number one digit off, and ends up calling a woman who looks almost exactly like her who was also expecting a date (who never showed up.) The new woman laughs it off as a funny coincidence, but the man becomes obsessed with this, believing he's discovered some kind of grand unifying formula for determining people's traits based on their phone number.
- Contrived Coincidence: The Right Number centers on this. The protagonist calls his girlfriend and arranges a date, but mistakenly dials one digit off and calls another woman also expecting a date. By pure coincidence, the new woman happens to look almost exactly like his girlfriend, so much that it takes him a while to realize it's not her. The improbability of this happening is funny to her but serious to him, and he starts to believe he's discovered some grand unifying equation for calculating a person's character.
- Creator Breakdown: In-universe in Uninformed Bob, which depicts a gag-a-day comic strip written by a cartoonist who slowly goes insane.
- Curse Cut Short: In Destroy!! Due to vacuum.
- Empty Piles of Clothing: The final panel of Man-Eating Shoes.
- Hero Insurance: Spoofed in Destroy!!, which consists of nothing but one-frame pages depicting a battle between two superhumans which effectively totals the city around them.
- Ironic Hell: Meadow of the Damned features a variety of people whose afterlife is a pleasant meadow, with a variety of small, eternal annoyances; the minor demon in charge of their case assures them that yes, this is Hell. It turns out that Hell has much worse torments, but those are reserved for people who were much more... effective sinners.
- No Endor Holocaust: Lampooned by Destroy!!, in which two quarreling superheroes demolish most, and finally all, of Manhattan. The punchline: "Well, at least no one was hurt."
- Old Shame: The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln.
- Padding: Explored in the online comic Carl. When the page first loads, the comic is two panels long; a button allows the reader to add additional panels one at a time, up to a 52-panel version of the story. Some of the additional panels throw new light on the story, or improve the pacing, while others just stretch it out — but which are which?
- The Tetris Effect: He discusses his own experience with this in the one-shot webcomic My Obsession With Chess.
- Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Parodied with his comic book DESTROY!! The comic was inspired by a mother complaining about Super Boxers, claiming it was nothing but gore and violence. McCloud read it for himself and was disappointed to find the comic still contained "distractions" like a plot and characters, so he set out to make a comic that was entirely violence.