PHILADELPHIA – Buoyed by a pair of big-budget superhero films this summer, retailers and publishers are poised to give away more than 3.5 million free comics at events aimed at building communities among longtime fans and at capturing new readers.

What began 11 years ago with just four publishers in a few cities has blossomed into an international event involving hundreds of stores in 46 countries with 40 publishers and millions of comic books, all for free.

“This grand plot for world comics domination is continuing to steam roll,” said Joe Field, who owns Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., and helped launch the annual event.

“We’re adding people, we’re adding countries and we’re adding comics,” he said Friday. This year’s titles range from Boom! Studio’s “Peanuts/Adventure Time Flip Book” to Rebellion’s “2000AD Judge Dredd Special” to Dark Horse’s “Star Wars/Serenity” book.

The industry is experiencing a creative rebirth and wider reach because of digital comics, as well as more self-produced and self-financed independent books. And the first Saturday in May is as much a chance to celebrate its success as well as make efforts to drum up new readers.

“You’re really getting the cream of the crop of the next tier of readers that you want to appeal to,” said John Cunningham, vice president of marketing at DC Entertainment, which last year relaunched its entire roster of heroes to make them more contemporary, a move that has drawn increased sales and acclaim from comic book stores.

It’s also an attempt to foster community among longtime readers while drawing in new readers whose exposure may have been to movies or cartoons on television.