Comic book fiends have a treat in store for them this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, they can get a host of Indian comic book titles for free. For it’s the country’s first Free Comic Book Weekend, organized by Comic Con India and Readwhere, an e-publishing platform.

This is an initiative inspired from the US, where Free Comic Book Day has been celebrated on the first Saturday of May since 2002. In the original format, the independent comic book shops taking part give away comic books free to anyone who comes into the store.

Sure, it’s a two-day fiesta for collectors of illustrated periodicals and graphic novels, but the organizers hope the event will bring in a whole new set of readers too. “We want to encourage more people to read comics," says Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con India.

The growing popularity of the Comic Con, now in its third year, indicates that this is precisely what’s happening. The most recent expo in Delhi in February had around 50,000 visitors; the first, held in 2011, saw around 15,000. Comic Con goes next to Bangalore in June, and Mumbai in October. They are also planning to add another city to the roster this year—Hyderabad and Pune are the likely contenders.

Unlike the US event it’s modelled on, the Free Comic Book Weekend is completely digital. “India has very few brick-and-mortar stores dedicated to comics. And by taking it online, we can extend the reach to even tier III cities," explains Manish Dhingra, the director and co-founder of Readwhere, which boasts of more than 700 comic book titles on its site, including digital versions of periodicals that have since gone out of print.

Over the weekend, people can log on to Readwhere and take their pick from around 30 titles, among them classics like Chacha Chaudhary from Diamond Comics and Tinkle from Amar Chitra Katha, as well as newer releases such as Nelson Mandela, the acclaimed biopic from Campfire Graphic Novels, and Odayan, a martial arts series from Level 10 Comics.

Readers will initially get to claim five publications for free to download on their PC, smartphone or tablet (that’s a saving of approximately 400). The organizers are planning to introduce a range of offers that will allow readers to access subsequent titles for free.

Visit www.readwhere.com/fcbw on 4-5 May to get free comic books.

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