I think the theory is to place the image inside of a DIV with the same dimensions. Apply relative positioning to the DIV, then you can absolutely position things inside the DIV like you would an image map.
Personally, I don’t mind just using regular image maps. It’s one of things I still pop open Dreamweaver for.
What does WordPress have to do with it? Is it stripping away your image map code? I’m sure there is a way around that… Even just switching into HTML view while writing posts/pages and dropping the map code in there should probably work.