With little over two weeks to go until the big event, 2012's Free Comic Book Day -- the 11th installment of the annual event in which comic book stores across the country open their doors and lure newcomers and existing fans with the promise of four color entertainment for the price of zero dollars -- looks set to be the biggest one ever, with Diamond Comic Distributors announcing that a record number of comics have been ordered by retailers for the day. What's more, fans may not have to wait until 2013 for the next opportunity to score free comics as Diamond is eying this Halloween for a similar promotion.Diamond estimate that retailers have ordered 3.5 million comics for May 5, up a significant 23 percent from the 2.7 million ordered for 2011's event. As with every year, 2012's FCBD ties in with the year's major superhero movie release, with this year's event coming a day after the official release of The Avengers; no doubt the high level of anticipation for that movie is pushing some of the increased order activity, but the healthy 2012 numbers also reflect both a healthier Direct Market and the quality of the free books available this year.

In addition to an all-new story from the Justice League team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee in DC's New 52 Special Edition, there are also new Star Wars and Serenity stories from Dark Horse, previews of the new Valiant line and Grant Morrison's Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens and a hardcover anthology from Archaia including Mouse Guard and a sequel to Jim Henson's Labyrinth, amongst many other releases (A full list can be found here).

In addition to the impressive 2012 FCBD numbers, Diamond also confirmed rumors of a Hallowe'en event debuting this year that will see publishers creating low-cost Hallowe'en-themed comics for stories to give away for the holiday. More details on that event, including contributing publishers, will be released later in the year.

[Via ICv2]